You Picked The Wrong Fat Guy.

When Olivia Newton-John passed away and I was revisiting her oeuvre, I listened to “A Little More Love”, a minor hit from her 1978 Totally Hot LP. At 9 years old, I didn’t realize how dark the song was. There is a line “Where did my innocence go?” which my sisters and I always sang as “Where did my Anacins go?” We thought she had a headache and couldn’t find her aspirin.

I thought of this song again this morning as Toby was laying out some Advil for me to take. And then I had to Google “Anacin” to see if they still make it. They do. But nobody asks for it by name anymore.

The Advil is for a broken bone in my foot. It’s the hallux sesamoid, a stupid little bone in the ball of the foot that some people don’t even have. Apparently the tiny chip that showed up on the X-ray could have been there for years, but the fact that my foot is swollen and purple indicates a recent trauma.

On Saturday we attended a wedding on the Upper West Side – a very nice affair even though they did not play any Olivia Newton-John. The subway system was not cooperating with us on the way to the event. The A train was on the C track and running local but only to 59th street, where it went express on the D line headed into the Bronx. The trains were clogged with puzzled slow-moving tourists. Typical of weekend mass transit. You really can’t blame visitors for being confused. The Google map prediction that our subway ride would take 8 minutes was off by about half an hour and the wedding ceremony was in progress when we arrived. Four hours later, apprehensive of further subway drama, we boarded the downtown C train headed back to Penn Station.

At Times Square / 42nd Street, the doors were just about to close when a guy snatched my iPhone out of my hand and ran out of the train. I was looking at my phone as he did this. I don’t remember saying “What the fuck?” but that was what Toby heard me say as I bolted out the door after the thief.

I wasn’t even sure if Toby got off the train before the door closed – I was focused on getting my damn phone back. On the platform, the guy slowed for a second before he realized that I was right behind him. He sprinted for the stairs but I kept up with him. As he darted up the steps, I thought “Here we go…”

I have never tackled anyone in my life. Well, outside of the bedroom, anyway. I had no idea that I had a football tackle in my arsenal. But I dove at this guy, who was not a very big man. In the cartoon version of this, my suit-clad 220 pound frame completely flattened him on the stairs. With only his withering hand sticking out from under my girth, he let go of my phone and it clattered onto the steps.

I remember saying “Betcha didn’t think I could run, did ya? Asshole.” I grabbed the phone off the stairs – it couldn’t have been more than 20 seconds since he took it out of my hand on the train. And now Toby was on the guy too, pulling him by the legs and just about to land a punch when an undercover police officer grabbed his arm. Suddenly we were surrounded by police. We soon learned that they had just finished issuing a summons nearby when this unfolded.

Our little felon was taken away and Toby and I got to spend the next 2 ½ hours in the transit police station filling out forms and repeating our story over and over. EMT checked out my bruised hand and swollen foot. We collectively determined that rather than sitting in an Emergency Room for hours on a Saturday night with non-emergency injuries, I should go home, apply some ice, and see how I felt in the morning.

The next day, Toby and I had a couple of additional bruises and minor soreness… except for the foot, which still fucking hurt. I went to the hospital where my superhero sister works as an ER nurse and X-rays confirmed that there was a broken bone.

Although I have lived in this city for over 30 years and I have never actually been robbed, there are plenty of comparable actions that one can easily get tired of putting up with. The unfairness, inconveniences, and the feeling that you are being ripped off can be dismissed as things to deal with in exchange for being allowed to live in The City So Nice, They Named It Twice. If you don’t like it, you know what you can do: Leave. Period. Nobody cares. The End. Another hundred people just got offa the train.

But on this day, a fine Saturday afternoon, instead of feeling beaten up by the city, I felt pretty good. I landed on top, literally.

I would feel very differently if I didn’t get the phone back.

