Friday, April 17, 2015

Revisiting the Resurrection of Desmond Johnson

Nothing upsets the apple cart like coming back from the dead.

Three years ago St. Louis mourned the death of Desmond Johnson, who hung himself over a volatile relationship. In a dramatic January plot twist he resurfaced, alive and well, living in Northern California.

Police found a dead body hanging in that South County garage and cut him down like a slab of meat, but miraculously paramedics were able to revive him. When he woke from his coma, family whisked him away to the West Coast.

The revelation sent shockwaves that are still reverberating through the city's LGBT community, which divided into camps- some celebrating, but others fuming about the negative light cast on his ex who, along with a handful of others, knew he was alive all along. Defenders of his ex argued Desmond was at least equally to blame for the relationship's domestic violence, while others pointed to subsequent displays of violence by his ex in the past three years, some quite public.

Old friends turned against one another, Gassy, a disgruntled gas station attendant, declared war on friends of Desmond, sending letters to people's employers and boasting about getting people kicked off of Facebook, and attempts at blackmail were made. My book became a target, with Gassy and apparently Margarine Schnapps leading the charge to get my Facebook account pulled in advance of the summer release.

Some are still angry at me for not telling "both sides" of the story regarding the rocky relationship, but my thought was only one side was told for three years (that side being the ex was the victim and Desmond's suicide was the ultimate manipulation tactic), and the point of the story was that Desmond was alive, not hair splitting over the fights.

Few have suffered more from the fallout than Jolene "Gotcha." She had been friends with all involved, and even cleaned up the blood from the garage floor.

Shortly before Desmond resurfaced she was unfriended by the ex, who took to Facebook and called her a thief for not driving across town at four in the morning to return a backpack he'd forgotten in her car. Still, some think she owed loyalty to her former friend, and should have been more vocal about his side of the story. She's been accused of pursing "fortune and fame" at his expense.

So, that's the backstory. Desmond's resurrection set off a chain of events that are still unfolding.

Today is his birthday, and he's happy and healthy two thousand miles away.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cyber Bullying in LGBT St. Louis

Yesterday Facebook exploded over Brian Meister sending unwanted XXX pics and videos to a member of the Triad Train Wreck, resulting in a great deal of public mocking.

Fair enough, except many of those making fun of him for being "a fat pervert" on the thread are the same people who claim discussing someone's criminal history, ongoing criminal activities, or overall repugnant behavior is bullying.

You can't have it both ways.

The fact is, for many of you, if you enjoy drinking with someone it doesn't matter if they've:

  • beat their mother,
  • assaulted their partner in front of a dozen witnesses at the bar,
  • physically and/or verbally attacked dozens,
  • pulled a knife on someone,
  • stolen identities,
  • been convicted for having sex with minors,
  • crashed into a highway trooper while drunk/high, leaving him disabled, and refused to apologize,
  • or terrorized a family on vacation and tried to get people fired over a vendetta.
If they're your drinking buddy, anything said about them is bullying.

Because you find Meister unappealing, it's alright to mock, make fun, and threaten him.

For me, adults taking the heat for their actions is just called life, and bullying is something a stronger person does to a weaker person over characteristics, not their own nasty behavior.

Gassy, the biggest bully in town responsible for half of the above list, even claims he's being bullied when people (i.e. ME) discuss his latest actions. This is the guy banned from nearly every bar in town for assault, and always making threats of future assaults, but even he's got defenders.

It's time for intellectual consistency on bullying. Either prove your point by standing up for someone who don't want to drink with or screw, otherwise put on your big girl panties, grow up, and expand your vocabulary.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Heading for a Stormy Summer in STL

I typically date within a decade of my age, but last summer a fun and handsome guy about fifteen years younger asked me out, and I decided to give it a try. He was sexy and kind, and I really liked him, but in the end I couldn't get past the age difference and the feeling I was a father figure.

One of the most jarring examples was when he shut down an east side strip club, and one of his much older friends, Michael Haley, 44, ended up careening into a state trooper on his way home, seriously injuring three people. Fortunately my gentleman caller wasn't with him, but we were on a day trip days later when he received a call with instructions on what story to give to the police. The concocted tale apparently omitted certain substances and shutting down the east side club.

"Do not lie to the police, they will find out!" I said sternly.

The guy was smart and I doubt he would've altered his story, but I know people want to help out their friends and he was feeling pressured.

Jim Weckmann, owner of Rehab and Bombers Hideway, was also pulled in to Haley's web of lies.

"Trust me when I say I'm over Michael Haley. We were one of the bars he said he was at. We had to prove via cameras and credit card slips that he wasn't part of our establishment. That was last year and just last week we got another letter stating we may be called! Called for what? Never cared for the man and I feel for the cop."

I hadn't thought about the DUI incident in some time, but I was notified yesterday that Haley posted a message of encouragement to the group behind the debunked smear that I made fun of people for being HIV positive on this blog. A smear so blatantly false that it could only weather an eight minute storm before it was removed.

