Duran Took to Facebook to Speculate About the Deaths of Two Men, Outraging Their Friends and Family

City Councilmember John Duran during an interview on KNX 1770 in which he speculates about the sex lives of his fellow Council members.

City Councilmember John Duran’s speculation on Facebook that the two men who died Sunday in an apartment building on Hacienda Place were gay men partying with illicit drugs has outraged their friends and family members.

Sheriffs have not yet released names of the men or whether the drugs were laced with fentanyl,” Duran said in his Facebook post on Monday. “But my gut is telling me – these 2 guys were having a good time yesterday and decided to party with blow or meth. They both expected to get up today and go

to the gym or work.”

Vaughn York

The men were Vaughn Frederick York, 53, who is African-America and was found dead in a room at 1130 Hacienda Place, just north of Holloway, along with Devon Jacob Lopez-Bergman, 21, a young Hispanic man. York’s profile on Facebook identifies him as an executive chef at NBC Universal and as a private chef. For 10 years he was a regional chef for Wolfgang Puck Catering. York was originally from Westchester County, New York.

Devon Jacob Lopez-Bergman

The LA County Coroner’s Office has yet to determine the cause of death, however a message from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to City Council members said it was suspected to be a drug overdose.

WEHOville has received numerous telephone calls and emails demanding that the story be unpublished because, the writers and callers allege, Duran’s statements are inaccurate or as yet unproven and his Facebook post is an effort at self-promotion. The post has gotten more than 60 comments and nearly 200 “likes,” with many of the responses coming from members of the recovery community, where Duran is a prominent figure. Troy Masters, publisher of the Los Angeles Blade, a gay local weekly that champions Duran and whose editor, Karen Ocamb, is a friend and supporter of Duran, also posted on Duran’s Facebook page about the incident. Duran has not responded to a request from WEHOville for his response to the criticism.

Friends of York have claimed that he didn’t identify as gay. One man who commented on a story about the deaths published on WEHOville said that Bergman was not gay.

“As an advocate in the LGBTQ community as an old family of Devon J Lopez Bergman I demand a retraction. While I stand with all LGBTQ and gender fluid people , Devon was not part of this community. This young man was a good soul who touched many lives, his general way and smile will be missed dearly. When will the loss of life in these situations be seen as a tragedy and not as an opportunity to belittle … or defame the deceased? What little tact and or social graces are these so called council members used to using, especially with their lack of experience in said areas. Moreover the lack of empathy is a disgusting reminder of who these people are that are and make up the City Council.”

Whether gay or straight, the focus of most of the complaints has been on Duran’s assertion that the death was likely the result of a “party” drug overdose, which Sheriff’s deputies have said seems likely but hasn’t been determined until an examination is completed by the Coroner’s Office.

On his Facebook page Duran identifies himself as the “Mayor of West Hollywood” despite leaving that position under pressure from fellow Council members because of his sometimes flippant responses to allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, where he was pressed to step down from his longtime position as chair, and for his derogatory comments to media about his fellow Council members’ sex lives. Duran also identifies himself on Facebook as an “LGBT champ” who “invented homosexuality.” Duran’s behavior has led the West Hollywood City Council to ask that someone at City Hall review messages he sends from his city email account, however, the city has no control over his Facebook account.

brett shaad
Brett Shaad

The angry response to Duran’s speculation is similar to what he faced in 2013 from his response to the death of Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old West Hollywood resident, from bacterial meningitis. Duran went to Twitter, a common social media platform for politicians, to announce Shaad’s death while he was still alive in the hospital surrounded by his family and then predicted an epidemic of the deadly disease among gay men in West Hollywood and elsewhere. The story got national coverage.

His predictions upset local bar owners and nightclub owners because of his claim that gay men might contract the disease while out dancing and that Shaad had contracted the disease by attending the White Party, an annual event for gay men held in Palm Springs that Shaad in fact had not attended. In an interview in 2013 with WeHoNews, a news website that closed several years ago, Duran said that meningitis could be spread at what he described as gay orgies in West Hollywood and during drug-fueled nights at the city’s Boystown nightclubs.

”Let’s just say an orgy, it doesn’t even have to be the White Party, we still have orgies that occur in West Hollywood and if you attend an orgy in West Hollywood, and within three to four days you have severe headaches, neck pain and a fever, you may have been exposed to meningitis,” he told WeHoNews.

