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Who Is Ed Buck?

Wed, Aug 16, 2017   By Staff    16 Comments

 

A photo of Ed Buck, posted by him on Facebook on Aug. 9, 2017

Who is Ed Buck? Those who follow politics in West Hollywood know him as the guy whose successful campaign for a ban on fur sales helped propel City Councilmember John D’Amico into office in 2011. He’s also known for his tenacious digging into City Hall records to make a claim that credit cards were being misused. And he is known for his financial support for local, county, state and national Democratic Party candidates.

Gemmel Moore

Another side to Buck has come to light lately with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department announcing it is opening an investigation into the death in Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment on July 27 of a young African-American man named Gemmel Moore, who was a self-confessed prostitute. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office had ruled the death an accident caused by an overdose of methamphetamine, a highly addictive and dangerous drug that is popular among some gay men. The Sheriff’s Department says that drugs and drug paraphernalia were found at Buck’s apartment.

That side of Buck has drawn little comment from local political figures, although the Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBT political group, last week asked Buck to step down from his position on its steering committee. But it has attracted a lot of attention from the right-wing media here and abroad, including publications such as the Drudge Report; TruNews, a Christian news site; Political VelCraft, a right-wing conspiracy site, and Voat.com, a website that promotes conspiracy theories such as PizzaGate. Stories on those sites call out Buck’s financial support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, his homosexuality, his alleged attraction to young African-American men and his alleged drug use.

Recently LGBT African-American activists also have begun to speak out, calling for an investigation into Moore’s death. Ashlee Marie Preston, the transgender African-American editor of “Wear Your Voice,” an online feminist publication, has written about an odd experience she had with Buck. “Moore’s death is centered around power dynamics, a wealthy white politico and his deadly fetishization of disenfranchised black men,” Preston wrote. And Jasmyne Cannick,a black communications and public affairs strategist, has called out Moore’s death on her website with the headline “Journal Documents How Wealthy Democratic Donor Hooked Young Black Gay Man on Meth Before His Death.”

The Beginning

Edward Bernard Peter Buckmelter (he changed his last name to Buck in 1983) was born into a middle-class family in Steubenville, Ohio, on Aug. 24, 1954. When he was six he moved with his parents, a brother and two sisters to Phoenix, Ariz. “My childhood was uneventful as hell,” he said in an interview with the Arizona Republic in June 1987.

Ed Buck in 1987 (Arizona Republic)

Buck attended a Catholic elementary school and graduated from North High School and Phoenix College. Buck has described his father as a “longtime alcoholic.” As a child, Buck himself was a handful according to his mother, who was interviewed in October 1987 by E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic. “The dean of boys had a hot line to my phone at work,” she said, speaking of Buck’s high school years. “I’d answer the phone and say, ‘All right, what is it this time?’”

Buck came out to his parents as gay at the age of 16 and, while attending college, won a three-month internship that took him to Yugoslavia. In his profile, the Arizona Republic’s Montini says that a year after that Buck returned to Europe and was offered a spot as an extra in a TV commercial. Buck stayed in Europe for five years, living in Paris and Amsterdam, where he worked as a fashion model and appeared in movies and magazines. He also modeled in Japan for Wrangler jeans. Buck returned to Arizona in 1980 and began working for a friend as a bicycle courier.

In his interview with Montini, Buck said he worked for the Arizona franchise of Rapid Information Services, a business owned by a friend that provided driver’s license information to insurance companies. Despite his lack of business experience, and the business’s poor financial situation (his friend ran it out of a one-bedroom apartment), Buck saw great potential in it. A year and a half after joining and helping build the business, Buck bought it out of bankruptcy for $250,000 and renamed it Gopher Courier. Five years later he sold it for what he said in another interview was “more than a million dollars profit.”

Very wealthy at the age of 32, Buck took risks, opening a restaurant and getting into the pay telephone business, on both of which he lost money. He owned a $280,000 house on top of a hill near Squaw Peak (now known as Piestewa Peak), a mountain outside of Phoenix. He also, according to a story in the Gayly Oklahoman newspaper, had entered into a relationship with a Chippendale dancer.

