Village Murders – Frenzy Times Five

NEW YORK: The state’s Gay Activist’s Alliance helped New York cops after a series of five murders in the Greenwich Village area. The carbon-copy killings are said to follow the pattern described in a novel about a man who makes a habit of murdering gays.

When it was found that five men had died in this rash of brutal killing, three 24-hour hot-lines were opened – one by the police, one by the GAA and one by the Mattachine Society, the US homosexual law reform society – all appealing for information about the killer or killers of the five gays.

The city’s Village Voice put together an account of the slayings ‘from innumerable telephone calls and visits to the Homicide Bureau, calls on the Village leather and gay waterfront bars, discussions with bartenders, managers, customers, and a day at the GAA switchboard.

Victim No 1: Jose Ronnie Cabo, called Pepe by his friends … stabbed ten times, head gashed, Cabo’s nude body was found on a closed sofa convertible that went up in flames on January 4. Cabo had four Maltese dogs. Two died in the fire, two were saved.

‘Jose Cabo was a hairdresser with a receding hairline. Conscientious about his appearance, he wore a hairpiece, was about five feet eight inches tall, weighed 145 lbs, somewhat effeminate in manner. He came to New York from Havanna 11 years ago, joined the army, served at Fort Dix, worked as an Eastern Airlines steward between New York and Miami, frequented the waterfront bars and occasionally went to the trucks. (Lately there have been increased incidents of robberies and muggings at the trucks. Regulars report a knifing on January 12 which may not be linked with the homicides.)

Jose Ronnie Cabo, stabbed 10 times.

Seen In Bars

It’s been established that on the night of the murder, Cabo stopped of at his two favourite bars: Danny’s on Christopher Street and Peter Rabbit on West 10th near the river. Both bars are owned by Joe Nieri. An acquaintance claims Cabo was also at the Roadhouse and was seen there at 2am talking to a tall blonde who wore a knit seaman’s cap. Cabo had been drinking.

Victims No 2 and 3: Donald McNiven, 41, and John Beardsley, 53. Victims maintained adjacent apartments. Bodies found on floor of MacNiven’s living room, Macniven stabbed 51 times. Beardsley stabbed 30 times. Both bodies badly burned. Police claim Beardsley’s underpants were charred. MacNiven was wearing tiny undershorts at the time of his assassination.

‘Beardsley was a graduate of Harvard, had a PhD and was listed in both the New York and Philadelphia social registers. He tutored, wrote a couple of books, worked for a short time at a publishing house – the same firm where MacNiven worked as a statistical clerk prior to his death. Beardsley, according to Homicide, liked to go to the better gay bars; MacNiven was a heavy drinker and preferred the raunchier places. Like Cabo, he frequented Danny’s and Peter Rabbit. He also liked the trucks.

Donald MacNiven, stabbed 51 times.

‘Early on the day of the murders, MacNiven was seen drinking at Danny’s. Tipsy, he returned to his building and had a few more with his neighbour, Beardsley, then left at about 11 pm. Beardsley remained at home. Police are eager to know McNiven’s activities between 11 pm and 7am, at which time a neighbour heard scuffling, and a new voice, described as “strong and groggy and definitely not New York, but I can’t place the accent.” Later still, that neighbour smelled smoke in the hallway. He called the Fire Department. Shortly after, MacNiven and Beardsley’s bloody, smouldering bodies were found.

John Beardsley, stabbed 30 times.

‘The Medical Examiner claims that MacNiven had a high alcoholic content at the time of his death. Detectives are checking out names in Beardsley’s address book. They include European royalty and New York cultural figures.

Victim No 4: Robben Borrero, 23, body fished out from the river at the Morton Street pier, approximately 1 pm January 17. According to Dr Rho, who performed the autopsy, there had been no obvious evidence of a violent nature, no gunshot wounds, knife wounds or strangulation. The body had been dead for a month to five weeks. Robben had been reported missing by his mother a week before the Christmas holidays. Police are to investigate further They claim there is no connection between the three murders and Borrero’s drowning.

