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If you haven't heard of Kim Chi, she is the first Korean-American on RuPaul's Drag Race and was named one of the most powerful drag queens in America. Kim Chi was runner-up on Season 8 of RuPaul's Drag RaceRuPaul's Drag Race and was sent home by Bob The Drag Queen later in the season. Well, since then, she's been quite busy. She started her own makeup line and has been making appearances all over the place. Now, she's teamed up with none other than Trixie Mattel to do a limited edition makeup collaboration.
We got in a little chat with Kim Chi where she talks about life, love, the runway...nah, just kidding. She did take some time out to answer a few questions for us on what it was like being on RPDR, what one product she can't live without, and so much more.
All of the products are cruelty-free and 2% of all sales to The Trevor Project. If you haven't checked out Kim Chi's beauty line, you should, the KimChi Chic Beauty line is stocked with a ton of makeup products and that bowtie is pretty cute too.
Q: What brought you to the decision to start a makeup line?
WTHighlight Double Diamonds makeup
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
A: The options were very limited for good affordalbe makeup, so it was important to me to create quality makeup that every makeup lover could enjoy.
Q: What does the collaboration between you and Trixie Mattel look like?
A: Putrid. Pungent. Audacious. It is a perfect representation of both Trixie and my style!
Q: Where and how did the two of you meet and subsequently become BFFs?
A: She stalked me on Facebook and forced me to book her in Chicago. Haven’t been able to get away from her since!
Q: What makeup product can you NOT live without?
A: Definitely eyeliner. The KimChi Chic Beauty Stage Proof Liquid Liner and The Effin Liner never leaves my makeup kit.
Q: Can you give us some makeup tips?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment. It's okay to wipe away mistakes and start over if needed.
Q: How has appearing on RuPaul shaped your lives, career, and outlook?
A: It has made me the 17th most powerful drag queen in the world according to some list by a famous publication. Kidding again! It gave me this really amazing platform to live out my wildest dreams, connect with people all around the world, and hopefully inspire others like myself. It showed me the importance of holding on to your passions and living life authentically.
Q: What are your top 3 charities to support?
A: Seniors Fight Back, The Trevor Project, Elton John Aids Foundation
Q: What 2 things would you say to an aspiring drag queen?
A: Success doesn't happen overnight, be patient and prepare to spend a lot of money!
Q: How big of a difference is it between your drag queen persona and non-drag queen persona? Or is there? Do you sometimes forget when you’re “on” or “off”?
A: It depends on whether I’m wearing a wig or not. Kim is a little louder, snarkier, and outgoing than Sang.
Q: What’s next? You have the appearances, the collaboration, the friendship…What is on the horizon?
A: Lots of touring, more KimChi Chic Beauty launches, and one day...hopefully, retirement!
Q: What would you be doing if you weren't a drag queen performer and makeup entrepreneur?
A: Before doing drag I was an art director, so probably something similar relating to fashion design, art, or something similar.
KimChi Chic Beauty
KimChi Chic Beauty and Trixie Mattel Makeup Line
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
You can see the limited edition Trixie x Kim Chi Collab BFF4EVR on KimChi's Chic Beauty site. It's a fun and whimsical product line. The limited edition includes 5 different products with various shades and colors to choose from as well as a KimChi and Trixie Girl Fan or purchase the entire line in one bundle.
"Nobody's Gonna Be Their Best Until They're Authentically Themselves." — Vanessa Nygaard, Head Coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury
She’s not new to the WNBA. She’s been a player, drafted in the league’s second year, and played perhaps her best ball in Portland and Miami. She’s also been a league coach, for the Washington Mystics. But she’s never before been a head coach of a WNBA franchise, let alone one as decorated as the Mercury, which has three championship rings and just missed its fourth last year. She’s also stepping into the coaching shoes of arguably one of the most successful coaches in league history, her friend and former teammate Sandy Brondello. So while there are some big shoes to fill and there’s pressure, to be sure, there’s also a huge upside to the job.
