When I first came out, I thought all gay people were good. For the most part I still believe that. Yes, there are individuals in everyone’s life who are a trial and a burden to bear, but overall, I feel we’re a marvelous people. However, there are those who see us as a vulnerable people. This was especially true years ago when people were reluctant to report crimes committed against them because of the fear of being exposed as homosexual. It’s also true today for those of us who cannot conceive of dishonor in people we love.
I first experienced in 1986 the notion of gay predators when a dear friend of mine, Lonnie Wright, who has since passed on, told me how he was beaten by a kid he brought home claiming to be an heir to the Cunard shipping line. This confident person was passing himself off as Terry Cunard when his real name was Steven Fox. His modus operandi was to introduce himself at parties and elsewhere as a bon vivant. Charming and good looking, he would convince his victim that he was between funds and would pay back money borrowed as soon as daddy deposited the check from his trust fund. However, Fox had a temper and would often beat less masculine gay men and rob them. That is what he did with Lonnie. In March 1986, however, Cunard was arrested, convicted and sent to prison, and that was the last I heard of him.
About five years later, a slick, thin, gray-haired, arrogant man named Randy Richardson rolled into town from California. I don’t know what brought him to Salt Lake City. I did not like him very much. However, others described him as charismatic, passionate and well-spoken.
As soon as Richardson set up shop in the summer of 1991 he started a little gay rag he called the OutFront Review. It was free. I was not impressed. It was as slick as he was. My main objection to it was that it had little, if any, gay content in it; just a lot of advertisements. At the time I was co-hosting Concerning Gays and Lesbians with Becky Moss on KRCL and I liked to think that I had my finger on the pulse of gay Salt Lake, and with Richardson I smelled a rat.
Richardson quickly ingratiated himself into the gay community. He attacked the Salt Lake County Health Department in July for refusing to give him free condoms to distribute in his magazine. Later that month, he made local radio station owners issue a public apology by publicly threatening to report them to the Federal Communications Commission for disparaging remarks about gays.
In September 1992, feeling confident in his new role as spokesman for the gay community, he became the lone gay person supporting the hiring of Ruben Ortega as Salt Lake City Chief of Police. He outraged other gay activists who were fuming that Ortega condoned anti-homosexual policies while heading the Phoenix Police Department. But this pro-Ortega position earned Richardson extensive media coverage.
In November 1992, gay leaders held a news conference to demand that Mayor Deedee Corradini either dismiss Ortega or “guarantee in writing that he will protect the civil rights of homosexuals.” However, at this meeting Richardson criticized representatives of gay organizations including the Utah AIDS Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Democrats, and again defended Ortega, demanding that “the critics produce evidence to support their contention that the new chief is insensitive to homosexuals.” Richardson immediately became the go-to guy when the Corradini administration wanted to deal with the gay community.
By January 1993, Richardson had ingratiated himself with the conservative elements of the gay community and with Salt Lake City Hall. It was then that he purposed a “first ever” AIDS fundraiser called the “Ultraflight For Life” campaign. Richardson told potential investors that the ambitious 80-city, barn-storming trip by light airplane would raise $10 million for AIDS research and that he would get 10 percent for “administration.” Richardson also circulated a letter claiming he was “working closely” with the mayor and that he had the “support and endorsement of the city.” Corradini, who was once featured on the cover of Richardson’s magazine, and Ortega lent their names to the AIDS fundraising event. Boasting their support, Richardson managed to land financial sponsorship from several gay business owners and individual gay men.
Officials at City Hall and the SLPD grew wary in February when Richardson’s phone was disconnected and he abruptly canceled a news conference at Salt Lake’s Shiloh Inn. Two days before the campaign launch, Richardson skipped town, stunning friends and financial backers. He left behind a trail of debt and disappointment. He took money for advertising he never ran. His debt in Salt Lake City alone exceeded $10,000, with one investor out $4,500.
Richardson’s scam of the gay community was a severe blow.
“I liked this guy better than I’ve liked anyone in 20 years,” said an investor who accepted a fake diamond ring as loan collateral. “I trusted Randy. And that hurts.”
Other frustrated investors were reluctant to go to the police fearing that going public would force them to reveal their sexual orientation.
Dale Sorenson, director of the Gay and Lesbian Utah Democrats and one of Richardson’s former friends remarked, “This is why the gay community can make a perfect target. I doubt that a heterosexual could have gotten away with what Randy did.”
While I was feeling smug about not being taken in by Randy Richardson, 20 years later I was flattened by placing my trust and affection in another community scammer. Warren Kyle Foote, who goes by Kyle, conned several individual members of the gay community out of thousands of dollars, including myself. Like Richardson, Foote is charismatic, handsome and purported to be a gay activist. One of his scams however was against the entire gay community by claiming to be a champion of LGBT mental-health issues.
In July of 2011, Foote contracted a ghost writer through an employment service called Odesk. He posted a job position for “Ghost Writer – Articles on the stigma of Mental Illness in the LGBT community.” The ghost writer and he even discussed whether to write in first person and other literary devices. He paid this person several hundred dollars from a stolen credit card. What Foote purported to do with this hoax, one can only guess. Positioning himself in the gay community by pretending to be an activist was just one of his schemes. Financing Orgy.com through stolen money and convincing gay business owners that he was an entrepreneur was another. Unlike Richardson however, Foote is in prison for previous acts of fraud and scams.
I guess the conclusion to my cautionary tales is that you are never too young or old to become a victim of conniving handsome men.