“If You Want HONEY From The HIVE Don’t Complain About Getting Stung.”
I spent my birthday this year talking to Ella to update an article she had written last year.
Ella is a journalist who flew into DFW and took an Uber to meet Cindy and I as well as my son and his wife at a hotel in Dallas where we were doing bridal photos with Leantrinette and her family. Normally, I do bridal photos after Unit weddings but my schedule was so tight for Ella’s day with me that we bumped the photo shoot to the day prior to a road trip that would cover several hundred miles.
Ella was up and at it by 6:30AM the following morning when Cindy and I picked her up at Hampton Suites.
Ella traveled with my twin sister, Cindy and I from Fort Worth to Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony to Holliday Unit in Huntsville to Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas back to Fort Worth.
It was a wild ride for anyone who doesn’t know what a day in the life of the Texas Twins is like. Ella is passionate about prison reform and inmates. We actually hit it off from the start. Other than trying to find a vegan restaurant in Huntsville on a tight timeline to get to Polunsky Unit from Holliday Unit, Ella was a true trooper.
I’m as excited she is that she will finally going get her story published. It’s difficult to impress me but Ella and her commitment to the truth do. We spoke for about an hour about the changes that have occurred during this pandemic.
Marrying clients after release at Walls Unit with the families of loved ones looking on and cheering after making the trip to see their son or daughter released and married on the same day is difficult to describe in words. The wait is finally over for so many of my client’s who have excitedly told me that their loved one made parole.
Last year on our birthday, Cindy and I had traveled to Ramsey Unit to marry a client and then to meet an amazing filmmaker, Elena Lindemans who had flown into Houston to discuss her idea for a film involving a lady who plans to marry a Polunsky death row inmate.
A few months ago, Elena emailed me that she had the funding in place for her film. Sadly, TDCJ has yet to reinstate visitation. Several states have reinstated limited visitation but Texas isn’t one of them.
Elena can now travel to the U.S. to film but we cannot get into Polunsky until visitation is reinstated.
Last week, I alarmingly read a post on FB from my former client, Mary.
Apparently Mary is now questioning whether Lester is guilty or not after going through the discovery related to his case.
Mary was juror #10 during Lesters trial and had started writing Lester after he was sentenced.
Over the course of about a year, Mary fell in love with Lester. I married them at Allred Unit. Lester was in high security so it was a non contact ceremony.
Tragically, several months ago, Mary’s former husband (prior to Lester) committed suicide.
The survivors guilt associated with his death haunts Mary to this day. Did divorcing him to marry Lester have something to do with his decision?
Whether or not Lester and Mary make it through this patch of whether to believe Lester or not, Mary is fragile. She loved her ex husband.
Was the guilt of being one of the jurors that sentenced Lester to life in prison part of the reason that Mary chose to marry Lester? I will never know. I know that Mary believed that she was doing the right thing by marrying Lester. I know that Mary loves Lester. I know that Mary is torn between what she suspects and what Lester is telling her. We may never know what actually happened that night in Nacodches.
The Nacodoches news anchor that interviewed Mary for two days before editing her interview in such a way to “sensationalize” her story did so with full intent of the backlash it would create from viewers who couldn’t comprehend or understand why a juror would choose to marry someone sentenced to life in prison.
Media often “slants and portrays people” who love an inmate in a less than positive light. They focus on why the inmate is in prison rather than why someone chooses to love them.
Loving an inmate isn’t an easy path for families or especially for spouses. Why? Because being married to an inmate isn’t easy. It’s expensive. It’s lonely. Very few people can make a marriage like this last but for those who do they are warriors. I’ve married hundreds of such warriors to inmates. HUNDREDS.
Four divorces out of hundreds of inmate weddings? Yes. The statistics of inmate divorces are obviously incorrect.
A few years ago, “Sandy” from LinkedIn was SO UPSET after realizing that I conduct prison ceremonies that she posted on LinkedIn “all prison marriages end in divorce” prior to ending our connection. Really? Ask my clients. I can assure they will disagree.
Sandy is a former reality star who had so many issues with her production company that her blogs are worth reading for the entertainment factor. Sandy is very opinionated and that’s okay. I am opinionated myself but I don’t judge others. I never have.
Sandy was misinformed, biased, and ignorant as to the number of inmate marriages that survive incarceration. But, Sandy isn’t alone. People who know nothing about inmate love stories and marriages have plenty of opinions. They simply lack accurate information.