The Phoenix Mercury boasts a roster loaded with talent and chief among the All-Stars is a player who is widely considered perhaps the most dominant player in a generation, maybe ever, to play in the WNBA — Brittney Griner, or “B.G.” as she’s known around the league. For the uninitiated, Griner is so dominant that if we lived in a different world, LeBron would be considered the “B.G.” of the NBA.
Coach Vanessa Nygaard on the court
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Mercury
“When you need a bucket, she’s a bucket,” Nygaard says of Griner. “When things weren’t working well, we’d just throw it into her and she’d get you points.”
If you’re wondering why the name Brittney Griner rings a bell, it’s because you haven’t been living under a rock the last few months. She is the player who’s been locked up in a Russian gulag and, for the last several months, used by Vladimir Putin as a pawn in a dangerous, high-stakes game of international chess. The Russian President is using Griner to pressure the U.S. to get whatever the hell it is he’s trying to get — and let’s be honest, nobody, not even Putin probably, has any idea what that is anymore.
At this point you might be thinking geopolitical security coupled with European war negotiation strategy is outside of a WNBA head coach’s job description — and you’d be right — yet here we are. But hey, Nygaard went to Stanford, so we’re all good, right?
All kidding aside, to say that it hasn’t been a distraction would be like saying Vesuvius wasn’t a concern to the residents of Pompeii. (Google it, you’ll get it later.) Trying to keep reporters interested in how your players are posting up in the paint while all that’s going on hasn’t been easy. Nor has it been a breeze to completely re-invent an offense, or ask a group of All-Stars to suddenly fill roles that are different than what made them All-Stars in the first place. Yet she’s done this, navigating her team to the brink of a playoff berth while getting to know them and a new coaching staff.
Then there’s the human side, getting to know a new area and the fun things that go with it, like monsoons and haboobs. So it’s understandable that Coach hasn’t had time to figure out some of life’s necessities, like, where she should get her first haircut in Phoenix, which was precisely where she was coming from when our interview started.
“I had been getting my haircut in L.A.,” she said, during the first few moments of our Zoom call. When she saw the puzzled look on my face, she explained that her family was still living in Los Angeles when the season started and she would visit a lot. So, she would just get it cut there. Now that her family has fully moved to Phoenix, she had to finally find a new place.
It’s the little things.
Over the next 30 minutes, Coach Nygaard and I would have an illuminating discussion about a variety of topics. While she was born not far from where the Mercury play, it turns out we both went to high school about 30 minutes apart, in the northern part of San Diego county. I graduated two years ahead of her but our high school sports teams would have played each other, though not in Girls Basketball. That’s because until Coach Nygaard’s mother got involved, her high school didn’t have a girl’s basketball team.
During our wide-ranging interview we would talk about that and how Title IX may have changed the game 50 years ago, but what’s needed now for that change to be fully realized is enforcement, perhaps on the local level, to make sure every kid gets the same opportunities she had. Coach Nygaard shared how she followed her mother’s example years later, becoming an advocate herself for a team she coached at the High School level, making sure “separate but equal” wasn’t applied.
We would also talk about why representation matters. Coach Nygaard is an out and proud woman playing in the WNBA. That’s important to her. She’s aware not everyone is as lucky as she’s been.
“I never thought of myself as being a visible member of the LGBTQ community, or anything like that,” Nygaard, said. However, the coach believes that when people are in positions like hers, it’s important to accept the reality that they’re role models.
“We don’t all have families that are supporting and loving and accepting of us,” she said. For those people, especially for young kids, it’s important to see some positivity is possible at the end. “I’ve had success in my career. I have a loving family. It’s important to see that there is joy, there are good things to come… For me, that’s the only reason why I would say anything or why I would be front-facing in any way — to provide some hope for that kid who may be at home and feel like, ‘ugh, I can’t do this anymore.’”
