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The Real Big Johnson

After my last appearance at Reading for Filth, Dean told me I needed to modulate, and to play to the back of the room. In tribute to Dean I am going to do just that, because you know Dean ALWAYS modulated and ALWAYS played to the back of the room! (Or the back room, as the case may be).

I got to the East Village in nineteen eighty-two to attend the Cooper Union; I was a CLUELESS kid from Long Island. By the time I found my way to places like the World, Pyramid, Save the Robots and Boybar, Dean was a New York landmark, like a tall tower or a tourist attraction. Dean made these places an indelible part of New York culture.

I didn't meet Dean until much later- one night in back-room at the Cock.(I don't remember the date, I'm sure someone here does, half of you were in there that night!) After our ONE back-room encounter, Dean decided that would make we would make much better friends than lovers, SO from that day forward, we were FRIENDS. (I didn't really have much say in the matter).

I got sober in '98 and Dean was struggling to get sober, so I tried to be a support to him in that. For Dean, AA was the one club he couldn't get into. (You fuckers are applauding for that?) We were friends through it all. We bonded out in Cherry Grove, Fire Island. We shared a love for naked bodysurfing in the rough sea. To watch Dean catch a wave and stiffen his long body into the surfboard position and ROCKET into the sand, head first, was truly sublime.

When the N.Y.P.D. chased Dean out of nightlife, Dean embarked on a career as an escort. 'Big Red' experienced an IMMEDIATE surge of popularity. He was the new cock on the block. He was raking in the cash and used it to support his music and his art. Dean said that hooking was just like club promoting, only YOU'RE the party. I countered it was just like club promoting, only it's for one person at a time.

His roster of clients included: submissives, size queens, devoted cocksuckers, foot fetishists, advanced fisting bottoms, tight-assed 'sons' looking to be violated by 'dad', Black guys with a taste for White meat (Dean was always happily surprised by the attention he got from Black men), Asian guys looking for some 'White on rice' (Dean LOVED Asian guys; his diary recounts his affair with actor __ ____ and the protracted Viet Cong prisoner of war camp scenes they played out in Dean's cell-like Cobble Hill studio), str8 hotties who "just wanna see it", married men who "NEVER DO THIS"...and the list goes on.

Dean happily treaded into taboo territory- (and I DON'T mean Tabboo!'s territory!) I mean rape, incest, adultery and race- with guys who were obviously working through some conflicted feelings. Like all good hookers, Dean was part psychotherapist, his methods distinctly on the drama therapy-reenactment tip; but it was sometimes hard to tell WHO was the one on the couch.

Sometimes Dean would get to the door and the johns would see him and say "Oh my god, you're Dean Johnson!" and slam the door; sometimes they would open the door and say "Oh my god, you're Dean Johnson!" and turn out to be huge fans, and open their hearts, their wallets AND their legs for the Big Johnson.

Dean's larger-than-life physical attributes- his utter whiteness, his gargantuan cock, his size fourteen feet, his bald head- inspired awe, admiration, worship and obsession. Dean's other larger-than-life attributes- his LUNATIC imagination, his BARBED WIRE wit, and his acting skills- made for the most lurid and vivid fantasy scenarios.

We planned some scenes together; Dean executive produced these fantasies in exquisite detail:

-For one Black john with antebellum fantasies, Dean played a stern plantation slaveholder and I was his 'cousin' from a neighboring plantation. I'd come for a visit and we'd head back behind the barn by to see out how 'Masser Dean' doles out punishment and rewards to his prize slave.

-Dean, Dick and I were three college buddies who were to pass around another john like a drunken sophomore slut. Listening to Dean rattle on in his deepest voice about seducing his ˜bros' at frat parties and locker room towel-snapping antics, I nearly cracked up mid-fuck.

- Wearing sunglasses and ball caps, Dean and I were thieves breaking in to the john's hotel room to rob him, only to discover him hiding in the bathroom; where we got to brutalize him with 'no limits' (until the guy chickened out- poor guy, he had NO idea what he was doing telling Dean Johnson 'no limits"!).

Another of Dean's larger-than-life features is a spiritual attribute: Dean's ability to see humor in these and all other situations. Anyone who could continue to laugh after being on the shit end of AIDS, heroin and MAYOR Guiliani is truly a spiritual being. (OK, THAT you can applaud for.) Dean's laughter was mountainous and epic and holy- and if you ever witnessed one of his orgasms, you know that they, too, were earth-shaking, positively seismic, accompanied by the thunderous growl of a diesel engine you could hear for blocks.