Robben Borrero, fished from the river.

Robben Borrero was an early member of the Gay Liberation Front. At one time he was with a gay consciousness-raising group, belonged to the Gay Community Group at Queen’s College (members say he showed up sporadically for meetings), and was vice-president of Homosexuals Intransigent, a Village gay group.

Somewhat Self-Destructive

‘According to Craig Schoomaker, president of the latter group and one-time roommate of Borrero, “Robben was somewhat self-destructive, but he wasn’t the kind of person who’d kill himself.” The director of Borrero’s City Hospital therapy group agrees, “Robben seemed to be in control.”

‘During the last few months, Robben Borrero had been living, on and off, with a lover in a small apartment over the One Potato restaurant at Hudson and West 10th. His lover, a Christopher Street fixture during the summer, had spent time in a Florida State mental hospital. He was released last May and Robben sent him the money to return to New York.

Major Tranquilliser

‘The lover was on Thorazine, a major tranquilliser used primarily for schizophrenia. According to Robben’s therapist, the lover was a “tall blonde, over six feet, much bigger than Robben. He had been violent with Robben many times, destroying things like Robben’s paintings.”

‘Physically, Robben was built like Jose Cabo. He was about five feet seven inches tall, weighed about 135lbs, had black hair. Both Jose Cabo and Robben Borrero were beardless and of Hispanic origin.

Victim No 5: Robert Koleda, 27 years old, body discovered floating in water near Pier 66, 26th Street and waterfront, about 5 pm, January 17. The person who discovered Koleda was walking his dog when he “noticed the top of a head and a white ear.” He phoned the police and the Mattachine Society.

“No Connection”

‘Koleda had been in the water four or five days. Detectives claim he had no gay history and there was no connection to the gay murders. Also that Koleda had a history of mental disturbance, there was no apparent violence and he was a drowning victim.’

The Village Voice seems to be the only US paper to have treated the rash of gay slayings with the seriousness it deserves. In another story it reported that Robben Borrero had been found wearing leather with a chain around his neck.

One theory that police started working on was that the killings were the work of one man with a grudge against gays, as the pattern of the murders seems to follow a novel of gay murders which is a village best-seller.

To quote: ‘Some details of the book, called Cruising by Gerald Walker, differ from the real-life account of the homicides. But the fact meets the fiction on several key points.

‘For example, the killer, who is portrayed as a man who hated homosexuals, finds his victims by picking them up in Greenwich Village gay bars and being invited to their homes.

Stabbed and Naked

‘And the victims are later found naked, dead of multiple stab wounds.

‘“We’ve gotten all kinds of tips” said a homicide detective. “This seems no more far-fetched than the rest. Maybe some lunatic would be impressionable enough to be influenced by a thing like this.”

‘The book was discussed in a December 28 Village Voice article – only a few days before the first homicide was discovered.

‘While Cruising is not found on the shelves of most bookstores, the homosexual shops of the Village say the book has been their number one best-seller over the past year. “We’ve sold so many it’s hard to keep it in stock,” said the proprietor of the Legend Gallery at Charles Street and 7th Avenue. “What Portnoy’s Complaint was to middle-class Jews, Cruising has been to the gay community. It’s about the fears we all live with.”’

This is just one lead homicide squad detectives are following up.

Another lead is this: several gays have come forward and told police they have been “brutalised”. Each witness gave an identical description of the man who’d assaulted them.

Another Pair Slain

Days later another pair of men were found dead in their plush Brooklyn apartment.

The VV reported: ‘The men, found Saturday afternoon with their feet and hands tied behind their backs with rope, shared the one-bedroom cooperative apartment in Henry Street for nearly a year.

‘The apartment was owned by Nelson Roberts, a 32-year-old teacher. He shared it with Lance Raiford, a 23-year-old senior at Queen’s College.’

Where Were They?

Police say it is possible that the men met their murderer or murderers on Friday night and were returning to the apartment together. Detectives hope they will find out where the men spent their last hours and thus link them to the killer.

