A typical midweek night will see me propped up in bed binge watching a premium-cable show flanked by Buster and Aussie, my butch roommate’s chihuahuas. While the show putters in the background, I’m likely also surfing current affairs online, and might have a chat-room window on an obscure gay website open, where a group of Gheys and transgendered women from all over the world I’ve been chatting with since the late 90s gather. Every now and then I might remember to check my ‘lobster traps’, as I call the half dozen dating sites where I keep profiles.
I get a wicked, Mean Girls pleasure from cutting and pasting emails guys send me on dating sites in the main chat room, sometimes along with their pictures for added effect. It’s an ongoing shtick of mine that stirs up as many chuckles from my virtual friends as it does admonishing clucks from my enemies, whom I call The Aunties.
Gay online dating has changed since I first started connecting with people online, back when Al Gore invented the internet. Apps like Grindr and Scruff now dominate where Adam4Adam and Manhunt once held sway in the mid-noughties. Before that, it was Gay.com and Gaydar. The blessing in disguise for me is neither Grindr nor Scruff make apps for BlackBerry, the smartphone I use. (Yes, BlackBerry still exists. I even have an updated version that does everything an iPhone or the others do. I guess the good fairies at Grindr and Scruff have decided no self-respecting homo still uses BlackBerry. Bless them, for I do have better things I ought to be getting on with.)
Many of my male friends are former hook-ups or lovers I met online pre-dominion of Grindr and Scruff. I met my former romantic partner of six years, Jonathan Kemp, on Gaydar. I met my current roommate on Manhunt. I met my evil twin and former roommate, John Wood the Plumber, with whom I have never had sex but have shared a boy or two, in a chat room on Gay.com.
Nowadays, however, I’m generally fishing and throwing the catch back in the water. Is it an ego trip just to see if I can still attract guys, particularly younger men? That’s probably a part of it. It’s also largely habit and boredom, combined with a smattering of non-addictive habit. Whatever it is, I haven’t met someone from an online dating site since I went on my BDSM adventure almost six months ago.
In the middle of May this year, I met an unusual guy on the embarrassingly named Daddyhunt.com (the app is called Mister, which is even worse — I loathe being called ‘mister’), “the largest gay personals site for daddies, bears and guys that love them.” He was certainly my type: mid-30s, clearly masculine, tall, good-looking, tattooed and pierced. He was in Tucson, AZ, which isn’t too far from L.A., but actually a world away, no place I would ever venture unless it was for work. A safe distance, as they say.
When a guy might be too good to be true, the first thing you do is reverse check his profile pictures with Google Image; there are a lot of fakes online, guys who get into “cyber sex,” erotic chat that isn’t my bag at all. I find fakes creepy. I have no desire to cover up who I am even in middle age, and the few guys I do meet in real life are just as eager to show themselves and as unafraid to be who they really are as I am.
The Google Image search revealed this guy to be a rock musician named Jonathan Russell. Ordinarily I would have moved on immediately, but when the profile location matches where Google Image says the person is, then it’s the first sign that this might be real. Russell is the lead singer of the band Stands With Fists, they were all over Google and YouTube, and they were based in Tucson, as the profile said.
I’m a semi-pubic person myself. You can reverse Google Image the photographs in my lobster-trap profiles and find that I’m a filmmaker living in L.A., the founder of Pure Film Creative, etcetera. I revel in my transparency; it’s empowering to have the balls to be who you really are in the shadowy backrooms of the Internet — not many people do it.
Among other things, being who I really am means I don’t take myself so seriously; I would be ashamed if I ever did that. As someone who creates content, who lives so much of his life online, hiding who I am anywhere, even on a dating site, would be like wearing sunglasses at night in a dark gay bar because I imagine I’m too cool and famous.
It made perfect sense to me that Jonathan Russell would feel the same way.
In his profile, Russell enjoined people to contact him and to provide an email address for more pictures and videos. I took up the invitation. My opening line was something like, “Jonathan Russell, huh? You have a beautiful voice.” I’d watched a video of him singing, and indeed Russell has a great voice. I gave him the email address I use for cruising and other stuff I don’t need directed to my phone, like Obama’s fundraising efforts and news updates from histrionic liberal websites whose petitions I’ve filled out in rare humanitarian moments.