I have to add this:

New York City is not the crime-ridden hellscape that Republican politicians want you to think it is. Crime is still lower here than at any point during “the good ol’ days” of the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. And the people whipping everyone into a frenzy about rampant crime also tend to be against any kind of gun control. Don’t even try to figure that one out. Media saturation does not improve the optic. There is surveillance footage of everything now – not to mention phone footage. So the nightly news can report on every crime with a clips of it actually taking place.

There might be footage of the tackle but I’m sure that my cartoon visualization is much more satisfying.

You can also read about my friend Kenneth’s incredulous iPhone snatching incident from the summer of 2021 here.

Costello Presley and 80’s Gay Porn Guilty Pleasures

Amy Sedaris is the queen of Instagram – her offbeat posts highlight the weirdly funny and/or oddly sweet. I am just one of her million+ followers. If you need a daily pick-me-up – and who doesn’t at this point? – check out her feed.

A couple of months ago, she posted this:

This clip has more than 300k views, 23,436 likes and 897 comments…. but apparently I’m the only one who doesn’t just click the heart, post “LOL” and move on. No. I’m the gay porn nerd spewing info that the general population really does not give a shit about, pointing out that it’s Eric Manchester & Billy London admiring Dean Chasson’s talents in Head Of The Class (1988). Music by Costello Presley!

The comment garnered no “likes” or “responses” – it just dissipated into the air like a public fart as crickets chirped in the distance. Whoooo cares?

Taking my killjoy vibe to the next level, I would also like to point out that the blond, Billy London, was brutally murdered and dismembered in Hollywood back in 1990. He is sometimes referred to as the gay “Black Dahlia.” Circus of Books filmmaker Rachel Mason is currently working on a documentary looking into the unsolved crime.

I know I’m not the only one interested in finding out more about these videos. Amy Sedaris reposted this clip from Instagram user @homomacabre, whose followers also care about the minutia. His posts highlight the kitsch of old gay porn, with acting thinner than the flimsy sets, not to mention the tacky period clothes and hairstyles. And then there’s the music of Costello Presley.

I wanted to do a blog post about the mysterious synth-pop wizard who scored several dozen gay porn films in the 80’s and early 90’s, but have not successfully uncovered any info about him, including his true identity. I am not alone in my appreciation of Costello Presley: There are multiple soundcloud files and a reddit post with a filmography of approximately 40 titles that feature his music. A porn-adjacent friend of mine does not remember his real name, but assures me that Mr. Presley has left the building.

In 2017, synth band Parralox did a faithful cover of Costello Presley’s “Animal Reaction” from William Higgins’ Class of ’69.

In addition to Head of the Class, another Scott Masters/Catalina video in the Costello Presley oeuvre is John Travis’s Powerline (1989), which also starred Eric Manchester. This film features one of my favorite unintentionally funny scenes from that era.

I purchased a VHS copy of Powerline while on spring break from college. I had gone into New York City to see a Broadway show with some school friends and was about to head back to Long Island. I couldn’t manage to break away from the group and go into a porn shop, so I said my goodbyes at Penn Station and headed down to the train platform. Once the coast was clear, I ran back up to 8th avenue and went into the first smut shop I could find.

I made my way over to the video racks as a stripper in a silver bikini and stilettoes danced on the stairs to the upper level, beckoning shoppers to partake of something more tangible. I grabbed Powerline and headed to the register. With a $39.99 price tag, it was more than I would normally pay for a porn videocassette but my train was leaving in 5 minutes.

All the “acting” scenes are priceless but this one is my favorite, featuring gay-for-pay cover model Tom Steele as the cable guy with Lou Cass and Troy Ramsey as the couple from downstairs who catch him jerking off on the roof.

Porn legend and uber music fan Lou Cass was a frequent guest on The Robin Byrd Show in the early 90’s when he was dancing in New York. The Bay Area resident still has a strong social media presence and occasionally releases his own music. This is one of several versions of Pat Benatar/Nick Gilder’s “Rated X” that he has recorded through the years:

If and when I find out more information about Costello Presley, I will be sure to update the post.