‘Despite some similarities in the deaths,, police say at this point, there is no connection between the Brooklyn slayings and the murder of homosexuals in the Village recently.

Police were called to the Henry Street apartment block after loud music had been playing all night, annoying the neighbours.

Inside the 30th-floor apartment, which commanded Manhattan’s East Side, police found the two bodies. Nelson, clad only in his undershorts was lying on a bed, his head wedged between the mattress and the head-board. His neck was broken. On the living room floor, wearing dungarees and a white T-shirt, was Lance. He had been stabbed once at the base of the spine.

Cruising In Britain

The controversial book, Cruising, which may have served as a scenario for at least some of these slayings, is on sale in Britain, published by Lord Thomson’s Sphere Books.

Sphere Books, the British publishers of Cruising, the novel said to be the scenario for the Village gay murders, report that they have sold only 14,500 copies of the book since August.

A spokesman said: “It may be a bestseller in the States, but it doesn’t seem to have hit Britain in a big way at all.”

The only mention of the Village murders in the British press so far has been in the Evening Gazette, Colchester, which treated the story with a rather tasteless headline: “Police Go Gay In Hunt For Knife Maniac”

The Evening Gazette reported that ‘ten detectives are posing as homosexuals in the ‘gay’ bars, bookshops and cinemas of New York’s Greenwich Village in an effort to find the killer.’

“They Have So Many Friends”

Meanwhile in New York one of the detectives in charge of the gay slayings case told the New York Times’ “Homosexual homicides are always tough because they have so many friends.”

Lieutenant James Skennion continued: “We’ve asked for the homosexuals’ cooperation and we’re getting it, although some have over-reacted. If we can get information, we don’t particularly care about their feelings.”

Pow-wow With TV Chiefs

NEW YORK: The Gay Activists’ Alliance has written a letter to the three US television network Standards and Practices Committees, asking for a meeting to discuss, with reference to codes of practice, the recent rash of anti-homosexual remarks, jokes and characterisations on the networks.

Signed by the alliance president Bruce Voeller, the letter charges that the practices chieftains have not been ensuring that shows ‘contain no slighting or offensive references to minority groups’.

The letter says: ‘We have no objections … to humorous remarks or skits dealing with homosexuality and depiction of homosexual characters on television … But sniggering “fag” and “dyke” jokes won’t do nor will the suggestion that the mere fact of homosexuality is hilarious. In short, we do not object to jokes that deal with our lives – but our lives themselves are not a joke!’

The alliance has cited as acceptable the sketches on the Burns and Schreiber comedy specials (ABC television) dealing with a homosexual son and his father and a homosexual drunk at a bar asking a heterosexual couple what they do sexually. Also, a bit on the Mary Tyler Moore segment in which two women are after the same man, who, it turns out to the great relief of one of the smitten, turns out to be gay.

Calender Boys

WELLINGTON: New Zealanders are getting a little hot under the collar because of a cover-the-naughty-parts all male nude calendar being published in Wellington.

According to the NZ press the calendar, which will be sold by mail order-will have “six full-colour pages of naked young men.” One paper said: “Some show the models in a full frontal position.”

The company that’s publishing the calendar says it’s doing it because of the calendar’s artistic merits.

A spokesman for the calendar’s publishers said: “There is nothing indecent about our calendar. All the models are shown in natural poses.”

One interesting feature of the calendars is that they come equipped with strips of sticky paper to obliterate the models’ genitalia or any other parts of the body one might find offensive.

What the NZ papers are up in arms about is that the models on the country’s first male pin-up calendar are New Zealanders.

It is a spin-off from the New Zealand male nude book Sons Of The Southern Seas, which it’s said has sold well in Europe.

The publishers’ spokesman said: “We believe that women are getting over-exposed. Men have beautiful bodies too.”

NEW YORK: The usually staid Ladies Home Companion has entered the battle of the male calendars with its own tasteful, sepia variation on the theme.

