By Ron Donoho
David is a kept boy. This year, he’ll collect $50,000 from two much older male sponsors who pay him for sex and companionship.
It’s a thriving underground industry, David says. And he’s far from alone in taking care of business. Rich, closeted gay men—in La Jolla and moneyed communities all over the world—pay big bucks to maintain discreet liaisons with younger (though legal age), pay-for-play boys.
The practice, many would say, differs only in degree from the straight-world version of older wealthy males collecting younger “trophy” wives or girlfriends. The difference: The mainstream has—fundamentally, if not wholeheartedly—embraced the latter as a socially acceptable inclination.
David (not his real name) lives in Hillcrest. The money he quietly receives via bank drafts goes in large part toward college tuition, he says. In addition to the money, David’s sugar daddies lavish him with gifts—like the Cartier watch draped on his wrist, the latest in computer hardware, and the furniture that adorns his home. And they wine and dine him at tony spots like the Hotel del Coronado and Le Meridien, or downtown’s La Strada and Fio’s.
Not bad for someone with no full-time job, per se. Especially since before becoming a trophy boy, David was a hooker. There’s a difference, he says.
He met both sponsors through classified ads. “At the time, I was hooking. I’d been hooking for two years. Just four days after putting an ad in national classifieds I was in New York. Days later I was in Phoenix. I was flown out to places sight unseen—except for a small picture that ran with my ad. A $56 ad made me so much money. Both of my sponsors first called me strictly on a sexual basis, but then took a liking to me.”
Though he won’t name names, David says his benefactors are prominent and wealthy businessmen. “There are so many wealthy gay men who will pay for companionship from younger guys,” he says. “It’s a whole circuit. The people that do this are the most powerful in America. It’s unbelievable. It can be married men in high-level positions. Very, very wealthy men. To this day it still surprises me when my friends tell me who they’re sleeping with. Or when these men appear as guests on Larry King Live.”
In agreeing to meet face to face with a reporter, David asked that his physical description be kept to a minimum. Suffice to say he could easily be cast as a pool cleaner on Melrose Place. His shoulders stretch the elasticity limit of a white Gap T-shirt. Though his visage is nearly fawn-like, David’s close-cropped hair lends an appearance slightly reminiscent of Kept-Boy-of-the-Year Andrew Cunanan.
Oh yeah, that guy.
This we learned of our not-so-favorite son in postmortem: The suicidal accused murderer of five men nationwide, including designer Gianni Versace, was studious in his pursuit of older marks. Cunanan researched topics of interest to jet-set men. Being a boy toy for rich older businessmen might get you a night’s work here, a couple of hundred dollars there. But simple sex appeal only goes so far. It doesn’t win you a La Jolla benefactor who provides a steady stream of cash. No, for entrée to that strata, you need to be conversant, witty, a bon vivant.
Cunanan was obvious in his motives. Despite roots in blue-collar National City, he seemed to feel luxury was his birthright. Witness the write-up he chose to accompany his scrub-faced, preppy-looking photograph in the 1987 yearbook of The Bishop’s School in La Jolla: “Après moi, le deluge” (After me, the flood). Cunanan bent the French phrase egocentrically. Originally it was “Après nous [us], le deluge.”
In hindsight, the words seem prophetic. The adage was popularized in 1757 by the mistress of France’s King Louis XV. “Live for the minute” was the philosophy of the mistress, Jeanne, the Marquise de Pompadour. “Who cares what happens when we’re gone?” she opined. “When we are dead, let the heavens fall.” Told by the king of his army’s defeat in the Battle of Rossbach, the marquise blew off the news with those self-centered words that eventually wound up paraphrased in the prep-school annual of a modern-day mistress of sorts.
Cunanan, it would seem, was the Marquise de La Jolla.
Of course, nobody wants to be compared to an accused murderer who killed himself. Least of all David.
“I consider Cunanan a con man, a hustler,” he says. “He was someone who pretended to be somebody else. He was working people for their money.”