But more than offering hope, being allowed to be who you are, to be your authentic self, is about being your best self, Nygaard said in our interview. “Nobody’s gonna be their best until they’re authentically themselves,” she said. As a player, Nygaard believes she wasn’t her best until she knew she was allowed to be who she really was.
This is a universal truth that isn’t just shared in the locker room. It reaches the upper-most echelon of the organization, perhaps one of the most progressive in the league, which, to be clear, is saying something.
Mercury President Vince Kozar feels it’s important for the organization as a whole to make sure the LGBTQ community recognizes the Mercury as both resource and partner. “As an organization, we pride ourselves on being as inclusive as possible – whether that’s centering women or historically marginalized communities. And the reality is we’re a product that provides visibility and representation for groups that need that, one of which is the LGBTQ+ community. We have athletes who are out, outspoken and living very authentically. We want to show up for them. We want to tell their stories because we know those stories impact folks everywhere.”
That visibility and authenticity is a big reason why Nygaard is thrilled to be a part of the Phoenix Mercury. Another reason she loves stalking the sidelines of the Footprint Center, the Mercury fans known as the X-Factor.
“Our fans are free to be themselves,” Nygaard says. When you come to a Mercury game, she says, “You’re not going to see just one kind of fan. You’ll see families there with young kids. You’ll see older gay couples. You’ll see just random basketball fans who just love basketball. You’ll see all kinds of people.” Ultimately, Nygaard says, “Everyone is there to just support the Mercury.”
But one thing Nygaard is especially proud of: “Our Pride night.” She swears “It’s the best in the history of sports.”
Kozar may agree, and he has some bragging rights to back it up. “We were the first local sports organization to have a presence at Phoenix Pride, the first to march in the Pride parade, the first to host a Pride Night at a game, and the first to sign local organization ONE Community’s Unity Pledge in support of non-discrimination in public accommodations and the workplace. And if that made even one person feel like they were seen or not alone or valued or that our games were a safe space, then every bit of it was worth it.”
Many of the Mercury players are themselves part of the community. In fact, Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, took center stage to advocate for her spouse’s release during the WNBA All-Star game in June, a reality that was not lost on Nygaard. During our interview, we talked about the fact that its willingness to put a queer person center-stage on its biggest night sets the WNBA apart from other professional sports organizations — but maybe not for long.
While other pro leagues can now boast out athletes who are active and playing, it is true that few have done more than the WNBA to embrace them. What is also true is that within the WNBA, few have franchises that have done more than the Mercury to make those players and coaches feel at home
Maybe that’s the real X-Factor.
Skin health is an important issue for everyone but it is especially important to the LGBTQ+ community. Finding a health care doctor that understands your medical history, gender identity, and sexual orientation is difficult. It's very important for a healthcare provider, including dermatologists, to have a better understanding of the needs of the LGBTQ+ population.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the number of melanoma deaths in the U.S. is expected to increase this year by over 5 percent. Studies show that gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer due to indoor tanning and unprotected sun exposure. Even transgender people dealing with acne due to hormone therapy are susceptible.
We spoke with dermatologist Dr. Cuong Le with the U.S. Dermatology Partners to find out the ins and outs of skin care health. Dr. Le treats patients of all races and provides a safe space for LGBTQ patients. Education and understanding are his main concern and here is what he had to say regarding LGBTQ skin health:
Q: Why Is It Important To Moisturize?
A: Everyone should be moisturizing daily and make it a part of their routine. Moisturizing helps repair the skin barrier- which can be damaged in certain diseases like eczema or if you are using products that contain ingredients that can dry or irritate your skin. Moisturizing also helps hydrate the skin. This can make your skin look plumper, fill out fine lines and wrinkles, and healthier.
Q: What Are the Proper Steps To Moisturize?
