rame.net  :  book reviews  :   vulgar favors
From: Tim Evanson <tevanson@erols.com>
Subject: Gay Porn Revelations from new Andrew Cunanan book
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 99 10:19:42

Hi...

"Vanity Fair" writer Maureen Orth has authored a new book on Andrew Cunanan. Titled "Vulgar Favors" (Delacrote Press; $24.95, hardcover), the book is in part even-handed and in part tabloidish, but it is a fascinating and incredibly detailed biography of Andrew Cunanan and the story behind what Orth calls the "greatest failed manhunt in American history."

I got the book after seeing Orth discuss her findings on NBC's "Dateline." "Wow," I thought, " 'Dateline' can be pretty yellow-journalistic, too. But it *is* NBC. This seems pretty important!" Think again: Orth is the wife of Tim Russert, who hosts NBC's "Meet the Press." Gee, no nepotism there.

What attracted me to the book was Orth's claim that Andrew Cunanan was into hard-core S&M. That phrase -- "hard-core S&M" -- can mean different things to different people. More often than not, it means that the S&M is very extreme (blood, needle piercings of nipples, welts, electroshock, etc.). To me, it usually means S&M accompanied by oral and anal sex. So I figured I'd get the book and double-check. (In this post, I'll use the term "hard-core" to mean both.)

OVERALL:

Overall, Orth's book is fairly sensationalistic when it comes to the gay community, and to gay porn. She sprinkles little lurid tales throughout the book, often for no reason. I'm not saying that these things didn't happen, but then they seem to serve no purpose except to be lurid. For example, Cunanan obviously wanted a sugar-daddy. He ran into several members of Gamma Mu, the gay "fraternity." (Orth doesn't say whether Cunanan knew if the men he met were Gamma Mu members. I'd bet good money that he didn't.) Gamma Mu (or GM, which stands for "good men") is a society of ultra-wealthy gay men who host private parties all around the world. You have to be sponsored to join, and be extremely rich. Most of the members are older multi-millionaires, and don't give a second thought to dropping $7,000 on a spur-of-the-moment Gamma Mu weekday trip. Orth portrays the members of Gamma Mu as self-absorbed, arrogant, egotistical, shallow snobs -- stereotpyically too-rich-for-their-own-good. There's not much reason to doubt Orth's portrayal of Gamma Mu's members. At the same time, why is it important that we spend several pages discussing things totally unrelated to the Andrew Cunanan story?? Maybe....maybe to sell books!

Gay readers of the book will be somewhat discomfitted (as I was) with Orth's portrayal of gay culture. She uniformly paints it as a bunch of rich, drugged, highly educated, shallow people who exist only to party and fuck. (No mention of statistics that show gays are four times more likely to be poor than the rest of America, or that gays comprise 40% of all homeless youth in the USA, or that gays generally have 4 less years of education than their straight peers.) If one read only Orth's book, one would think that every single gay man in San Diego was using crystal meth. If one read only Orth's book, one would think that coming out was a relatively easy, painless process (even for highly closeted military men, like Jeff Trail -- one of Cunanan's victims). If one read only Orth's book, one would think that all gay men were extremely wealthy. (She portrays Jeff Trail as some sort of "poor little rich boy" who was wealthy enough to spend thousands of dollars flying cross-country regularly to simply party in San Diego.)

In this context, Orth also talks about Cunanan and pornography.

"HARD-CORE" S&M

Many reports say Andrew Cunanan was a lover of "hard-core" S&M porn. Orth claims this, too -- on "Dateline" as well as in her book. However, a prior report said that only two porn tapes were found in Cunanan's apartment after his death, and neither was a "hard-core" S&M tape or contained any extreme sex. Orth repeats the claim that Cunanan constantly obtained (it's not clear whether by rental, loan, or sale) "hard-core" S&M. However, there is almost no evidence for this in the book! Orth repeats the statement often, but her evidence comes from only one man -- former Cunanan roommate Erik Greenman, who appeared in gay porn using the screen name "Josh Connors").

Orth quotes others (with no direct knowledge of Cunanan's private life) who assert that Cunanan loved porn. But there are problems with these statements. First, since these individuals did not know Cunanan, it is unlikely they really knew the truth about his porn use. Orth portrays Cunanan as a pathological liar, so hearsay is not good enough. Second, none of the individuals claim that Cunanan liked "hard-core" S&M -- only that he liked "pornography." There's a big difference!

