To all you sight-impaired browsers who, like me, have had trouble reading standard website text. I'm a legally blind guy who has increasingly needed all the help he could get in order to write and read as his age-related macular degeneration (AMD) worsens. I hope this heads off any surprise when you encounter the large bold print that awaits you.
Steve Bassett was born, raised and educated in New Jersey before joining the dwindling number of itinerant newsmen roaming the countryside in search of, well just about everything. Sadly their breed has vanished into the digital ether. Newspapers were still around then and Bassett’s targets were not selected simply by sticking pins in a map. There had to be a sense of the bizarre.
First there was The Long Branch Daily Record on the New Jersey shore. The city had recently thrown out a corrupt commission form of government but nepotism was still king. New Jersey mobsters loved the place. It was one of their favorite watering holes. A mafia boss was gunned down in a nightclub not far from the paper. Great fun for a cub reporter. Curiosity got the better of him with his next choice the Pekin Daily Times located in central Illinois. Now a respected newspaper, it had once been the official voice of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920’s. Pekin had saved its bacon during the Depression by tacitly approving two time-honored money makers, prostitution and gambling, earning an eight-page spread in Life.
These stints as a featured newspaper reporter were followed by Associated Press assignments in Phoenix and finally as Special Urban Affairs writer in San Francisco. Bassett’s five-part series on the Wah Ching gained national attention by exposing the Chinese youth gang as the violent instrument of Chinatown’s criminal bosses.
Then came CBS television news in Los Angeles, three Emmy Awards for his investigative documentaries and the prestigious first Medallion Award presented by the California Bar Association for “Distinguished Reporting on the Administration of Justice.” Along the way he found time to author “The Battered Rich” (Ashley Books) exposing seldom discussed but widespread marital abuse among the affluent.
Bassett's latest book, “Golden Ghetto: How the Americans and French Fell In and Out of Love During the Cold War,” is a gift from the people of Berry where Bassett and his wife, Darlene, purchased an ancient farm property in the tiny French village of Ste. Colombe. After hearing countless local stories about a huge U.S. Air Force base that had been abandoned for forty years, Bassett sensed that there was a timeless story to be told. He uncovered a sixteen year French and American love affair. Bassett gained the trust of the Berrichon, provincial and traditionally skeptical of outsiders. The result was a collective memoir that rekindled memories that had lain dormant for decades. These tales defined trust, hope, renewal, prosperity and finally the discovery that this was all a delusion.
Bassett currently resides in Placitas, New Mexico with his wife Darlene Chandler Bassett, founder of A Room of Her Own Foundation, which bestows a $50,000 Gift of Freedom to a deserving female writer.