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Volume 15/Issue 21

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

Killer of Prof Sentenced

I hope you rot in hell because what you did was callous and cruel," said San Diego Superior court Judge William Mudd Oct. 2, as he sentenced Paul Cain to 25 years-to-life in prison for the 1995 murder of distinguished British geophysicist Stanley Keith Runcom. Cain, a now-26-year-old prize-winning kickboxer, had claimed he was defending himself against "aggressive" sexual advances by the 73-year-old scientist, who had played a key role in the development of the theory of continental drift. Although a first trial of Cain earlier this year ended with a hung jury when two jurors favored a second-degree murder conviction, on retrial the jury had no difficulty agreeing on a first-degree conviction. The prosecution had maintained that Cain had been waiting since high school for the chance to kill a gay man.

At the sentencing, Cain made a lengthy statement proclaiming himself just one of a number of men victimized by "the hidden side of Dr. Runcom" and declaring that had he been a woman in the same situation, he would already be free. But Mudd snapped back that Cain's testimony had been arrogant, self-serving and unbelievable, saying, "Those 12 people [on the jury] didn't buy it and neither do 1." The judge also said after handing down the sentence, "This man should never walk the streets of society again."

On Dec. 5, 1995, the recently divorced Cain was staying at the San Diego YMCA while attending bartending school. It was in the coffee shop there that he met Runcom, who was in San Diego for an academic consultation. After a conversation, they walked together to Runcom's hotel room nearby, ostensibly so that Runcom could offer Cain some contacts for future work. In one of Cain's many versions of events (one of which featured organized crime hitmen coming to murder Runcorn while Cain hid in the room) he had already realized at this point that there might be a sexual advance in the offing, which had him feeling somewhat flattered. While Cain claims he had to defend himself against Runcom, even he supposedly has no idea how he ended up putting a strap around the already-unconscious scientist's neck and strangling him to death. Runcorn's body was found brutally battered, with the print of shoe tread clearly showing on his skin and one ear nearly torn off. The professor's wallet and credit card were missing, but Cain had left his own pager in the room, immediately making him a suspect. Cain first fled to Mexico, but was ejected as an undesirable after several fights in Cabo San Lucas, and was arrested at the border on his return.

Runcom was a visiting professor at the University of Alaska at the time of his death, but had previously served as the chair of the physics department at England's Newcastle University.

New "Xena" Season Begins

Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi! "Xena: Warrior Princess" opens its third season this week, teasing lesbians everywhere with visions of its Amazonian heroine (Lucy Lawless) being more than friends with her trusty sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor). As a syndicated Universal TV program, airdates vary from location to location, but those days are celebrated in lesbian bars from coast to coast. Producer Liz Friedman has said she has no need to portray the pair as heterosexual, but the series is sensitive to having children in the audience and seems to find more to do in playing with perceptions of the women's relationship than with coming out with a firm sexual orientation. Action-packed, funny and smart, "Xena" ended its second season with a 6.2 rating average that knocked the current incarnation of "Star Trek" out of first place among syndicated weekly dramas for the first time in a decade. The show has been renewed through the year 2000, when New Zealand-born Lawless says she'll quit (and no, she won't do a movie either, she says).

In the season opener, the mythical Furies (also female, you'll recall) drive Xena insane for her failure to avenge her father's death, while another death caused by accident threatens the warrior princess' relationship with Gabrielle. Later in the season, you can look forward to Xena meeting Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Lao Tzu ... and to a musical episode in which Lawless gets to show off her trained singing voice (she's currently midway through a seven-week run of "Grease" on Broadway, her first stage and vocal appearance).

How They Feel About the Lesbian Thing: Lawless to Yahoo Internet Life magazine in May: "We find it mildly amusing and then we just get on with our day. We love all our audiences: all colors, races, creeds, sexuality. And I have to say that we do want to push the boundaries of what's acceptable on television. Nobody wanted to put on a female hero show, so we always felt like the underdog and we still do. We're just going to keep our noses to the grindstone and keep challenging mores. We don't want to make blancmange - it's a French white pudding made out of God knows what. It's bland, nothing. That's what we don't want to make. We mean to make a path and be radical and challenging."O'Connor to People Magazine in Aug.: "I find the whole thing fascinating. We're talking about two women with a strong friendship. People see into that all sorts of things. It's become a cult unto itself. We accept it as a subtext. I mean, there is a love between us, and as long as we play the innocence of that ... people can believe whatever they want. We like to keep them guessing."