Orth's book is ammunition for anti-porn forces who will pick up on the charges that "crystal meth and gay porn destroyed Andrew Cunanan." They'll run with it the way they ran with Ted Bundy's claims that porn drove him to be a serial killer. (Oh, that James Dobson will believe anything!! Tell him the world's made of snow, and he'll be afraid of summer!) However, Orth unwittingly destroys her own -- and the anti-porn forces' -- theory that porn was a big cause of Cunanan's self-destructive behavior. She quotes 1996 statistics from "Adult Video News" (did Gene Ross' head just swell?) that show that while gay men are only 10% of the population, they rent and buy over one-third of ALL pornography! If porn consumption (and by Orth's account, drug consumption) is so high in the gay community, why aren't we seeing 1 million Andrew Cunanans running around slaughtering the populace? MAYBE BECAUSE PORN DOESN'T HURT YOU.

GAY PORN ESCORTS

Orth claims that Cunanan often tried to escort in order to raise cash for the super-rich lifestyle he tried to lead. He initially failed, largely because of his constant lying, his drug use, his emotional distance, and his sexual frigidity. Cunanan, Orth reveals, was also a big-time drug dealer in San Diego. Because shipping services such as UPS are now being routinely inspected for drugs, many drug dealers now use actual people to courier their products on airlines. Cunanan was well-known as a "runner," someone who rides first-class all over the country delivering large drug shipments. On one such trip, Cunanan met a gay porn star. The performer (who goes unnamed) showed Cunanan a gym bag with $50,000 in it. The performer says he got that cash just for spending a weekend with several older gentlemen on the East Coast. Orth reports that "kept porn stars" usually never have to engage in sex with the men who purchase their services. They are trophies, to be shown off and paraded in front of others. They coo over their sugar daddies, pretending to be in love. It's a prestige thing, not a sex thing.

ANDREW CUNANAN AND GAY PORN

Orth repeats the claim -- made previously by other authors -- that Andrew Cunanan tried to get into gay porn many times. However, Orth says that he never made any films.

Now, the mainstream press often portrayed Andrew Cunanan as this "very handsome" serial killer. Orth argues that Cunanan was actually derided in the gay community in San Diego for being ugly. Orth goes to great lengths to portray Cunanan as a man so incredibly fucked up that he could only achieve sexual release through "hard-core" S&M. I find that to be a fairly stereotypical portrayal of serial killers, although there is also no reason to disbelieve Orth...and she does provide plenty of hearsay evidence for her claim. However, she does NOT quote anyone who actually had sex with Cunanan, or witnessed him having sex. I find that very odd. Orth quotes many named sources as saying that they felt Cunanan was emotionally cold, sexually frigid, and so on.

Orth does not say which porn studios Cunanan approached, although in San Diego there are only two or three. There is also no discussion of how big Cunanan's dick was. :) There are rumors he was huge, and rumors he was tiny. It'd be classic gay porn behavior to reject him cause his dick was too small.

"ANOTHER VIDEO COMPANY" (AVC) and 5,000 BARBIE DOLLS

Orth tells the tale of Scott Sloggett, the owner of Another Video Company, Inc. (AVC). AVC was located in San Diego, and was a third-tier studio. One Ted "Vance" Coukoulis (see below) often procured young men for the studio. Orth says Sloggett was a crystal meth dealer. Sloggett's former partner and art director for porn films was one Glen Offield. Offield is VERY well-known all over America for having one of the largest Barbie doll collections in the world. (Chi Chi LaRue ain't got NOTHING on Offield.) The collection contains over 5,000 dolls, along with innumerable Barbie accessories (clothes, cars, houses, etc.). The collection is worth over $1 million, and Offield even appeared on the cover of "Smithsonian" magazine with his collection.

Orth says that Sloggett got into money troubles around 1991 or 1992. In October, 1992, while Offield was at a doll convention, Sloggett went to Offield's home to mix up a batch of crystal meth. (Orth doesn't make the connection, but clearly Offield must have been dealing and/or using, too.) It exploded, causing a small fire that Sloggett did not report to fire officials. From this, Sloggett got the idea that he should steal the doll collection and set a bigger fire to cover his tracks. After Coukoulis rented a storage locker (in his own name -- how dumb!), Sloggett filled it with 37 boxes of dolls and set the house on fire. (Orth does not say how much damage occurred, and it seems obvious from her account that police and arson investigators realized the dolls had been removed before the fire.) Sloggett then stashed the storage locker under a freeway overpass.

Shortly thereafter, Sloggett -- apaprently coming off a drug binge -- became terribly depressed and committed suicide by overdosing on 40 morphine pills. Coukoulis fled to Holland, and the storage locker was found. Offield was overjoyed to get his dolls back, and Coukoulis returned once he realized charges were not going to be filed against him in the case.

PEDOPHILE GAY PORN

Orth discusses at length (and without any real reason for doing so) the case of Theodore "Vance" Coukoulis. (Orth persists in calling him by his first name/nickname, Vance, rather than his last name. Why?) Coukoulis, an Air Force brat, entered and left several Catholic seminaries in his life. He is a con artist from San Diego who once duped Catholic Church officials into giving him audience after audience with Pope John Paul II, so Coukoulis could pressure the Vatican into brokering business deals with the Chinese and Russians and Coukoulis' business partners. (Orth's evidence for this is skimpy and unreliable, but you can read page 109 yourself to see her only proof for this story.)