I logged off, didn’t think about it further. At some point I received an email from Russell with a bunch of pictures and some videos of him rehearsing with his band. It was intimate phonecam stuff, nothing you could ever pull from online. He was a vivacious, fascinating character. A bit tall for me at 6’6”, but here was a masculine fellow creative who, like me, didn’t give a shit about being himself online. I was even given a number to text, with a Tucson area code. I’ve been online for almost twenty years now, I’ve navigated fakes aplenty. This was very likely the real thing.
Things picked up once we started texting. What a tsunami of energy this guy was, and he was so eager to be with me. He sent me pictures and videos of him blowing glass sculptures, of the two kids he had with a “baby mama” who had been his surrogate. The information was so fast, so open, so complete. An open book. Just like me.
The conversation turned to sex. He had read my profile, which begins with the blunt mission statement, “I’m on top. You’re not. That’s the law of the jungle, so roll over.” Russell hadn’t been with a lot of men, and he was painfully shy about meeting new ones. He’d had one long-term relationship with a man old enough to be his father — hence his presence on Daddyhunt — which ended tragically.
He also said he travelled frequently to L.A. for gigs. That was making things realer for an actual encounter, which I was ambivalent about; remember, I’m fishing, throwing the catch back in the water, not actually boiling and eating my lobsters. If you’ve read any of my relationship articles, you know that I’m emotionally invested elsewhere, heavily.
Pictures continued to flow fast and furious, peppering Russell’s lively, humorous, intelligent texts. His body was spectacular. The man was a god. But I have a lot of experience topping muscleheads who are bigger than me, and it’s a huge effort to satisfy these guys. As I like to taunt my macho straight friends, “Do you have any idea what it takes to satisfy 6’4” and 250 pounds of muscle?” I have injured myself trying. In middle age, I’m happy with a sexy hobbit; he’s easier on the lower back, doesn’t destroy your hips riding you in cowgirl position. (I once walked like a crab for three days after aggressive marathon sex with a massive Texan personal trainer who must’ve thought he was riding every wild bull at the rodeo.)
Russell almost lost me when he showed me his cock shots. These are inevitable once sexting gets to a certain point, and we were now two hours into this conversation, entirely fueled by his enthusiasm. Russell really wanted me to like him. It was flattering. But the eleven-incher he showed me was a mistake for a bad Ghey like me. Unlike most of Homolandia, I am actually turned off by men who are too hung. (I also never show cock shots of my own; I’m too bourgeois for that.)
He wasn’t to know my about my horror of huge dick, or magnaphallophobia. I’m used to being one of the few guys who doesn’t like men much bigger than I am. On one level, the alpha competitiveness that makes me a ‘total top’ to begin with is threatened by the appearance of a monster like that. On the other, I just don’t know what to do with it. I’m at a loss as to how to entertain this. Here I am expecting an intimate spaghetti Bolognese dinner for two, and it suddenly becomes a three-course banquet for a dozen guests. I panic. I stop enjoying the experience: so much good meat wasted on someone who doesn’t want it, when so many in Homolandia are starving for it.
Still, Russell was so charming, so full of great energy. I soldiered on with him. After close to four hours of these texts, saturated with binge-TV, I called it a night. Russell was still bouncing around. “Tell me you love me,” he said. This was absurd. I certainly had a crush on him. But ‘love’ is the Middle-East conflict of words. I’m too blunt to humor people; lies make me nauseous and disgusted with myself. But I’m also too polite to leave someone I’ve been talking to in the most intimate of ways for so long by just switching him off. And is love really such a big deal, especially in the virtual world? Shouldn’t it be spread as easily as peanut butter? I am a child of the 60s and 70s, after all, and love was a ubiquitous brand back then.
“Okay,” I texted, finally. “I love you.” Satisfied, he said goodnight.
The next day, I downloaded the images Russell had texted me to my laptop, including the obelisk cock shots. I reverse image searched the ones that didn’t include his head — i.e., all of his body and dick shots — and, sure enough, it turns out they were lifted from Tumblr. It was now highly probable that Russell was fake. I was impressed far more than I was disappointed; the level and complexity of his deception is enviable for someone who makes a living creating fiction out of real life.
I’m a big believer in Occam’s razor, that when presented with two plausible possibilities as an explanation for something, the simpler of the two is correct. The simpler in this case was that this was identity theft. Still, I had to be sure just to close it out, and because now I admired this rather fabulous fabulist, whoever he really was.