Dean never paid much attention to rule number one of escorting: don't get emotionally involved with the john- It's a business transaction! Dean got so entangled with just about all of his clients. He fell in love with one cocksucker and scared the poor guy off with his ardor. He got embroiled in a messy, adulterous, demented, co-dependent, romantic-obsessive love triangle with a Syracuse dentist and his wife. He would spontaneously decide that he was no longer going to charge this or that john, but now they were BOYFRIENDS. But just like he did with me, he made these unilateral decisions. So imagine a john's surprise to find he has a new six-and-a-half-foot tall boyfriend!

Sure, Dean looked for love in all the wrong places- but really now, what is the wrong place for such a divine mission? Stranger things have happened on this planet.

Dean was once the spokesmodel for Rentboy and was very proud of tag line HE WROTE FOR THEM: "Money can't buy you love, but the rest is negotiable." Dean's love for his friends and his family was non-negotiable, and THIS is his single biggest attribute- his outsize heart. That was the real "BIG JOHNSON"!

The Real Big Johnson rises, gravity-defying, baby's-arm-thick and fully loaded, in all of us who knew him, in anyone who caught his legendary performances and spectacles, in his music, and in his authentic gay glam punk holiness. Amen.
I should clarify. They didn't release the tox. report to the press...they announced it was finished, and gave the cause of death verbally. But a week later, I had still not been notified by them. But yesterday I called MS. Williams, and she is sending me the report. First Dean goes un-ID-ed for....8 days I think....then once I'm made aware that he is missing and I call DC, I'm given the run around for 12 hours before someone called me to tell me that Dean's autopsy was done. Not that he was dead, he was just still missing at this point. Being the genius that I am, I was able to surmise from the fact that his autopsy was done, that he was dead. Now the tox report is done and released to the press for 4 days before I even hear about it and at a week, they still hadn't contacted me...I contacted them.
I've been trying to keep my mouth shut....but I gotta say that the District of Columbia is not my favorite place....

Hattie...Gil is indeed the NJ trooper. I'm going to send you a private message now with my # in case you locate him.
Holy crap, Beth. I had no idea of the runaround you've been dealing with. As far as I'm concerned, DC is Detroit with monuments - so I can't say i'm surprised, but I'm pissed it happened to you. if you talk to Gil, send him my love and email address. I'd love to hear from him. akaDom says the Washington Post is likely to follow up on this shitstorm of incompetence. Time to get a petition going to send to the DC police department? Seems to me they've a lot to answer for and an inquiry into the (gross negligence of) the investigation and its aftermath. Especially since it's a federal crime to supply (eg. allow access to) prescription drugs of any form to anyone other than the prescription holder. Dean and Jeremy and the rest of us deserve better than the buffoonery of bureaucrats. All love, B
This in The washington Post:

Case Closed in 2 Deaths Within Days in Apartment
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 6, 2007; Page B01

Authorities have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the bizarre case of two men who died four days apart in a Northwest Washington apartment in September, D.C. police said yesterday.

The men, who were not acquainted, had traveled from New York to visit the apartment's occupant, and both died of "acute intoxication" from prescription drugs shortly after they arrived, according to autopsies.
One of them, Jordan "Jeremy" Conklin, 26, who was hoping to find work in a D.C. restaurant or bar, arrived Sept. 14. The apartment's tenant, Steven Saleh, 47, had responded to a Craigslist ad that Conklin posted seeking temporary housing, one of Conklin's friends said. Two days later, answering a 911 call from Saleh, police found Conklin dead on Saleh's living room floor.

The other man, Dean Johnson, 46, was a celebrity drag queen in downtown Manhattan's gay club scene -- a flamboyant rock singer, coffeehouse poet and paid escort. Johnson, who had escort clients in the District, arrived at the apartment Sept. 19 to comfort Saleh over Conklin's death, several of Johnson's friends said. The next day, again answering a call from Saleh, police found Johnson dead on the living room floor.

Police said that the bodies -- in a second-floor apartment at the historic Envoy building, at 2400 16th St. NW -- showed no obvious signs of trauma and that the odd circumstances raised suspicions. But they said yesterday that Saleh, a former Commerce Department employee disabled by an illness that causes chronic pain and fatigue, is no longer the focus of an investigation.

"Because there is no indication right now of a homicide, the case is closed," said D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes. "However, if any additional information comes to light, we'll reopen it and continue the investigation."

The D.C. medical examiner's office said that recently completed toxicology tests found that Conklin consumed a lethal combination of alcohol and oxycodone, a highly potent pain medication sold under the name OxyContin.

As for Johnson, the office said, the tests showed that his fatal intoxication was caused by a combination of oxycodone and four other prescription drugs: clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication with the brand name Klonopin; amitriptyline, an antidepressant sold as Elavil; ramelteon, a sleep aid marketed as Rozerem; and tramadol, a painkiller sold as Ultram.
Sharlene Williams, the office's general counsel, declined to disclose the amount of drugs found in the men's bodies, saying the office does not consider those details to be public information.

