Monday, January 29, 2007

Brandy Britton, RIP


According to the Baltimore Sun, former University of Maryland Baltimore County professor and alleged prostitute Brandy Britton died over the weekend, apparently of suicide. A relative, presumably one of her daughters, found the body.

Since her arrest for soliciting a little over a year ago, the HoCo Hooker, as I have called Brandy on this blog, was the subject of intermittent press attention, much of it generated by her. The novelty of her situation, a middle-aged PhD turning tricks out of a quiet suburban neighborhood, made her an enigmatic case study in the sex trade. Every time a court date loomed close, a newspaper article with a few new slivers of information about her past appeared.

I chronicled these media mini-circuses with an ironic and sarcastic tone. My three posts about her case over the last year have made me the “I feel lucky” hit for “Brandy Britton”. When I read the preliminary online article about her death this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had played some minor role in the misery that made her decide life was no longer worth living. I hope not. I have never met Brandy Britton or Alexis Angel, her hooker alterego, in person or online. We have no connection except as a topic on my blog.

To the best of my knowledge, Brandy never knew of my blog, but people that knew Brandy did. Many of them posted anonymous comments revealing details about the scandal at her last day job and about her troubled past. From context it was even possible to figure out who a few of them were. In the eight months since my Brandy’s Back post, over 250 comments turned the article into a virtual chatroom about her past, present, and future.

My blog never got any mainstream press attention, but within a day of me posting a link to a site rumored to be Brandy working under a new name, the site vanished from redirected traffic. That is more power than I ever imagined my blog to have. I don’t want that responsibility.

Suicide has always struck me as a particularly drastic option. Brandy was looking at misdemeanor charges with little chance of jail time. Her constant legal maneuvering seemed to be excessive in light of the pettiness of the charges. In some ways her arrest seemed the least of her troubles. Her second marriage was abusive and her scandal-tinged tenure at UMBC made her a pariah in her field. Without a steady income, legal or otherwise, the residence which served as her suburban bordello was foreclosed on. It was in this house that she ended her pain.

She had been scheduled for a new court date in February. She won’t ever face trial, but that doesn’t mean the ordeal is over. Death is never closure because it leaves behind all the other lives that have intersected with the deceased. Those demanding justice for Brandy having ruined their life or marriage will have to settle for this.

Prurient Google® searches for Brandy are a staple of my blog traffic. This latest development is bound to only make it worse. What started as a tawdry story with a local twist is no longer funny. I had no way of knowing that a year ago. I wish I had.

41 comments:

Impetua said...

I guess it's easy to forget the real people behind the scandalous personae. I doubt that most people who go into prostitution, porn, etc. do it because they really wanted to in the first place. But the first thing we think about them isn't, "Poor them, what a crappy life they must lead."

I'm sorry that it turned out this way for her and for you. You are not a mean-spirited person and you didn't know that a few blog entries about a local scandal would garner so much interest. But you can also look at it this way: without others searching for dirt about her, your blog entries would have been just what you intended them to be, commentary about things that touch your life or pique your interest.

RIP indeed, Brandy Britton. I hope you are at peace.

Anonymous said...

It is indeed very sad and tragic that Ms Britton killed herself. In spite of her background in "higher education" Brandy forgot (or never learned) that there are consequences to our actions. Bad choices often lead to bad outcomes. Of course there are many others in this tragedy who didn’t help matters but ultimately Brandy’s behavior was the underlying problem. It should also be noted that a society which “enabled” Dr Britton is also to blame. Brandy had a lot of adversity in her life which she was never able to overcome. I can’t help but believe that if Brandy had been smarter about her life choices, politics and friends she would be alive today.

yellojkt said...

impetua,
Thanks for your thoughts. You expressed some things very eloquently that I couldn't quite get into words.

Anonymous said...

Trial Nearing, Alleged Call Girl Found Dead
Howard Police Probe Apparent Suicide of Former 'Top-Notch' UMBC Professor

By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; Page B01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/29/AR2007012900654.html

Anonymous said...

Dr Brandy Britton was not a nice person in spite of what others may write. Yes, it was tragic that she committed suicide but she destroyed many lives in her academic career which ironically was focused on women studies. I feel sorry for her children but feel very little for a person who was given every opportunity to rise above her circumstances but failed to do so because she couldn’t see beyond her self.