Coukoulis is currently in jail in Arizona on charges that he sexually assaulted a minor. (A Phoenix woman claims Coukoulis gave her 15 year old son drugs and alcohol, then had sex with him on film.) It is alleged that Coukoulis would often pose as a Catholic priest, gain the trust of underage boys, drug them, and film them having sex. Coukoulis was into "adult baby" films, videos in which the boys' entire bodies are shaved, powdered, and diapered. They are then filmed sucking on bottles and cooing like babies (Orth implies that they even piss and shit their diapers) before engaging in oral and anal sex for several hours with many men. Coukoulis also is accused of drugging boys or forcing them into "hard-core" S&M with himself or others on film. (Orth implies that this was often rape, although sometimes it was consensual.)

Coukoulis' use of drugs to sedate his victims for sex is mentioned often. In San Diego, Coukoulis was rumored to host huge parties and dope the alcohol being served with the "date-rape drug," rohypnol. Orth also alleges that Coukoulis often would get underage (16, 17, and 18 year old) boys into bars and after-hours parties. She reports the claim that in 1993, Coukoulis drugged a 16 year old gay boy with "special K," kethamphetamine. "Special K" is a horse anesthetic that, when taken by human beings, can induce a sort of hypnotic state. It tends to act like rohypnol, but you have even less free-will. You'll do as you are told, and yet your body is able to perform sexually. People also report that "special K" acts like an aphrodisiac. Like crystal, it can relax the rectum so that extreme and lengthy anal sex is possible, and day-long, extremely painful erections are not uncommon. Orth says Coukoulis drugged this underage kid with "special K," then took him to a dungeon set up in Coukoulis' home. There, the boy was tied down in a locked room and gangbanged for 24 hours by Coukoulis and many older men. Due to Coukoulis' standing in the gay community in San Diego, Orth claims, the devastated young boy was told to leave town rather than report the crime.

Orth also tells the tale of one Lou Ball, a wealthy former Philadelphian who worked on and off in gay porn. In 1996, Ball was murdered. Ball was a crystal dealer, and two ex-con bikers who lived next door to him murdered him and stole several thousand dollars and some drugs from him. (They were caught and jailed.)

Ball was also a well-known child pornographer. Nathan Fry, a piano-bar pianist in San Diego (gee, another great, reputable source), says that Ball and Coukoulis would film kiddie porn videos together. Coukoulis would find underage boys, often drugging them* in preparation for these films. Ball had rented the apartment below his and had rigged the interior walls to hide cameras, sound pick-ups, and places for pedophiles to hide and watch. The equipment and camera operator stayed hidden in the lower apartment, while the sex occurred in Ball's home.

* -- It is not clear here what Orth means. Does she mean drugging as in the case of the 16-year-old, above? Or does she mean hooking them on drugs, so they'll do the videos to obtain more drugs? Or does she mean paying the boys in drugs? It's not clear.

Fry claims that Ball made hundreds, if not thousands, of such videos and sold them for thousands of dollars each. He claims that even though Ball's apartment contained thousands of unlabeled videotapes, police were not suspicious. Nor, he claims, were police interested in the tapes (or second apartment full of video equipment, or the hidden video cameras) despite the fact that the cops had long suspected that Ball was a child pornographer. Fry says that police left the crime scene, and Ball's friends later cleaned out the apartment to remove all traces of kiddie porn. (Yeah, right.)

Anyway: The book is quite depressing, I thought. Orth beats you over the head with a constant barrage of shallowness, lies, drug use, mind-games, and so on. You almost want to wash your hands after putting the book down. In Orth's world, there is nothing good about being gay, nothing good about bars or clubs, nothing good about pornography, nothing good about wealth. Everything is sleaze, everything is sick, everything is shallow.

The sections on porn are VERY hard to find as well. Orth includes an index, but it is only to NAMES and not to places, themes, topics, or subjects. THAT SUCKS! You have to read -- and read VERY CLOSELY -- to find Orth's references to gay porn, performers, and escorts. I'd say that the sections that pertain to gay porn are in the first 175 pages.

This is not to say that the book isn't a good one. Once you get past the biographical part of the book (which is to say, until Cunanan travels to Minneapolis in late April 1997 to murder Jeffrey Trail), the book becomes a detailed, interesting study of a failed FBI manhunt. It becomes a case study in police goof-ups, snafus, and stupidity. The Keystone Kops could have done better, Orth says.

Anyway, if you get a chance, go buy "Vulgar Favors." It's good enough to buy.

See ya...

Tim #1

 

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