The office has listed the cause of death as acute intoxication in each case, but the manner of death -- homicide, suicide, accident or natural causes -- remains officially undetermined, Williams said.

According to a police affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court, Saleh told detectives in September that he gave Johnson a Rozerem pill. And the Web site of WTTG-TV (Channel 5) quoted Saleh as saying in an interview that he kept OxyContin in his apartment hidden from visitors. In a brief interview yesterday, Saleh's attorney, Paul Kiyonaga, would not discuss his client's medications.

"Mr. Saleh has been informed that the autopsies on Mr. Conklin and Mr. Johnson have been completed and there has been no finding of wrongdoing in connection with their deaths," Kiyonaga said in a statement. "Mr. Saleh hopes that these autopsy results will afford closure to their families and to all those who are grieving the tragic loss of these men."

Conklin, a business graduate of Arizona State University, worked as a nightclub bouncer last summer in Provincetown, Mass., a resort community on Cape Cod. John Allen, who became romantically involved with Conklin in Provincetown and shared an apartment with him there, said in an interview that he never saw his friend use drugs.

Johnson, however, was open about his emotional instability and off-and-on battles with substance abuse, acquaintances said. One friend in Manhattan, Dale Corvino, said that most of the drugs in Johnson's body probably were medications that had been prescribed for him.

"Elavil is an antidepressant, and I'm pretty sure he was taking an antidepressant," Corvino said. "Klonopin is an anti-anxiety pill, and I think Dean probably would have taken something like that for the trip down there." Johnson, who came here by train, "really had a lot of anxiety about traveling alone. And he had a shoulder injury, which was really very painful, and I know he was taking something for it, which could have been the Ultram."
I'm with you on that, musicboy. It doesn't even match the tox results previously reported - unless Ultram contains oxycodone. And obviously, the amounts in their system would clear up any confusion on that matter. And for God's sake, I wish they would stop using the word "suicide" in these milquetoast articles and coroners' reports. Who the hell would go to DC to off themselves? And Dean might have been a lot of things, but actively suicidal isn't one of them; I would bet the same could be said for Jeremy. As best I can tell, Dean was loving his life - as he damn well deserved to - foibles and all. Whatever happened to the grand American tradition of the "wrongful death lawsuit" in civilian court? If it's good enough for OJ, then this Saleh dude definitely qualifies. Pissed at the Post, B-
Two men given a fatal overdose within a few days of each other by the same man in the same apartment by someone who openly brags about his private little pharmacy and the authorities are trying to spin this as a SUICIDE????? WTF????

And the way they have disclosed the results of toxicology reports to the press before any word to the families of the deceased?

Saleh sure as fuck knew exactly who Dean Johnson was, knew his name and enough info to send him tickets, etc, yet allowed him to lay in the morgue for how many days without identifying him to the police or the hospital, or calling anyone to get help... or even telling the truth to those who called Saleh looking for Dean??? Innocent of any wrongdoing? YEAH. RIGHT!!

This is totally, totally bullshit. Wonder who Saleh paid off to come to this conclusion for him.
Found this posted on a Yahoo group:
(only posting a little bit... please follow the link)

original article (previously posted here)
Probe continues in deaths of two gay D.C. visitors
N.Y. men reportedly had worked as escorts; witness says both took pills
Oct 10, 12:47 PM

(a reply from a congressman)
Jim Graham wrote:
Dear Friends:

I wanted you to know that this morning I spoke with Commander Anzallo, who heads up detectives for MPD, concerning a report of two deaths at the Envoy at 2400 16th NW.

One two separate dates--September 16 and September 20--but just four days apart the tenant called 911 to report an unconscious man in his apartment.

In both cases, the individual was unconscious but dead on scene, there were no visible signs if trauma or foul play and each person had been invited into the apartment by the tenant.

Police executed a search warrant, and are treating this as highly suspicious. They are awaiting further medical reports.

The first death involved someone who was 26 years old, and the second someone who was 45 years old.

That is all there is to say at present.

Bests, Councilmember Jim Graham

I typically answer emails before 9 AM on weekdays. If you email me after that, it is likely that you will hear from me the next weekday. If there is a need to communicate prior to that, you may wish to call me.

Jim Graham, Councilmember, Ward One, 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #105, Washington, DC 20004. 202-724-8181; 202-724-8109 (fax).

Chairman, Committee on Public Works and the Environment (including alcohol regulation). Main Committee Number: 202-724-8195. 1350 Pa. Ave., NW, #116, Washington, DC 20004.