See also:
10 Gay Porn Stars We Lost in 2020
Gay Porn Stars We Lost in 2021
Remembering Prolific Pornographer Robert Prion
RIP Porn Star Turned Activist Terry DeCarlo

Gay Porn Stars We Lost in 2021

In August of 2020, porn star Koldo Goran tweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. In one of those instances, Goran’s tweet remains the only public notice that the performer, Dani Rivera, had been murdered. “I realize nobody talks about it, we are unprotected and forgotten;” Goran tweeted “We are humans, people, enough of contempt.”

Koldo Goran tweet

Most gay news outlets choose to ignore the passing of all but the biggest names in the adult film industry.  Porn companies also seem reluctant to broadcast the death of a performer who is still on their roster, forever young and present in their website content. An obit is a real boner killer, ya know? Why jeopardize the profit margin?

Additionally, performers who abandon their porn personas and return to life under their real name often pass away unnoticed by former employers and scene parters.

In 2021 we lost two of the biggest gay porn filmmakers: Wakefield Poole, who basically invented the genre with 1971’s Boys In The Sand; and Jerry Douglas, director of many critically acclaimed gay adult films that were story-based but incorporated hot sex scenes. Poole’s passing was marked with a New York Times article and Douglas’s death was also widely reported in the gay press.

In contrast, some of the porn star passings that we note here have no verification other than the crumbs of information posted on the IAFD database. We remember those that we lost in 2021 to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they are not forgotten:

Alex James’ eyebrow-raising transformation over a three year period in adult films.
Eric Pryor, aka Mikey McKenna

1. Alex James, one of the most popular performers at Active Duty, passed away of a “heart attack” on 2/15/21, according to the menofporn blog. He appeared in several dozen scenes starting in 2018 with new content steadily released in the six months following his death.


2. According to the IAFD database, Eric Pryor was 38 years old when he passed away on January 12, 2021. No other details were given. The Michigan native primarily worked for Randy Blue from 2009-2013 and also appeared on Baitbus as Mikey McKenna.

3. Teyon Goffney was the straighter half of the identical Goffney twins. Their brief foray into gay porn gained national attention after they were arrested for a daring burglary in 2008. Post-prison, Teyon released two versions of his memoirs. He died of cancer at age 38 on 2/20/21.

Teyon Goffney with identical twin Keyon (l), and solo.

Flex-Deon Blake

4. Flex-Deon Blake, aka Kevin Moss was a 2004 inductee into the Grabby’s “Wall of Fame” after a 10 year career in the industry. He was the long-term partner of fellow porn star Bobby Blake and founded a Dallas-based ministry to help people resolve any conflict between their spirituality and sexual orientation. He passed away due to ongoing medical issues at age 58 on 3/1/21.

Bo Dean

5. Tattooed top Bo Dean, aka Michael Jensen worked primarily for Jake Cruise but also appeared in scenes for Raging Stallion, Lucas Entertainment and Next Door Studios between 2009-2014. In 2015, he was shot in the chest and left paralyzed from the waist down. His cause of death was not disclosed when he died on 3/30/21 at age 41.

Treyshawn Valentino

6. Treshawn / Treyshawn Valentino appeared in films for various companies (including Bacchus, Lucas Entertainment, Titan, Thugmart and Latino Fan Club) over a jaw-dropping 15 year period. The Illinois native passed away on 4/2/21, according to his IAFD listing. No other details have surfaced.

Freddie @ The Guy Site

7. Michael Watts was an Oregon security guard who also worked as a Freddie Mercury impersonator. He chose Freddie as his porn persona when he did two scenes for The Guy Site in 2019. The 37 year-old went missing on May 1st and was found in the Willamette river two weeks later. The investigation is ongoing.