My illustrious list of detractors here in St. Louis includes people with rap sheets for domestic violence, assault, identity theft, sex crimes, and repeat DUI convictions. The group seems to grow and mutate by the day, and is now coalescing around a fledgling media organization. I've been threatened with both bodily harm and a cease and desist letter, my Facebook updates are always being reported, I even dealt with a bizarre attempt at blackmail.

But at least my body hasn't been destroyed by them, as of this writing. Unlike former tropper
Jeremy Potocki, a married father of three, who suffered serious brain and back injuries, and will never return to his job.

The trooper and his wife are haunted by the seeming lack of remorse from Haley.

"An apology would go a long way, that I even thought he was sorry. But I just feel he's sorry he got caught" Mrs. Potocki told KMOV. 

Of course Haley is a "no regrets, no apologies" kind of guy.

We've got a couple of months before the release of Delusions of Grandeur, and it appears it's going to be a turbulent summer in this haunted old river city as the worst people crawl out of the sewer to throw whatever they can at me.

People like to say "I don't have time for this" but the fact is I cleared my schedule last year and came to St. Louis to complete and publish my book, so I've got a little time.

Let's play.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The First Lady of the Tenderloin

Today is the birthday of my dear friend Katherine Sofos Looper​, owner of the Cadillac Hotel​ in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood.

Walking through the surrounding neighborhood with Kathy is like nothing I've ever experienced. Everyone in the Tenderloin knows her, from homeless people to the heads of corporations, and they all greet her affectionately and bend her ear about what's on their mind. She's celebrated in a mural on the side of a building, and was depicted in a play about the district.

The historic Cadillac, circa 1906, had many incarnations, originally as an upscale tourist hotel, then a place for people of modest means to spend a night or a few years, and when Kathy and her late husband Leory bought it they housed many people who had been homeless, and they brought in social workers to offer services.

Kathy hosts monthly concerts at the Cadillac where legendary musicians come to play for the residents and general public alike in the grand lobby, and it was at such an event I met two brothers who checked in to the hotel as tourists forty or fifty years earlier, but due to a snowstorm back home in Ohio they extended their stay, and never ended up leaving. "I still think about going back" one said.

Not long ago the brother who told me the story passed away, and the state decided the other was incapable of living alone and needed to be institutionalized. Kathy and her manager Magali Echevarria​ went to bat for that vulnerable old man, who was frightened and alone, and agreed to personally look after him so he could stay in his home.

Living two thousand miles away from my family was the hardest part of life in San Francisco, but Kathy became family, and I'm grateful to know her.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fact & Fiction in the Grove

A member of a local LGBT media outlet posted on his Facebook page that I made fun of people for being HIV positive in my personal blog post, which he conveniently didn't link to. As soon as a few people who read my posts disputed that claim, calling it 100% false, he promptly removed it without further comment.

The beautiful thing about the truth is that it makes sense when you hear it, and it can withstand a storm. There's a sizeable group in the Grove angry about my coverage of domestic violence, identity theft, and bullying in our community, but I think what upsets them most of all is that I tell the truth and am able to back up everything I say, normally with public records. People can and do run to the outlets I write for demanding retractions and my termination, but to no avail.

Just last week my friend John McKinnon, "the Thurston Howell of San Francisco", pleaded with me to return to the city by the bay, at least for a while, concerned about what covering the seedy underbelly of this city is doing to my spirit and personality.

Life wasn't all peace and tranquility in San Francisco either, where I covered the city's jarring gentrification and mass displacement, facing backlash from local politicians and organizations. But it was decidedly more high brow than what I've been dealing with lately.

But I have a sense of purpose, standing up to horrible people, and I like telling the story of the underdog.

And the more blowback I get in the attempt to shut me down, the more I see how necessary this work is, and why nobody else wants to do it.

Today's erroneous Facebook post served to damage the reputation of the man who posted it, and the organization he represents. Just last month I broke bread with a founder of that organization, and hope he will address and appropriately rectify the situation.

When you've lost your credibility, you've lost everything.

* * *

"I'm the one they come to see because they all believe me" - Drake

UPDATED with my open letter.

Still in Facebook Jail


After the intense #MyNameIs backlash about the way Facebook's real names policy disproportionately impacted the LGBT community, which included a brief mass exodus to social media platform Ello, Facebook met with a contingent led by Sister Roma, a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and publicly apologized to the LGBT community via a statement from the company's chief product officer's personal Facebook, which read in part, "Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life."

The Huffington Post reports that Sister Roma met with Facebook again on March 5 to discuss what, if anything, has progressed since the original meeting in October 2014. In an email sent to The Huffington Post she writes:
Basically the #MyNameIs team has been reduced to a test market group, suggesting modifications and options to their customer service department.
The bottom line is that Facebook refuses to budge on their real name policy. Calling it "authentic identity" is no different as long as they demand I.D. from users to prove their name. All of their concessions are mere smoke screens to the bigger issue. They believe that they are making the user experience a better one. They believe that these small modifications will cut down in the number of malicious targeted reports based on "fake names." They are wrong.
This week there has been a upsurge in malicious reporting. Hundreds of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence [members], entire drag communities, burlesque performers and other users around the world are reporting that their accounts have been disabled because they are using a "fake" name... Mark Zuckerberg has created an Internet monster that is bigger than he is or any of us.
Facebook has responded with another pleasant, feel-good corporate doublespeak statement, and why not? It worked for them last time, when the media and the LGBT community took them at their word and moved on, despite the fact the policy is still in place and accounts are still getting pulled.