Voting member, Board of Directors, WMATA/Metro.

they knew who dean was. they claim that because dean was traveling alone from out-of-state that they didn't know who to contact about his death...which of course is crazy since his friends were calling and asking about dean johnson being missing. i'm sure they are only allowed to notify the next of kin....but they could have asked the people calling who the next of kin was... it does seem a bit crazy.
I spoke to Sgt. Brett Parson, who is the Commander of the DC Metro Police Special Liaison Unit (which includes the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit). I conveyed everyone's concern and astonishment about Dean sitting in the morgue for so long, and the ME's releasing details to the press. One thing he did say is that say believed that he thought the respondents did not give much credulity to Saleh's statements at the time. He said he'd be happy to look into the circumstances further.
Last edited by aka Dominick
The info that the ME's office released was public information. My beef with them was that a week later, I still hadn't been notified. Sharlene Williams said to me that in high profile cases, that the public's need to know was equal to the family's right to privacy. I told her I wasn't having privacy issues, I was having need to know in they apparently didn't feel that I needed to know!
I still haven't received it....but I'm hopeful that it is at least in the mail. We'll see......
Clown Prince?

There's an article about Dean in the new Radar Magazine. I can't link to the article online ( but the print copy is on the stands. Beth, do you want me to grab you one?

Private Lives
The Last Days of Big Red
Dean Johnson survived HIV, heroin, and two decades as the clown prince of New York's downtown demimonde. Then one day he turned up dead in D.C.

By Frank Owen
Can't wait to read the article - old issues still on some stands, heard there's a big pile at Gem Spa.

Just letting musicboy212003 and other "Jeremy people" know that I have moved memorial posts and pictures of Jeremy to his own topic here in The Endless Night. I have left topics that discuss both deaths here, to preserve the discussion of the investigation, etc.

Though these two deaths were connected, they are two separate people and I think deserve to be discussed this way.

Jeremy's Topic
Last edited by Chi Chi
Thanks Chi Chi. I'm glad you guys liked the article. I know the sidebar is kind of odd. I didn't write it. That was Radar's decision. The one thing that still puzzles me about this whole saga is how Dean's body remained unidentified for so long. Did Steven Saleh not tell the police who the dead body in his apartment was? And if not, why not? Or did he tell the police, and they simply neglected to inform Dean's nearest and dearest. Saleh's not talking, of course.

Thanks to everybody on the board who helped with the story?

Frank Owen
...and frank...i thought the article was well written....although i didn't know why you had to use that line about my mom " running off with the baritone from her husband's choir" ....since my mom had nothing to do with what happened with dean. i understand that it reads funny and you were quoting dean's journal....but i found it hurtful and unneccessary. she' sdead and i wish the press would leave her out of this.
beth johnson
Good article Frank!
Dean would have LOVED it I think.

The side bar was sort of stupid but I know that wasn't you. It's a miracle that your piece was left alone.

I remember one time years ago the New York Times did an article about Jackie 60. They interviewed us for hours. I explained that the "party" was every Tuesday night and each week we did a different theme. The reporter asked what the next theme would be and I told him that it was a take off on the (then new) Andy Warhol Diaries. It was called "Jackie's Diaries".
When the article came out, all it said (after hours of bla bla bla) was, "Jackie 60 is a nightclub based on Andy Warhol".
They had a huge side bar (bigger than the article) explaining who Andy Warhol was. Concentrating mostly on his "15 minutes of fame" quote of course.
When I asked about the stupid side bar they said that it was necessary to explain to the New York Times reader who Andy Warhol was.
After that experience I've learned that any article that "gets it right" is a miracle.
It's interesting to note that in all the years of Jackie 60 press, the best, most intelligent, insightful writing was hands down in the "Sex Rags". Screw Magazine, Playboy, Penthouse, Skin Two...
They were always hands down the most intelligent.

I should also say that Frank Owen always "got it right" as well. I guess it was all those late night hours at Jackie chasing the go go girls around.
Doing "interviews".
At least I think they were "girls". Wink
So true about the sex mags. I've been writing a lot for Playboy in the last few years and it's amazing how much freedom they give you to just write. They printed a 10,000 word piece about the murder of my brother-in-law in Detroit that no other mainstream magazine would have touched with a barge pole. The more "respectable" the magazine or newspaper, the less likely it is that you will be allowed to develop your own voice.
i've never felt doctors to be at all safe...

and besides meds are a cop out... one should learn to take notes instead of just zoning out and extinguishing their fires

i gave up communicating with a once good friend of mine due to prescriptions... she lost all her enthusiasm... her anger... her bite... just became a boring lump instead of that vital wild force that was so brilliant about her

people need to corral those flames... not douse them out

fuck drugs

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