Diving Into Politics

Buck found new meaning in his life with the election in 1987 of Evan Mecham, a Republican, as Arizona’s 17th governor. Mecham was a controversial figure, not least because of his decision to end Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday for state employees, his claim that high divorce rates were caused by women holding jobs and his description of African-American children as “pickaninnies.” Then there were the accusations that he misused state funds and failed to disclose a $350,000 campaign loan.

Ed Buck named Grand Marshal at the International Gay Rodeo’s 1989 Arizona event.

Buck launched a successful effort to impeach Mecham, leading the Arizona Republic to describe Buck as a “millionaire, self-acknowledged homosexual and registered Republican” who was “destined to go down in history as one of Arizona’s most unlikely political figures.”

The impeachment campaign was a rough one, with Buck attacked because he was gay. It also resulted in publicity about Buck’s arrest for “public sexual indecency” in an adult bookstore in 1983. Buck pleaded guilty and paid a fine, and the charge was dismissed. He claimed a cop had seen him grab the crotch of a friend. Buck also was called out for trying to get a drugstore to fill a fake prescription for Percocet, a highly addictive drug that contains oxycodone. In an interview in 1988 with the Washington Blade, Buck said he had made a copy of an existing prescription and needed to fill it because of pain from a root canal. Buck was indicted by a Maricopa (Ariz.) County grand jury on a charge of “attempting to obtain a narcotic through fraud or deceit.” A judge agreed to dismiss charges against Buck if he would be tested weekly for drug use for one year.

Given that Buck was openly gay, and that Mecham was known as homophobic (he once said during a radio interview that he would ask for a list of gay state employees, implying he would fire them), Buck became somewhat of an LGBT community hero. In 1989, for example, he was named Grand Marshal of the International Gay Rodeo in Arizona. Yet Buck didn’t identify with some parts of the gay community. In his interview with the Washington Blade, Buck criticized some for their flamboyance. “We dress up, we see guys in their best leather, others in their best dresses, marching down the street,” he said. “These people do not represent the majority of gay people, who would never wear costumes. And it drives the semi-closeted and moderate gay people underground.”

Switching Parties

In 1988 at a Republican Party conference in Oklahoma City, Buck called for changes in the party’s “intolerant” stand on LGBT rights in Oklahoma, which included opposition to state-mandated sex education programs in schools. Unable to make major changes in his political party, Buck soon switched allegiances. In an online post in 2010, he explained his decision. “I didn’t leave the Republican Party, it left me. I can remember Barry Goldwater saying ‘out of the boardroom and out of the bedroom’ when referring to the role of government. That’s the GOP I was a proud member of … My principals have not changed, but to keep true to them, my political party had to change.”

Buck continued his political involvement as a Democrat, hosting a fundraiser for the Gay and Lesbian Political Campaign Fund ’90 in 1989 at his Squaw Peak home, with openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as a special guest. He also helped raise money for HIV/AIDS services in Arizona. He also successfully pushed Circle K, a nationwide chain of convenience stores based in Phoenix, to back away from a policy of denying medical coverage to those with AIDS or substance abuse problems.

Moving to West Hollywood

Buck “retired” to West Hollywood in 1991. One of the causes he embraced in WeHo was rescuing abandoned or endangered animals. He is said to have fostered care for more than 40 over a five-year period. In 2007 he made an unsuccessful run for a seat on the City Council. In that campaign, he teamed up with Steve Martin and Heavenly Wilson to challenge incumbents John Heilman, Abbe Land and Sal Guarriello, all of whom were re-elected. In 2010  Buck was featured on CNN and other news channels when he attended a town hall meeting and interrupted Meg Whitman, who was running as the Republican candidate for governor of California. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went face-to-face with Buck and asked him to stop.

Ed Buck’s 2007 election bio (League of Women Voters)

Buck put his political energy and skills to work in a campaign to get West Hollywood to enact the nation’s first ban on the sale of fur products. As part of that effort, he backed John D’Amico’s campaign for a seat on the City Council. D’Amico declared his support for a fur ban, something opposed by the WeHo Chamber of Commerce and some local businesses. Buck also helped D’Amico in his effort to position himself as a reformer who would push back against the political establishment, especially John Heilman, who has been on the City Council since West Hollywood was incorporated in 1984.

