On July 27, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found dead in the West Hollywood apartment of 63-year-old prominent Democratic political donor Ed Buck. Moore was Black, gay, and worked as an escort.
Moore’s death was immediately classified as an accidental meth overdose by the Los Angeles County Coroner but after new allegations and evidence the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says that they were now investigating Moore’s death as a possible homicide.
Among Moore’s personal belongings collected by his family from the coroner’s was a journal in which he documents his feelings about the direction of his life and the role of Ed Buck in it.
In his journal, Moore wrote, “I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” a December entry reads. “Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of crystal meth it was very painful, but after all the troubles, I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy.”
His last entry, dated Dec. 3, 2016 reads: “If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.
After news reports of Moore’s death, additional victims of Ed Buck have privately come forward recounting similar stories about a man who has a Tuskegee Experiment like fetish and who likes to shoot drugs into young Black men that he picks up off the street or via dating hookup websites like Adam4Adam.com. The drugs, according to the victims, are often times injected into the young men without their permission and while they’re unconscious after having been given GHB (also known as the “date rape” drug).
His name is Brandon and he’s 27-years-old and this is his story. His name has been changed to protect his identity.
“I was 18 when I moved out my mom’s house cause me and my mom weren’t getting along,” he begins. “And so me moving out was sort of like a rebellious thing. I kinda already knew what I–I didn’t know what I wanted. But I seen you know–you know–18 and 19-year-olds doing what they were supposed to be doing–you know–having jobs and living out on their own. And so I–I tried that at 18–like immediately as soon as I turned 18 you know. I had a boyfriend and I ran out of my mom’s house you know.
Brandon says it was clashing with his mother that pushed him to leave home at such a young age.
“I just choose to–you know–try my experience and not necessarily dealing in drugs or sex work or anything like that,” he explained. “Just me trying to be a young adult. You know how Black moms are. They are very shielding–the right ones are very shielding and my mom was like that. On top of that she–she had a lesbian relationship. She didn’t really care too much for my sexuality so we kinda like knocked heads. She wasn’t really understanding you know. She frowned on me kinda for being gay and kinda like for my mannerisms and me trying to like–you know–become who I was. Cause I didn’t know–I didn’t know anything. The first time me seeing–you know–anything dealing with gay I seen feminality, you know what I’m saying. So I kinda started acting out in those ways and she didn’t really know how to deal with that, you know what I’m saying. She would say, ‘You’re a man. You need to carry yourself like one.’ I would act out–because that’s the only thing that I seen. I didn’t hang around gang bangers or anything like that to take on to their mannerisms or how they acted. So I just felt like it was kinda like time for me to step away from her and kinda like try and live my life. Like–we would have a better relationship if I lived my life and she lived hers.”
Brandon continues, “We had a house in Compton. I grew up in San Gabriel Valley–like La Puente, West Covina area and then I moved to Long Beach when I was in middle school–eighth grade. So I went to high school in Long Beach and graduated from there. Um, and when I was 18 I moved out my mom’s house. And I guess me trying to be a young adult is where my experiences–you know where I had–had the experiences that I had and one of them–you know–one of them was meeting Ed Buck and kind of like living in that lifestyle you know and what comes with that lifestyle.”
Meeting Gemmel Moore
Brandon says that when he and his boyfriend moved to the Wilshire area he was introduced to Gemmel Moore.
“I was like 19. That was one of the first times that I seen Gemmel. He was probably 18. He’s a year younger than me. So um–that’s when I met another mutual friend of ours too–maybe like a couple of months later. And we all like–you know–we became close. Our situation was kinda similar. If I’m not mistaken Gemmel always had a home–like I did. I always had a home versus some of my friends. They didn’t have no home. Even if I choose not too, it was always there.”
Brandon says that Gemmel was a really close friend of his then boyfriend.
“Anybody who knows Gemmel on the scene–that’s how. It’s through–it’s through his friend,” Brandon explains. “And I met him through the ballroom scene too. He used to walk balls.”
Los Angeles is home to a thriving underground ballroom room scene–late night, early morning events known as balls where mostly Black gay men and transgender women “walk,” or compete in various categories. Those who attend usually belong to a “house” led by a mother and/or a father figure. In this scene, houses take the place of families for their members.
2008 West Coast Legends Ball (Los Angeles)
And on that note–we stop and talk about the ballroom scene and compare names of mutual friends we know in the scene. I correctly identify one of Brandon’s categories as “butch realness”–a gay man who could pass as heterosexual. He says he also walks “schoolboy realness,” a category where you are judged for how much you look heterosexual and can pass for a schoolboy.
