Readers’ Thoughts

Published in: May-June 2013 issue.

Attica Inmate’s Background Checked

To the Editor:

I was not familiar with the background of Dean A. Faiello, the incarcerated author of “Life Inside” in the March-April 2013 issue, when I read the essay. I took the piece at face value and found it to be one of the most authentic and powerful pieces of writing I’ve seen from a gay man. It’s direct, eloquent, honest, insightful, observant, and real. In my opinion, too much “gay” writing is filtered through various lenses, including the lens of what is considered “politically correct” by the dominant educated (and dare I say bourgeois?) LGBT elite who control the discourse.

Faiello, by contrast, offers a refreshing candor that doesn’t give a fig for the judgment of the elite. His comment, “Gay men hone their humor to hide their pain,” goes straight to the very heart of the “camp” described in the next essay (“On the Persistence of Camp”) in this issue.

Something the author never mentions, and that I wanted to know: why was he incarcerated in Attica, a maximum-security prison? He had obviously been there for some years, but never offers the reason or discloses how much longer his sentence will last.

A bit of on-line sleuthing led to a rather shocking discovery. According to The New York Times and other sources, Faiello is serving a twenty-year sentence after being charged with second-degree murder in the 2003 death of 35-year-old financial analyst Maria Cruz. Faiello had “treated” Ms. Cruz while passing himself off as a dermatologist in Manhattan. She died from an apparent reaction to the local anesthesia lidocaine that Faiello injected into her tongue in preparation for a bit of illegal surgery to remove a dark mark.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Faiello was charged with putting Ms. Cruz’s body in a large wheeled suitcase to get it out of his friend’s apartment building, where he had set up his cosmetology business. He then buried the suitcase containing the body in the concrete floor of the garage at his house in Newark, New Jersey—the night before he closed on its sale to a new owner. On bail after his arrest for practicing medicine without a license, Faiello fled the country for Costa Rica, where he lived lavishly until being extradited to New York for prosecution. The lengthy prison sentence was worked out in a 2006 plea agreement in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser charge of first-degree assault “under conditions evincing a depraved indifference to human life.”

Something else Faiello never mentions in the piece, though it was noted by the Times, is that he is HIV-positive. It’s hard enough living with HIV on the “outside,” but life “inside” with the virus is hellish by all accounts I’ve seen.

Knowing what I now know about Dean Faiello, I thought again about his essay. Given his history of duplicity, recounted in detail in a lengthy 2004 Vanity Fair story (“Nightmare on Elmwood Avenue”), I would like to believe what he writes is truly as genuine and honest as I found it to be before I knew about his past. I would also like to believe it is an important part of his personal redemption.

Thank you for publishing this excellent piece of writing by an obviously gifted writer.

John-Manuel Andriote, Norwich, CT

Editor’s Note: I agree that Mr. Faiello’s piece—which describes the life of one gay inmate—stands on its own merits, regardless of the reason for the writer’s incarceration. Indeed I made a point of not running a search on the author until after going to press with the issue, at which point I discovered the Wikipedia article, the press coverage, and the details of the crimes for which he was charged and convicted. Given the publicity surrounding the case during and after Mr. Faiello’s trial, including a lengthy article in Vanity Fair, I see no reason to withhold this information from our readers. If anything, I think these sources confirm the veracity of the writer’s basic claims: that he is who he says he says he is, that he has been held at Attica Correctional Facility for over seven years, and even that he was a “proud gay man,” however ethically compromised, before the whirl of events that landed him in prison.

Camp’s Epitome Overlooked

To the Editor:

Regarding the article, “On the Persistence of Camp” [March-April 2013 issue], I am puzzled by the author’s lack of mention of what seems to me the epitome of camp as it exists in the 21st century: The Producers. Both the play and the movie are pure camp, and way more so than most of the author’s references, with the possible exception of one of my favorites, that masterpiece of camp, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Even the original Mel Brooks movie, The Producers of 1968, was a wonderful mélange of campy performances and dialogue. Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel were even better than Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. If you enjoyed the recent play and movie versions, I highly recommend that you rent the original movie, which holds up very well, to see the pinnacle of camp.

Stuart A. Miner, Vero Beach, FL

The Wisdom of Aaron Swartz

To the Editor:

Sexuality isn’t a box with the lid on tight, argues [the late]Aaron Swartz forcefully in his guest opinion piece (“Why I Am Not Gay”) [in the March-April issue]. Although it’s true, as the Review editor says in taking issue with Swartz, that gay rights were attained because “people were willing to own the label,” it’s also true that labeling has a downside: It can box people in and inhibit their freedom to explore.

As most of us know, coming to terms with who we are sexually can be an emotionally arduous road, especially felt when we are young. Our sexual identity hinges on both how we feel and how we act. And for some, that may differ from one day to the next. It’s human to want to embrace a fixed identity, but the truth of who we are—a mix of conflicting desires—suggests it isn’t always possible.

Complexity and contradiction, sexual and otherwise, are part of our humanity, as is a certain degree of fluidity and ambiguity. Instead of denying it, we should, as Swartz wisely seems to be getting at, celebrate it.

James Cassell, Silver Spring, MD

Clifton Webb’s Real Role

To the Editor:

Thank you for your interesting review of the Clifton Webb autobiography, Sitting Pretty [by Cassandra Langer, Jan.-Feb. 2013]. I’m sure I’m not the only person to point out one rather glaring mistake. Webb did not play a father in the movie Sitting Pretty; he was a babysitter / housekeeper hired by a suburban couple. Robert Young was the father in the movie.

What makes the film especially delightful is Webb’s rivalry with a flamingly gay neighbor who lives with his mother and is preoccupied with raising irises and savoring local gossip. Clifton Webb is prominently mentioned in the smutty but entertaining autobiography of Scotty Bowers [Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Lives of the Stars, 2012], who was a male prostitute in Hollywood in the 1940s and ’50s.

Jeff Hanna, Fresno, CA