Who Is Ed Buck?

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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Paul Benjamin
Guest
Paul Benjamin

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.

Paul Benjamin
Guest
Paul Benjamin

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

Ken Hare
Guest

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.

little Jimmy
Guest
little Jimmy

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.

erik
Guest
erik

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

Walter Finley
Guest

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,… Read more »

Julian
Guest
Julian

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.… Read more »

Jim Chud
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Jim Chud

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… Read more »

JusticeByBook
Guest
JusticeByBook

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.… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

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… Read more »

Oy Vey
Guest
Oy Vey

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… Read more »

SaveWeho
Guest
SaveWeho

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?… Read more »