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Authors: Tim Cahill

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BOOK: Buried Dreams
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The way John saw it, he couldn’t pay to get arrested in Waterloo, Iowa. He was bulletproof.

Perfect. It was the perfect American family. John and Marlynn lived in a bungalow on Fairlane Street, where he was forever fixing the driveway and remodeling the basement. The colonel relaxed in his woodworking shop or in the garden. Marlynn had given birth to a perfect son in 1966, and a year later presented her husband with a perfect baby girl. John took the children with him when he checked the restaurants. He took them to Clayton House after work, putting them on display, proud. Everyone said he was great with the kids.

The Old Man even came out from Chicago to visit and he went to work with John, riding with him in the car, talking all the way, treating his son as he would treat any man, holding a regular conversation and not yelling or making accusations. They’d float from one fried-chicken store to another in the new Olds Vista Cruiser, having a real father-and-son conversation while John’s young son fussed in the backseat. They talked like two adults, man to man. It was almost as if the Old Man were making an apology—"I was wrong about you, John"—and when he left, the two looked one another in the eye as they shook hands. The Old Man smiled.

John had friends in the government and on the police force. He was the best Jaycee chaplain in the state; he was
named the club’s outstanding member for 1967; and in 1968, he looked like a shoo-in for president. “Back then,” John remembers, “I was thinking of running for alderman. After that I wanted to go for mayor, and if that worked, I was going to run for the state Senate. I didn’t see any limits.”

He was twenty-six years old and ready to take on the world. Then, on the night of May 10, 1968, the police came to the bungalow on Fairlane Street and arrested John Wayne Gacy, Jr., for the crime of sodomy.

It wasn’t fair, what happened with Voorhees. John’s only crime was he was naїve, gullible. He was the victim, outsmarted by a fifteen-year-old blackmailer.

He hadn’t even been drinking the day he picked him up. Ask anyone in Waterloo. John wasn’t the sort of businessman who went around picking up hitchhikers. He was driving fast along the highway in his car with the Kentucky Fried Chicken stickers on the door. It was a late summer evening in 1967, and the window was open. Standing by the side of the highway, there was this kid and he yelled, “Hey, Mr. Gacy!”

John stopped and backed up right away when he saw that the kid was Donald Voorhees, the son of a Jaycee colleague. The boy was short, had blue eyes, blond hair, and a muscular build. Marlynn was out of town, and John had the house to himself. Was that his fault?

John knew that the kid had been having some trouble with his father, and the first thing he asked him was, “How you getting along with your old man these days?”

The Voorhees kid said, “All right,” like he didn’t want to discuss it: exactly the kind of sulky comment that brought out the father in a man like John Wayne Gacy, who had had so much trouble with his own father, and he said, “You ever think your dad might have a point of view here? You ever stop to look at it from his side?”

“I looked at it—”

“My dad, we never got along when I was your age,” John said. “I could never do anything right. Even ran away from home, but that’s not the way you solve anything. We get along okay now, and I see where he gave me my drive and shit. If I didn’t have drive, I wouldn’t have my degree in accounting and my degree in business administration. I wouldn’t have a nice house. Wouldn’t own three restaurants.
It’s part of growing up, feeling that way about your dad, I think. Then, later on, you see it from another perspective.”

“I suppose,” the kid said, and John felt a little twinge of anger. Get to feeling a little fatherly, try to help someone out, and they act like you’re boring them to death.

“So what the hell you doing out here, anyway?” he asked, changing the subject.

The Voorhees kid brightened up some. “I was at my girlfriend’s house. I was walking home. I don’t get my license until next year.”

“Yeah, well . . .” And somehow the conversation switched around to girls, and John thinks he might have asked Voorhees if he. laid a broad yet. Something like that, because pretty soon they were talking about the stag films some of the Jaycees had been showing in their homes. The way John remembers it, it wasn’t him, it was the damn Voorhees kid who brought up the subject.

“My dad said something about a stag party at the Jaycees.”

The kid honest to God said that. Something like that. Anyway, John replied, “Yeah, we showed some films. I still got ‘em over at my house.”

“I didn’t know you had films or anything,” the kid said. “My dad just said they had a stag party. He never mentioned about films.”

John swears, with God as his witness, that he made the offer purely out of compassion, that he invited the kid over to his house to watch the films because “you’re getting to an age where you can get a good educational experience out of something like that.”

“Well,” the boy said, “I’ve heard about those kind of films. Never seen one, though.”

“You ever talk about that kind of stuff with your father?”

Voorhees laughed aloud. “Shit, no,” he said, relaxing a little bit.

“Well, come on back to the house. I’ll set up the projector and we’ll watch a couple of them.”

Marlynn wouldn’t be back that night, and John set up the projector in the basement rec room. He wasn’t much interested in watching the film himself, and while the Voorhees kid was transfixed in front of the screen—furthering his education, really—John went upstairs and grabbed a beer. Maybe he made a sandwich. He didn’t watch the films. Not for a time, anyway. What he did, he had something to eat. Which
shows that he really wasn’t thinking about inducing what happened next.

Later on, John wandered back downstairs, where the kid was watching the end of a thing where some broad was going down on a guy. When it was over, John asked Voorhees if he liked the films and the kid said, “Yeah, they opened my eyes about sex and that. Really.”

Maybe it was the film, or the conversation, but John started feeling a little horny, and he began asking the kid questions.

“Good-looking kid like you, I bet you’re fucking some broad regular?”

John said he just kept asking questions like that; it was like he couldn’t stop himself. “You ever get into it like that, have one of ‘em go down on ya?”