But David contradicts himself. He decries Cunanan as a gold digger. And then, asked if there is an element of fun involved in what he does, he replies, “It’s fun when I deposit $30,000 in my account in one month. But as far as it being fun and exciting to be with an older man—it’s not. They’re not fun to hang out with.
“When one of my sponsors wants me to go with him to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for a weekend—and I’m not due to get any money from him for two months—I wonder if it’s really worth it. After I’ve already received a chunk of money, I really don’t feel like being bothered.”
Just as David shuns comparison with Cunanan, Herb Wigley wants it clear he’s no Norman Blachford. A La Jolla businessman, Blachford reportedly was Cunanan’s last full-time sugar daddy. Before cutting him off and kicking him out, Blachford allegedly let Cunanan live in his seaside condominium, gave him a $30,000 Infiniti and a $2,000 monthly allowance. (Blachford did not return repeated telephone calls from San Diego Magazine.)
Wigley is a 70-year-old, openly gay man—a retired Dallas school administrator and “rap session” moderator for the 75-member San Diego–based Fellowship of Older Gays (FOG). He lives in Clairemont with a companion half his age. “We have a daddy/son relationship; he has little-boy characteristics I like,” Wigley says unabashedly.
“I don’t want to be compared to Blachford and his relationship with Cunanan,” says Wigley. “Before I met my current friend, I was in a relationship for 30 years. And I’m certainly not what you’d call extremely wealthy.”
But culled from weekly FOG rap sessions, and from the experiences of friends, Wigley offers several reasons for the existence of kept-boy relationships.
“An older man feels he maintains youth by having someone around who is younger,” he says. “And there are men—both homosexual and heterosexual—who simply like to pay for sex and for favors. They enjoy buying clothes or a convertible or dinner at expensive restaurants. Why? To show off. To maintain youth. To be allowed to live vicariously through the eyes of youth.”
Wigley says a friend, also in his 70s, is a wealthy lawyer who is not “out” about his sexual orientation but enjoys the company of young trophy boys. “My friend would take off and fly to Las Vegas or Hawaii with these boys,” says Wigley. “And then, I remember, he tired of this one particular boy. It happens. So he took on another boy. But he still continued to take care of the first one. He was in a position where he worried about the possibility of blackmail. It happens.”
Blackmail is just one reason to fear ramifications if you’re a wealthy businessman who has young trophies in the closet. Being looked down on by peers and shunned by high society are others, says Wigley.
A reason not to be concerned, however, is legality. It is not against the law to maintain a Cunananesque relationship, according to Lieutenant Jim Duncan of the San Diego Police Department’s vice unit.
“Keep in mind that this is something that occurs not only in the gay community but also the heterosexual community,” says Duncan. “Repeated solicitation of the same prostitute does not constitute a legal relationship. That’s against the law. But the idea of a ‘kept’ relationship is that it is a long-term solution where one person supports the other. It’s not prostitution. It may be money for sex, but usually there is more consideration shown in these long-term relationships.”
Though perfectly legal, daddy/boy relationships—quietly more common than most people realize—are made public in mainstream San Diego about as often as rain showers in the Anza-Borrego Desert.
“San Diego is not the same as San Francisco or New York when it comes to the visibility of a gay community,” says Mark Johnson, media director of the Washington, D.C.–based National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
Sitting on newsstands in the Big Apple, a New York magazine cover story on trophy boys barely raises an eyelash. New Yorkers take in stride the news that music industry mogul David Geffen and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner attend glittery Gotham parties with young boys in tow.
But let San Diego’s ABC-TV affiliate report that three San Diegans—Blachford, ex-cop novelist Joseph Wambaugh and publishing executive David Copley—are on a list of people warned by the FBI to beware of a still-at-large Cunanan, and tongues begin to wag.
Blachford did not comment on that July 21 report.
Hounded by the media, Wambaugh told San Diego Magazine: “I never heard of Andrew Cunanan until the murders. Apparently he’s a name dropper and a fan of my books.” Further pressed on whether he is gay, a tongue-in-cheek Wambaugh responded by borrowing a line from the actor/cop hero of his 1994 novel Finnegan’s Week: “Probably ... except for the sex part.”