Claude said...

I'm with impetua; this is akin to the post I wrote a few days ago about people and their "hypothetical" lives.

The post of mine that still gets the biggest number of hits (though not as many as you cite for yours) is the one I wrote about Don Geronimo's wife shortly after she died. What is it with these people with the prurience and the schadenfreude and the glass-licking?

At the bottom of it, you're not to blame here. You're not even partly to blame. Ms. Britton had some serious, deep-seated troubles that were compounded NOT by her choice of profession, but by the manner in which society chose to VIEW that profession.

Imagine the level of pain that she was in, where she was at the point that she felt the only option was to end her life. That doesn't come from getting arrested on a misdemeanor.

If there is an afterlife, I can only hope that she is in some state of reconciliation with herself now.

Jamy said...

Of course you are not to blame. I enjoyed your posts on this topic and, for a second, I wondered if I were responsible in some way because I read them.

In my limited experience with suicide, it's normal to feel responsible even when you had very little connection with the person. In reality, what you did made no difference.

It's still sad.

Harmonica Man said...

Last time I checked, Technorati was claiming there were 35 million blogs out there at any given time. Your stories about Brandy were nothing more than one guy's opinion on a relatively obscure blog amongst millions.

You share no responsiblity in perpetuting either this story or Brandy's death.

If anything, Google can shoulder some responsiblity for giving so much weight to Blogger stories. The fact that searches for Brandy came straight back to you is really a product of self promotion within the Google enterprise.

Impetua said...

I find it interesting how judgmental people can be. Particularly when they are posting anonymously.

This stands out to me, from the comment just after mine: "Brandy had a lot of adversity in her life which she was never able to overcome. I can’t help but believe that if Brandy had been smarter about her life choices, politics and friends she would be alive today."

Hi. To be unable to overcome adversity in your life means you are fundamentally, for whatever reason, incapable of making smart decisions about your life choices etc. This means that instead of just being "bad" or "stupid" or "not "smart," it may be that you are "sick" or "emotionally damaged" or "mentally ill." To blow all the potential advantages she may have had (in that writer's estimation) would almost certainly have meant that she was in some way ill. And I'm sorry, but suicide is rarely the result of shame or embarrassment over a misdemeanor. It is the result of mental illness, of deep anguish that is not the person's fault. Given her obvious intelligence and her irrational behavior, I would almost lay money down that she had bipolar disorder. That's a real, genuine illness, not a character flaw.

dykewife said...

there's always a person behind any scandal. perhaps your blog, entries and such created some of the feelings that went into her killing herself, but never forget, it was her decision to kill herself. no one can truly know what went into making her decision, it's possible that even if the scandal hadn't happened she would've killed herself anyway. it's a tough call. i guess you can only take on what you feel responsible for, but in the end, the responsibility for her actions were her own.

used*to*be*me* said...

Wow. I read all of these posts also. I never searched her out or anything but I certainly would have never predicted this outcome. I just read the comments on the older entries and there are some mean, hateful people out there.

If anyone is really to blame, it would probably be those who were vindictive and spewed forth hate and anger. Not you.

Try not to let it get you down.

Anonymous said...

Impetua said ... (6:45 PM) :
“I find it interesting how judgmental people can be. Particularly when they are posting anonymously.”

Hi. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. If you feel that I am judgmental then that is your right. I posted anonymously because I stumbled onto this Blog and not being a registered user the anonymous post was the most expedient. In any event who is to say and/or how am I to know that any online identity is an honest one? That said…

I agree that Brandy most likely needed help (psychiatric or otherwise). I am very sad that she didn’t get that help. But here in Maryland (a very liberal state) Brandy wore out her welcome because her behavior had become chronically mean spirited, hateful and to be frank, dangerous. By the time Brandy got to Maryland she could not see beyond her self. It was just a matter of time before her downward spiral ended in tragedy. I do think that this tragedy is compounded by the fact that in spite of her intelligence she would not (or could not) reach out and get the help she so obviously needed.

-HBS

trusty getto said...

Whoa. Heavy, man.

