The FBI here told me that San Diego has the third largest level of bank robberies in the country and half the people that rob banks are on crystal-meth. Here's San Diego, the crystal-meth capital of the world, and it's just so prevalent that it just goes on.
Potter: What about Cunanan's alleged relationship with Joe Wambaugh, the famous police-novel writer from Point Loma?
Orth: What I knew I put into the book. Which was purely what people had told me on the record that they saw Andrew go up to him at Mixx. Andrew's close friend, Robbins Thompson, told me that he was working on a house right next door to Wambaugh's, and it was a gated community very hard to get into, and Andrew could tell him the entire floor plan of the house. But Wambaugh could have had his house featured in [San Diego Home and Garden]. And I tried to find if he had. I couldn't, but I didn't know, so [Cunanan] could have read it and pretended but I always thought those comments [Wambaugh] made were -- he never said, "I don't know." [Instead], he would make these comments like, "I'll dust him" or "I've got this magnum. I'll dust him."
Potter: Did you ever talk to Wambaugh directly?
Orth: Um, no.
Potter: He wouldn't talk?
Orth: Trying to remember if I tried. Let me think. I tried to get ahold of his number. I know I got a number from somebody, but it wasn't a good number, and then I just went on. That's what happened.
Potter: In the book you mentioned this guy -- who you didn't identify by name -- a well-known San Diegan who fixes up dates with young San Diego men for older, visiting gay VIPs, a form of prostitution. Can you give us a general idea what that was all about?
Orth: It's a guy who has been doing this for a long time, and it's a favor he does for visiting firemen, and that Andrew was brought to him when he was very young and was presented to him as a potential person, as somebody who wanted that kind of work. And he didn't find him terribly appealing, but he had, over the years, taken care of him -- I mean, been able to place him a few times.
Potter: The VIPs -- you mentioned a congressman in the book. Were they from the political world primarily?
Orth: I didn't get the idea that they were just from the political world. I think they came from various parts. One of the things I learned is that there really is this incredible network across America where people are referred back and forth, and Andrew really just had this spectrum that he traveled.
Potter: What is that world all about? Who are the players generally?
Orth: I think that throughout America there are certainly wealthy men who are bisexual and probably predominately gay and get married, and they lead a secret life, and I think that this is a world of secrets, and Andrew traded in secrets, and a lot of his life was secret and covered up. And because people don't feel comfortable with their own sexuality, or they don't feel they can move comfortably with their sexuality, this closeted, covered-up, secret existence that so many people seem to play causes this whole parallel universe to occur that a lot of straight people have no idea about, and it's just something that I stumbled into and began to report.
Potter: But it sounds like this particular La Jolla world is somewhat rarefied.
Orth: I don't think the La Jolla world is rarefied. I think if you went to Hobe Sound in Florida or if you went to any kind of wealthy neighborhood... One of the older La Jolla men told me in the beginning, he said that one of the things that was different about gay society than regular society was that he had many friends from all walks of life -- they were young and old and they could be waiters or stockbrokers. He found it much more vibrant and interesting than having to sit around the country club with the rest of the people who were just like he was.
But then I realize that the common thread that's running through that is the idea of sexual favors. I mean "vulgar favors," although it does come from the libretto of the opera where Gianni Versace and Andrew met, is a complete metaphor for Andrew's life. He rendered favors and he received favors. And it was a world in which he would set people up. He did it with all the closeted officers from the Navy who came to town under "Don't ask; Don't tell."
One of the things I thought was very sad is that a lot of these really terribly attractive, intelligent men are so uptight and so in the closet that they're not only not associating necessarily with straight people, but they're not necessarily associating with gay people either, because they're afraid to be caught out in either direction. They're very lonely, and Andrew played on that, because he was the fixer.
And then he would put people together; he would gather groups together, and this would make him feel good and this would give him a sense of authority. And San Diego is a perfect place for it because it's "Don't ask; Don't tell" in the Navy. And it's conservative. So it's traditionally closeted, and it's not like San Francisco. There's so many young boys here who come from the Midwest because they couldn't handle San Francisco or Los Angeles. And the other part that I was sort of surprised to find was the exploitation of minors that occurs by some of these guys who are involved in drugs. Look at that guy I wrote about, Vance. He's in jail now. He's going to trial in April.
Potter: What's his last name?
Orth: Coukoulis. And describing his world to me where he has this dungeon and they bring these young kids in, and they're just out or they're just discovering their sexuality and suddenly they're these beautiful, young sort of bait for these older guys. And they're given drugs and then they are made non compos mentis, and then all this other stuff happens to them. It's just sheer exploitation of these kids; it just goes on and it needs to be dealt with. And so does the out-of-control drug epidemic in San Diego: crystal-meth.