A: Moisturizers work best if applied to damp skin. In the morning, wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply a moisturizer, and then apply sunscreen. At night, wash the face with a gentle cleanser and apply the moisturizer to damp skin. If you have toners, serums, retinol, or retinoids, they would usually go on before the moisturizer.
Q: Does Moisturizing Matter by Gender?
A: Everyone should be moisturizing regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. There might be a difference in how dry or oily the skin is - but even then that doesn't matter. Both dry skin and oily skin will benefit from moisturizing. Something else that might play a role is how complex your skin care regimen or routines are but that is specific to each person- not necessarily a gender or sexual orientation.
Q: What Are the Best Ingredients for Moisturizers?
A: Some ingredients to look out for are ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. Humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid attract water. Ceramides help repair the skin barrier. Petrolatum is an occlusive that helps retain moisture in the skin.
Q: What Are the Worst Ingredients for Moisturizers?
A: There are some things that you should avoid if you are looking for a moisturizer. Fragrances, parabens, and dyes can be allergenic or irritating to some people with more sensitive skin. It might be good to avoid them if you are not sure. Night creams can contain retinol - which can irritate the skin and cause redness, peeling, and make products sting when applied. If you want to use something with retinol in it, I would introduce it slowly so your skin can get used to it. Some night creams also have AHAs or BHAs- these are weak acids that can also be irritating especially if they are overused.
A good skin care regimen does not have to be complicated and can consist of just a gentle cleanser, a good moisturizer, a good sunscreen, and retinol or retinoids.
Good Skin HealthPhoto by Good Skin Club on Unsplash
Based on the interview from Dr. Le, we put together a little skin care routine that is very easy to follow and you can add to it as your skin care health needs. Remember, the different seasons also play an important role in skincare. During the summer months, you will most likely need a lighter moisturizer while during the winter months, you'll need a more thicker and richer moisturizer.
For Proper Skin Health, Start with a Basic Skin Care Routine
Every morning you should use the following routine:
- Cleanse. Use a mild cleanser to remove dirt and grime that has built up overnight.
- Moisturize. Use a moisturizer that works with your skin type and for the time of the season.
- Sunscreen. You should be protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Your nightly skincare routine should look something like this:
- Cleanse. Again, use a mild cleanser to remove dirt and grime from the day.
- Toner. Refresh your skin without stripping it of natural oils.
- Treat. Use a product such as serums, spot treatments, or retinol to help repair skin damage, treat acne, or whatever your skin health needs may be.
- Night Cream. Use a thicker moisturizer that will help with skin repair and hydrate your skin while you sleep.
What Skin Care Products Do You Need?
There are plenty of skincare products out there. It really comes down to your skin type and skin health. At the minimum, you should have a mild cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. You can build from there. For instance, if you wear makeup, then having a makeup remover will clean a lot of the residue from your face before actually cleaning it. The cleanser will then remove any leftover residue that the makeup remover didn't get.
Andrew Cunanan was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on July 23, 1997, on a houseboat days after murdering fashion icon Gianni Versace on the steps of his South Beach mansion. Versace was the final victim of Cunanan’s cross-country killing spree that left bodies in Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, and Florida. In many ways, it all started in the Spring of 1997 in San Diego, Cunanan’s hometown.
I was one of the hundreds of reporters who covered that story. I’ve written extensively on his killing spree and the events leading up to it. I’ve given dozens of interviews about the facts and appeared on national television as an expert witness, so to speak.
What I haven’t done, before now, was share what it was like covering the story as a young 24-year-old reporter in way over his head at a small community newspaper suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. Because it’s not a reporter’s job, I’ve also never really talked about how I felt about the man I would come to call “Hurricane Andrew.”