In the past when I have discovered elaborate profiles on gay websites created using images clearly stolen from high-profile straight men, I don’t even bother interacting with the fakers, much less chat with them for four hours via text. I report them to the site and then contact the real person directly on Facebook to let him know that some warped homo is out there impersonating him. Again, this concept of assuming another identity is particularly creepy and alien to someone like me: when I signed up to the online virtual world Second Life, I spent three hours perfecting my avatar to look exactly like me. I could have been anything in my imagination — a phoenix feathered in flames, a warrior god the size of a mountain — but, no, I could only be myself. That’s exotic enough as it is.
Porn models and other professional Gheys having their pictures stolen I don’t care about. Straight guys with families I do; if I were one of them, I’d be fucking furious.
Just out of curiosity, I reverse Googled the impersonator’s email address, the from which I was originally sent pictures and videos. It was listed to a Molly Passmore, who lived in Tucson. But things got murky quickly: Molly Passmore was a friend of Jonathan Russell’s on Facebook. In fact, it appeared she worked with him. Was the real Russell using her email account? Occam’s razor wasn’t nearly as sharp as it was a few minutes before.
Rather than just shooting Russell a message on Facebook warning him about the theft, I decided to add him as a friend. I reasoned that if he added me, he was real, if he didn’t, I was duped by a fake. But what about this Molly Passmore? At the very least Russell had to explain that, fake or real.
An hour later, Ding!, Russell added me as a friend. So he was probably real. How strange. I sent him a message: “How’s it going? Who is Molly Passmore?”
“Hi. I believe that is our producers ex girlfriend of a week or so,” he replied.
Already something wasn’t right. I am a dramatist, I know characters, I am sensitive to speech patterns. This didn’t sound anything like the person with whom I’d texted the night before. “You know who I am, right?” I wrote. “We chatted online and via text until 3 AM last night?”
Silence. And that silence told me that I had been conned. The real Jon Russell was clearly confused, no doubt creeped out. I dove into Daddyhunt and grabbed a screenshot of his fake profile, which was still trending as one of the five most popular profiles on the site:
In a torrent both embarrassed and outraged, I explained everything to Jon, how elaborate and believable this backstory was, the pictures and videos of his kids, band members, celebrity friends. And that wild story about how he had been in a BDSM relationship from the age of sixteen with a man who was forty-five — this is why he was looking for an older man online. After twelve blissful years together, that man had died in a horrific traffic accident, bled to death in his young lover’s arms, after which apparently Jon, deranged with grief, had assaulted the police officers who arrived on the scene, which landed him a few months in county lockup.
There was a reason I spoke to this person until 3 AM; his drama was more riveting than the premium-cable show I was watching simultaneously.
It’s one thing to find out you’ve been duped by some lonely old perv who just wants attention, who is driven so loony by his loneliness and sadness that he creates an elaborate identity to roleplay online. The fact this was a woman who knew the man she was impersonating made the whole incident both more fascinating from a pathological level, and substantially creepier. There’s a reason we got into the story about his/her BDSM relationship with the older man: we were discussing the pervy things I would do to her, thinking she was a he. I don’t have a transcript of our entire conversation, but at the very least I must have used a line I stole from the classic German submarine movie Das Boot about entwining my mustache with “his” butt hairs; I always use that line. And there must have been graphic talk about rope and edging techniques.
I am not gay because I want to say these things to women, forget about actually doing them. While I was chatting with the real Jon, somewhere inside me a pre-pubescent boy squirmed, yelled, “Ew! Ick! Girl! Cooties!!!” and ran off to take a long cleansing bath.
The real Jon was a mensch about it. It would not have been homophobic of him to feel grossed out that someone pretending to be him had been virtually tied up and sodomized by a muscular, 6’3”, 210-pound middle-aged ‘daddy’ who routinely compares himself to Odin, or Lord Shiva the Destroyer when he’s particularly moody.
Ironically, Jon and I really bonded over this. As I review our Facebook chat, it reveals that we quickly saw the humor in the freak show of it.
Scarlett Rouge had just posted a fantastic article on this site about how when people Google her they either get a hooker or an obese porno diva currently doing time for murder, whose niche specialty is getting porked while she’s eating. I offered to write this article as a companion piece to that, and make identity a theme for the week, but it wouldn’t have any impact if I couldn’t use Jon’s real name. Understandably, Jon declined; he didn’t want to piss her off, and this was more my problem than his, if it was really any problem at all. I wandered off to other subjects as fast as I closed the chat window with Jon on Facebook.