I feel obligated to echo the comments that you do not have any responsibility here. Difficult as the situation may be, she made her decisions with eyes wide open, ended up getting caught, and received notariety for them. She ain't go nobody to blame but herself for that.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that you do not share in the blame for the death of this unfortunate woman. I am a mental health professional, and would agree with several of the other posters here that Brandy suffered from a mental illness. However, the profile that emerges from the information in the Sun articles, and the interviews Brandy did with journalists form the Wash Post and the Examiner, as well as some of the more reasonable posts to your blog would lead me to say that she exhibited the classic signs of a borderline personality, which is related to schizophrenia, not bipolar disorder. Borderline personalities are supreme manipulators, have very little or no conscience, and absolutely believe the constructs they create around their own behavior. It is extremely unfortunate that this was not recognized and treated back in her graduate school days when this first began to be manifested. I congradulate you for the work you did on the blogs, as it was of the highest caliber.
You are in no way to be blamed for the tradgedy of Brandy's death. I would say that it was the loss of her house that pushed her to the deed. It was probably the only remnant left from the ambitions that drove her to her remarkable accomplishments. What a shame that such a talent and intellect was wasted.

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous Mental Health Professional: well said and thank you.

-HBS

Anon Mental Health Prof. said...

Perhaps something good would come out of this tradgedy if each of us would use whatever influence we have, speak up for, or even take an interest in improving mental health care in this country. Truly, the state of mental health care in the USA is shamefully poor, especially compared to the rest of the developed world. Write to congressmen, blog on it, talk to your friends and family, create interest in better mental health care. Brandy and many like her need not end in such terrible situations.

Anonymous said...

Anon Mental Health Prof. said ... (9:23 PM)

Thank you once again for your input and insight (as noted above). Skilful use of influence needs to be exercised daily in all things that can improve the quality of life in our country. I am afraid that the mental health system will be even more stressed in the near future as the consequences of the war in Iraq become more evident. Add to that the problem of a society that has become increasingly narcissistic, short sighted and impulsive I can only surmise a prognosis for an ever increasing need of competent mental health services in this nation for quite some time to come. May God bless you in these endeavors.

~HBS

Anonymous said...

See this editorial published in the Baltimore Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/a-538525~Letters__January_31__2007.html

Anonymous said...

To anon at 8:02AM
Just read editorial hope this gets back to him.
David McGarvey, Columbia
"She never made an offer of sex for money".
You are wrong-She did and can prove it. And she knew it. Her life was tragic but she chose it.
Don't assume you know what went on in that house unless you were inside.

Anonymous said...

I should have said "She never made an offer of sex for money to the officer who arrested her."

There's a big difference between "innocent" and "not-guilty." Based only on the news reports (not a great source, I know)it seemed as though a good attorney would have a decent chance of winning the case for her.

Anonymous said...

I have a coworker whose parents died recently under difficult circumstances. One of the very painful parts of the experience occured when he came across a blog that said his dad must have been some kind of idiot. Someone who knew nothing about the circumstances of the situation thought that it would OK to express their opinions to the entire world.

Words can be extremely hurtful, and people on this blog have expressed vicious, hateful comments about Dr. Britton. I don't doubt that she read the comments, and I imagine that they did nothing to improve her frame of mind, or get her life on a positive track. It's easy to kick someone when they're down, but the world would be a better place if people lent a helping hand instead.

Does this make the bloggers responsible for her death? No, I would not go nearly that far, but I certainly would not sleep well at night knowing that I hurt someone who was in such a difficult situation.

Several contributors seem ready to cry out and say "but she hurt me first!" That might have worked pretty well on an elementary school playground, but it's sad to see grown men and women trying to hide behind that attitude.

I did not know Prof. Britton, and if those who knew her say she had a flawed character, I can not comment one way or another. All I can say is that the person without flaws in their character, or the one who never hurt another person should be the one to throw the first stone.

Anonymous said...

Why do assholes like you who claim to have "no connection" to Brandy Britton "except as a topic on my blog" feel compelled to circulate your "ironic and sarcastic" opinions about her situation?

Maybe you're relieved that all of your fans absolve you of responsibility for her suicide, but I think you should think twice before you offer your input into situations that do not affect you, and whose inhabitants you do not know.

Your blog provides a feeding pen for pigs. Mind your own beezwax.

Anonymous said...