How It All Started
Newspaper clippings of Andrew Cunanan America's Most Wanted
It was the Spring of 1997. I was the editor of Update, a pretty decent LGBTQ weekly newspaper that has since been lost to time and the digitization of news. I’d never met Cunanan and had never heard of him. When Marianne Kushi, then a beat reporter for our local NBC affiliate in San Diego called my desk on Monday, May 5 to ask me if I’d heard of him, the answer was “No.” A producer for the station, Paul Krueger had suggested she call me. Now retired, Paul was old-school. He knew the value of keeping relationships in every local community and when I became the editor at the publication Paul was the first to offer congratulations. So when Marianne called and dropped Paul’s name I agreed to ask around, if only as a favor. She said Cunanan might be gay and was from San Diego and had been implicated in a pair of murders in Minneapolis. One of the victims was a former sailor who may have spent time here. She was working that angle.
Marianne told me Cunanan’s home address at the time, which wound up being a 10-minute walk from my apartment. Gay San Diego is a six-degree kind of place so I figured I must know someone who knew him. I called around and it wasn’t long before I got the tea, though as it turns out, nobody really knew Andrew Cunanan.
With just a little digging I found out he went by the name DeSilva — just one of many facades he would carry throughout his life. He was raised in a middle-class suburb north of San Diego, but his father fled back to the Philippines after some illegal stock trading, abandoning his family. His mom moved him into a working-class neighborhood south of the city, earning what she could babysitting.
But Cunanan was smart, witty, and charming and would eventually earn a charity scholarship to attend high school at a prestigious private school in the wealthy enclave of La Jolla (think Beverly Hills on the beach). Here he would develop a flamboyant persona and dreams of a big life. He would regale his classmates with the inevitable successes he would achieve. He was going to be big.
Cunanan was definitely gay and he liked two very different types of men. He liked to spend the early part of his evenings with typically older men, wealthy, who were cultured, worldly, accomplished, and who liked to travel and wouldn’t think twice at the idea of taking him along as a travel companion. He liked their refinement and their bank accounts.
To them, he was good eye candy. He was young, charming, charismatic, lean, and very handsome with smooth, brown skin. He was good conversation, too. While he lacked formal education, he was knowledgeable about fine wine, arts, culture, history, and fashion — knowledge he cultivated while trying to fit in at the fancy private school.
But when it was those older men’s bedtime, Cunanan had a different type. He liked young, all-American “jock” types, gym-toned with squared-off jaws and handsome faces — and the kinkier the better. When he was with the younger men, it was all about sex and showing off. Friends would say Cunanan liked to show off, often with the money he would be given as an allowance from the older men whose company he would keep.
About the time I was going to ring up Marianne to let her know what I’d found out, my phone rang again. A Chicago reporter working for the CBS affiliate had found our paper’s number in their copy of the San Diego yellow pages they had on file in their newsroom. Back then newsrooms had phonebooks. The reporter told me Cunanan had killed again, the day before. This time the victim was a very wealthy real estate developer named Lee Miglin, and it was gruesome.
Investigating the Killing SpreeWhat had started as a double-homicide in Minneapolis was now a killing spree and a very big, developing story. The Chicago reporter told me what he knew and I told him what I had been told by Marianne and my community contacts, but was still trying to verify a few things. When I hung up I called Marianne and told her about my call with Chicago and what I’d been able to piece together. I also told her that I was working on confirming something that now seemed pretty important.Cunanan had a going-away dinner of sorts about a week before at a favorite restaurant of his. Who was there, and what was said, needed to be confirmed, because it wasn’t the kind of thing that I could be wrong about.
Marianne asked me how much time I needed. “Give me about an hour.” She graciously gave me two and told me she was going to talk to Paul but that they were probably going to be sending a “crew.” Back then that meant a reporter and a camera operator. Not long after I hung up with Marianne our receptionist told me that CBS Chicago was on the phone again. I knew more about their suspect than anyone he had talked to (thanks to Marianne, mostly), so they wanted to send a crew from the San Diego affiliate. The idea was the local CBS crew would shoot a segment for the local station and the Chicago station. “I need a couple of hours to lock in some facts,” I said.
“Will 3:00 p.m. be ok?”