Meanwhile, I'm completing my third day of a 72 hour Facebook jail sentence due to an organized effort get my profile pulled in advance of the summer release of my book, Delusions of Grandeur, by a group reporting my updates to see if Facebook will bite. There is no policy against targeting a person or a group with malicious reporting, which is how the whole names controversy began in the first place. Facebook’s Chris Cox said in the company’s apology that one individual had reported hundreds of the accounts as fake. Nobody is more revered and influential in the world of Facebook than the tattler.

Of course Facebook interference with speech and expression goes far beyond names. They have waffled on allowing beheading videos, while banning images of nursing mothers.

In a column for The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that in trying to find balance between allowing some types of free expression and retaining key parts of its user base including parents and kids older than 13, Facebook has ended up making confusing business decisions:
"The simplest, most logically consistent position would be one of absolute free speech, in which Facebook would allow everything within the law. Beheading videos would take their place alongside porn in a great, unfettered free-for-all... The lunacy of allowing beheadings while banning nursing mothers would be bad enough. But Facebook has tied itself up in further knots of illogic by explaining that such snuff videos are OK if they are posted to "condemn" the killing rather than glorify it. But that distinction is not always so obvious. A bit of lip-service condemnation would not be hard to construct for someone whose motive was altogether less benign."

Shaun Hides, head of the Department of Media at Coventry University, called Facebook policies "laughably inconsistent" in a column for CNN. But for now, it's Facebook that's laughing at how easily movements like #MyNameIs can be derailed.

Monday, April 6, 2015


I'm not sure how local hothead Gassy, a disgruntled gas station attendant barred from most St. Louis LGBT bars for assault, has been able to hold a job between his temper and total lack of judgement. 
Today, Gassy further demonstrated his lack of discipline by tenuring a pre-resignation via Facebook. 

My favorite part is how, after pulling a knife on a customer at Korner's, assaulting a drag queen at Bastille (and getting the shit beat out of him), physically and verbally assaulting dozens at local bars and events, saying the most abusive things about every single person he dated, attempting to get people fired from their jobs simply for commenting on my posts, and mocking people suffering with AIDS, suddenly Gassy is worried about becoming the bad guy. 

Moving to Memphis has been Gassy's lifelong dream ever since he learned his last boyfriend was moving there and he might be able to tag along, so hopefully his resignation is accepted and he follows his dream downriver. Gassy leaving town is our dream too. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Having all my social media eggs in the Facebook basket has become too risky in light of the organized efforts of the Snake Pit, St. Louis's seedy underbelly, to get the account pulled before the release of my book, Delusions of Grandeur, therefore I've decided to relaunch my long mothballed blog.


 As part of my epic midlife crisis last year I resigned from a lucrative position in the Bay Area, ended a fourteen year relationship, moved to New York, and had an epiphany that I needed to come to St. Louis and finish my book of short stories, many which take place in the city. The book will be released this summer.

The plan was not to become a gossip columnist, a label I don’t really embrace, but things snowballed with my exposé about a local con artist as stories people had sat on for years poured in, providing a lifetime of material. I have enough for several books and new leads come in daily.

In the past nine months I broke a story that went national about two educators fired for being lesbians, and have called attention to cases of domestic violence and identity theft. I’ve exposed that a devastatingly gorgeous man who was friends with hundreds in the LGBT community before he died in an accident never really existed, and that someone who was mourned three years ago after hanging himself was very much alive and living in California.

People fill my inbox with tawdry tidbits about who slept with who, which I don’t pursue, but many messages are from individuals who've been victimized or abused and are desperate to get their story out. They are messages from the underdog.

In my travels I’ve found that disgraced people normally move on, but St. Louis is a city where the disgraced stay in place, enabled by people who think pointing out bad behavior is worse than the behavior itself. The blowback has been substantial, and has included several organized letter writing campaigns asking Vital Voice to fire me, beginning with Cor Jesu alumnae, cries that I’m a bully, threats of blackmail, and retaliatory rumors have been spread that I was arrested in a raid at a dirty bookstore and that’s why my husband left me -- which isn't true.

Having so many people either upset with me or after me on a regular basis can be corrosive to the spirit, and more than once I decided to stop writing controversial pieces. And then someone comes to me with a story nobody else will touch because of the potential backlash, and I decide to ride the bull again. Plus I came to St. Louis because it's a place filled with fascinating stories, and I enjoy sharing them.

In the past year several have joined me in my efforts, including "Ride or Die" Meeshu Bono-Thompson,

"Maestro of Memes" Josh Jordan,

and investigator "Jolene Gotcha" who, like a cat, always lands on her feet. That's why we say "Jolene GOTCHA always gets the last laugh."

Each loyal member of the team brings something to the table as we work to uncover, inform, and entertain.

Please spread the word about the blog, and thanks for reading.