As the nationwide manhunt for Andrew Cunanan grinds on, an almost palpable discomfort is growing in the hills of La Jolla. Not only is Cunanan the son of a Prospect Street stockbroker who purportedly swindled thousands of dollars from his clients, but in newspaper accounts from Houston to Minneapolis, the 27-year-old Bishop’s School track star is being linked to some of the village's wealthiest and most influential denizens, both living and dead.
Many of Cunanan’s old friends and acquaintances have fled the city, reportedly because they fear the return of a man now suspected of torturing and killing his four victims in a weeklong orgy of terror. Some fear the Cunanan case because it has focused a laser beam of publicity on the hidden practice of male prostitution among some of the older gay men who inhabit many of La Jolla’s oceanview condos and elaborately decorated hillside aeries.
“At discreet private parties, attended by very wealthy men of a generation and prominence that keeps them in the closet, Andrew Cunanan was a regular,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The San Diego gay community can be particularly secretive, even from the inside. Gay military men and women based in San Diego fear their careers will be destroyed if they are discovered, as do wealthy retirees still active in political circles.”
As reporters from across America have descended on the village that carefully guards its secrets, even Bishop's, the $12,000-a-year prep school on La Jolla Boulevard that has produced such local lights as Union-Tribune editor Karin Winner, has not been spared. “Cunanan had been openly gay since his days at the Bishop’s" the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “When his schoolmates teased him, he gave it back to them with a jaunty, ‘Come on, you want some?’ Even then, he had liaisons with older men who had money. When classmate Stacy Lopez complimented a red leather jumpsuit that he wore to a school dance, he told her, 'My boyfriend, Antoine, bought it for me.’ After dropping out of the University of California at San Diego, he hung around Hillcrest and La Jolla, apparently living off the largess of one wealthy patron or another."
Cunanan also was said to have frequented the high society haunts of Scottsdale, near Phoenix, Arizona, where many La Jollans go to spend the winter. “The youngish Cunanan regaled his audience about a jet-setting life and an aristocratic background, the former made possible by Norman Blachford, an arts supporter who counted the Phoenix Symphony as one of his causes," the Arizona Republic reported last week. “Cunanan, who disliked the climate and allergies he encountered in Phoenix, persuaded Blachford in 1995 to move to La Jolla, California, Blachford’s friends say. The two continued to fly into the Valley for art shows and fundraisers, according to Blachford’s pals."
The paper went on to add that “Blachford belonged to an informal group of about 20 Valley residents who patronize and contribute to the symphony, Arizona Opera, Arizona Theatre Company, and other performing-arts organizations. 'Andrew and Norman were involved for about a year, much to the distress of Norman's friends,’ said a Blachford acquaintance who asked to remain unidentified. 'Andrew knows me and knows I live alone.' the source said, explaining his reason for anonymity. ’I've been cautioned by friends to keep my doors locked.' "
Records show that Blachford owns two residences in La Jolla, one at 100 Coast Boulevard, valued at $922,000 and which Cunanan once listed as his address, and the other, valued at about $1.3 million, on Pepita Way. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported last week that Blachford had been one of the attendees at Cunanan's last big San Diego fling at Hillcrest’s California Cuisine restaurant. The paper added that Blachford left La Jolla two weeks ago and shortly afterwards neighbors saw “two young men they didn't recognize" leaving Blachford’s house “with big satchels" and getting into a car. (Blachford did not respond to requests for comment left on his answering machine.)
Blachford, who once owned a firm that made sound insulation for use in automobiles, has maintained a high profile in the busy world of La Jolla society. Said to be in his 60s, he has been mentioned in the column of Union-Tribune society writer Burl Stiff, regarded as the unofficial scribe to the city's elite and a close friend and frequent companion of David Copley, 45-year-old heir to the U-T fortune.
In May 1996, Blachford was mentioned in a Stiff column about a fundraiser for the Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art honoring developer George Pardee. “Here, there, and everywhere, guests beheld an extravagance of dogwood — tall branches in full bloom,” wrote Stiff. “On the dinner tables, they saw white peonies, white lilacs, and white roses in Tiffany crystal bowls." Blachford, along with other local luminaries like ex-Richard Silberman partner Diane Powers, was listed as “taking it all in." (A onetime Democratic power broker who was convicted of money laundering in 1991, Silberman is the ex-husband of Mayor Susan Golding, who recently declared she was running for the U.S. Senate.)
Another of Cunanan's patrons has been identified as Lincoln Aston, who once owned the Pepita Way house that Blachford now has title to. Records show that in 1995, Aston sold the house to a third man, who sold it a year later to Blachford. As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Aston was regularly seen with Cunanan, who the paper said “was apparently supporting himself by dating and living with rich men. His social life was filled with expensive dinner parties with groups of young men, financed by credit cards and cash provided by his older acquaintances.”
Aston, a wealthy architect who drove a black Mark V Lincoln Continental and had interests in Texas oil, had lived in La Jolla for years and had close ties with many in the local establishment. In April 1987, he was listed in a Burl Stiff column as being a “committee member" for an “Art Alive" floral fundraising event on behalf of the San Diego Museum of Art. Fellow committee members included U-T heir David Copley and KNSD-TV personality Susan Farrell, a Copley friend.