Ask someone married to an inmate before assuming their marriage won’t survive. Their answers will surprise you. They are in it for the long haul. They went through months of paperwork to get married. They didn’t run off to Vegas on a whim. They knew what they were getting into. Ask them. Don’t assume you know without insight.
Sandy has never known anyone married to an inmate so why she feels so strongly against prison love stories is anyone’s guess.
Sandy can take her uninformed and misguided opinions and move on down the road.
Her post was directed at me. We both knew it although others on LinkedIn might not have.
I stay in contact with everyone I’ve ever married. People who think they know it all never do. Why someone would feel so strongly about something that has no effect on their life is anyone’s guess.
I read a lot of emails from folks like Sandy. People angry inmates have the right to marry. Many of whom are also angry that LBGT couples have the right to marry.
Often “these people” are also self professed Christians. How do I know? Their emails always start out with similar paragraphs such as “I’m a Christian and I’m highly upset that you marry inmates or LBGT couples.”
Humph. I’d love to answer them with an “I don’t care about what you think” response but I don’t. They aren’t worthy of my time.
Explaining that I welcome anyone from any background to all of my businesses should be self explanatory.
After all, neither I or my clients have been hiding under a rock for all of these years. We don’t need your approval. We don’t care what you think.
Unless you are bound to me by blood or business your opinions are YOUR luggage and YOUR trip.
For the record, I don’t encourage inmate marriages. In fact, I have on many occasions talked a few people out of marrying when I see a red flag.
There are inmates who take advantage of people on the outside. Players with plenty of time on their hands to woo a lonely person on the outside.
One inmate was playing two of my clients a year or so ago. I strongly advised both clients to dump him but one was determined.
Weeks after his release, Valerie contacted me to get insights on divorcing him.
I’m old and I’m wise and if you don’t have loyalty and trust you won’t have a strong marriage. I nicknamed this player wooing two women, Don Juan.
I have a funny side note about Don Juan the movie. My secretary, Virginia is 91 years old. A few years ago for her birthday I decided to take her to a movie titled Don Juan that turned out to be more X rated than R rated. I’ve never been so embarrassed. We both still laugh about the time we thought going to a movie was a good idea. I wanted to leave but Virginia wanted to stay. Why? “We have already ordered food and it’s been 40 years since I’ve gone to a movie.” I haven’t taken Virginia to a movie since then.
Early in the planning stages, I coach my clients on what lies ahead. We discuss the challenges they face.
I warn them because I prefer they not marry if the odds of a divorce lie ahead. Why? To protect them from the pain of a divorce. Divorce leaves scars.
I also warn my clients about “media people” who will take their story and their life and portray it in a negative light.
My clients have children. My clients have jobs. My clients are fragile and unaware of how media will use them. I’m protective because I’m familiar with media.
Last year in March, I was contacted on Instagram from someone saying they were producing a “prison based show.”
He wanted to talk to me because he “had found me on Instagram and seen that I perform more prison weddings than anyone else.”
This person was contacting me from the comfort of his chair in sunny California to get me to find the talent for him. How convenient.
I was on location at a prison when I saw this Instagram message. I ignored it initially. Why? Because each time someone contacts me with a sense of urgency that isn’t a client or family member it’s to benefit themselves that’s why.
My clients AND my family are my priorities. Everything else is a distraction. A fly in my soup. “I can make your clients famous.” Whatever. Bug off. Get in line Pal. You aren’t the only person contacting me.
People in media contact me all of the time to get to my clients with promises of fame.
It’s amazing how many people fall for the reality TV trap believing they will get famous without realizing what they will be giving up to get on TV.
I’m very selective about who I trust. The difference with Ella and Elena is that unlike everyone else contacting me seeking an angle to benefit themselves, Ella and Elena both care about inmates and the people who love them.
Ella and Elena are passionate about the people that production companies or media don’t care about.
I can assure you that the news anchor in a Nacodches didn’t give one thought about how her story would effect Mary when it was sold to over 100 other media outlets. That interview was spliced and diced so many times that watching it in disbelief myself since I know Mary, I was furious that after two days of filming her that this interview would make it appear that Mary was either unstable or crazy. The interview was deliberately edited to have Mary appear that way.
My own interview with Mary took out Lester, the victim, the Unit and everything other than Mary and why she chose to write Lester and eventually fall in love with him.
Mary became a media sensation for all of the wrong reasons. That Nacodoches interview was why.