The majority of the models in the LHC calendar look bored and some appear far from the husky masculine image the calendar strives for.

The LHC calendar may be full and nude but the last thing it is is frontal. Most of the models have found some way of turning away from the camera, giving an overall impression of coyness.

The American calendar is being imported and sold by Walton Street Stationers of London for £2.50

Enlightened Sentence

Picture has been edited as the age of the subject is not clear.ROCHESTER, N.Y.: An enlightened American Judge gets this month’s award for diplomacy. Faced with the problem of sentencing a gay convicted of first-degree assault he “reluctantly” placed him on probation because of fears that the man – 29-year-old Michael Dodd — would be “dehumanised if not killed” if sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

The case was dealt with recently by Judge David O. Boehm at Munroe County Court. Before passing sentence he asked prison officials about the potential danger to a homosexual inmate.

“They were very candid,” said Judge Boehm. There had been stabbings and fights over this situation yet all the prison officers could do was to give verbal instructions to the prisoners.

Judge Boehm said he just couldn’t see throwing Michael into that situation.

“It would be cruel and unusual punishment. He’d become an object of barter there, completely dehumanised, if he wasn’t killed.”

Judge Boehm placed Michael on probation on condition that he sought psychiatric help and stayed away from the victim of the assault.

He told Michael that if he violated any condition of parole, it “will be clear indication that you’re not concerned, as I am, with what might happen if you’re sentenced to prison.” Judge Boehm added: “I resent the fact that we have no alternatives. This is a heck of a thing and the public ought to know about it. I resent the fact that another person may come up who’s a homosexual and he may have a more serious crime and I’m stuck.”

Right on Judge Boehm and here’s hoping your views come to the notice of your English colleagues.

Gay Film Busted in New York

01-197205XX 6New York City police seized Fred Halstead’s SEX GARAGE, a gay porno film, at the 55th Street Playhouse on April 14th. It is called ‘seizure’, but if you saw it happening you’d probably call it by some other name.

What happened was this; NY city police served the management of the cinema with a subpoena made out in the name of Moon Enterprises, demanding that the film be shown to court officials to determine whether it was of a distinctly abusive and debasing nature, and therefore illegal and outside the broadly legal spectrum of pornographic film shown in dozens of theatres in NY. But Moon Enterprises is the former, not the current, tenant of the Playhouse, so the subpoena was invalid.

The judges reaction to all this was to throw up his hands and say, “Work it out with the District Attorney”. And that means de facto that the film can go on playing for months (or as long as the customers keep paying) before the jury ever gets hold of the case. In the meantime, the film is doing very well indeed at the box-office and in its first week grossed over $20,000 (over £8,000)

In their more or less regular raids of pornogrinds, police have been leaving the explicitly gay theatres untouched. But a perceptive look at Halstead’s Sex Garage, a sado-masochistic (S-M) film, and its co-feature L.A. Plays Itself which was not seized, explains the change in policy. Both are films which begin with a gay S-M consciousness toward their subject matter.

It’s not that homosexuals are anything new in movies. John Schlesinger’s films have frequently portrayed male homosexuals from the point of view of straights, or, worse even, from the point of view of homosexuals who look self-denigratingly at themselves through some imaginary version of heterosexual ‘eyes’. This can lend the films the air of reporting (in the true liberal fashion) on the cutting edge of changing sexual mores, while still holding up their characters as curiosities. Billy Wilder too has featured faggots in many of his films. Again, they’re seen from a straight point of view, but Wilder has had the decency to never hold his own characters up to ridicule. As a straight dealing with gays, he has consistently been compassionate or left well enough alone.

What Halsted has done is to make a radical demand; homosexuals must recognise that their own view of themselves is the only one with which they can comfortably carry on their lives. They must get over that self-destructive impulse to accept the thought-controlling prejudices of the straight world. Further more, they must begin to show the straight world that a homosexual consciousness is in fact part of their (the straights’) everday world too. It is present everywhere. It is interpreting the billboards which sell commodities and line the streets of Los Angeles (Birmingham) and every other American (British) city. It is giving new erotic meaning to casual gatherings in the city’s parks.