“If you are out on a dance floor where people are sharing water bottles because they are taking drugs, which is another common thing that happens where people are sharing water bottles, when they are dancing, that is a non-sexual way to contract meningitis, by sharing that water bottle.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation responded by offering free meningitis vaccines. However, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said there was no evidence of a bacterial meningitis epidemic and suggested that residents not be vaccinated until it was clear that there was a risk.

stoli boycott
Then CSW President Rodney Scott, left, and Duran pouring fake Stoli vodka in the gutter in 2013. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

Duran caused another stir in August 2013 when he and Councilmember John D’Amico called on local gay bars to join them on Santa Monica Boulevard to pour liquid from Stoli vodka bottles into the gutter while surrounded by local TV reporters. That was part of a call for a boycott of Stoli vodka because of homophobic actions being taken by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. However, while Stoli is considered a “Russian” brand of vodka, SPI Group, the company that owns the Stolichnaya vodka brand, is based in Luxembourg. Larry Block, owner of the Block Party store, argued then that the rush to boycott Stolichnaya vodka was misguided because Stoli wasn’t distilled in Russia (although the grain from which it is made is grown there), SPI Group isn’t based in Russia, and Val Mendeleev, the company’s CEO is very much out of favor with Putin. Stoli also has been and continues to a sponsor of a number of gay community events. Duran and D’Amico also partnered in a controversial event at which they presented porn performer Stormy Daniels with the “key to the city” in recognition of her lawsuit against President Donald Trump

“One of the benefits of having public office is that I have the power of the podium,” said Duran in an interview during the vodka pouring. “I can call the press and say we’re having a press conference, and they’ll actually show up. In this case, I’m making use of my public office to raise public awareness around Southern California about what’s happening to the LGBT community in Russia.”

Friends of Bergman have organized a GoFundMe account to solicit donations to help his mother, Dominique Bergman, pay expenses related to his death. “On behalf of his Momma Dominique Bergman and the rest of the family we would like to announce on May 5th, 2019, … our Devon suddenly passed away to be in heaven with his two grandfathers, uncle and his friends,” the GoFundMe page states. “He leaves behind his momma Dominique and beautiful little sister Charlotte.” The GoFundMe page can be accessed online here.


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hifi5000
Guest
hifi5000

Wow, John Duran really did it this time.He was cavalier in handling the announcement of the deaths of two men in the city of West Hollywood. He needs to apologize to the men’s families and the residents of the city immediately. These two fellows may or may not be gay,but that is beside the point.They died due to a drug that probably was contaminated.You take your chances with street drugs that you know nothing about and comes from who knows where. I can understand warning people about the dangers of drugs,but Mr. Duran should have waited for a more appropriate… Read more »

Marco Colantonio
Guest
Marco Colantonio

My heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Vaughn and Devon. I live in the building next door and although I had never seen Devon, I would often pass Vaughn on the street while I was walking my dog. We would acknowledge each other with a nod, but never exchanged pleasantries or engaged in any type of dialogue and I wish I had offered more in the way of a smile or spoken word. His roommate is a neighbor that I have gotten to know and consider a lovely person. I offer this thought, as every person we encounter… Read more »

Duran, King of Conjecture!
Guest
Duran, King of Conjecture!

I took issue with the incredibly dangerous words that Duran used indicating that, “cocaine and meth alone do not cause deaths.” Yes John, they do! Speculating that there had to be a mix of drugs is ignorant and backed by nothing but pure conjecture . Be smart about the words you use, people are listening. If you are such a big proponent of recovery, NEVER give an addict an out, like you just did!

Lydia York
Guest
Lydia York

I’m Vaughn’s sister; and – like Danielle – I’m frankly disgusted and angered by the cold, callous disregard for the two, beautiful people who tragically lost their lives. Although Duran might have had a point – the fact that he said it (and repeated it) in such a flip manner detracts from it’ impact. This should be the final straw for Duran; he’s obviously completely lost his marbles.

Victoria
Guest
Victoria

Victoria I have known Devon for years and was a wonderful friend of our son kirby who passed in 2015 Devon proudly tattooed a memorial of our son on his arm yet he asked if we would be ok with this
Who cares Gary or straight
We have lost a another
Beautiful young man
This shouldn’t be happening to our youth
Devon we love you
Know you are in good company and kirby has your hand
You well be missed
Never forgotten

Michael G.
Guest
Michael G.

John Duran, like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Blvd.” is still waving at a parade that long passed him by. Duran is desperately hanging onto some belief he has political relevance with his pathetic claims he’s still Mayor of West Hollywood on Facebook. This is coupled with Duran’s pitches on Grindr boasting a sexual encounter with him – the WEHO “Mayor” – could be used as bragging rights to friends of the hook-up to make them jealous! Like some clergyman boasting of his bully pulpit, Duran doesn’t realize he’s preaching to the choir. John Duran claims he invented homosexuality, so sad… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

The loss of Vaughn and Devon are tragic and cast a pall across our community. But as our community faces a potentially fatal problem with problem with tainted party substances, I can understand why Duran may have felt compelled to take to the airwaves. But as with the sad case of Brett Shaad, it appears that Duran’s need to put himself out in front on issues did not leave him with any time to think about how his hasty actions may impact the friends and families of the deceased. That lack of sensitivity and empathy has been a hallmark of… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

Well said, Steve. Absent the speculation and sensationalism and invasion of the families’ privacy it was the right message, but the wrong messenger, once again.