An “incredulous” Copley told the Union-Tribune he had not been warned by the FBI, but called San Diego’s top FBI officer following the TV report and was told his name was not on any list. “It’s all a puzzlement,” he said. “I was chagrined.”
Cunanan’s widely reported relationship with Blachford also shed unwanted light on a private organization known as Gamma Mu. Blachford reportedly was a member of this clique of wealthy gay professionals. According to a report in the September issue of The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine based in Los Angeles, Gamma Mu “is about dapper men in big hats and acting silly at a party.” But the members’ “closet factor” makes information about Gamma Mu hard to come by.
Calls from San Diego Magazine to Gamma Mu’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, headquarters went unanswered. No chapter number is listed in San Diego.
But during Cunanan’s nationwide murder rampage, a Gamma Mu newsletter, obtained by The Advocate, contained the following warning: “The authorities in connection with three brutal murders are seeking a former member. Andrew Cunanan (aka Andrew DeSilva) lived in San Diego and was roommate to several prominent members in that area.” Note the word “several.”
“Gamma Mu is a group that likes to have younger boys around,” says the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s Johnson. “It’s nothing new for older gay men to be attracted to attractive people. If they have power and position, some want a trophy person to make them look good. To a large extent, the gay community puts a high premium on physical appearance. Older people often get overlooked.”
Johnson also says that, especially in a conservative town like San Diego, “it’s not feasible for some older men to be seen out in gay bars or at gay social functions. So they turn to organizations like Gamma Mu.”
Or to the Internet. One Web site we found, http://www.guypages.com, lists 51 other sites for gay personal ads, including “Angel’s Love Connection,” “Man Finder” and “The Boys-2-Men Central Gay Directory.”
And there are always the personal ads. A recent issue of the local gay newspaper Update features 18 pages of ads with headings like “Former Marine,” “Fraternity Stud” and “Professional, Discreet & Friendly.” Update editor Ramon Jimenez says the weekly paper has a circulation in San Diego and Palm Springs of 16,500 (an additional 4,000 copies are distributed biweekly in Los Angeles).
An ad from a group called Prime Timers ran in a recent issue of San Diego’s Gay & Lesbian Times. Prime Timers’ recorded phone message says the 64-chapter group is “finally in San Diego.” The message notes the group is for “mature men, 40 years old and up—to 90-plus—and for [legal-age] younger guys who seek older friends.” The recording states Prime Timers sponsors museum visits, overnight trips to Catalina and clothing-optional pool parties.
David, who says personal ads opened up a world he never knew existed, thinks he’s seen it all. “I’ve met movie directors,” he says, “actors, attorneys, judges, priests, clergypeople ... it’s phenomenal what actually goes on.” He adds that many of the men he’s been involved with are, publicly at least, happily married.
Though they risk having their secret lives discovered, his benefactors have dined with him in public many times, David says. “I don’t want to sound holier-than-thou, but I can sit at a nice restaurant and exhibit the proper manners. Granted, there are some people who aren’t educated or don’t have the class to be with these people. But when I put on a coat and tie and sit down for dinner, I don’t exactly look like a flaming fag.”
Asked what he believes people would think about him if they read about what he does, David pauses.
“My mother knows I have a sponsor,” he finally says. “She’s okay with it, for the most part. She wishes her son didn’t need to rely on anybody for money. She knows I’m going to school. That I’m trying to better myself. I am HIV-negative. I pay all my bills and study hard. And I happen to have somebody—okay, more than one person —who is very generous to me. They care about me and want to see me succeed.
“You can get a different answer on this from me, depending on what day of the week you ask. If somebody is thinking about doing something like what I do ... I would advise against it. It’s not a healthy thing for your soul or mind. Whatever situation you get in, you’re relying on somebody else for your living.
“No matter how generous they are, you have to rely on someone besides yourself. It could end at any moment. One or both of my sponsors could croak, and where would I be? I’d be an overaged hooker trying to get back to something.”
And that, Andrew Cunanan showed us, definitely is not a healthy thing to be.