8. Versatile blond Ty Thomas began his porn career at Jason Sparks in 2016 and went on to appear in 30+ scenes for Next Door Studios. According to the IAFD, he passed away on 5/6/21 at age 29.

Alex Riley

9. The death of 22 year-old Alex Riley on 5/9/21 was widely reported in the gay press. The popular performer was best known for his work with Helix Studios but had previously worked for Men, FraternityX, RealityDudes, and Next Door Studios. Riley was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2020 Str8UpGayPorn Awards, and he won GayVN’s Best Newcomer award. Rumors of suicide circulated but were unconfirmed.

10. Muscular Bryce Evans loomed large in the gay porn industry for close to a decade with versatile appearances in scenes for Lucas Entertainment, Men, Pride Studios, Dominic Ford, Men Over 30 and several others. The 46 year-old reportedly suffered a “heart attack” in early June but his death was not made public until three weeks later.

Bryce Evans
Connor @ Military Classified

11. In late June, Rob Navarro tweeted about the death of Connor, aka Casey Van Mersbergen. The 37 year-old was killed in a pedestrian accident in Blythe, California. He appeared in a handful of scenes for Military Classified in 2015.

12. On July 22nd, Chi Chi La Rue tweetedTommy Ritter passed away. No details have been given. Tommy was a great guy who saved many a movie with his amazing performances, even before he decided to be fully on camera!” Ritter, a versatile Channel 1 / Rascal Video exclusive, appeared in a dozen films circa 2005-6.

13. Max London, aka Joshua Gower, a ginger top Texan who was a popular member of the Randy Blue stable from 2010-2012. After a stint behind bars on burglary charges, he expanded his repertoire briefly at Bromo and Reality Dudes. The menofporn blog reported that the 34 year-old passed away on 8/8/21 with no further details.

Max London
Mel Grey

14. Mel Grey, aka Elder Packer (missionaryboyz) aka Toby Muck (familydick) was only 24 years old but had been in the business for three years, working with the studios listed above as well as Treasure Island Media. IAFD reports that he was “shot by a random intruder when trying to protect other people present” on 12/11/21.

Hoody LaVaye

15. A reader alerted me to another passing: Hoody LaVaye, aka Justin Miley. His film work spanned 8 years, with scenes for FlavaWorks, Rawrods and several other outlets. The Virginia Beach native passed away of a “heart attack” on 12/3/21 at age 33.

See our 2020 list here.
Remembering prolific pornographer Robert Prion

Mambo Italiano

Back in 2013, I spent 6 weeks on the jury of a murder trial in Manhattan. It ended in a hung jury, which was very frustrating, although the guy was retried and convicted the following year. Throughout the trial, there was one reporter who showed up at court every day. Other reporters would come and go, depending on who was testifying, but this one woman was always there. She looked like a fragile little bird, sitting alone in the courtroom.

After the trial was over, most of the jurors were escorted out a side door to scurry away, ashamed of their inability to reach a verdict. A couple of us went out front and spoke to the press. And there was the reporter. After six weeks, I was finally able to ask what publication she worked for. When she said “The New York Post,” I let out some sort of involuntary laugh/snort. I shook my head and was speechless for a moment. I had decided beforehand that I would not speak to a Post reporter. But it was her – the one who had paid the most attention.

I wish I could remember the exact wording I used to express my distaste for that piece of shit tabloid. I remember her assuring me that she was one of the many good reporters working there – “especially in the online version.” I know the last thing I said to her was “Be nice.” Now that the trial was over, I was able to go back and read what she had written. I found her trial reportage to be accurate and fair.

That reporter was Laura Italiano, who just resigned after being pressured into writing the false “Kamala Harris’s book is being given to migrant children at taxpayer’s expense” front page story.

She should have left The New York Post years ago, when she still had a moral compass.

As one Twitterer observed: “breaking point” implies that there were other false stories. Wouldn’t it be great if she ‘fessed up to the other news items she was “forced” to fabricate? And where is the apology to the Vice President?

