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WEHOville has received numerous telephone calls and emails demanding that the story be unpublished because, the writers and callers allege, Duran’s statements are inaccurate or as yet unproven and his Facebook post is an effort at self-promotion.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.

  1. 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 time to do this.Instead, the families and friends of the two men are angry and unhappy with what he said.He could have just ask his friends or city associates for any advice and they would have said to hold off any kind of statement.

  2. 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 has something in their being worth experiencing; when you pass a neighbor, try a smile and say hi or have a nice day. I regret I had not done so with Vaughn.

    No one should speculate about something this serious and better to follow these words of wiser philosophers dating back to the 4th century: “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est” (“Of the dead nothing but good is to be said”)

    R.I.P. Vaughn York and Devon Jacob Lopez-Bergman

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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 and delusional. West Hollywood used to be gay, with sophisticated glamour, an edge, and panache. However, with Duran on board representing the West Holywood image, anything the good citizens of WEHO are trying to achieve is overcome by the Ex-Mayor’s lack of sensitivity and class. His endless blustering self-service grandstanding is nothing more than another nail in the coffin of West Hollywood – instead of being a shining star we have, from Duran’s embarrasing press in the last six months, a sleazy collection of events.

    It’s time for John Duran to resign. He should devote himself to his work, pay off the ten plus $100,000 Federal Tax Leins and finally move on!

  7. 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 Duran’s “leadership” in this community. When those two young men were shot by the Sheriff’s Department on Hancock, Duran was the first Council member to come to the defense of the Department, even before all of the tragic facts where known. So Duran has no one to blame but himself when he is accused on being more concerned about self promotion than serving the community. At this point Duran does not have a lot of credibility and frankly most of the community is tired of hearing about him.

    I know John Duran is striving to rehabilitate himself, which is understandable, but if he wants to continue to serve West Hollywood, more than his political reputation needs to be rehabilitated. A sabbatical from the press to allow time for self reflection would be in order. In the meantime let’s hope these tragic losses result in some meaning reflection within the community so that we can pull something positive out of this tragedy.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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 to deal with the root cause of their own issues and problems. We only have ourselves to look at in the mirror. Bashing and lashing out at the failings of others is his way of never having to deal with his own failings. #RecoveryNarcissism.

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

  9. 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 people who might be using meth or cocaine can test their “supply” with these trips and avoid ingesting drugs that might be contaminated by the lethal Fentanyl. THAT is the point that Duran was trying to make, and trying to prevent any other lethal poisonings from Fentanyl contamination. Whether you like Duran or not, the caution that local meth and cocaine should be TESTED by users with Fentanyl-detecting strips before ingesting is the public health message that should be shared. This precaution could end up saving lives, when the recent Fentanyl-poisoning victims were not. Let us PLEASE focus on this Harm Reduction action! All the other “controversy” discussion is a topic for another time. Safety First! Please, no more dead (gay) men from Fentanyl poisoning: it CAN be prevented!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. 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 if he assumed that they were gay, even though I’m hearing that they were not. He should have left that part out. I’m not even sure why it would be relevant, either way.

      “Party” goes with the territory, if one is using blow or meth. I would attribute that word to drinking, also. Or using any substance. I make no judgments on people who choose to use substances, I just want them to do it as safely as possible, so they don’t die.

      Perhaps his motivation with his post was some grandstanding and bragging about pushing the fentanyl testing through our government. Regardless of whether or not he was trying to stroke his own ego, I do believe the main intent of this post was to warn the community. This is an epidemic.

      Maybe it was too soon for him to make these comments? Maybe he should have left out the assumption fo their sexual orientation? Maybe he shouldn’t have used the word “party?” Maybe he should have waited until all of the facts were in before posting anything, at all? Although, on the last one, he did acknowledge that he didn’t know if fentanyl poisoning was the case.

      But I believe his main intention was to warn the community, and I believe that based on his recent behavior and reputation, people are ready to jump on him, no matter what he does.

      All of this said, has it been verified if fentanyl was the cause, yet? We might not know for weeks, or months, because of toxicology reports.


