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The Rise and Fall of the Monster 

Gay porn star Michael Brandon goes from meth addict to antidrug poster boy and, tragically, back to meth addict.

Wednesday, Oct 1 2008
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Porn star Marcus Irons remembers a time about five years ago when he was forced to appear in a scene with a guy who was tweaking. It wasn't all that hot, he remembers. The guy had "meth mouth," or tooth loss and decay, and he was sweating profusely.

Though Sister Roma says she never lost her mind or her teeth, partying took a toll on her body. She remembers climbing the stairs to work one day two years ago and being short of breath, then collapsing. She was rushed to the hospital with a broken ankle, where her recovery began. She has no delusions about being cured of her addiction: "Our sobriety is very tentative," she says.

Around 2003, crystal meth had become a community bogeyman, Sister Roma remembers. Too many users had watched their friends and loved ones wind up unhealthy, imprisoned, and, in some cases, dead. After observing all the destruction, people began to view meth as the least glamorous drug around.

Several recent searches for "PnP" among the men-seeking-men ads on Craigslist reveal that most now request "No PnP." And according to a city-funded survey of 5,000 gay men between 2003 and 2006, meth use among HIV-negative men had decreased from 11.8 to 6.6 percent, while among HIV-positive men it had dropped from 24.8 to 19.9 percent. Supervisor Bevan Dufty told the Bay Area Reporter that since the city had recognized the meth problem, six agencies battling meth had grown to 34, and that funding for research, care, and counseling had increased from $400,000 to $1.8 million. Though community leaders acknowledged the improvement, they called for even more awareness. That's when the health department launched "Hot Sex Without Crystal!"

Perhaps the most prominent face in that anti-meth campaign was, of course, Michael Brandon. Then in October 2007, while moving a couch to retrieve a cat toy, Brandon says he pulled something in his back. He fought the pain with painkillers for a while, he says, but one morning he woke up, stared at the ceiling, and thought about something else that might help.

Tweakers all have something they like to do on drugs. Many want to have sex; others enjoy vacuuming the house, taking off all their clothes, or climbing buildings. For Brandon, the high often leads to entrepreneurship. "I like to do business," he said.

By "business," he meant hooking others up with drugs and staying at different motels every night to avoid drawing attention to himself. That's what he was doing in June last year when the confidential informant told Inspector Daniel Cunningham what Brandon was up to and where he could be found. Of course, that informant isn't exactly an angel. According to the warrant, he is a convicted felon who is assisting police for monetary purposes. Many details of the case are sealed because revealing the information could endanger the life of the informant. The warrant says he directed the officer to a motel, but Cunningham declined to comment for this story because Brandon's court case is ongoing.

Although Brandon said the reporter would have the chance to witness his motel-surfing lifestyle firsthand, text messages and phone calls to him went unreturned. This wasn't all that surprising, considering he had disappeared on nearly everyone else in his life.

In October 2007, he had called in sick to Raging Stallion for a week, co-owner Kent Taylor said. One week became two. Then Brandon wasn't responding to anyone's calls. "He was a partner," Taylor said. "He's still one of the owners of the company, and he's just disappeared." Eventually, Brandon was replaced by a temp, who was hired full-time a few months later. "It was one of the few times since I've been in business with Chris Ward when I've actually seen him cry," Taylor said. Brandon also cut off contact with his friends from Orange County.

The next and final meeting with Brandon took place on his next court date of Sept. 26, a cloudless Friday. Brandon and Monzon had just come from McDonald's, where Brandon again ordered the Southern-style chicken biscuits. "My last meal," he joked without smiling.

In dark sunglasses and a woolly beard, he gave a quick hug hello, revealing a still-skeletal frame beneath his long-sleeved white button-down shirt. He hadn't received any of the reporter's communications, he said with a shrug.

As for where he'd been, he said he was still using, and that he'd been "running around, running away from myself, I guess." He had seen Monzon just three times since the last court date, and never spent the night at their home.

Brandon looked fresher than he had a month ago and seemed slightly more relaxed. "I'm not nearly as spun out as I was last month," he said. "I've slowed down, but I'm still nervous." Because he again believed he might be taken into custody after the hearing, he had organized his belongings and taken care of last items of business. "It sucks. It sucks being where I'm at," he said. "Looking in the mirror, I tell myself, Just put the needle down. Walk away and walk over to Marcos. It doesn't happen."

Brandon's legal problems seemed only to exacerbate his addiction. "With so much turmoil, it gives me relief from my head," he said. Then he said he had to go, and started up the concrete staircase to the courthouse.

The former porn star walked inside and over to a garbage can, where he discarded his iced tea. What he didn't know was that an undercover cop in a Hawaiian shirt was lying in wait.

As Brandon headed for the security line, the cop made his move. Over just a few short seconds, the officer whipped out a pair of cuffs, closed in, pushed Brandon up against the wall, and bound his wrists. Brandon's jaw was tensed in panic as the cop dragged him past the security check and out an emergency door, setting off a loud alarm.

About The Author

Ashley Harrell


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