Whatever Happened To The Kid Who Boiled John Crouse’s Head?

I was a freshman theatre major at Syracuse University when I scribbled this in my journal one bright spring day in 1988:

I’m writing at Oakwood Cemetery, where we are sitting on the steps of the Brown Mausoleum. People might think it’s morbid to hang out in a cemetery, but I love it here – so beautiful and peaceful. If we were sitting in the Quad, with radios blaring and frisbees flying around, I couldn’t relax – it always feels like a fight is just waiting to break out. There’s no judgement here. Other kids walk by every so often but it’s very quiet. I’ve heard that drug deals go on here at night though.

So young. So innocent. So little insight. Then again, I was 19 years old and this was before that kid boiled John Crouse’s head.

Hanging out with friends at the mortuary chapel in Oakwood Cemetery (Spring 1988)

Oakwood-cemetery_1909_syracuseOakwood is an 160 acre cemetery adjacent to the Syracuse University campus. Their website advertises “a grand array of monuments and mausoleums which form a virtual outdoor museum of funerary sculpture and architecture while mirroring the lives of Syracuse’s Victorian families.”

The cemetery was an alternative hangout for us – actors and artists clad in vintage chic attire, toting journals, sketchbooks and cameras. PICT0018 copyWe didn’t come to SU for the sports or fraternity life. The typical campus hangout spots weren’t always the best places to relax so we went to the cemetery. We were respectful,  but not everyone else subscribed to the ‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints’ credo and this is why we can’t have nice things.

In October of that year, freshman art student Kevin McQuain thought it would be a good idea to steal a human head from a mausoleum “to use as a model for sculpture class.” He brought it back to his dorm – the nearby Flint Hall – and proceeded to try and clean the odious noggin by boiling it with bleach in a trashcan placed on the stove of the 3rd floor common area. Residents were alarmed by the stench and even more so when they discovered the source. McQuain and two of his friends were arrested.

Flint and Day Halls – two Syracuse University dorms – are adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery

Two factors helped this to become a national news story: John Crouse

a) It was Halloween season.

b) It wasn’t just any old skull in the trashcan. 

The vandalized mausoleum contained John and Catherine Crouse and their two sons. The Crouse family was a wealthy philanthropic clan that loomed large in the area for generations. A fair percentage of the city of Syracuse bears the Crouse name. John created the University’s Crouse College to honor his wife. Their son, John Jacob Crouse, Jr. served as the mayor of Syracuse. All of the coffins in the tomb were vandalized, but the cranium in question belonged to John Jr. 

From The Syracuse Herald, 10/21/88 and a 1920’s postcard for Crouse College:

By the time McQuain and his friends went to court in early 1989, national news outlets had lost interest, leaving reportage to the local Syracuse papers. McQuain pled guilty and was properly contrite under advice of council. The charges against his accomplices were dropped, yet all three received the same sentence: 200 hours of community service.

From The Syracuse Times, 1/26/89:

Universities tend to frown upon students who cook the heads of their benefactors.McQuain court Following McQuain’s sentencing his scholarship was revoked. Later newspaper articles state that he left Syracuse due to a lack of funds, but he did complete his undergraduate education at Alfred University, which is not exactly the Dollar Tree of higher education. Perhaps it was best for all concerned that he made a fresh start outside of Onondaga County.

There is a 2002 follow-up piece from the Syracuse Post Standard that keeps getting… ahem… dug up… every few years and reprinted around Halloween. It’s about how poor Kevin McQuain got stuck with a nickname that he could not shake. His friends dubbed him “Skully.” And he decided “to embrace it.” He went on to form a Goth/Rockabilly record label called Skully Records, which he apparently still runs himself as a side hustle to his every day technical services job.

In 2015, he self-published a vampire/punk novel under the name Kevin Skully McQuain. He also designs t-shirts.

