American Crime Story
I don’t know how it’s possible to have two songs stuck in my head at once, but after this episode, both Phil Collins’s “Easy Lover” and Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” are competing for the space between my ears. The idea of Andrew Cunanan singing “Gloria” while wagging his head out of the window like a labradoodle on the way to the park just seems incredibly reckless, no? How can one possible drive like that? How many crashes do you think Darren Criss got in before they finally got the shot they needed?
Anyway, Cunanan’s insistence on turning the radio station away from the tales of his crime and finding a little bit of escapist beauty is one of the keys to his off-kilter personality. He’s always looking for it, even in the portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the lobby of the disgustingly seedy Normandy Plaza hotel. (Only $29.99 a night! There’s always a vacancy!) He does it again while laying out all of the Versace magazine ads around him on the hotel’s disgusting carpet, and yet again when he recalls Versace’s “proposal” to him while bathing in a public shower on the beach.
Cunanan is obviously destitute and on the run, but that doesn’t stop him from living in his own fantasy world, where everything is fantastic and he is going to walk out of his discount motel and be discovered on the beach and get carted away to a life of fame and luxury. “I don’t see something nice,” he tells his new friend Ronnie about Versace’s clothing. “I see the man behind it. I see a great creator. I see the man I could have been.” That’s the key right there. Andrew thinks that nothing separates him from Versace when everything is what separates them.
With this episode, it becomes clear that the action of the series is moving backward and forward at the same time. While we’re dealing with the aftermath of Versace’s shooting and the hunt to find Cunanan, we’re also seeing Donatella grappling with her brother’s death and her desire to take control of the company. However, we’re also moving backward in both men’s lives, finding out how they intersected on that deadly doorstep by slowly retracing their steps.
For Andrew, we find out that he was hanging out in Miami for about a month, chilling with crackhead Ronnie and turning tricks with old men on the beach. The “Easy Lover” scene is by far the best so far, too: The song is a little bit on the nose for Cunanan’s appointment with a married, older businessman from out of town, but that is the camp genius of it. We see Andrew, in his underwear and a blousy open shirt, swanning about while his lover nearly suffocates under a hood of duct tape. Andrew is telling his lover to submit to him; he wants control because he feels so absolutely out of control of the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Andrew’s friendship with Ronnie is odd. He needs someone who he can impress and who will make him feel superior, but it also seems like he’s grasping for connection anywhere he can find it. Ronnie is happy to oblige. After all, Andrew is attractive, glamorous, carrying drugs, and willing to cut Ronnie in on his escort money for doing nothing at all.
There’s an interesting parallel between Ronnie and Versace here: They both thought they were going to die of AIDS and then were revitalized thanks to advances in medication that happened in the ‘90s. Gianni had gotten very ill, an illness that was kept from the public, and Donatella blamed his philandering lover Antonio for bringing men into their life and possibly causing Gianni to contract HIV. “If you would have given him anything, I would have given him respect, but you have given him nothing,” she tells Antonio.
Donatella is also grappling with the knowledge that she isn’t the genius that her brother is. She castigates him for letting designers like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen steal the spotlight from him and pushes him to be more modern. He says his clothes need to come from his emotions. They decide to each dress a few models in his upcoming show and they’ll see how people react. Of course, everyone loves Gianni’s clothes and they merely mumble when Donatella’s models saunter down the runway.
At home, Antonio is trying his best to have his cake and eat twinks’ asses too. We see Antonio romping in bed with several beauties (speaking of beauties, Ricky Martin’s butt!) while Gianni sits nearby and sketches. Antonio thought they were procuring men for them both, but it’s not what Gianni wants anymore. In the morning, Antonio says he wants to marry Gianni, though this was long before marriage equality was even a glimmer in the eye of the Human Rights Campaign. Gianni brilliantly retorts, “You can say that in the morning, but can you say it in the evening?”
That brings us to Twist. Twist is one of the all-time greatest gay dance clubs in the world. It’s still in operation in Miami and almost directly behind where Versace’s house was at the time. It’s a large, sprawling club with multiple dance floors on various levels and a small shack in the courtyard where brawny Latin men in banana hammocks offer lap dances for $20 a pop. God, Twist is major. This episode was not filmed in the real Twist, but it will have to do.
Anyway, Andrew and Gianni almost collide at Twist the night before their fatal encounter. Andrew initially sees Gianni fighting with a drag impersonator of Donatella, then runs home to get his gun to kill the designer while he knows he’s in residence. Instead, Gianni and Antonio take off for Twist to bask in the recognition of being local gay celebrities and maybe bring home a shirtless circuit boy or two. But Antonio doesn’t want them anymore, and they have a moment of affection where he finally declares that he wants Gianni at night too.
Cunanan heads to Twist as well, but they don’t quite meet up. This, as it happens, also shows how the FBI has been screwing up the manhunt for Cunanan because they don’t understand the gay community. When they roll into Miami, the local police tell them that the spots popular with the gay community are Twist and the 12th Street Beach, the two places we’ve seen Andrew hang out. But instead, they want to focus in Fort Lauderdale, thinking that he’ll be looking for older, wealthy gentlemen to take advantage of. If only they had bothered to listen and staked out at Twist and the beach, Cunanan wouldn’t have kept escaping like he did when the guy at the deli recognized him from America’s Most Wanted.
Instead, we see Andrew finally make his way into Twist, where, unable to find Gianni, he loses himself on the dance floor. He’s quickly approached by a handsome young man who asks him what he does. Andrew spews all of his lies, manufacturing all of those gossamer webs that he’s been spinning all at once. Rather than luring this man into his web, it repels him, his insanity driving him away. Then he finally says, “I’m the one least likely to be forgotten.” It is the only true thing he says in the whole episode.