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.

Unsafe sex during PnP sessions is now the number one way HIV and other STDs are transmitted in gay men, Halyard says, and prolonged meth use can also cause permanent personality changes. "For some, their brain doesn't quite work the same ever again," he says. "They can't remember stuff as well or think clearly. Some even become permanently paranoid."

For gay men, treating the drug addiction alone is often not enough. It's actually a PnP addiction, Halyard says, because the crystal is inextricably linked to the sex. The therapist has had many men call for an appointment, then never show. Others come once or twice and then disappear. "PnP is a very tough addiction to beat, so my advice is don't start," he says.

Back in the '90s, that advice wasn't quite so prevalent. Meth was considered thrilling by those on the partying scene; it fueled inane conversations and harrowing adventures across social strata. People inhaled it, snorted it, and, in the worst cases, injected it. Some seemed to become addicted overnight, ultimately losing jobs, families, and anything else they might have cared about.

Spokestranny Sister Roma.
Spokestranny Sister Roma.
Brandon’s old friends Ray Angulo and David Leony at the Frat House.
John Gilhooley
Brandon’s old friends Ray Angulo and David Leony at the Frat House.

Others were able to better manage the drug. Sister Roma, an outspoken member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (an ostentatiously queer community outreach group), snorted meth for 15 of the 20 years she worked as a drag queen and in the porn industry as a director for Hot House. Her reasons were simple: "It was fun," she says. It seemed everyone around her was doing it back then, she says.

Sister Roma remembers tweakers showing up at the studio, ready to try their bodies at porn, and believes it was the meth that gave them the courage. It's not that the people in the industry ever encouraged it, she says. Sometimes, they just turned a blind eye.

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.

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I don't know why but this article really seemed to touch my heart. I guess because it allows me to remember that no matter how successful or how far we have come, we are never completely safe. I personally don't have a drug addiction but I have friends who do and I have watched them go through similar situations and the hardest part is not being able to do anything about it. I wish him the very best of luck and perhaps he will get the help he needs or finally find what is missing in his life.

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