Somehow this unavoidable handle does not force itself onto his professional resume: it just leaks into his side projects when the macabre notoriety might help bump things up a notch.

But oh, how the nickname plagues him! He CANNOT escape it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been called several things throughout my life that I have hated. I assume that you, dear reader, have had one or two unwanted nicknames as well. But I don’t know yours and you don’t know mine… because we did not hyphenate them into our names.

How contrite is a person if he is still trying to milk the last ounce of notoriety out of something he stupidly did over 30 years ago? If you made a mistake at 18 – and who hasn’t? – would you allow that thing to be the defining moment of your life? Would you still call yourself “Farty” because you once let one rip in gym class? Is that all ya got?

McQuain is married and a father now, and I can’t help but wonder: at what point in the dating process does one explain the origin of “Skully”?13221477_10156961022720441_5205862542119871686_n Third date? Over dinner? And what is the appropriate age to sit your child down to explain that you once desecrated a corpse? “Yes, Jayden, Skully-daddy did once boil the head of the mayor of Syracuse, but listen…. that was a bad idea, ok?”

Back in 2002, McQuain said “That was a mistake I made when I was young, and I’m fortunate that it didn’t stigmatize me for the rest of my life.” And yet, at 50 years old, he still holds on to the “Skully” nickname, with the backstory tucked into the pocket of his aging punk-rock jeans, ready to whip out and exploit whenever he has a new artistic endeavor that might need a little publicity boost.

In 1988, Kevin McQuain walked out of Oakwood Cemetery with the head of John Crouse in a paper bag, intent on using it as a prop for his art. Over 30 years later, he still finds it quite useful.

If You See Something, Say Something

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I’m so happy that Meditation On A Theme is back! And at the LGBT Center, where I first attended one it back in… 2009, I think? And I remember I sat there and thought…. “I wanna do that.” I took part in 13 of them before the hiatus two years ago. The last one I did was in June, 2013 – You Can’t Do That On Television. I was just a few weeks into dating my partner Chris and it was the first time he got to see me get up and actually DO something. And my parents always attended, so they were there and it was the first time they got to meet him, so… really there was no pressure at all. But it turned out OK and we all lived happily ever after.

Chris lived in Kew Gardens at the time. This was my first mixed relationship, and by that I mean the first time I was dating someone who lived outside of Manhattan. I did that selfish “you come to me – I live in the cooler place” thing for as long as I could, but eventually I had to reciprocate and venture out there.

kg-austin-today-2Our first stop was coffee from Odradeks next to the Kew Gardens Long Island Railroad Station. This is at the end of a row of two story Tudor-style buildings on Austin Street between the train station parking lot and Lefferts Boulevard. There’s retail at street level on both the Austin Street side and on the rear of the buildings, with apartments on the second floor. The back faces the train tracks, where there is a foot path and steps up to Lefferts. The most prominent business here is Austin’s Ale House, which has created an outdoor dining area on the track side of the path. This is where we had dinner later that night.

Since my high school days, I had noticed both Kew Gardens and also the next stop Forest Hills from the window of the Long Island Railroad as I’d traveled into Manhattan, so it was interesting now to be the one sitting on the shore as the trains came and went.

If you look at the map, Queens and Brooklyn are physically ON Long Island and I was a total Manhattan snob and felt that if I was going to live in either borough I was basically a failure and practically moving back home. But after a couple of decades of that sort of thinking, here I was starting to enjoy spending time out here… with Chris, in the country with trees and flowers and stuff. One night we saw a raccoon walking on the top of a chain link fence a few feet from the sidewalk and I’m like… I was on a subway 5 minutes ago…where the fuck am I?

So I was moving forward in a new relationship and letting go of the idea that Manhattan was the be all and end all and considering the benefits of living in Queens with more space and quicker access to family on Long Island because nobody’s getting any younger out there and I’d still be back in Manhattan every weekday for work anyway, and I’m not even going to get into the whole “falling out of love with the East Village that is a shell of its former self and unaffordable and blah blah blah…” Countless essays have been written about that.

