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The Life of a Trophy Boy

As a gay prostitute, Andrew Cunanan knew his body was an important asset, but he also appealed to older men by researching their hobbies before meeting them.
The Bishops School via AP
By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 25, 1997; Page D01

Andrew Phillip Cunanan, the killer who died hunted and alone in a rich man's Miami Beach houseboat, was no hustler selling his body streetside.

Cunanan, dubbed a high-class gay prostitute by his own mother, actually lived a life a step up from what his mom envisioned. He was an opportunist who targeted and landed rich men, a bright young man who modeled himself after Richard Gere in the movie "American Gigolo," even dressing in the character's trademark tight pants and cool shades, according to Nicole Ramirez-Murray, a San Diego columnist who knew Cunanan.

The preppy gigolo-son of a stockbroker, graduate of an elite school-supported himself by moving among affluent men who had convinced themselves that they were not paying for sex. Rather, they liked to tell themselves, they were passing the time pleasantly with a charming, good-looking young man, whom they rewarded with gifts and money.

The sugar daddy and the house boy, the older gay man and his baby-faced companion, is a gay paradigm that traces back centuries. It is rooted in the long history of homosexual stealth-English lords who carried on with young kitchen hands, prominent married men who found young underlings at the office.

"Before the 1960s, gay relationships were plagued by radical inequalities of income, education, social class and age," says Daniel Harris, author of "The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture." "Because of the nature of finding gay partners, older, established men often took up with unresponsive, sometimes homicidal proletarian gay youth."

As homosexuality has won wider acceptance in American society, gay relationships have come to mirror most heterosexual relationships: a union of social and economic equals.

But the sugar daddy-"kept" boy pattern persists in two ways, Harris says. Many still-closeted gay men "are forced to pay for the companionship of boys who prey on them." This is not without danger: a few years ago, a prominent, secretly gay, 55-year-old New York real estate lawyer, David Schwartz, was stabbed to death by an 18-year-old street hustler in a seedy Bronx motel room.

And some openly gay men enjoy "daddy-son" relationships as an erotic spoof of the old paradigm, Harris says.

Sugar daddies come in all sexual orientations, of course. "There's always going to be a small segment of the population-gay or straight-who are interested in much younger partners," says Kevin Neil, director of Metro Teen AIDS, a Southeast Washington service center for young people suffering from the disease. "Sugar daddies and young boys are no more common among gays than older straight men going after trophy wives. Gay culture, like straight, worships youth. It's the same as Jack Kent Cooke and Marlene."

"This has been going on for years, I mean since the ancient Greeks, honey," says the manager of the Townhouse, a New York City bar where handsome young men meet older gentlemen.

Part Two

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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