As part of that effort, Buck demanded access to city records to build a case that City Hall staffers and some City Council members were misusing city credit cards. That campaign focused mostly on Fran Solomon, the deputy to Heilman. In a press conference the day before the March 7, 2011, election, D’Amico and fellow challengers Scott Schmidt, Steve Martin, Mito Aviles and Lucas John Junkin issued a statement saying that ”tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars (have been) wasted on high-end meals and luxurious gifts for City Hall staff, developers and lobbyists.”

A subsequent investigation by the city largely refuted those accusations, noting that Solomon had spent less than $2,000 in 2010 on meals with constituents and people doing business with the city, which was part of her role as a full-time deputy to a part-time council member. Other expenses called out by Buck and the City Council candidates involved payments for awards such as gift cards and ball point pens to city employees who had reached certain employee milestones. The district attorney did launch an investigation into Councilmember John Duran’s spending on lunches but eventually dropped it.

The Death of Gemmel Moore

Buck has kept a relatively low profile since the 2011 City Council election. He has, however, continued to contribute to election campaigns. The right-wing media outlets have called out $2,750 that he contributed to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign. A quick online search shows donations of nearly $30,000 through June of this year to Democratic candidates in state races such as Ted Lieu, Pete Aguilar, Raja Krishnamoorthi and the Getting Things Done PAC. On Aug. 9 he updated the photo on his Facebook page, which he apparently hadn’t posted on for more than a year. Many of his friends welcomed him back.

A page from Gemmel Moore’s journal.

Buck was back in the news last week after a video was posted online with LaTisha Nixon demanding an investigation of the death of her son, Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old African-American man, at Buck’s apartment at 1234 Laurel Ave. on July 27. The outcry over Moore’s death prompted the L.A. Sheriff’s Department to announce it was opening an investigation into the incident, which the Coroner’s Office previously had ruled an accidental death caused by methamphetamine use.

While various local and national blogs are posting allegations about the death that aren’t backed up by publicly available facts, lesbian activist Jasmyne Cannick has published photos of pages from Gammel Moore’s journal, which his family recently retrieved from the Sheriff’s Department, that describe a drug using relationship between him and Buck.

“My mind and action change. I am not the same person I was born to be,” Moore wrote in his journal. “I felt as if I sold my soul to the devil — I want to be back in the hands of God. I want to be healed from drugs, poverty and troubles. I want independence. I want my own. There’s so much madness going on in my life. It’s got to be illegal and wrong. The way I was raised to be, you would never expect this.

“I just hope the end result isn’t death. Someone needs to save me soon. The only person in my corner is the person who turned me this way, the way I feel right now. Honestly, I don’t care to live anymore. I do wanna die. I feel like I’ve done way too much that this lifetime allows. If it didn’t hurt so bad I’d kill myself but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now. Dec. 3, 2016, I miss my grandma.”

On another page Moore explicitly called out his drug use as a problem. “Something is seriously wrong with me and my body. I don’t feel normal. I honestly think it has to do with the injection of drugs. It makes me feel horrible like I’m so tired of living this life.”

WEHOville reached out to Ed Buck for a response to the allegations against him. However, he has not responded to that request.

LaTisha Nixon, who lives in Texas, has launched a GoFundMe page to solicit donations to cover the cost of her travel to Los Angeles to retrieve her son’s body and pay funeral expenses. There will be a candlelight vigil in memory of Gemmel Moore on Friday at 7 p.m. at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station at 780 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. A “home going” service will be held on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Simpson Funeral Home at 5138 S. Broadway Ave. in Los Angeles.

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16 Comments

  1. Paul BenjaminSun, Nov 19, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Although the Arizona legislature impeached and convicted Mecham, removing him from office, Buck’s campaign was for recall, not impeachment. His successful petition drive forced a recall election, but it was cancelled after Mecham was removed via impeachment.

  2. Paul BenjaminSun, Nov 19, 2017 at 10:31 am

    FWIW, Evan Mecham was elected Governor of Arizona in 1986, not 1987.