One look at Brandon and anyone familiar with the ballroom scene would understand my saying, “tens across the board.”
Reflecting on his time in the ballroom scene walking “schoolboy realness” he says, “I used to hate that category cause it put like this stereotype on me that I was like the boy and super macho and masculine. So like when guys approached me–that’s what they expected out of me. I probably would cross my legs faster than you–you know–just because I am comfortable with who I am. And so–it made me feel like I can’t do certain things you know cause then you know they’d be like ‘Look at her,’ instead of calling me a he.”
Getting His Start
As our conversation turns back to Gemmel Moore and Ed Buck, Brandon says that it was when he took on having a gay mom and a gay dad that he started knowing more about the scene.
“One of the first things I seen was that the trans girls put up ads. The majority who I hung out with were transexuals so they took towards me–like I was the youngest one. You know they always have these conversations and stuff like that but one of the main things I seen was them getting on the computer and posting up ads. And I’m like what is that, you know?”
Brandon said he learned that’s how they made their money. He said he started to pay attention and finally decided that he could do the same thing.
“I tried it on my own and didn’t tell anybody for like–not the longest–but I–I kept it to myself,” he said. “Our community is so tight so it kinda like got out through my little friends.”
He says that his friends educated him on the do’s and don’ts.
“Now I have an apartment, you know what I’m saying,” Brandon continues. “There’s bills coming into play. So it was like very easy for me to continue and keep doing it. For one, it’s fast money.”
Brandon tells me that when he started posting ads online he was able to get clients right away and they were nearly all older white gay men like Ed Buck.
“They’re not really into their own race,” he quickly adds. “It took me to get older to like–to start realizing that I’m collateral damage to them. They don’t really care too much about my well being or anything like that. It’s just–you know–they can–they can easily see they can proposition you. And like I told you, they look for certain kinds of boys when it comes to continuing on that cycle. But in general, white older men know that they can proposition young Black gay men, you know what I’m saying–or young Black men that are hanging out in Hollywood or West Hollywood. They might not identify as same-gender-loving or homosexual–you know. They could just be out there living their lifestyle–you know–and they’re hustlers, you know what I’m saying. You proposition them with something that sounds like some hustling money that they used to making–you know–okay this is a little different than how I flipped the last hustle–you know it’s similar. Okay, okay. So it’s easy, it’s easy.”
Meeting Ed Buck
The conversation turns to 2010 and Ed Buck.
“I met Ed Buck on Adam4Adam–yeah, Adam4Adam,” Brandon reflects. “He didn’t have no picture or anything like that like the majority of them do. It wasn’t any picture. Um, like I said he chatted me up. We talked.”
Brandon says he went back and forth with Ed Buck with Buck ultimately asking him if he wanted to make some cash.
“He wanted me to come over and he asked me like do you do any party favors–you know I have party favors. Um, he started like naming–I know he named crystal meth and cocaine. I told him I never did drugs before but that I did try cocaine before. I told him I smoked weed. He said, ‘Okay well I can get you some cocaine you know and you can come over. Um, like come over at like three o’clock.’ He’s like, ‘You don’t have to stay the whole night. Um, like come over around three o’clock in the morning. You don’t have to stay the whole night. You can leave around like 6 or 7 or in the morning.’ And he was like, ‘I’ll pay you $800 to $1,000.’ Every time he paid me like $1,000. Um, and he wanted me to Party n’ Play. I kinda already knew what Party n’ Play meant. That was something used in the scene. PNP.”
Party favors is a euphemism for drugs, mainly cocaine or others. “PnP” is short for Party n’ Play among gay men. “Party” refers to drug use- most often meth and “Play” refers to sex.
Brandon says he saw Ed Buck five times. When he would come to Buck’s apartment he said Buck would either give him a code to get into the apartment building or the door would already be cracked for him to get in.
“The majority of the time he gave me code,” he followed up with.
Brandon says that he never saw anyone else over at Buck’s place.
