The 11th. season of American Horror Story has arrived. In AHS-NYC’s two-part opener, fans have learned that the season will cover a mysterious serial killer targeting gay men in Lower Manhattan circa 1978-1981, as well as an unknown illness infecting Fire Island deer, and eventually the gay community. But in doing so Murphy once again “steals” and “twists” historical events, changes them ever so slightly, and and presents it to the audience as his own. But in this case they are very dark events that were never investigated, and justice was never sought for the victims The events are now mostly forgotten by time but they did happen. Just not the way Murphy presents them.
The main storyline of AHS – NYC‘s two-part opener focuses on the threat of a leather-clad serial killer(?) known as “Big Daddy,” (borrowed from: *Cruising, Hellbent) and another killer who drugs his victims, torture’s and them kills after finding his victims at cruising spots including leather bars. This season also includes: An unknown illness infecting Fire Island deer (guess what this leads too?), avenging intersectional lesbians (Yea, Sandra Bernhardt!), and the very many thinly veiled references to the gay personalities and gay spaces of NYC of that era.
Here is the problem though. Taking historical facts, twisting them and presenting them to the public when the public never knew the true horrors that gay men faced of that era is problematic at best. We were literally hunted. The Freeway Killer, Dean Corell, John Wayne Gacy, The Doodler, The Fag in the Bag Murders. It was open season on gay men and no one cared.
DEERS ON FIRE ISLAND:
One of the subplots of the season involves Dr. Hannah Wells (Billie Lourd), who’s researching a mysterious disease that has infected deer on Fire Island and is killing the. Dr Wells orders the deaths of the deer population on the island before the disease can spread to humans, but she soon finds that some of her patients are experiencing lesions and symptoms similar to the deer. THIS IS A FICTIONAL EVENT AND BAD SCIENCE: HIV originated in chimpanzees before jumping to humans, There’s no indication or proof that the disease was found in New York deer and this event never happened. At the end of Episode 2, Fran (Sandra Bernhard) hints that the U.S. government may be behind it all. (Who knows she may still be right.)
BIG DADDY/THE LAST CALL KILLER
The main storyline of NYC‘ focuses on a leather clad serial killer known as “Big Daddy,” who we see finding his victims at cruising spots . While Episode 1 follows Adam (Charlie Carver) as he investigates the killer after his friend is taken. Episode 2 sees reporter Gino (Joe Mantello) kidnapped and tortured by a mild-mannered man named Mr. Whitely (Jeff Hiller). So these are two very different predators. Also Mr. Whitely’s MO seems very similar to a real-life case in ’90s New York.
Taken mostly from the movies CRUISING and HELLBENT. BIG DADDY at this point is a just a man in a mask. It’s Mr. Whitely “The Last Call Killer” who is the monster behind the murders we have seen. But this is where Murphy goes off historically off the rails using events that happened decades after AHS NYC timeline is set and happened between 1991 and 1994 as if there wasn’t enough violence from the era to flesh it out. So to speak.
In 2001, Richard Rogers, a gay man and surgical nurse at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, was finally arrested for the murders of Thomas Mulcahy and Anthony Marrero in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Both men’s bodies were found in New Jersey dismembered and placed into several bags. authorities suspected that Rogers murdered more men in the same fashion, including victims he picked up in piano bars. However, he was only tried for the two murders. This case is especially personal for me since I knew one of the victims who left Marie’s Crisis one night with Rogers never to be seen again.
Murphy also seems to be borrowing heavily from the Paul Bateson/Addison Verrill murder of 1977. Though he was tried only for Verrill’s murder (and sentenced to 20 years to life), Bateson was also suspected for a series and a New York series of killings of gay men known as the “Bag Murders” (also known as the “CUPPI Murders” or the “Fag in a Bag Murders”). A least 6 bodies of unidentified men had been discovered, dismembered and placed in bags that were tossed into the Hudson River. These murders were never solved.
As far as the production values itself. AHS NYC does get props for re-creating as accurately as it could the NYC of 1978 – 82 since most of it is gone. The nods to the Mineshaft and Hellfire Club, Marsha Johnson, the Mayor being a closet case, and other hidden “Easter Eggs” make it an interesting watch for men who lived through that era in NYC but is it something we really want to? This is our history at its absolute worst and most painful mashed together with no respect for it’s lost victims. Just ratings.
- We have sex clubs, big black men in jockstraps, bandannas, but but only a quick flash of a bottle of poppers in box? Oh the humanity at the overall cultural reference miss on this.
- American Horror Story season 11 character Gino works as a reporter for the Native, a prominent gay publication in New York City. The New York Native is a real-life publication that has conflicting impacts on the AIDS epidemic. the Native became notable for being the first paper to publish a story on the illness that would later be known as AIDS. The paper’s medical writer Lawrence Mass had called the CDC about the spread of the illness, with the organization telling him the rumors of the “gay cancer” were unfounded. Mass then headlined his story with “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded,” which was published ahead of the CDC’s first clinical AIDS diagnosis.
- “New York City’s Mayor is a closet case” – Calling out coward and self loathing former NYC Mayor Ed Koch .
- Patti LuPone playing a Bette Midler character at a faux and rather badly recreated Continental Baths. Not even close. Also the song Patti was singing “Calling You” in 1981 was recorded in 1987 and released in 1988.
- “The Brickhouse” is thought to be a NYC bar called The Townhouse where older men meet younger merchandise on the UES but it opened two decades later in 1998.
- Doe a deer has nothing to do with AIDS on Fire Island and HIV was not created by the U.S. government. It’s thought to have originated from chimpanzees, with the disease having mutated and turned into HIV when transmitted to humans.
- The NYC Piers were vast, decrepit, and dangerous. The piers on AHS-NYC looked like they were in Lake Huron.
More more gay history to come with Episode 3 next week.