  10. 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 have a good time “ just so you can come up with a stupid story …. a women just lost her son ! Her baby boy was taken from her and you have the nerve to spread false statements as her sons last memory to the public. That’s gross in so many ways and so inhuman. My cousin was not gay… and even if he was what does announcing that even matter ? My cousin loved so hard . And had the biggest heart for anyone. He loved his family so much and loved to laugh and make people laugh and was taken too soon !
    Instead of throwing your false statements around why not send out condolences to the families who just lost their loved ones!
    Rest In Peace my baby cousin. I got you always. Love you
    RyAnn Lopez

    1. 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.

  11. 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 it never seems to give up. Not al men, but Duran Suran seems to have enoughidiocy for an entire gender. He needs to give up. He is beginning to resemble that fool in DC and that is not a good thing to resemble.

  12. 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 where there are apparently more questions than answers. Looking forward to future WEHOville reporting on this situation.

  13. Just shut up and retire John Duran you have become a bloody embarrassment to the community. How much time and energy do your friends have to put out to apologize for you.

  14. What’s the reason for the Sheriff’s Station to give non-public information like this to City Council? Is there a public safety case to be made?

    If John Duran has released non-public information via his social media accounts before, why does the Sheriff’s Station continue to provide non-public info to City Council, when there’s a good chance the info will be leaked?

      1. How is giving Stormy Daniels a key to the city a “local issue”. Why did he waste time and energy on that?

      2. No, it is because the other four have more common sense and don’t have the need to be in the limelight all the time. Duran is a narcissist like Trump.

  15. Hello my name is Danielle Massaro a cousin of Devon Bergman and I have to say I am extremely disappointed with the writers of the article. You keep missing the point of why his loved ones are upset with you and the councilman. You both have used his life and the other gentleman to fit both of your agendas. Don’t you understand that we tragically just lost someone who barely began his life? And to top all that in the second article this young man is not even my cousin the picture or the facts. Please stop with the assumptions, agendas and get your facts straight. This is someone’s best friend, nephew, cousin, brother and son. A human being who loved the philadelphia eagles, a future chef , always smiled when he entered room , always left his loved ones with “I love you.” Please be respectful to my cousin, the other gentlemen who lost his life and the young man who you assumed was my cousin because you didn’t get the facts straight. Please keep this in consideration that no matter what the circumstances these are people’s lives and loved ones…Thank you!

    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Danielle, and that even the tragedy of these two men becomes a story about this disgusting narcissist who cannot keep from bringing the attention to himself. The original article should never even have acknowledged the unwarranted remarks by him and kept the focus on the facts. I hope in the future Wehoville limits the coverage they give to him because it reinforces that what he has to say carries weight.

    2. Danielle, I too am sorry for your loss and any additional pain our community continues to cause the families and friends of these two men whose lives have both been cut far too short. May the little time their friends and families spent with them sharing smiles, laughs, a good meal, and caring words be the memories that give those who knew them the strength and comfort through this sadness. The families of both men are in my thoughts.

    3. Danielle, thank you. I’m so sorry for your loss.

      Our community would be better served by not having media coverage of this Facebook post such as Duran’s, which just perpetuates what Duran said. I read this publication almost every day, and no sitting Councilmember is covered as much as Duran, despite the fact that three of the other four post on Facebook on a regular basis. Hank, please give this a rest. Once again, you determine what is “news,” and you seem to give way more attention to anything Duran does or says than any other Councilmember. I say this in no way of defense of Duran, including his words or actions. In this case, fact-checking would have been a nice thing to do, considering that people just lost a loved one. I would argue that not everything a Councilmember posts on social media qualifies as “news.” But more attention seems to be paid to Duran than anyone else. Even if this is bringing attention to his grandstanding.

      If Duran is making grandiose, inaccurate assumptions with a post like this, this is just feeding the monster by covering it, and hurting the deceased loved ones in the process. Danielle has verified that to be true.

  16. John Duran has an addictive need to magnetize himself and his ego to these sad situations which may or may not attach to addiction and its sad manifestations. His glamming for the spotlight robs families of their private moments of grief. This is about political ego, and quite honestly anyone at this point who doesn’t recognize that this is his primary pursuit is a fool.

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