But things were shifting… slowly.. and we continued to divide time between both places as the relationship progressed.

In March of the following year, I was watching the news and they had a segment on the 50th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese. This was the boogie man story of all time to scare people out of moving to the big bad apathetic city. I had heard about this when I was growing up. In 1964, this pretty young woman was murdered and all her neighbors watched and nobody intervened.

kittyg

I later learned that the reportage of this case produced one of the most famous articles in New York Times history. The headline screamed: 37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call Police with the lede paragraph: “For more than half an hour, 37 respectable, law-abiding citizens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks… Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.” I pictured these blank people eating popcorn watching this attack from their tenement windows.

The piece ran at a time that perfectly played into the fears of the day: anxiety about the anonymity of urban life and also the fear of random violence in post-JFK America. This was only 4 months after his assassination. A 2014 New Yorker magazine piece revisiting the slaying said “The New York Times story fed into a version of reality that was molded to conform to a theory…”  basically that life is cheap in the naked city, baby. You’re just one in a million and those cold heartless bastards wouldn’t cross the street to save your life.

The outrage over this story was never about the killer or the actual killing. The attacker had already been captured by the time the Times article ran two weeks after the murder. This was about The 37 – later amended to 38 – The 38 apathetic people who saw something and said nothing. This was also about selling newspapers by scaring the crap out of everyone.

Books were written about the case. Songs. More than one Law & Order episode ripped it from the headlines. The HBO show Girls just did a whole episode that referenced it. There were psychological and sociological studies about what is now known as “The Genovese Syndrome” – when bystanders fail to intervene when a crime is taking place. This all snowballed from the New York Times article. And because of the prestige of the New York Times, nobody really investigated to see if the story was accurately reported. And unfortunately, it wasn’t. People in the neighborhood where it took place knew it. If this happened today, they could have taken to social media to correct the story. But it took 40 years before anyone in print media started to try get it right.

But before I get into that… Where do you think this symbol of urban indifference took place? In the version of the story I envisioned with the people in the windows with the popcorn, it was smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. Hell’s Kitchen! Because that was the worst of the worst and of course it happened there. But no. I’m watching the news report on the 50th anniversary of this horrible event and they are live on the scene… in Kew Gardens. Kitty lived in an apartment above the back of what is now Austin’s Ale House. That foot path along the back that I mentioned? Some older neighborhood residents call it Kitty Genovese Way.

kg-footpath-then-now

Here’s another interesting tidbit that went unreported for 40 years: Kitty was a lesbian, living with her girlfriend Mary Ann Zielonko. She was killed on the one-year anniversary of the day they had agreed to move in together. While this “unfortunate gay condition” was still regarded as a mental illness at the time, this was not the angle that the New York Times was going for, so the women were referred to as “roommates.” In recent years Mary Ann has started to give interviews and open up about the guilt she has felt her entire life, having slept through the whole incident.

the-witness-kitty-genovese-620

So here’s what happened: Kitty was a manager at a bar in Jamaica. She was driving home around 3am when Winston Mosely spotted her. He was driving around looking for, in his words, “a woman to kill.” She parked her car in the LIRR parking lot and must have realized she was being followed because she didn’t go around back to the footpath to her apartment – she started to run up Austin Street toward Lefferts Boulevard, possibly headed to the front of the bar that is now Austin’s Ale House, but that bar had already closed. She was screaming for help when he caught up to her and stabbed her. Some people in the apartment building across the street later said they thought they heard a drunken altercation or a lover’s quarrel outside the bar. One man opened his window and yelled “Leave that girl alone” – this was enough to scare off Mosely. Kitty, who was already mortally wounded, slowly made her way back down and around to the back of the building, headed towards her apartment. She managed to get into the vestibule of her neighbor’s building when Mosely found her, raped and stabbed her again.

