OFFBEAT: Local man subject of doc on Oprah's OWN this month

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-10-19T23:20:00Z 2013-12-19T23:22:06Z OFFBEAT: Local man subject of doc on Oprah's OWN this monthBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

I've had readers alerting me to a new documentary Oprah Winfrey is airing on her OWN cable network this month, telling the tragic story of a local young man from Northwest Indiana.

Reader Curt Ellis of Valparaiso wrote me:

"Hey Phil: I saw a mention of this new documentary on Facebook this morning and thought of you. Note that the Indiana town that is referenced in this film is Knox, Ind., which is very close to your family farm, right? Well, this has now been made into a feature-length documentary that was debuted at Tribeca Film Festival and is scheduled to be aired on OWN (Oprah's channel) Oct. 27. And the making of the film was primarily financed through Kickstarter campaigns, which is where everyday people give money for a project. It's produced by Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who also produced the 'Designing Women' TV series. -- Curt Ellis"

This much-buzzed-about doc, which I have not yet screened, follows the story of young couple Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom. Crone, who turns 28 in December, was born and reared in Montana and after school moved to Los Angeles to pursue an entertainment career. He became a production assistant and, later, a talent coordinator for the TV show, "Entertainment Tonight." 

Through a mutual friend, he met Tom, an actor and musician, who also worked as a photographer. Originally from the small town of Knox, in Starke County, the son of Norman and Martha Bridegroom, he graduated from Culver Military Academy in 2000 and then Vassar College before moving to Los Angeles to pursue career dreams. After meeting in 2005, Shane and Tom became friends and shared a loving relationship as both life partners and business partners. They moved in together and shared everything, including a mortgage. In 2008, they pooled their money to start their own social media business.

As the documentary details, while Shane's parents and family were happy about and accepting of the couple's shared life, Tom's return trip to Indiana to tell his parents resulted in the opposite reaction.

On May 7, 2011, while doing an L.A. photo shoot of a model on the roof of a four-story building, Tom accidentally fell to his death. The documentary recounts Shane's grief, and says it was compounded by Tom's family rejecting him when Tom's mother traveled to the West Coast to claim the body and transport her son back to Indiana for a funeral May 17 at Culver Military Academy Chapel and burial by M.C. Smith Funeral Home in Knox at a cemetery in neighboring Winamac, Ind. In the documentary's trailer, Shane says he cooperated with Tom's mother and was asked to pay for Tom's body to be returned to Indiana, as well as to pay the funeral and burial expenses, all of which he says in the trailer he did, and then found himself barred from attending or participating in any tribute events.

A press release from OWN says: "On the anniversary of Tom's death, after a year of documenting his own grief, Shane decided to make a video tribute to his partner titled 'It Could Happen to You.' The video went viral and has garnered over four million views. Directed by TV veteran Linda Bloodworth Thomason, it has earned numerous accolades at film festivals nationwide." The Kickstarter campaign to fund the film raised even more than the initial goal of $300,000 in a short time.

After the documentary won an award at Tribeca Film Festival, President Bill Clinton, who attended a screening, said: "On one level ('Bridegroom') is a wonderful, sad, heartbreaking yet exhilarating and life-affirming story. And on another level, it's a story about our nation's struggle to make one more step in forming a more perfect union, for which marriage is both the symbol and substance."

"Bridegroom" airs at 9 p.m. Oct. 27 on OWN and also will be released on Netflix the same day. FYI:

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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