Run, Bambi, Run Profiles Playboy Bunny Turned Milwaukee Police Officer Turned Killer
Many decades ago, Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek, the subject of the new Apple Original podcast Run, Bambi, Run, was the most infamous woman in America. She was a Playboy Bunny turned Milwaukee police officer turned cold-blooded killer, with acres of shimmering blond hair and the legs of a supermodel. In 1982, after she was convicted for first-degree murder for the death of her husband’s ex-wife, Diane Sawyer is said to have called her case “the most glamorous murder case of the 1980s.”
The podcast Run, Bambi, Run recreates the sensational story of Bambi’s conviction—and, later, her escape from a Wisconsin penitentiary and the international hunt for her whereabouts. But it also asks hard questions about what it means to have been a female fixation during the 1980s true-crime wave. We may think of American “true crime” as having its apex today, but this moment of podcast gore has nothing on the ’80s, when its culture of infamy and horror happened on TVs rather than earbuds. And back then, beautiful women were considered dangerous, even scary. Bambi’s beauty not only made her a media sensation—it may have got her convicted.
In 1991, after her escape, Vanity Fair published a seminal story on the case, “Was Bambi Framed?” In the article, Sheldon Zenner, one of Bambi’s lawyers who is also interviewed for Run, Bambi, Run, says, “Nobody originally covering this case ever really got past the fact that she was a knockout, a great-looking woman, a former cop and Playboy Club waitress accused of shooting her detective husband’s ex-wife. Talk about juicy! Everyone was blinded by the statuesque body, the long red fingernails, what we used to call back in my prosecutorial days the ‘fuck me’ pumps. Nobody looked at what a shoddy deal she got.”
Forty years later, Run, Bambi, Run takes the case apart.
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