Lawless to US Magazine in Oct.: At first it was a surprise to hear that people were throwing a loopy slant on it just because two women were traveling around together with no visible means of male support. We kind of laughed and played along with it. That was a long time ago, and since, we've moved on. I think the characters transcend labeling, just like gay people don't want to be identified solely by their sexuality. They contribute so many things to society that to limit it to their sexuality is unimaginative."

Lawless to the New York Times in Aug.: "The relationship should transcend all of that. It is about love, and sexuality is certainly a small part of love. We don't want to be definitive about it. It's one of those things, neither confirming nor denying. We like our audience to make up their own mind. You know, everybody enjoys it from their own point of view, and that is fine with me." Lawless to the San Francisco Bay Guardian in May: "We do have fun with that aspect but I never want to shove it down people's throats because it can also be alienating, and we don't want to do that to any sector of our audience. But we don't want to alienate our lesbian following. We love 'em all equally."

Executive Producer Robert Tapert, Lawless'real-life partner, to the San Francisco Chronicle in May: "I have a huge following of kids who look at them as absolute role models, so we try to present the broadest picture."

Hudson Leick, who plays the recurring role of Xena's rival Callisto, described a moment of heat and role confusion to the Bay Guardian: "My character is obsessed with Xena. She loves Xena and hates Xena and wants to be Xena.... There was one point [in "A Necessary Evil"] where I could get really close to Xena physically, and it felt so odd! I was circling her and I remember [thinking], 'It's Hudson and it's Callisto; what am I going to do with this? She's letting me get really close to her. Oh boy, oh boy, she's letting me close to her! What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? Ooh, I feel weird."'

Elsewhere in TV Land: Send condolences to Patrick Bristow (Peter on "Ellen") - "Head Over Heels" (UPN), in which he played "Ian," a celibate former omnisexual counselor at a dating service, has become the very first casualty of the new season. And send a fan letter to Ellen DeGeneres -according to New York magazine, an internal memo placed her TVQ rating at -49, tying her with Robin Givens (post-Tyson) as the least popular woman in primetime - but can that be true? In its second week of the new season, "Ellen" led its timeslot in the ratings.

Elton's "Candle" Lights Fire

Openly gay singer-songwriter Elton John's tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales continues to break sales records around the world at a phenomenal pace. PolyGram announced October I that more than 26 million copies of "Candle in the Wind 1997" have been shipped out, already placing it ahead of Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" (25 million) and second only to Bing Crosby's legendary "White Christmas" (30 million plus) as the top-selling single of all time. Now in release in more than 40 countries, "Candle in the Wind 1997" has reached number one on the charts in 21 of them and still tops the lists in 5. All proceeds from the single continue to go to the charitable trust set up as a memorial to Diana, which already has $9-million in its coffers.

In the U.S., "Candle" started at the top on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart and industry sources are agreed that nothing has ever sold faster. Number-cruncher SoundScan says that in "Candle's" first six days in the U.S. (through September 28), it sold 3.4 million copies, easily surpassing the previous sales-in-one-week mark of 632,000 set by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" in 1992, and making it number three for total U.S. sales since 1991 (when SoundScan began) behind Houston's song at 4.6 million and Los Del Rio's "Macarena (Bayside Boyz Mix)" at 4.2 million. But guess what - SoundScan doesn't monitor sales outside music retail stores, and estimates another half-million "Candle" copies may have been sold in department stores in the same initial week.

"Candle" is still number one in the U.K., and has already set a record for a single with more than 5 million units shipped. It's also the biggest world seller by a British artist. It's still number one in France (2 million-plus units shipped), Germany (4 million-plus units shipped), and Canada (1.8 million-plus units shipped). It will open at the top of Japan's list in the coming week, only the second work by a non-Japanese to have that distinction.

"Candle" has also become the all-time best-selling single in Austria, Belgium, Israel (first single ever certified gold), Norway (certified platinum 7 times), and South Africa (certified platinum 12 times).

Meanwhile, Elton John's new album "The Big Picture" opened in the U.S. at #9 on the charts.

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