It was 11 a.m. “Sure.”
Over the next couple of hours, I set about trying to find the waiter who served Cunanan at his going away dinner at a restaurant called California Cuisine, a pretty nice joint in the heart of San Diego’s gayborhood, and pretty far away from my $250 a week paycheck. I had a line on who that might be. I had spoken to one person who said he was there but for this kind of thing, a reporter needs double confirmation. If someone threw a going-away party for Cunanan, then that meant he wasn’t coming back, which might put these murders into a different perspective.
About an hour later I found the waiter. Initially, he was reluctant to talk to me, but since he knew I was part of “the community” he agreed. The dinner happened. I even got confirmation on who paid the check. That it wasn’t Cunanan wasn’t a surprise. My reporting at this point suggested he was broke, at the end of his rope, and out of favor with all of his wealthy benefactors. In fact, he was even down a friend, with his bestie, a former Navy Lieutenant, a guy named Jeff having recently moved away to Minneapolis to be closer to family.
But it was something else about this dinner that was ominous. It was what he said as the dinner was wrapping up, as the waiter was clearing away the plates.
Cunanan, I was told, leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head as he stretched — as one would after a satisfying meal. He looked around the table at those gathered and said “All of you think you know me when the truth is, none of you know the real Andrew.”
A few hours later I told that story to the NBC affiliate in San Diego and the CBS crews for San Diego and Chicago, along with everything else I had confirmed. I told them where he went to high school, the name he used – DeSilva and not Cunanan – and that there was an inscription in French that appears next to his picture in his high school yearbook, which when translated means “After me, comes the flood.” It was a famous quote from Louis XIV, who was just as dramatic and destructive as the guy who cribbed it.
Our local NBC station is what’s called an “O&O” which means it’s owned and operated by NBC, so it’s a network-owned station. Anything that airs on it can be picked up by any other NBC station pretty easily. For a story like this, I should have guessed what was going to happen next.
The Media Frenzy
Starting at about 8 pm Pacific Time, or 11:00 pm Eastern, and for the next 48 hours, all hell started breaking loose. San Diego was about to be hit by every kind of journalist, good and bad (mostly bad) and lots of people were going to get their 15 minutes of fame, whether they should or not. Oh, and my cell phone battery died from reporters calling me from all over the country, each wanting to set up interviews.
Meanwhile, three people had been killed and I had a job to do. I had to find out why — from my office in San Diego without any kind of travel budget. Fortunately, I had leverage. While reporters around the country were trying to get to me, I would only talk to the ones who felt like sharing. Typically reporters don’t play well with others. We’re competitive. We don’t want to get scooped but I wasn’t really competition. I worked for a small, regional weekly publication and websites weren’t a thing in 1997, at least Update didn’t have one, and anyway, we had a very specific readership. We weren’t going to be scooping 48 Hours or Good Morning America, or any local TV stations. The smart reporters knew that. So, if they wanted me to talk, they had to tell me what they knew. For the most part, this worked out for a couple of months, as we all tried to piece together what happened.
The facts were simple, horrifying, and heartbreaking.
On the Run
Not long after that dinner, Cunanan boarded a plane and went to see his friend Jeff Trail, a former lieutenant in the Navy, who had spent time in San Diego. Trail had moved to Minneapolis after leaving the Navy, following a short stint in the Highway Patrol academy. We would learn later that he and Cunanan had a falling out but Trail was trying to stay cordial and keep up appearances, perhaps to not alienate Cunanan, who had fallen on seriously hard times.
When Cunanan landed in Minneapolis on Friday, April 25, David Madsen, an ex-boyfriend of Cunanan and an up-and-coming architect in the area, picked Cunanan up at the airport and took him to dinner with some friends. Cunanan would spend the night at Madsen’s apartment but would spend Saturday night at Trail’s apartment alone. Trail was spending a romantic night away with his boyfriend, who was turning 21, at a quaint Bed & Breakfast and was letting Cunanan use the apartment while he was away, perhaps (and this is total conjecture) to not burden Madsen more than necessary as he knew the two had broken up.
