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Volume 15/Issue 15

by PlanetOut,, a Worldwide Online Community of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans People

Gianni Versace!

Versace: A Gay Man

One of the recurring themes as people around the world remember Gianni Versace, shot to death outside his Miami Beach, Florida home on the morning of July 15, is his fearlessness, and that fearlessness was expressed as much in his openness about being gay as in the daring of his fashion designs. The Italian national gay and lesbian advocacy organization ArciGay mourns the loss of Gianni Versace as one of Italy's first public figures to come out. Versace worked on behalf of people living with AIDS with openly gay singer-composer Elton John, who once posed in a Versace dress and said after the murder that "Gianni and I were like brothers." In bringing rock music into the previously staid world of haute couture, Versace often chose openly gay singer Boy George as one of the composers for his fashion shows, and George said that in the many times they worked together, Versace "was nothing but a complete gentleman."

John's partner, David Furnish, stated well what many others both inside and outside the world of fashion had to say about Versace: "If I had to sum Gianni up in one word, it's passion. I never met someone with such a passion for life, and beauty, and living. He enjoyed life, devoured it, and gave it all back to the world. He is someone who was doing what he was born to do and he got so much pleasure from it." He was also a man who enjoyed gay nightlife in Florida's South Beach and around the world.

A Washington Post article in the wake of his death describes Versace as experimenting "with a homoerotic esthetic, especially in his menswear, advertising and coffeetable books." Versace's gay sexual orientation informed his art, as Richard Martin, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City told The Advocate in 1995: "There is no question that Versace's own out gay identity has been a part of this work. He is in the tradition of the avant-garde, which means that he is willing to risk a lot. And he doesn't run for cover when his risks provoke outrage." Some of that outrage was evoked by his uise of sado-masochistic themes in some of his collections, leaving him out of the pages of some of the major fashion magazines when he was becoming established as a leading designer in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Although deeply devoted to his family, who joined him in building his more than $800 million/year business, Versace was also devoted to his partner of 12 years, Antonio d'Amico -a relationship which has barely registered in the masses of reportage on Versace's life and death.

For more visit the Gianni Versace Memorial.

Andrew Cunanan

Gay Community Cooperation Needed
In Capture Of Spree Killer Andrew Cunanan

On July 16, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) renewed its call for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement agencies to work cooperatively with members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities to apprehend suspected spree killer Andrew Cunanan.

NCAVP also announced that it will assist the FBI and local law enforcement agencies by continuing to distribute fliers warning about Cunanan in GLBT communities across the country. "In turn, we urge that all law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, cooperate fully with NCAVP member organizations across the country in halting this string of tragedies," said Christine Quinn, Executive Director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP). "Toward this end, AVP has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Cunanan's arrest," said Quinn. The FBI has matched that offer with its own $10,000 reward. "Also, we are pleased to announce that today, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has matched our $10,000 reward," said Quinn.

Cunanan, 27, one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, is the only suspect in Tuesday's assassination-style shooting death of fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach. Also, Cunanan is charged in the May 3, 1997 murder of David Madson in Minneapolis; and is suspected in three other murders:
Jeffrey Trail of Minneapolis on April 27; Lee Midglin, Chicago real estate magnate on May 4; and William Reese, a cemetery caretaker of Pennville, New Jersey on May 9. Mr. Reese's red pickup truck is believed to have been found abandoned in a parking garage near the murder site of Versace. "We want to extend out deepest sympathies to the family and friends of all the men who have been murdered," said Toni Carrigan, Director of Horizon's Anti-Violence Project in Chicago. "We are concerned that each of these victims be remembered."

"Members of our communities are expressing a range of emotions in reaction to these killings, from denial to anger to sorrow to fear to complacency," said Constance Potter, of the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council in Minneapolis. "But the real story here is the work that we are doing in conjunction with law enforcement to contain this threat."

"We hope that people everywhere, including members of our communities, will be reminded that they should take basic precautions to ensure their everyday safety," added Robb Johnson, of the Victim Recovery Program at Fenway Community Health Center in Boston.

NCAVP members say that FBI interaction with individual member agencies about Cunanan has been varied. Potter reports excellent communication with FBI officials in Minneapolis. However, Quinn recounts that FBI agents took 45 minutes to respond to a report that a man fitting Cunanan's description was in a New York City gay bar; by the time agents arrived, the man had left.

FBI agents have urged GLBT community members to forward any information that might help them capture Cunanan. "We are eager to cooperate. Cunanan is a threat to us all," said Sharen Shaw Johnson, Supervising Advocate of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Anti-Violence Project, noting that the victims include persons believed to be heterosexual. "But we also urge that law enforcement, including the FBI, to work fully with us and with other local GLBT organizations who best know how to reach their communities," said Shaw Johnson.

"The effort in capturing Cunanan must, of course, fall to the FBI and local law enforcement. But, the most effective law enforcement is a product of coorporation between communities and police. We encourage and challenge both the FBI and police to partner with us fully toward bringing a quick end to this needless violence," said Darryl Cooper, Chairperson of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence in Washington, D.C.

Sodomy Repealed in San Marino

Billed as the world's oldest and smallest republic, San Marino repealed its sodomy law on July 9. Although throughout its almost 1,700-year history as a nation it has served as an asylum for refugees from oppression and been known for fiercely defending the values of freedom and democracy, the newly-repealed law punished "libidinous acts with persons of the same sex" with up to one year in prison. The parliament, known as the Great and General Council, voted for repeal by 28 to 21 with one abstention.

Perhaps most widely known internationally for postage stamps popular with collectors, San Marino has only about 24,000 citizens. It occupies 61 square kilometers centered on Mount Titano, completely surrounded by Italy and not far from the Italian city of Rimini.

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