Bitterness. Pain. Hatred. Anger. Suffering. This Blog is filled with such unhappy things.

:-(

Anonymous said...

About Brandy, have plenty of info knew her well, too well, for way too long. Sorry she is dead, but only for her kids sake. She was the meanest person I ever met. She was devoid of a conscience, and seemed to enjoy hurting others. Farewell

Anonymous said...

anon at 2:54 AM
Thank you
perfect words to say. The only one who turned her in was herself.
the rest of you can remember that.

Anonymous said...

Evil Is as Evil Does

one who tried to help said...

Brandy was not evil. Brandy was mentally ill. She was doing what she had to do to save her home. She did not want to be a homeless, penniless street person. She understood a lot about herself too. She did not like being a prostitute, said very bitterly that her customers were"Men who make love to their cars", but could conceive of no other way to generate enough income to save her home. She also knew that she was wholly responsible for the position she was in, and admitted as much to me. Without her home, she could not see any way for her to survive. Her lawyer hit it right on the head when he said that her mind had become like her home, part sleekly modern furniture and leaded glass entry way, part worn out carpet, scattered clothes, magazines and scuffed paint. She is gone now, and I pray for her soul,the immortality of which she believed in. Forgive her for the hurt and pain she caused in others, and pray that she is taken into the light and cherished. She could not help the bad behavior that her illness caused. Her illness is one that strikes the truly mentally gifted, generally in their teens to twenties, and results in the downward spiral demonstrated by her life. Someone who knew her in grad school perfectly described the illness and Brandy's personality as of "wonderful welcomes and raging departures".

Anonymous said...

I am sorry about the "Evil Is as Evil Does" comment but Brandy had a way of bringing out the worst in me. I feel sorry for her children but Brandy's story can be multiplied by a factor of thousands and it seems to me that our society is in very serious trouble to say the least. Brandy's story is not unique...

Anonymous said...

Interesting, from Anonymous above..
If Brandy managed to bring out the worst in you (I am unsure what connection you had to her), she probably did the same to her second husband Tubyangye. As he was already then a lying, manipulating user - wow - imagine the possibilities!!
That IS a worry for society

Anonymous said...

Good Riddance. She was a whore and a bitch. Those of you who are accepting of such behavior are just as guilty. There is honor amongst thieves after all.

Anonymous said...

Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Anonymous said...

A year has gone by, I pray for Brandy. Some of us will not forget.

Anonymous said...

Amen. May Brandy rest in peace. I also pray for her children and loved ones.

Anonymous said...

You are a tosser. You contributed to her suicide. I hope you can sleep well at night now.

Bruce said...

God bless Brandy, her mother, and others who must feel the sadness of this tragedy. I regret she had no role model or father who could have gotten involved. I have a daughter, and son..... I am in constant communication with. We are always talking and I'm listening.... and they tell me I am very good with strategy. I regret Brandy had no such person... nor the University couldn't have gotten involved in some mature way. They could have if there had been an imtermediary. Please God bless to all involved.... And to those in similar stress..... I say. Stop and think for a minute.

Note: there are self help groups on this called Emotions Anonymous. Check in Google, and there are meetings in the Baltimore area.
Again... God bless you all.

Bruce

Anonymous said...

Fuck you yellojkt. You contributed to her suicide by contributing to society's negative perception of sex work by showing it's okay to use someone else's life as a chance to score points on your blog to make you feel better about yourself. Yeah, you contributed. You and everyone who thinks like you.

You do realize that you know sex workers, right? I highly doubt they've opened up to you, but they are people you know and might actually love. So fuck you.

Anonymous said...

Two years gone. I have not forgotten, and never will. Brandy was very kind to me, and despite all those who say she did them wrong, she did not deserve the despair and end that came to her.

Anonymous said...

Still know her kids, both are turning out much like Brandy, devoid of conscience, incapable of truth. The apples don't fall far from the tree....

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Anonymous said...

I adored Brandy. She was my teacher and inspired me to take care of my life academically. I was her research assistant. Our children were friends and when she left the bay area for University of Baltimore Maryland it was difficult. I visited her once and we didn't part on the best of terms. Then I found out about her death a couple of years again trying to get in touch with her/thinking the wounds had healed. Damn! What a brilliant, passionate but tortured soul. I will always miss her.