  3. Ken HareWed, Nov 15, 2017 at 1:15 am

    If Ed Buck cared for young Black men as much as he cared for dogs, then perhaps Gemmel Moore would still be alive instead of feeding him drugs. Not surprised at all, as this is the land of pedophiles, drugs and prostitution and this is just the beginning. After all, isn’t this the same Hollywood that’s given us the ABC hit “How to Get Away with Murder.” Smh.

  4. little JimmyWed, Nov 08, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Ed Buck should be investigated from the day he turned 18. Nothing makes sense in his career/life. Its outrageous, there has been a death, at a home of a man who never made much money but is living the high life in CA? What a shame, what a shame.

  5. erikSat, Sep 02, 2017 at 5:23 am

    Anyone who provides meth or allows people to use it in in their home should be charged with a felony. but henry will not print this because he is friends with the councilmembers who received money from Buck

  6. Walter FinleySun, Aug 27, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I have known Ed Buck for almost thirty seven years and would like to attest to his character and decency. We met when we were both modeling in Amsterdam and became very good friends. When I first met Buck, around 1980, he had recently moved to Amsterdam from Paris where he had also modeled. After Amsterdam he moved back to Phoenix, where he taught modeling at the Power’s modeling school. Although we did not see each other for long periods of time, we remained in touch both by telephone and correspondence. There was no email in those days. By 1985, I had returned to Miami to model, and Buck, having had his spectacular business success, came to South Beach to visit a mutual friend we had both known in Europe. This was now around 1990, I’m guessing, and our friendship was actively renewed and has flourished to this day. I have even visited him on occasion in West Hollywood, where Buck leads a nice but not wealthy or extravagant lifestyle. His passion is politics and animal rights. He has always been a dear and caring friend and I cannot speak highly enough for him. He is loyal, trustworthy and always there to help a friend (or animal) in need and asks nothing in return other than friendship. I would be happy to attest to this to anyone, This is a difficult time for Buck, I only learned of his dilemma yesterday, and it is time for Buck’s friends to stand up for him and to speak out on his behalf.

  7. JulianSat, Aug 26, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I’m not speaking specifically on Ed Buck’s situation because I don’t know him but for everyone saying they only know the dog rescue side or the anti-fur side of Ed and this doesn’t seem like something he would do need to get real. We all have many sides. In response to Jim Chud, I agree we definitely need to take responsibility for our actions and role in our addictions. However, it sounds as though Ed has a history of and gets off on injecting young gay black men, some of whom are homeless and poor, with meth and giving them. He needs to take responsibility for preying on the disenfranchised. But he’s a well off white man and the victim was a poor black man. History tells me he’ll be just fine.

  8. Jim ChudTue, Aug 22, 2017 at 5:13 am

    I think ‘Oy vey’ said it best – and without taking any shots at anyone – what happened was very sad indeed. I can’t tell you how many times I asked questions of myself during my addiction that were similar to the thoughts Mr. Moore expressed in his journal – addiction just doesn’t make sense to anyone trapped in its grip. Today, however, we all want ‘someone’ to blame for whatever happens to us. Doing drugs is a choice. So is one’s profession – and blaming never got anyone anywhere – for me, at least, until I was willing to let go of all of the blame stuff and look at myself for both the problem and for where the solution had to happen, then I was going to keep doing what I did, and getting what I got. It’s very sad and frustrating to me that society has perpetuated our nation of blamers. I have found that it never worked for me. There is no shame in asking for help – in fact, it shows great inner strength and a sincere desire to make a change. If things like ‘but my friends and family will find out …’ are what is keeping anyone from asking for assistance, the reality is that they already know.

  9. JusticeByBookMon, Aug 21, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Well stated Karma Speaks – Scary stuff; sounds a bit like the predatory dark corners of Arkansas politics gone to Washington, and some folks who lurk in those corners and think that such predatory abuse is just fine. Its just odd that the victim’s mother feels she has to personally & visibly appeal to the City Council to ask for Justice – appears circumstantial, but somehow, someone in the political arena must have left that suffering mother with the impression that the path to truth and Justice is a different one for prominent politicians – to ask permission for it. Its just odd. LACSD needs to kick-down the door on this one.

