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The Life of a Trophy Boy, continued

The Selection Process
Cunanan, 27 when he blasted a bullet through his head Wednesday afternoon, had left a trail not only of homicide but of wealthy older patrons. There was a man who paid him $2,000 a month, presented him with a new car, and even treated him to vacations in France.

Andrew Cunanan, left, is seen here in a 1987 high school yearbook from The Bishop's School in San Diego, Calif. The Bishops School via AP
Unlike many of the kept young men who come to big cities with confused sexualities and nothing to sell but their bodies, Cunanan, according to friends and acquaintances, was a multilingual sophisticate who knew exactly which older men he wanted to meet. He seemed addicted to the high life and allergic to real work. He loved his 10-inch Davidoff cigars, but the only job he ever held in a vertical position was a brief stint as a drug store clerk in San Diego.

Cunanan would prowl the nightspots on Fifth Street, the heart of San Diego's gay enclave of Hillcrest, searching for intelligence about the rich men whom he would befriend.

"He would not approach customers," says Fred Schnell, manager of one of Cunanan's favorite haunts, the Caliph, a piano bar frequented by rich, older gay men. "He paid attention to them, to what they said, to what they were wearing and the cars they were driving."

He also made the rounds of the opera, museums and society events, studying the habits of the men he fancied. Cunanan was "a jewel in the crown of La Jolla's closeted society," says Ramirez-Murray, social columnist for the city's Gay and Lesbian Times newspaper, because the young man could hold a conversation on nearly anything-politics, antiques, wines, Elton John. If an older man was interested in orchids, "Cunanan would go out and buy every book available on orchids and plants and soon he would be talking about the subject as if he had studied it all of his life."

San Diego's high-end gigolos accompany their older mates to "very sophisticated parties where the best food and the best drinks are served," Ramirez-Murray says. "In their minds, these older gentlemen know they can't go to the gay bars, they can't go to the gay restaurants, but they can buy these young men."

Some older men feel unable to go to the gay clubs that attract the youngest crowd because "there's this perception that older gay men are going after young boys and the minute an older man goes near a young man, they're branded as pedophiles," says Neil, the Metro Teen AIDS director. "There's a huge divide between one generation of gay men and the next."

The bartender at the Caliph is in his mid-twenties. He says he makes about $100 a night in tips, mostly from older customers. But not long ago, he says, an older man offered him $50,000 "just to sit around a pool in Palm Springs." The barkeep says he spurned the offer. "I have morals," he says. "Because I want to be in control of my life. Because I have self-respect."

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