“At the time I was really–I was scared anyway. So I wasn’t–I didn’t get that far like being comfortable with other boys being in room or anything or anybody. When I got there he always had everything–he had everything ready. I remember he pulled out a big ass bag of coke. It was like a regular plastic bag but it was full of coke. And he had like his little overnight bag. Like a little–you know–a little black bag with one zipper. So I remember the first time–he–he was sitting on that side. It was like a round wooden table. He sat like on that side, I sat on the other side. We were across from each other and he gave me the coke and um he was like, ‘Here. Start partying, start partying.’ And so I started partying. And I think we talked for a little bit. The next thing you know I start seeing him–you know open up his little concoction. He kinda like talked to me and watched me sniff coke a little bit for a little while. And then he must have been like he’s getting high too so he started to get high. So I seen him pull out a spoon–it’s was like a spoon, a needle and, and–now I think it was crystal meth because it was clear. Either that was rock crack or it was crystal meth. So he put out another little baggie–like a big bag. Like–you know it was like little drugs in a big bag. He put whatever he put on the spoon. He lit it to melt it down and then he–you know–injected it in this needle. You know how you go get your blood done? It was like a blue or brown rubber band and he went to injecting himself with the drugs. Maybe after 30 minutes of me sitting there and watching him and sniffing coke he asked me –he was like, ‘Are you good? Are you high?’ I told him yeah. ‘Are you sure? You know–go ahead sniff some more.’ And I’m like I’m good cause I was really like stoned. Um, and so he was like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure? Cause if you want I can give you one of these.’ And I’m just looking at him like no. I don’t know what he was injecting himself with. I’m assuming now that it was crystal meth. But you know, he was like, ‘I can give you a shot. I can inject you.’ And I was like no–you know–no this is already fine. I’m already high. He’s like, ‘Are you sure because I can give you a lot more. I can give you some more money if you want to.’ I was like nah bro I’m good. I’m good.”
Brandon goes on to describe Buck as having these clear containers full of white underwear.
“They were full of underwear, jockstraps and thermos,” he continues. “Um, just different types of men’s underwear. Long–short. And he had a dick pump. Like a red–it’s a clear and if I’m not mistaken it had red rimming around it. Like one of those things that you pump up your penis with. So he would use the pump on me and then when he was done he would take like socks and wrap my penis area up. Just like keep doing it with tons and tons and tons of socks and then he’d–he’d be like, ‘Oh, okay. You know like–go put some–go put some of those underwear on. Put the thermos on.’ And I guess that–that’s what turned him on to see like a bulge–a big bulge in the underwear cause he’ll have you put on some oversized thermo underwear or some oversized underwear–like Under Armour underwear–something like that. And so it would kinda like show this big bulge. He’ll do that for–for like the whole time I’m there. So if I’m there for like four hours he’s doing that the whole time. But–within those times we’re taking breaks and going back to sit at the table and get high. And then after that we’ll go back and sit on the couch and he’ll do it some more. For him–it was really no sexual contact between me and him. He was more into that.”
Brandon says that towards the end of his visit is when Buck would want to pull out his camera and take photos. He says that in the beginning Buck would start with just photos from the waist down but gradually move into taking full body pics. Brandon says that he told Buck he was really uncomfortable with him taking photos of him.
“If I’m not mistaken I only let him take pictures one time, which is the first time I seen him. And before I left there, I kinda like looked at–that’s how I know about his Apple computer–because I asked him to let me see the pictures that he took of me you know. First I seen my pictures and then I seen several other photos of African American men in like thermos or naked.”
Brandon says there were possibly hundreds of photos of young Black men on Ed Buck’s computer showing them in underwear or nude in Buck’s apartment.
Imitating Ed Buck, Brandon said, “‘Bring that nigger dick over to to me.’ He would always like be on his knees. It was more like he was trying to be a submissive person. He wanted you to be like dominant and masculine. Kinda like be a little possessive over him. Kinda like tell him what to do. Push his face into your area. Stuff like that.”
Brandon says that after his first encounter with Ed Buck he met with him on four other occasions and that the setup was always the same.
“He always had a bag of coke for me to sniff and he would inject his arm with drugs every time we met,” Brandon said. “He always asked if I wanted him to inject me with the drugs he was doing. He always told me that he would pay me a lot more if I tried it out, but I was always scared. I thought the coke was too much anyways.”
He continued, “The last time I talked to Ed Buck he called my phone and asked if I wanted to come over. He said, ‘I have some cash for you and some party favors.’ I told him I would come over but I could no longer do the drugs with him. He replied, ‘Oh never mind, I don’t wanna see you if you’re not gonna Party n’ Play with me . I want someone who is gonna do some favors with me.’ He asked me if I had any friends that wanted to make some cash and do some favors and to give them his number. I gave his number to a friend who I knew had seen Ed Buck before.”
