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Outlaw
    (April 28, 1964-July 18, 2003)
    Born in Buffalo, New York
    Conman
    Convinced several wealthy Manhattanites -- including Gary Sinese, Calvin Klein, and Leonard Bernstein -- that he was the son of Sidney Poitier
    Would convince his targets to provide him with room, board, and money with a sob story, such as claiming to have been robbed, or that an airline had lost his luggage
    Arrested and convicted of fraud (1983)
    Inspired the play 'Six Degrees of Separation' by John Guare (1990)
    Died of AIDS-related complications
    He was originally sentenced to repay $4500 to the victims of his scams; when he failed to pay up, he ended up serving 22 months in jail.
    He tried repeatedly to cash in on the success of 'Six Degrees,' ranging from crashing a producers' party to running his scams while posing as a member of the cast.
    He unsuccessfully sued Guare for basing the play on his life, seeking $100 million in damages.
    After that failed, he sent threatening messages to Guare. (Example: 'I would strongly advise that you give me some money, or you can start counting your days.')
    He spent the rest of his life pulling cons and getting busted, cycling in and out of jail.
    He first came up with the idea of posing as the son of a celebrity when he and a friend were turned away at the door of Studio 54, only to be admitted when they claimed to be the sons of Poitier and Gregory Peck: 'We were swept in like we owned the place. It was a magical moment.'
    He said about accepting largesse from NYC's upper crust, 'I never beat anyone over the head. I was a perfect gentleman.'
    One of his lawyers said, '[I]n the scheme of things, he didn't terribly hurt people, and suggested that he provided his upper-class marks with a new anecdote for their dinner parties.
    'Six Degrees of Separation' won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play.

Credit: C. Fishel


 
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