So there were two attacks in two different places. Nobody could have seen or heard both. Someone did call an ambulance, and Kitty was cradled by a neighbor – a 70 year old woman who held her until the ambulance arrived. But none of this fit the grand narrative of urban indifference.

On the other hand, the neighbor whose building she managed to reach, a guy who was actually was a friend of hers (but may have been drunk) opened his door, saw something going on with Kitty and some guy in the vestibule, freaked out, closed his door, called a friend, went out the window to another friend’s apartment and eventually called the police. It’s not as if he blithely said “I don’t wanna get involved” and went back to bed, as it was reported.

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In an interview for a new documentary about the case called The Witness, which is about Kitty’s younger brother Bill investigating what really happened, the author of the original New York Times piece basically admitted that he made up the number of witnesses. But he felt that his version of the story had done a lot of good and brought to light things that needed to be said.

Some sources have said that the outrage over the incident led to the creation of the 911 emergency call system. In 1964, a person had to look up the number of their local precinct in the phone book. But really, the 911 system wasn’t put into place until 1968. And in this particular case, it turns out that people did call the police. One person who called said that they were told by the precinct that “police were already aware of the situation.” But the police didn’t come. Why? It has been speculated that, because the initial attack was perceived to be a domestic dispute, it was ignored. People don’t like to get involved in how a man disciplines his woman. That’s nobody’s business.

But…. what if the focus of the New York Times article had been on the reluctance to get involved in what some thought was a domestic dispute? If some didn’t call the police because of this… and the police didn’t send someone out because of this… couldn’t that have been the shocking focus of the piece? Maybe that caveman thinking could have been dealt with sooner rather than later?

The author of a 2004 revisit in the New York Times said “If the story had been reported more accurately, it would have been a two- or three-day, maybe even a four-day story, but it would not have been a fifty-year story. We would not still be sitting here talking about it today.” As sure as Mama Cass did not choke on a ham sandwich, 38 people did not stand by and let this woman get murdered. But you can’t fix an urban myth.

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The Genovese syndrome might exist but it didn’t in this case. Or at least not in the numbers reported. But there were a couple of people that did not help her. That’s no urban legend.

Yes, there are horrible people in this world. There are enough mass shootings to confirm that. But with every tragedy there are stories about the acts of heroism of everyday people. I’m not going to end with some Anne Frank bon mots like “In spite of everything I believe all people are good at heart.” I’m sorry but some people in this world just absolutely suck. But you have to hope that there aren’t too many, or that they aren’t concentrated together.

 

Later in 2014, Chris and I moved in together in Forest Hills – the next stop closer to Manhattan, in a Tudor-style apartment building right alongside the railroad tracks. I later discovered that two different Son of Sam murders took place down the block back in 1977. But that’s another story…. Shortly after we moved in, signs went up around the neighborhood for the filming of “37” – a dramatization of the Kitty Genovese 943922_822735887872384_4077857973647481543_nstory, with Forest Hills standing in for Kew Gardens. I immediately thought the worst – the title didn’t give much hope that they were actually going to set the record straight. And this was what I thought, literally up until yesterday, when I read a Facebook post from one of the actors in the film, and what followed was a dialogue in which he assured me that the movie does address the inaccuracies and how the story affected society.

And this made me think back to the 2014 New Yorker magazine article, which concluded that “The real Kitty Genovese syndrome has to do with our susceptibility to narratives that echo our preconceptions and anxieties.” See, I just kind of did the same thing with this film that I haven’t even seen.

Picture a link to the original Kitty Genovese New York Times story scrolling by on your newsfeed. And let’s just assume you already think that New York City is dangerous and the world is a shitty, horrible place. And you read that article and express your outrage and shake your head and shake your fist and wing off a visceral response and click “share.” And it was one source. One embellished source.

So I guess what I’m saying is … If you see something… check around a little. Google. Check Snopes. Think for a minute. Then say something.