Getting His Life Together and Leaving the Scene
Brandon left the scene in 2012 moved on with his life. Currently he’s been with his boyfriend for four years and is working on completing a double major in college–fashion and public health.
“The artistic side of me wants to be a fashion designer,” he explains. “But since I’m Black and I’m a male I feel like I should be doing something more within my community and within my race. I kinda feel obligated to that.”
Brandon is passionate about the spread of HIV in Watts and South Los Angeles.
“Like–HIV is running rampant in Watts, South Central and through the Black gay community. Yet but we don’t really talk about it. I’m really, really serious in trying to get involved.”
It was hearing the news of Gemmel Moore’s death that pushed him to tell his story–in particular Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster’s defense of his client.
“It was unsettling for me to hear that he’s called him [Gemmel] a troubled kid and said–like–that he came to his house high and stuff like that. That was just like–that kinda like blew my mind you know. Cause that’s not true you know. Even if Gemmel was voluntarily getting high on his own I definitely don’t think that he was in his own room taking a needle and injecting himself. I knew that because they made the association with him and Ed Buck I knew that–where he was getting the injection from. Because every time that I met Ed Buck that was like one of his things–that was his offer. Even though I told him I do cocaine he preferred for me to do the crystal meth and injections. Because when I first talked to him he asked me if I had ever tried doing that–you know–and would I try doing that. That’s what pushed me to say that I had tried cocaine before. I really wasn’t trying to get into a proposition where I was doing something that was totally out of my control and I don’t know anything about this. At least I knew that I had done cocaine before and I knew the effects. I had a little more comfort being in his house and doing drugs.”
Brandon says that Gemmel’s death has impacted his relationship with his mother.
“The crazy thing is she’s learned a lot more about my life,” he says. “Because of Gemmel I had to like break down and tell her. She was like wondering why it was affecting me so much. I told her that could have been me–you know what I’m saying. That could have been me you know. Gemmel’s situation could have very well been me. I was there and the propositions came to me. Like–I told her that I thank God that I stepped away because I wasn’t too far from saying okay to the injections. Because the money sounds good. I didn’t work no job too long to understand what that was about. You know, working hours–putting in hours and getting a paycheck. I only understood–you know–getting fast money. So the faster I could get it, you know, the more gullible I would have been.”
Brandon’s message to people who say that he and other victims of Ed Buck asked for it and that there’s no crime because they agreed to go to Buck’s home.
“Well I don’t think people agree to get preyed on,” he explains. “When people tell me that I say how would you feel if someone was preying on your weaknesses? They got to know you a little bit and they understand okay– you don’t have this and you don’t have that but I have this and I have that. I can offer you this and I can get whatever I want out of you. Physically–you know–I can get whatever I want out of you. Of course I guess you do have an option far as the lifestyle but I don’t think–it no longer becomes an option when someone is preying on you–you know what I’m saying. They got you strung out on drugs now you’re addicted so they know to come get the drugs from you. You got the drugs and the money so I don’t think it becomes a choice you know. I definitely don’t think it becomes a choice. I think it becomes someone leading you down in a dark direction. They might not be conscious of it because they might be in their addition too and so they might think it’s okay. I think people are very inconsiderate when they say that you know. Cause I don’t think they know anyone’s circumstances. What caused them to get to that point in life you know what I’m saying. What detrimental stuff happened to them in their life to make them have to choose to deal with this kind of lifestyle and then on top of that kinda like be preyed on. Your weaknesses and your vulnerability.”
Brandon hopes that sharing his story will encourage other young Black men to come forward and share theirs.
“The situation is kinda like bigger than us as individuals,” he states. “That’s kinda like what was told to me. My story–there’s a greater cause and a bigger picture. And so I feel like collectively if we all are telling our stories like many people said, it shows a pattern with this guy. And so–I think it’s important for them not to be scared–you know what I’m saying–and tell their story you know. Try to be discreet as possible because I understand people’s personal lives. I understand people are still in their lifestyle you know what I’m saying and they kinda don’t want to exploit that. But um–I don’t know, I kinda feel like they should have like a little obligation–you know they should feel obligated to want to speak out you know what I’m saying because none-the-less we’re Black, they’re Black and Gemmel was Black. We’re all Black same-gender-loving guys, you know what I’m saying. We’re all from the same community and we all should be–you know– contributing if we had any type of experience with him. We all should be contributing our story in any way because if we don’t, he’ll get to paint whatever picture he wants.”