While Cunanan was at Trail’s apartment on Saturday, April 26th, he stole Trail’s handgun and took it with him back to Madsen’s apartment, where he was scheduled to spend Sunday night. Cunanan had left a message for Trail to come see him at Madsen’s apartment and when Trail and his boyfriend returned Sunday, April 27th, Trail realized his gun was missing.
The couple had plans to go out that night with friends to a local dance club and continue the boyfriend’s birthday celebration. Trail said he would just meet up with them after going to see Madsen and Cunanan for a few minutes. He said nothing about the missing gun.
Right before Trail got to Madsen’s apartment, Madsen took his dog Prints out for a walk. When Trail arrived he was livid with Cunanan, shouting at him as soon as the door was opened. Within a few seconds Cunanan bludgeoned Trail across his temple with a claw hammer and quickly dragged Trail’s crumpled body into Madsen’s apartment. Cunanan continued to pummel him in the chest and stomach until Trail’s lifeless body stopped responding.
Within a few moments, Madsen returned to the apartment with Prints and walked in on the scene.
Putting the Pieces Together
What happened over the next few days is unclear. We know Madsen stayed in the apartment with Cunanan and the two were seen walking Prints in the neighborhood, and this is confirmed by witness accounts. However, what is also confirmed by witness accounts but largely overlooked in subsequent media coverage, was that Cunanan was wearing a heavy jacket during those walks, in May, during warm and sunny days, with his hands in the coat pockets, while Madsen was in shorts and a t-shirt.
When police entered Madsen’s apartment two days later and found a body wrapped in a carpet, initially they thought it was Madsen. When they heard a phone ringing on the body, they answered it, as is standard procedure. It was Trail’s boyfriend. This was confirmed during my exclusive interview with him I conducted a year later that only ever ran in Update. The police asked him who he was. He told them and said he was calling his boyfriend Jeff. A few minutes later, and without revealing anything, the police ended the conversation.
When police continued their search of Madsen’s apartment they found wrist restraints near his bed, the kind used for bondage scenes. It has always been my theory that Madsen was forced to stay in the apartment and was restrained to the bed and kept quiet by gunpoint while Cunanan figured out his next move.
I don’t believe he expected to kill Trail, that it was an act of passion — the motivation for which is unclear. I believe Madsen had walked in on it complicating the situation and Cunanan needed time to think. So he kept Madsen restrained on the bed, quiet, while he thought. To keep the dog quiet, the two would walk him at regular intervals. During these walks I believe Cunanan kept Madsen at gunpoint, hiding the gun under the coat with his hand on the gun in his pocket.
About the time Trail’s body was found, while police were still trying to identify it, Cunanan took David Madsen, in Madsen’s red Jeep Cherokee, to Rush Lake, about 65 miles north of the city, and shot him in the face, head, and back, with Jeffrey Trail’s gun. He would then head southeast, about 450 miles to Chicago. He was now on the run and he needed money.
This would lead him to Lee Miglin.
There has been much conjecture over the years about whether or not Cunanan knew Miglin. Miglin certainly fit the wealthy, older man profile that my reporting had shown funded much of Cunanan’s life before this spree began. However, nothing ever corroborated any of that conjecture, even after 25 years. The murder appeared pretty random, if conveniently coincidental. Cunanan came across Miglin sweeping up the garage. The garage door was open. Cunanan probably struck up a conversation and when Miglin was off-guard, he would have struck. A gun would have been too noisy so he used what was handy in the garage — a screwdriver, a bag of cement mix and a gardening saw to cut Miglin’s throat. Miglin’s face was also wrapped with cellophane, probably to keep him quiet. The timing was convenient because Miglin’s wife, a cosmetics rainmaker for QVC, was out of town on an overnight business trip. Cunanan took some gold coins from the Miglin home and their green Lexus. But before he left, he made himself a sandwich, leaving half of it on the kitchen counter.
