I will never forget this story. But not just because Larry King was murdered.
Because as foul as King’s murder, was his character assassination. With King no longer alive to defend or explain himself, those with an interest in casting him in the role of ‘evil homosexual vampire’ faced little opposition. Instead, a chorus of defenders of the neo-Nazi sociopath – from sources that still leave me amazed – leaped at the opportunity to portray Larry as a predator who (as jurors put it) “tormented McInerney to the breaking point” by flirting. Oh, clarification: “aggressive flirting”.
To be honest, there have been times during this ordeal that I have felt like I am the only person attempting to speak on Larry’s behalf.
The first to hint that King got what he had coming was Ramin Setoodeh, a Newsweek gossip writer who went to Oxnard, spoke with the defense counsel and some homophobic teachers and then breathlessly told the world that Larry “flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon.” Why? It’s hard to tell. Maybe laziness, maybe he was gullible. But to me, Setoodeh seems to be the sort of effeminate gay man that can’t wait for the opportunity to demean some gay guy one lisp more effeminate than he is. And this was his big break so he really needed something juicy, girl!
Then came the defense counsel who went on full scale public image campaign to downplay the fact that McInerney had tormented King for years, was dabbling with neo-Nazi ideology, and had publicly threatened to kill King. He clearly broadcast his intention to conduct a full-on gay panic defense, and that is what he did, both in the press and in the courtroom. He painted a picture of tiny Larry King leering and sexually assaulting the much bigger, much stronger, much more popular athlete. And, aside from the prosecutors, no one called him on this absurdity.
The newspapers jumped in playing up King’s gender play, never omitting a reference of King showing up in school in “women’s boots” and “full make-up” while avoiding the fact that the school had a dress policy that King adhered to faithfully. In fact, they seemed to forget that King showed up in school with eye make-up only and that occasionally, and that a teacher counseled him to tone it down. Catherine Saillant, the LA Times reporter covering the story, invariably goes for titillation and context is her victim. Were King alive – or were there anyone alive to represent him – he’d have a good case for libel or at least for editorial restructuring. But like it or not, homophobic snickering – especially that which includes non-gender-typical behavior – sells newspapers and without anyone to demand honesty the pattern continues.
GLAAD, the one organization that exists for the purpose of opposing defamation, had other priorities. It was busy being very very careful that gay-supportive allies are sternly lectured about using the word “fag” and nagging pro-gay businesses about advertising on Fox News (it’s biased, you see). From my search, this is what I found that GLAAD had to say about the deceptive news coverage and the snicker snicker chuckle chuckle way in which Larry was presented as though he were Charles Busch in a classic role: ” … ” I guess it just wasn’t as important as tsk tsking Glee for using the word “tranny” (maybe they should have said “chasing the boys around the school in high heels, teetering as he ran” instead; that seems to be okay).
And much of the rest of the gay community felt sorry that a 14 year old was facing a possible life sentence. So no one wanted to fan the flames. It’s a tragedy for everyone. Poor Brandon was a “victim” too. Well… at least ’til the Hitler books and Nazi propaganda turned up and then there was mostly just silence.
But the greatest betrayal has been from King’s “family”. I put family in quotations because these people have not ever behaved in a manner that reminds me of family – not even my severely dysfunctional family. Greg and Dawn King, who adopted Larry at age three claimed he Larry never bonded with them. And in November 2007 he was removed from their home and placed in a group home after he complained that Gregory King was physically abusive.
But while a living Larry wasn’t much value to the Kings, a dead one was a good source of cash. And, indeed, the Kings happily sued everyone in sight from the school to his social workers. Their theory: Larry’s flamboyance was the reason he was killed so anyone who didn’t stifle him is to blame. From all I can tell weighing Larry’s reputation against a big check was not a difficult call for them; they were named “King” and they wanted to live like it.
Yesterday Greg King was back in court in full swing: (from the Hedda Hopperish LA Times coverage by Saillant)
The father, though, reserved his harshest words for the Hueneme Elementary School District, which operates the junior high school where his 15-year-old son was shot twice in the back of the head on Feb. 12, 2008, by McInerney in front of stunned classmates.
Educators knew that his son had a history of acting provocatively for attention, yet they did nothing to stop King after he started going to E.O. Green Junior High School in women’s high-heeled boots and makeup and began aggressively flirting with boys, the father said. The middle school student had been removed from his home for unspecified reasons and was in foster care.
Instead of protecting him from his “poor impulse control,” King’s father said, “they enabled and encouraged him to become more and more provocative,” putting him in an unsafe position.
Though he holds McInerney responsible for shooting his son, King said the school’s response since the shooting has been despicable.
District leaders have made no changes in policy or procedures, saying they are unnecessary because the school’s staff followed the law in allowing Larry to augment his school uniform with women’s accessories. To date, no formal changes have been made, although the school district paid $25,000 toward a $255,000 civil lawsuit settlement for King’s family.
I’m sorry, Larry King.
Your life sucked. Your school sucked. Your parents sucked. And now you’re dead.
I wish I could say that we have learned something or grown somehow or that it wasn’t all in vain. I can’t.
But I do care. If no one else out there says it, I will. I care that a kid was picked on and had no family to turn to. I care that he was the target of another boy whose heart was dark and who delighted in torment. I care that his solution was to fight back the only way he could, by mouthing off and challenging convention. And I care that this showed tremendous character for refusing to be the victim, for refusing to cower, for refusing to let someone else’s hate fill him with shame.
And I care that one day that kid showed up in school – wearing boys shoes and no accessories or make up, incidentally – and sat down in computer class. And I care that someone being schooled in formalized hate pulled out a gun and put two bullets into the back of that kid’s head because he dared to show no shame . And I care that after that kid, after you Larry, were executed and after your lifeless body was buried, that it wasn’t enough. That adults executed your character for their own financial gain.
I won’t forget you, little effeminate boy who somehow – when those who are supposed to care and support you failed you – found the courage to be yourself and then were attacked, killed, and then maligned for it. I won’t forget you.