There should have been limits to what Mary was willing to discuss but there weren’t. In fact, Mary was asked about something in the interview she reminded the anchor in the edited version “I told you I wouldn’t discuss that.”
Good for Mary. Set boundaries and keep them. Mary is a God fearing lady and mother. She is loving and kind. She is passionate and perseverant.
Mary was unfamiliar with editing. Most people are. By editing, the media can “spin” someone into something they aren’t. This happens more than anyone outside the entertainment industry realizes.
Unless someone is going to portray my clients in a positive light, I’m not interested in sharing their information to anyone for any reason.
I will share your information with my clients. If they choose to contact you, I will also advise them about reality contracts in an effort to protect them. I don’t want what happened to Mary to happen to anyone. I was in California during the interview with Mary. I wish I had been in Nacodoches.
This Instagram person who contacted me saying he was casting a prison based show apparently didn’t have green light (funding to film a pilot).
I’m based in Texas but travel to numerous states and conduct prison weddings in State, Federal, ICE and County Detention Facilities.
I am not “willing to throw my clients” to anyone. A uneducated hillbilly wouldn’t know policy and procedure or marriage laws either. I’m not a sucker willing to devote myself to doing someone’s job for them because they expect me to. I’m busy.
My allegiance is to my clients and my family. I don’t owe anyone anything. I don’t have to work and haven’t in many years. I work because I enjoy my work and my clients. I enjoy traveling.
I don’t enjoy dealing with people too lazy to do their own jobs contacting me to perform their functions for them.
Instagram guy supposedly “casting a prison based show” was one of the people in the entertainment industry that I’ve encountered over all of these years that I least liked. I’ve met a lot of industry people but I’ve never met anyone unethical enough to send me an unsigned contract and then dance around the fact demanding I do this or that for them while stalling on about the “elephant in the room.” You know, that contract.
Correspondence with Instagram guy went on for an entire week in March. My patience was worn thin the moment I reviewed his unsigned contract and continued to question it.
He continued to be cocky and make demands of my time and client files, I continued to ask when he was planning to sign that contract.
Most likely while sitting at his desk in sunny California, this joker was thinking “Let’s just get Wendy to find the talent then tell her to bug off. She’s so bitchy and busy. Let’s just string her along about that contract.” Nice try Einstein. I had 10 clients during that week in March and was slammed busy. You couldn’t find the time to sign your own contract? Come on.
Look folks if you are contacting me about casting a show, you either have a green light or you don’t. Don’t pretend you are casting a show. I know the difference between casting and pitching. I’m familiar with the process.
There are so many people out there “saying” they are casting a show when in fact they are pitching a show it’s ridiculous. Every Tom, Dick and Harry these days is supposedly casting a show. Sure you are. Go find the talent and stop asking me to do it for you.
If you are a production company you are supposed to be locating the talent. Check your job description buddy.
I have a bad taste in my mouth regarding production companies dropping a dime on me to do their job for them and it’s because I’m so frequently contacted by “casting directors” or production companies who want me to find the talent for them which is their job not mine.
Furthermore, I’m going to educate my clients about “standard reality contracts” AND the danger of their lives being strung out on reality television. The exposure anyone on a prison based show is getting these days is far from glamorous. Why? Because the people on these shows were unaware of what they were signing up for when they signed up for it. “Sign this. I’m going to make you famous!”
Frankenbiting and “character creating” don’t make anyone in a relationship with an inmate relatable or real. These people are real. They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They are self sufficient, independent and self reliant. They do it all and they do it alone on the outside.
Don’t assume they are “desperate and lonely people.” They are educated and well aware of their choices and circumstances involving being in a relationship with an inmate.
Reality TV is faux reality. Reality television is all about the ratings. Production companies don’t care about crucifying their talent. It’s all about the money for them. It’s so hard to find a production company that cares about the talent these days or sticking with the facts that reality is a hilarious description for many of the shows on TV today. Everything is scripted. The plot lines. The drama. The chaos.
Production companies and “producers” don’t care about my clients. They care about ratings. They want the talent but don’t care about what happens to the talent. I do.
The “talent” are almost always unaware of the entertainment industry and reality TV. They have no idea what they are giving up by signing a contract. Most have never even seen a talent contract before.
Standard reality contracts are entirely one sided.
Cindy and I have been on several shows and even filmed a television pilot years ago. At 16 years old, I was filming television commercials with Mel Tillis for Whataburger.