Sex Garage is like a homosexual La Ronde (the Ophuls film, remade by Vadim). In the butch environ of an automobile repair shop shop a girl seated in a Mazda gives a young stud a blowjob. Intercut with her sucking are shots of details oft are shots of details of the car. Can he be fantasising these while she works on him? The stud then turns around and screws the chick. This scene is intercut with shots of a Mercedes Benz. Now clearly a Mercedes is more desirable as a commodity than a Mazda.

Sex Garage and L.A. Plays Itself represent therefore a very radical threat to the heterosexual domination of Planet Earth. The films, apart from their arousing pornographic intent, (and God knows they could stimulate a myopic mule, including the one sitting next to me in the theatre… ‘Excuse me sir, thats my leg’) constitute a liberating rallying-cry to homosexuals.

Is Halsted implying that one type of sex-act is preferable to another in some absolute scale of sexual values? But the Mercedes actually arrives at the garage, and from it steps z another boy, a masochist. Roughly the stud fucks him, during which he entertains masturbatory fantasies of a motor-cycle, which in fact arrives on the scene moments later.

What is happening here is simple. Halsted has played with certain cinematic editing conventions, making unclear the function of the motor vehicles in the film. They can be representing either fantasies or actual vehicles by which people connect together in the far-flung parts of L.A. as they run from one orgasm to the next. All of this builds to the film’s final shot of masses of cars bumper to bumper on the freeway. All are driven by actively-fantasising men and women, passing their days linking orgasm bumper to bumper with orgasm.

The seizure of Sex Garage is based on a rather primitive notion of the effect that film has on viewers: that the viewers can accurately penetrate the metaphors which enshroud the ‘real’, that they are powerless to resist the ‘message’ that is hidden there, that once having received the message their behaviour (bereft of other stimuli) is determined by it and accords with its dictates.

The above article was written by Mitch Tuchman and is taken from a recent issue of Cinema Rising. Many thanks to them both.

What follows is a section of a letter (received by a member of the Gay News collective) which reviews the films in a different and possibly more personal context. Many thanks to Manus Sasonkin for his permission to print this part of his letter.

An Afternoon at the Cinema

‘In the afternoon, I attended, for the first time – ever – a cinema which was showing a double bill of gay ‘pornography’. The films, Sex Garage and L.A. Plays Itself, were virtually interchangeable, except that Sex Garage had been photographed (appallingly) in black and white, whereas L.A. Plays Itself had been photographed (no less appallingly) in glorious colour. There was no attempt made in either film to tell a story; neither was there any attempt made to create (let alone develop) any characters. Both films displayed extremely pretty young men, copious amounts of masturbation, detailed accounts of fellatio, and the occasional anal penetration. My favourite episode (which was from Sex Garage) involved a comely young stud standing in a shower-bath, masturbating, whilst the sound track issued Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire in the piano transcription of the late Dame Myra Hess.

Elsewhere the bodies were all attractive. and the activities which the bodies performed caused me to feel wistful and just slightly covetous; but the impersonality of all the encounters – the total lack of human (as opposed to physical) contact – depressed me, and caused me to feel nobly justified in hailing declined the attentions of a Piccadilly Cruiser on my recent visit to London. Seeing the films helped to convince me that, for me at least, sex without human involvement is futile, barren, unrewarding, and – in the last analysis – more frustrating than gratifying.’

It is unlikely that either of these films will be shown in the British Isles, however, as is obvious here, different people react differently to ‘gay’ films. And it occurs to us, with further relaxation of censorship, if seems likely there will be more films with a more explicit ‘gay content’.

There have been in the last few year a number of films on general release portraying the homosexual stereo-types, and in the showing of Some Of My Best Friends Are… the first attempt to cash in on gay audiences in this country.

We of the collective have varying ideas as to the possible good that may come from these developments in the cinema, and would like to know how you feel about and react to this.