The Fixer

A streetwise sociologist guides reporters through the drug underworld

| July-August 2011

  • the-fixer-2

    Bonnie Trafelet
  • the-fixer-1

    Bonnie Trafelet

  • the-fixer-2
  • the-fixer-1

Greg Scott is a fixer. In Chicago, where Scott plies his trade, the title is traditionally tapped for the slick wheeler-dealers who haunt the criminal-court corridors or City Hall. But there’s nothing traditional about Scott, a 42-year-old, ginger-haired, Gonzo-worshipping, award-winning radio freelance citizen-journalist; an independent filmmaker and public health advocate; a tattooed Midwestern tenured sociology professor, dad, and Little League baseball coach.

Scott’s clients aren’t seeking zoning changes or friendly judges. They are journalists, some of whom pay him as much as $450 a day, plus expenses, to guide them safely through the streets and alleys of “Junkieville”—Scott’s name for Chicago’s drug world. Once they’re there, Scott fixes them up with the likes of Murdering Mike, Big Hands Laura, the Other Laura, Teardrop Rose, I’m-not-a-hooker-I’m-a-body-therapist Chrissie, Cat who fights like a man, Medicine Man, Pony Tail Steve, and Mortician Steve—no relation—as they tell their stories on camera.

“I’m the go-to guy for Junkieville,” Scott says. For more than a decade, he has researched, documented, reported on, and, most important to him, befriended the residents of Chicago’s drug scene—the junkies, prostitutes, pimps, thieves, and panhandlers, and the crime boss he invited to his book-filled living room with a painting of Hunter S. Thompson on the wall in suburban Oak Park one night last summer to be interviewed by a bossy bald Brit, Ross Kemp, who hosts a gritty, you-are-there-style British television show, Ross Kemp: Extreme World.

Scott does his fixing inside crack houses, shooting galleries, brothels, seedy motels, and a dusty encampment known as the Brickyard, where the homeless residents—sometimes dozens at a time—live for hustling and heroin and where the “weekend warriors” visit for a couple of days before returning to their nine-to-five lives. George Hughes, a freelance television producer and director, is another Englishman who has used Scott’s fixing services. Hughes was working for Drugs Inc., the National Geographic Channel series, when he hired Scott as a consultant. Hughes flew from London to O’Hare International Airport in the fall of 2009 and drove into the city to meet Scott.

“I arrived there expecting to be eased into things,” Hughes says. “But within a few hours I found myself in a crack house on the west side, meeting heroin dealers and addicts. For me that’s stuff straight out of the movies. It surprised me how much they respected him. They trusted him implicitly. We were welcomed into this place even though it was the den of iniquity. To have someone like Greg guide you through is invaluable.”

Hughes not only used Scott as a fixer, he put him on camera. Scott appears in the heroin segment of the series as “the Medic,” enacting one of his many passions: working with addicts on the front lines of HIV and AIDS prevention. Hughes was so impressed with Scott’s abilities that he convinced the production company to hire him to work on the next installment of Drugs Inc. Scott was promoted from fixer to producer. In January, Scott spent three weeks fixing and producing a segment on crack in Chicago. As soon as the crack segment was wrapped, Scott began research for a segment on ketamine, a horse tranquilizer used as a date rape drug and known on the street as Special K. “I don’t know anyone else in Chicago doing my type of work,” he tells me. “I can fix anything. Everybody has a knack. I just happen to have a knack for getting involved in illegal shit.”

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