Still, over the weeks that followed, we built up an appreciation for each other. If I lived in Tucson or if he lived in L.A., Jonathan Russell and I would likely be friends. He is the fascinating, fun, energetic, outsized character in the videos and pictures that Molly Passmore appropriated and sent to me. I haven’t met him yet in real life, but we will; all musicians drift to L.A. at some point. Even if there will be none of the romance promised online, I prefer the real-life version: he posts some wickedly humorous stuff on Facebook; his life is interesting, full, as colorful as his bizarre glass sculptures.
The pathology of Molly Passmore’s mental derangement — and it is clearly that — is likewise fascinating. To begin with, she had vested Jon with the unlikely persona of the submissive bottom, and had done it realistically because she is a woman. This isn’t to say that male bottoms are women or even feminine; I only sleep with extremely masculine men, I get pleasure from dominating them. It’s a blatant manifestation of a reverse Oedipal complex: my father is macho. As a woman, Molly Passmore understood the pleasures of being dominated by a man and conveyed that believably in her characterization of Jonathan Russell.
The reason you are reading this is two more men she has duped contacted Jon recently, and he agreed to let me use his name in this piece. Who knows how many more are out there who were too embarrassed by what happened, too daunted by the real man to contact him. What would make a mother of two do this, repeatedly, obsessively, over months? That is a question for Molly Passmore’s psychiatrist. And she shouldn’t fuck around; she needs some serious therapy, probably medication. Anti-psychotics?
Apparently Molly Passmore was engaged to Jon’s producer, but he broke it off when he caught her out on a bunch of lies. It’s reasonable to assume she is a pathological liar, which is either a symptom of a personality disorder, perhaps sociopathic, or it’s own disease. A quick dip into Google reveals that it is a complex behavior pattern. Psychiatrictimes.com says:
It has been observed that pathological liars believe their lies to the extent that the belief may be delusional. As a result, PL has been referred to as a “wish psychosis.” Furthermore, PL has also been described as impulsive and unplanned. These observations have raised doubts about the pathological liar’s ability to fully control his or her lying behavior. The relative purposelessness of the lies, including the intangible benefits of false accusations or self-incrimination, and the repetitive nature of the lies, despite negative consequences to the liar’s reputation and livelihood, further encourage doubts about the liar’s ability to control his behavior.”
We know that Molly Passmore craves to be loved; it’s the one thing she needed from me, the entire purpose of the four-hour conversation. She is willing to go to enormous lengths for this love fix, even is it is an illusion. She is even willing to change her gender, her sexual orientation.
At first I assumed this was some retribution against her producer, and perhaps Jon Russell. And perhaps there is some of that there. But I suspect there is this love addiction element, too.
Molly Passmore chose the most charismatic character she had ever met, a Dionysian rocker who entices everyone he encounters into his particular cosmic dance. And he doesn’t need to do much, just be himself. Jonathan Russell is very well loved, adored, but Molly Passmore isn’t. A vampire, she needs to feed on the love that is denied her, of which Jon has a surplus.
It’s sad. And we all feel very sorry for those kids of hers; what else could be festering in this woman’s mind?
Who knows if she wanted me to write this. She certainly knew who I was from the outset; during our discussion about BDSM, I sent her a link to my serialized piece about learning how to be a bondage dom, The Story of S. She knew that if I was willing to write about that experience, I will write about almost anything that happens to me. But no doubt she couldn’t help herself, couldn’t control herself, even if she did fear exposure and doesn’t want this article out there, drawing Google searches for her name.
I didn’t really want a romance with Jonathan Russell even when he was the masculine submissive bottom buck created by Molly Passmore. I didn’t mean it when I said I loved him — I am not that needy, that love deprived; on the contrary. I happened to find something interesting in my lobster traps one night while watching TV and regaling my online friends with salty quotes from those traps, but I never intended for it to move out of the virtual world. It appears the other men Molly Passmore has duped had other aspirations, they believed her and in the hope of love and companionship that she promised as a charming, glass-blowing rocker, because she desires all of that herself. That Molly Passmore has broken some hearts and continues to infect Daddyhunt/Mister is regrettable, but that’s life online, man: smoke and mirrors, and a sucker born every minute.
It sounds cheesy, but I am grateful to have made a new friend in the real Jon Russell, even if I have yet to meet him in person. My hope was that he would come to L.A. sooner than later so we could take a picture together over a beer and include it with this piece. When that happens, I’ll update this.
So thanks for that, Molly Passmore.