  10. Rob BergsteinThu, Aug 17, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I first met Ed Buck back when I was serving on the City’s Redevelopment Agency, the Eastside Project Advisory Committee. Ed never met a microphone he didn’t like and while I rarely, if ever, agreed with what he spoke out about, off microphone, we could have respectful conversations. As to the death of the young man in his apartment…if he was trying to help someone get their life back on track,while that is a commendable thought, Ed is in no way trained as a social worker with experience in helping younger people to get off the streets and out of the sex worker lifestyle. Again, commendable thought,but best to leave that kind of intensive work to the experts, those who are trained. Our Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center has the facilities and expertise. The City of West Hollywood contracts with multiple social service providers to help out our residents in need. Who knows, if Ed had referred that young man over to any of the resource providers available in West Hollywood, well, who knows…..

  11. Oy VeyThu, Aug 17, 2017 at 6:32 am

    This is all so sad. Sad that a young life ended. Sad that it was from drugs. Sad that it was in our community. Sad that we now dissect someone else’s life, to pick them apart publicly, to shame and wag or internet finger of judgment and shame upon them. Addiction is a disease, and meth it’s most insidious and disastrous manifestation. It’s victims need support and intensive treatment. Public shaming is not the answer. Unless Mr. Buck physically tied Mr.Moore up and injected the drugs, this was an accidental overdose. Regardless of their relationship and its dynamics, who are we to judge our neighbors so? Maybe it’s our help they need, not our anonymous finger of internet shame and (false) moral superiority.

  12. SaveWehoThu, Aug 17, 2017 at 2:07 am

    I agree with Pat. I think we are all rushing to judge “something” that I’m not sure what the story, his family or commenters are alluding to. Is everyone saying that Buck murdered Moore with his own drug use? From what I understand Moore was a hustler/ prostitute and Buck was one of his regulars? And it sounds like they probably both did drugs of some sort together. While it might be illegal in itself…I fail to see the connection of murder here. Did he not call 911 immediately? And is the family just now wanting revenge for their son? Where were they as he was in this downward spiral of drugs and prostitution? None of us know the circumstances. Innocent until proven guilty folks. And from just the life of Buck described above…it sounds like he’s done a lot of good in the world for many worthwhile causes.

  13. Karma SpeaksWed, Aug 16, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Granted, Pat Dixon may have witnessed the caring dog rescue side of Ed Buck and while I have no opinion on the alleged issue regarding Mr. Moore, there was distinctly a different side of Mr. Buck on display for many in the community. During the Tara controvercy and when Mr. Buck was campaigning for City Council, he often exhibited an angry, highly volatile and confrontational demeanor. Shockingly enough this was unleashed during city meetings. He viscously pursued his opponents with wild unproven accusations well beyond the point of reason. In recent years he surprisingly spoke at a few city meetings presenting himself as the tightly controlled voice of reason. None of the behavior added up and as Todd mentioned, the past financial escapades don’t appear to either.

  14. Pat DixonWed, Aug 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    The Ed Buck I have known was a passionate advocate for animals; he always had a rescue animal with him and his loving care was evident. He was very involved in West Hollywood politics in a good way; his voice was heard and his intelligence felt. I don’t think Buck lived extravagantly at all; he lives in nice two bedroom apartment which I think is probably under rent control. Ed was a constant presence on the block, always of good cheer and well meaning, attending our block parties, involved with the neighborhood. I always liked seeing him and I am sorry for his troubles, but I also caution all of us not to rush to judgment of Ed Buck.

  15. jeromeclearyWed, Aug 16, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    He sure made up for that “uneventful childhood.”

  16. Todd BiancoWed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I still haven’t figured his source of income or wealth. Where did he get $250k to buy a business out of bankruptcy? Selling that one business 30 years ago for a $1 million profit (before tax), followed by two significant business losses doesn’t equal a lifetime of wealth. Being a male model and having bit parts in commercials in your youth also doesn’t net you a fortune you can live on for the rest of your life. You still have to spend money to live the rest of those years. Is there family money?

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