That Duran continues to market himself on social media as the current mayor should be an issue of ethics within the walls of WeHo officialdom, which I have pointed out to the entire council and the city manager. Their lack of response is curious. For years I’ve been referring to the West Hollywood Student Council, yet another reason why.

Hopelessly Irrelevant
Guest
Hopelessly Irrelevant

Cure of the Duran dilemma will never happen by a time release method or death by a thousand cuts. The city needs to consider major surgery and possible amputation of this infection before it becomes a virus. The City Attorney and City Manager should consider another solution sooner than later considering antics like this.

Christopher Lee
Guest
Christopher Lee

A couple of my friends ran the Gay AA/NA Lambda Chapter in South Florida. They used to refer to the John Duran Types as recovery narcissists. It’s an actual thing where once some folks get sober, they develop this ambivalence toward everything drinking / drugs / sex. All of the triggers that made them spiral. They take every opportunity to point out and lash out at everyone as if they are all in need of salvation and they are the white knight of the earth pointing out all of other’s failings. It deflects things away from them still actually having… Read more »

Hopelessly Irrelevant
Guest
Hopelessly Irrelevant

John Duran is hopelessly irrelevant and desperately attempts to be relevant by latching on to every opportunity to be seen though without any compass.

Ken Howard, LCSW
Guest

Regardless of what one might think about John Duran, he is trying to raise AWARENESS of the fact that there have, indeed, been local DEATHS related to the contamination of both meth and cocaine by Fentanyl. Whether these recent deaths were correctly or incorrectly attributed to Fentanyl contamination is secondary to Duran’s and other officials’ concerns that drug users (meth and cocaine) be aware that such contamination has occurred in recent times, and that a Harm Reduction measure that can be taken is to obtain chemical “test strips” from various public health facilities, most notably the LA LGBT Center, where… Read more »

jimmy palmieri
Guest
jimmy palmieri

Agreed Ken. This could have been such an informative article on the presence of fentanyl in the current drug supply in WEHO. Sadly, it was turned into a hit piece. I am simply disappointed and surprised how such an ally in print, is forgetting about helping us, and obsessing on one man, regardless of his thoughts on him.

Common sense
Guest
Common sense

Hit piece? You sound like the people who move in after trump gaffs with the revisionist story of what he “meant to say…”

And the two stories aren’t mutually exclusive. You can talk about fentanyl AND criticize your elected officials. Get this insane notion of “hit piece” out of your head. It is the duty of a free press to scrutinize elected officials. It may seem like they do a lot of stories on him, but as is the case with trump, it’s because he continuously proves he isn’t worthy of his office.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Ken, after a few days of thinking about it, my perspective might sound a bit contradictory to my earlier comment below. I agree that Duran was trying to issue a warning to the community. I read his statement four times. As far as I can tell, he said two things that might be controversial, depending on one’s viewpoint: – “… men who I assume to be gay.” – “… decided to party with blow or meth” I mean no offense to any of the family or loved ones of these individuals, but I don’t see why one would be offended… Read more »

ryann lopez
Guest
ryann lopez

I’m Devon’s cousin. Who has taken the place as his big sister through out his life I must say I am extremely disgusted with how these false accusations are thrown out to the public to make it seem like these two men were any less than human beings who just lost their life leaving friends and family deeply saddened and in morning. How can you wake up in the morning NOT KNOWING this two men ! Not knowing my baby cousin who doesn’t deserve to be thrown to the public with false assumptions of him being gay or “trying to… Read more »

Lydia
Guest
Lydia

I’m so sorry for your loss… Like you – I don’t appreciate my brothers good name being slandered. An apology and retraction are definitely in order.

Chloe Ross
Guest
Chloe Ross

Duran Duran – or the great fan of Richard the Third needs to saddle up and get outta town. He has lost his comic value – long ago. He is embarrassing and nasty and self-serving. His indecent comments on two dead humans is unspeakably vile. How does he presume to be in charge of information he probably shouldn’t have? When I see his mug I think “Look at me, look at me, find me a horse”. Women often bad mouth men for being idiots – it is plain to see this trait is embodied in the fragile Y chromosome because… Read more »

Pete P
Guest
Pete P

Look, I’m no fan of Duran by any stretch of the imagination, but it looks to me like he was trying to warn people that there are some bad drugs out there and to be careful. Perhaps he could have handled this a bit differently, but there is nothing wrong with that message. With respect to speculation, I get the sense that if these two men died within a 1/4 mile of Ed Buck’s apartment, you would be publishing numerous stories speculating on the circumstances of their deaths. In any event, this is a horrible and tragic situation and one… Read more »