About four days later, Cunanan drove into Manhattan with Miglin’s Lexus. He activated the car’s phone and the FBI pinged it, and then released that news to the media, who reported it. Cunanan heard about it, probably on the radio. This likely cost William Reese his life. Cunanan now knew he needed a new car.
A cemetery caretaker in New Jersey, William Reese was a Civil War buff who was married with a pre-teen special-needs son. Reese owned an old pick-up. When a new Lexus pulled up to the workshop at Finn’s Point National Cemetery where the 45-year-old worked, he probably didn’t know he wasn’t going to make it home that night. Cunanan shot Reese, execution style, and then stole his truck. He would drive it to Miami. Along the way, he would exchange a couple of those gold coins for some cash.
A few months later, after skulking around in South Beach, he would walk up to Versace and shoot him on the steps of his compound. Eight days after that, the coward would shoot himself in the head. I should point out here that it was the gunshot that was reported, not that people spotted Cunanan in the houseboat. Police had no idea at this point where he was, or what city he was in.
Back in San Diego
In San Diego, we were all worried he was going to show up here. The week Versace was shot was the week of San Diego Pride. The late Mandy Schultz, the event's Executive Director at the time, told me she and her team had gone through a briefing where the San Diego Police Department had shared they would be deploying snipers on the rooftops of the parade route and plain-clothes police officers in the crowd, just in case Cunanan showed up. I was scheduled to appear on Good Morning America Friday morning, the day before the parade, to talk about the fear of Cunanan returning. Fortunately, my appearance on GMA had a very different vibe, the day after Cunanan was confirmed dead. It was more about closure.
After completely failing in literally every possible way, the FBI, and the police departments in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and Miami are at least partially to blame for the deaths of William Reese and Gianni Versace, as they ignored leads and wouldn’t engage with local gay communities, steps that could well have lead to the earlier apprehension of the murderer.
The media made the story worse, with more than a few unscrupulous journalists caring more about being first than being right, and putting anyone in front of a camera without first stopping to think whether or not they should. This led to more than a few wholly inaccurate stories being peddled as truth, including one whopper that Cunanan was lashing out because he was convinced he was HIV-positive. He wasn’t. There was even a story one that he had killed a San Diego man whose murderer was already behind bars. He didn’t.
Much has been written of those failings over the years, some by the excellent journalist and author Maureen Orth in her book Vulgar Favors. Her work, heavily researched and sourced, served as the launching point for the writers of the poorly named and often fictional FX True Crime Anthology The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
Along with Ms. Orth, I suppose I’m about the only other reporter still considered an expert on Cunanan and when shows like Dateline NBC do anniversary retrospectives as they did on the 20th anniversary, they always include her and me. That will inevitably lead to our hometown stations following with coverage of their own on 20-year and 25-year anniversaries. For my part, this is mostly because I picked up the phone back in May 1997.
Earlier in this reflection, I posited that I talked to a lot of people who spent time with Cunanan but probably nobody who really knew him. That’s because I don’t think it’s possible anyone could have. He lied all the time about who and what he was. To some, he would lie about being in the import/export business. To others, he was playing bit parts in movies. For more important audiences, he would spin tails about building sound-proofing materials in factories in Mexico. Others thought him a drug dealer. His mother, incapable of nuance, told me her son was “a high-class prostitute for homosexuals.” Then she hung up on me.
The only thing about Andrew Cunanan that was true is that after living a completely unremarkable life, he died a coward, and in the end, he is famous not for the life he lived, but for the lives he took. When he did, he cut short the lives of what I found in my reporting to be amazing human beings who were vibrant, talented, and who managed to achieve something Andrew Cunanan was never able to. Everyone he killed had managed to be loved for who they really were, without pretext or pretense.