The Boy Toy’s Story, Part Two ;-)


W-land Blog Note: Scott made parole…

Cont’d…

Mr. Thorson later sued for $113 million in palimony, ultimately losing a highly public battle fought both in court and in the tabloids. He settled in 1986 for $95,000, according to reports at the time.

There was a deathbed reconciliation before Liberace died of a disease caused by AIDS in 1987. And that is where the book version of “Behind the Candelabra” ends. But Mr. Thorson’s life went on, and as he explained in a series of interviews, both in person and via a jail-monitored version of Skype, many of the events that followed are as strange as the ones that came before.

The trick is separating the strange from the unbelievable.

“His approach to communicating with people is always to play it in a manner that reflects best on him,” said Oliver Mading, the man Mr. Thorson calls his adoptive father as well as his manager. On a recent evening, Mr. Mading was sitting in the living room of his home a few miles from Reno’s downtown. Sitting nearby was his stepson, Tony Pelicone, who met Mr. Thorson through a mutual friend a decade ago in Palm Springs, Calif.

At best, these men sounded deeply ambivalent about being enmeshed in Mr. Thorson’s life.

“He’s not a bad person,” said Mr. Pelicone, who has a swirl of brown-blond hair and a cigarette habit. “He’s just twisted and kind of cutthroat.”

Mr. Mading: “He’d sell his mother — ”

“Then he gives you that smile,” said Mr. Pelicone, interrupting

The two admit that much of what they know about Mr. Thorson’s biography they learned from Mr. Thorson and that, at the very least, he has an aversion to telling his life story as a coherent, easy-to-follow chronology. During interviews at the Washoe County jail, Mr. Thorson was often evasive and moody, deflecting questions about his past to rage against the people who have declined to put up the $15,000 in bail he says he needs to get out of jail.

“All these people are getting rich from my story,” he fumed, “and here I sit.”

On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty, and asked to enter a rehabilitation program. He could face as little as probation with a suspended prison sentence to 2 to 30 years and combined fines of up to $110,000.

What’s indisputable is that Scott Thorson is no longer named Scott Thorson. He is now known as Jess Marlow, a change Mr. Thorson says occurred when he entered the federal witness protection program as the star witness in the 1989 prosecution of an infamous Los Angeles character named Eddie Nash.

Mr. Nash shows up in the book and movie as Mr. Y., described as a drug dealer with ties to organized crime who made headlines for allegedly ordering the so-called Wonderland murders, a grisly quadruple homicide that took place two days after Mr. Nash’s home was robbed of money and drugs in 1981. (The crime is named for 8763 Wonderland Avenue, where the killings took place.)

Mr. Nash purportedly learned who had committed the robbery after his underlings beat up the porn star John Holmes, an acquaintance of Mr. Nash’s who later admitted to helping the robbers enter Mr. Nash’s home.

A fictionalized version of these events turns up in “Boogie Nights,” with a Nash-inspired figure played by a Speedo-and robe-wearing Alfred Molina.

Mr. Thorson says that Mr. Nash became a drug source for him in the early ’80s, and that he later became a partner in Mr. Nash’s club business. At some point, the two fell out and by 1988, Mr. Thorson was reportedly in a Los Angeles jail for an assortment of charges. There, he says, he was offered leniency by the district attorney’s office in exchange for testifying that he happened to be at Mr. Nash’s home when thugs pummeled John Holmes — which, if true, would make Mr. Thorson a kind of Zelig of the Awful. Eleven members of the jury voted to convict. One held out. Mr. Nash later admitted to bribing that lone juror, and in 2001, he struck a plea bargain in which he was sentenced to 37 months in prison for racketeering. Now, in his early 80s, Mr. Nash is a free man. And he would like to make it clear that he and Mr. Thorson were never partners.

“No, no, he worked for me,” Mr. Nash said on the telephone. “When Liberace dumped him, he had nothing. He was on the streets. So I took him in and he worked at the house. He was good for cleaning. Because I lived with eight girls at the time. Beautiful girls. College girls. It was safe to have Mr. Thorson around, because he is gay. I had a gay cook, too.”

Mr. Thorson claims that after the trial, marshals in the federal witness protection program moved him to Florida and gave him a new name. “They had to keep me safe because there was a contract placed on my life by Eddie Nash,” he said during one interview.

“It started with the marshals taking me to different locations around the country for seven to 10 days, to make sure no one was following,” he said. “Texas, Alaska, Seattle.”

It’s an intriguing narrative plot point — man forced to get a new face is later forced to take on a new identity. But the story sounds highly improbable to Bill Keefer, a former federal marshal in the witness protection program. He has doubts because of where Mr. Thorson eventually landed: at a Christian-based homeless shelter in Tallahassee, Fla., called the Haven of Rest.

“How much protection could the marshals provide a guy at a homeless shelter?” Mr. Keefer asked.

At the Haven of Rest, Mr. Thorson found religion. And instead of striving for invisibility, he shared his life story in front of church congregations. He says that he became a popular evangelizer, even appearing on a Pat Robertson TV show.

“He would share his testimony about his life with Liberace,” said Danny Heaberlin, who ran Haven of Rest at the time. “We had pictures of him with Liberace, because the story was so out there, nobody would believe it otherwise.”

Mr. Thorson says an East Coast mafia don gave him assurances that he needn’t worry about Mr. Nash. True or not, Mr. Thorson was unable to stay on the side of the angels for long. After three years at the Haven of Rest, he says, he started using drugs again, and in 1991, was shot three times in a room at a Howard Johnson’s hotel in Jacksonville. Local reports described the crime as a robbery committed by a crack dealer.

“They thought he was going to die,” Mr. Heaberlin said, “but he kept living and living.”

While he was recovering, a life-changing event occurred: a woman from Maine named Georgianna Morrill came to visit. Mr. Thorson would later claim she had seen him on TV, spreading the gospel, but that is not how Ms. Morrill remembers it.

“I read ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ and I saw the photo on the back of the book and I heard the Lord tell me to pray for this guy,” she said, speaking from her apartment in South Portland, Me. “I thought, I don’t even know this man. But I’m a Christian and when God tells you to pray for someone, you do.”

She found Mr. Thorson through a Pentecostal friend and soon after the two met, she invited him to live with her in a tiny two-story red house in Falmouth, Me.

Mr. Thorson accepted. He stayed for the next 12 years.

It was the second time that he found refuge in someone else’s life, but Falmouth was a long way from Vegas and Ms. Morrill was no Liberace. There were periods of domestic calm, with Mr. Thorson cleaning up around the house and collecting disability checks that he was eligible for after the shooting. But Ms. Morrill wanted to get married, despite all evidence that the match was a terrible idea. The couple had sex once, she recalls.

“That was enough,” she said with a giggle.

Mr. Thorson’s homosexuality wasn’t the only impediment. He drank a lot and when he did he would sometimes “get stupid,” in Ms. Morrill’s words, prompting her to call the police. Still, she held out hope that one day he would propose. And one day, he did, but with a ring with a pearl on top that she somehow knew he had purchased with a stolen credit card.

W-LAND1981 Blog Note:

The Reno Ponderosa where Scott was arrested, during happier times (man they really throw the book at ya for identity theft these days!)