SALON Daily Clicks: Newsreal

Finally, a serial killer we can really hate.

By Daniel Reitz

Published July 22, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

recently a fellow fag, some flunky script reader for some indie film company, held his nose over a film script of mine, in which a queer man takes revenge on a Jersey hood who bashed him and his lover, sniffing that "gay men ... don't stray into hate-crime violence."

As I write this, a week has passed since Gianni Versace, world-renowned fashion designer and homosexual, was shot twice in the head by another homosexual, psycho spree killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that this particular example of serial killing might qualify as a hate crime, if not in the usual political sense. Andrew Cunanan is pissed about something, and I don't think it was haute couture that prompted him to shoot, bludgeon, stab and slash his way across the country.

My guess is that he's tortured by the revelation of his HIV-positive status, and the bloody trail he's been leaving since April is his way of mourning his lost fly-girl lifestyle by making other fags pay, as well as the occasional heterosexual who just happens to be in possession of the perfect getaway vehicle.

Thinking about the pass-the-smelling-salts delicacy of the above-mentioned script reader, I reflect on a glorious tradition of gay men treating other gay men to their own special brand of endearment: For example, the legacy of club queen Michael Alig -- who shot his gay roommate due to a dispute over rent and then threw him into the river -- will live on in homo hearts forever. I'm also reminded of something Spike Lee once said: Black people are incapable of racism. Seemingly, this kind of idiot's logic has worked its way into the PC conscience of certain homosexuals who simply can't believe that all us "gays" aren't living in a fairy paradise of Shabby Chic sofas, post-workout iced mocha lattes, George Clooney look-alike lovers and a closet full of Gianni Versace.

Of course, there is far more anonymous, if less sensational, violence played out on a daily basis behind more gay and lesbian doors than we care to think about. I've witnessed a fair share of it myself; I've even doled it out. I'm aware that, to many gay folks, image equals credibility. After the Versace killing, a cultured homosexual gentleman of my acquaintance groaned, "Why does he (Cunanan) have to be gay?" The fact that most of the victims were gay didn't seem to enter into it. After all, what is the sound of a queer tree falling in a hetero forest?

Why is this? Partly because we seem to have embraced that utopian myth that gay people don't -- can't -- actually hurt each other, unless of course it's consensual. Sure, we argue, we get drunk, we get flirty with strangers at a bar, a little carried away with our fave drugs or debt. But such peccadilloes never make us violent. How could they? We are, as the word implies, gay.

We might be better off if we tossed out the batter-bowl of mushy, fluffernutter queer correctness that still dictates how we're supposed to come across to the world. Rather than thinking about what a Cunanan does to our collective image, we would do well to face the fact that we're as capable of the same destructive behavior as everybody else. I used to think during the glory days of ACT-UP and Queer Nation that we queers were all in it together. I realize now how ridiculously naive a notion that was. I have seen more instances of bad behavior perpetrated by one gay person against another than I have space to describe; usually, it's in a "harmless" social context -- rampant selfishness, egotism, dishonesty, power plays, head games. But sometimes it isn't so "harmless." And there's no gay bashing, emotional or physical, like one from a "brother."

At this point, I'd like to vent on the weasel Andrew Phillip Cunanan. Obviously you can't apply Emily Post's rules of etiquette to psychopaths, but Cunanan is the most obnoxious kind of spree killer to have driven down the Florida freeway: prissy, pouty and preppy. With all due respect to the families of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims, I had more sympathy for Dahmer's sickness than for Cunanan's. At least Dahmer, when he spoke of being relieved that he was finally behind bars and away from a world vulnerable to a psychosis he couldn't control, showed that some embers of humanity still glowed within him. All evidence seems to indicate that Cunanan wants to be caught, too. But as I look at his smarmy, smirking smile flashed on TV and read the newspaper accounts, all I see is a squinty-eyed, ostrich-eating, champagne-swilling, social-climbing whore who barely worked a day in his life, who flirted and fucked his way to nowhere but the next gay pit stop, who just couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't born a Kennedy, that his father didn't own a sugar plantation in the Philippines but was just a sad, allegedly crooked loser who deserted the family, and who's furious at the world for being HIV-positive.

Then there was the other image splashed across my TV screen -- the ambitious, excessive, hedonistic, sexy, celebrated Gianni Versace being rushed down a sun-drenched Miami street on a stretcher, his handsome white head thick and dripping with blood. And for a moment it was easy to forget (especially for the FBI) about Cunanan's other victims, who were not necessarily friends of Madonna and Naomi and Courtney, the lesser-known ones like Jeffrey Trail, David Madson, Lee Miglin, William Reese. Or maybe it's all just a bad dream. After all, we're not violent. As the script reader insisted, we're lovers, not killers.

Daniel Reitz

Daniel Reitz, a frequent contributor to Salon, is a writer living in New York. His film "Urbania," based on his play, "Urban Folk Tales," will be released in August.

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