The Murder of Howard Appledorf
Gary Bown, Paul Everson and Shane Kennedy were slim, silky haired and softly handsome. Alone, each was eye candy to a particular gay aesthetic. Together, to that same eye, they might have appeared to promise a trip to a sexual paradise. But their backgrounds suggested that life for them had been a kind of purgatory.
McCall wrote that Gary Bown had been born to a teenage mother in Long Beach, Calif. His father had abandoned mother and child before Gary's birth. She married when her son was a baby and divorced six years later. Then she married a home repair contractor who disliked children. The couple's relationship was troubled and violent.
McCall continued that when Bown was 10, his younger half-brother left home to visit their father. The boy never came back. Bown was devastated by the loss of his brother's companionship. Approaching adolescence in a quarrelsome, rejecting home, Bown sank into depression. He attempted suicide several times, once by trying to set himself on fire. He also ran away from home frequently. On one such trek, he managed to catch up with his brother but police caught Bown and returned him home.
The violence at home escalated. Bown's stepfather threw him against a wall and almost gouged out one of his eyes. Bown's mother later divorced the contractor.
McCall reported that about that time Bown's half-brother was raped, while in his father's custody, and that this trauma led him to return to Bown and their mother. Bown must have been pleased to have the camaraderie of the brother he loved, but that did not keep him out of trouble. Five months after his brother was re-united with him, Bown was convicted of burglarizing a convenience store. He served 19 months in a series of juvenile facilities. At the third and final one, he had his first homosexual experience, with a counselor.
His mother remarried the contractor after Bown was released from juvenile detention. She and her husband moved to another state, but the half-brothers stayed in California. Bown and his brother were reduced to supporting themselves as homosexual prostitutes.
Then Bown met Appledorf. According to McCall, Bown's mother said that she received a phone call from her son who "told me all about Appledorf, this fantastic man who was a millionaire. He said he was going to Florida, and this man was going to give him a job." Whether or not Appledorf had actually promised Bown a job is a mystery. It is possible that Appledorf had a position he wanted Bown to fill. It is also possible that he misled Bown, either deliberately or accidentally. Finally, Bown may have nursed false hopes entirely on his own, believing his relationship with the successful nutritionist could lead to more than was possible. Bown continued hustling, sometimes in men's clothes, sometimes in drag.