I’m 56 years old. I know all about entertainment contracts. Especially shitty entertainment contracts. You can spot them a mile away.
A good contract is difficult to come by because standard reality contracts offer all risk and no reward to “the talent.”
Contracts can be changed but the Average Joe is unaware of this. Why? They’ve never seen a contract before. They have no idea what their rights are or should be.
After about a week of this “someone sitting on their ass in California” telling me to send him photos and stories about my clients, I gave this guy the brush off. He had sent an unsigned contract. He had stalled about what his budget and concept for a prison based show were.
He (obviously) didn’t have a green light or even a sizzle reel to pitch the networks and I doubt he had the funding to film the sizzle. He was a player. He wanted my clients. I protect my clients. Don’t send me an unsigned contract and then think you can make demands of my time. Get in line and send a signed contract for my attorneys to review buddy.
On a regular basis I am contacted by production companies who want me to do their job for them by tossing my clients their way. No thanks. Find someone else who believes all this “you ARE going to be famous BS” production companies feed to the talent.
Famous and infamous run along the same lines with remarkably different results. Prison based shows portray the talent in such a negative light that it would appear anyone who loves an inmate is a “bit off” in one way pr another when in fact the opposite is true.
For someone to love an inmate and commit to them by marrying the inmate, the person on the outside is making great sacrifices. The person on the inside has nothing to lose and everything to gain which is why I make sure that anyone coming to me planning to marry an inmate knows what they are getting into and what to expect.
Talking to Elena last year at a steak house in Houston, I reiterated that I’ve not married a pen pal because I fear such a union won’t last. Cindy and I had no idea Elena was vegan or we would have chose a different restaurant. BUT, traveling to Houston to discuss her idea for a documentary impressed the Hell out of me. She unlike so many others who have contacted me, had talked to many people who have married death row inmates. She had insight, knowledge and acceptance. She was remarkably a rose in the bed of thorns of production companies that contact me to pitch me their ideas or to get their hands on my clients. She was different.
When I marry someone I remember their joy. Their excitement. Their love story. The woman planning to marry at Polunsky has been a pen pal for many years. She’s committed.
Elena flew to Arizona to meet another bride who had married a lifer. She was doing well. Independent. A young beautiful mother who was successfully navigating marriage to someone serving a life sentence. Such love stories are rare. Holidays alone, running for an expensive phone call from the inmate. A single income household.
It’s not an easy choice to marry an inmate. In fact, it’s a very difficult choice.
Speaking to Ella the journalist who had spent a day and a half with Cindy and I last year on November 13th, she asked “how has my business changed since Covid?”
It’s an open ended question I’ve been asked by other media outlets. No one expected Covid.
In March I had 17 people scheduled at TDCJ Units. All were cancelled.
In April, I had 11 people scheduled that were also cancelled.
Throughout this pandemic I’ve had an additional 86 people contact me wishing to marry an inmate in State, Federal, ICE or County custody.
Very few State detention centers have reinstated visitation as of this blog. Federal visitation was reinstated in October.
As we continue to wait, my client list continues to grow. I’m often asked “how do you address so many people?” I stack Units, clients and states.
Ella saw firsthand last year how I could marry three people in three cities on the same day.
When I have several people scheduled at the same Units as I do right now, each client has 20 minutes. There are no special visits after a wedding.
Scheduling is based on the number of clients at a single unit as paperwork to marry an inmate can easily take 3-6 months.
Many cities in Texas have several Units in the same city or closely located within proximity of one another. Scheduling days for TDCJ units are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Scheduling for ICE is during the week. Scheduling for County on weekends most often but Green Bay schedules during the week as well as weekends.
Normally my weekends are free for traditional bookings, vow renewals and baptisms or funerals.
Prison weddings literally took over my bookings years ago. I prefer prison weddings. I prefer the structure. There aren’t any drunks or divas. No one is trying to object. There is intimacy and commitment.
Many people don’t understand why I am comfortable in a prison. Many people don’t understand why my clients want to marry an inmate. That’s okay because I don’t care about opinions of others who don’t impact my life or my businesses. My client’s don’t care either.
As I look forward to seeing Elena again and filming this project with her, I have faith that she unlike so many others will make this documentary factual, emotional, heartfelt and relatable. She will bring the elements of how someone can love and inmate to fruition. She cares about the people on the outside. She’s committed to getting it right without an angle or agenda. I have a huge amount of respect for her work and her passion…