Strange thing about it: just talking dirty, John realized he was getting an erection. Here he was, just being a little fatherly, helping the kid where his real father didn’t even talk about this kind of shit, and suddenly he felt that familiar swelling in his pants. The kid was sort of good-looking—the long blond hair, short muscular build, blue eyes, real innocent look—and Marlynn was gone for the night. They were sitting in the basement, and the kid, Chrissake, fifteen years old, watching a film like that, the kid was probably feeling pretty horny himself.

There wasn’t anything they could do about it, the two of them sitting there in the empty house. Then John remembered Springfield and the first time. He remembered the last few drinks at Richard Stuart’s house—when he woke up, nude, and Richard was on it. That was the first time. Shit, there hadn’t even been any suggestion of it—well, maybe a little talk—and John was nude and half drunk in a guy’s house. Whatta you gonna do, tell him to knock it off? “Hey, stop blowing me, you shithead.”

Later in his life, John could see how he brought the Stuart affair on himself. He had been naїve; he had been dumb and stupid. Stuart had victimized him, he had outsmarted John Gacy. John was the victim in that one, just as he would eventually become the victim in the Voorhees affair. But that night, standing there talking to the kid, John couldn’t help but remember that he’d done it once before. And it had felt good.

“You hard?” John asked. The kid seemed a little embarrassed,
and John started to explain, in a fatherly way, that stag films are supposed to make you horny. It’s natural. You’d have to be queer, films like that, you didn’t spring one. John knew that “the kid had to be interested in getting his rocks off, too.”

“The thing of it is,” he says, “read the Kinsey Report and it shows how most guys your age sometimes go down on a guy. Or have a guy go down on them. It don’t mean you’re queer; it’s part of growing up, becoming a man. You have to have sex with a man before you start having sex with women. Nobody tells you this shit, but it’s scientific, and you could read it in reports. So what happens, if you get two guys who are horny and there’s no one else around, then you got to take care of each other. You have to help each other out. It’s only natural to calm your emotional feelings, or you can actually get sick.”

John heard himself going on and on about the fucking Kinsey Report, the biggest load of horseshit he’d ever heard in his life, but the way he was saying it, Christ, he could almost believe it himself.

Pretty soon he was right down to it with the kid, arguing about who would go first. John figures, “Since I was the one who brought it up, I probably went first.”

When John finished, the kid was still scared, a little reluctant. “Doesn’t it taste sorta, you know . . .”

“Whatta you think?” John said, and he saw that his hands were shaking and knew that he was angry. He took a breath, then let it out slowly. “It don’t have no taste.” Jesus Christ! John took another deep breath, and then, calmly, rationally, and with the utmost sincerity, he said, “It’s like sucking on your thumb or something. You want to see what it tastes like, go ahead and put your thumb in your mouth.”

Dumb and stupid kid: sitting there with his fucking thumb in his mouth. John knew he had him then, and he said, “See, it don’t have no taste.” And then solemnly, using his chaplain’s voice, John explained to the kid about morality. “There's nothing wrong with anything,” he said, “unless you make it wrong in your own mind.” Kid sitting there with his thumb in his mouth and his eyes as big as pie plates. It was all John could do to keep from laughing aloud.

That would have been the end of it then, just a one-night stand, an aberration in one man’s otherwise exemplary life, but the way John remembered it, the fucking kid showed up
at the door a couple of more times. Kid wanted money, and somehow the two of them got into it each of those times. Later, John could see how the kid victimized him, how Voorhees used the sexual approach to “borrow” money. You want to know how dumb and stupid John was: he didn’t even realize he was being blackmailed.

“Each time,” John explained, “I thought, well, I’ll just give him a little more money, help him get straightened out, and that’ll be the last time I see him.”

There was no way to tell, really, whether the kid actually enjoyed the things he did with John, and John, for his part, wants to be fair on that one point. “Let’s just say he did what he did. Whether he was really into it would just be supposition on my part. But he kept coming back, and whether it was for the money or the sex, I’d have to conclude that it was a willing thing on his part.”

The kid was like a bad penny, the way John remembered it. Voorhees never told anyone, but every time he turned up at the door, John felt a jolt of fear in his belly. What could he do; tell the kid he wasn’t really into it, yell at him? Up to this time, it had just been one of those nice little secrets between John and the kid. But now the thing was beginning to cost money, and John had a family to feed. The kid was actually taking food off the Gacy family table, out of the children’s mouths, for Christ’s sake, and John knew he had to put a stop to it.

When he came to think about it later on, John realized that it wasn’t the money so much. Not really. With his salary and his cut of the profits, he was knocking down nearly thirty thousand dollars a year. A five here, a ten there wouldn’t break him.

What bothered John about the Voorhees affair, he theorized later, wasn’t so much the amounts involved, it was the principle of the thing. He was being fucked over every time the kid showed up at the door. Try to help the kid, get him straightened out, be a little fatherly even, and some fifteen-year-old “fucks over” you, makes you feel dumb and stupid.

That’s what bothered John the most: being “outsmarted.” Every dollar out of his pocket that went to Voorhees proved that the kid was smarter than John. It was a quantitative thing. You could measure what an asshole you were with each five-dollar bill.

The way John recalls it, Voorhees came by his house
sometime around the Christmas holidays of 1967. The kid played in some asswipe band and wanted to “borrow” enough money to buy an amplifier so he could play at a big New Year’s Eve party.

“My dad won’t lend me the money,” the kid whined, “so I thought maybe you could.”

Voorhees was talking “a hundred and some bucks,” an amount that was clearly out of the question. “I’ll pay you back,” Voorhees said. “You’ll get the whole amount right after we get paid.” It was as if the kid thought John couldn’t add.

Still, there was that little secret to consider, and John sat down with the kid to negotiate. They finally compromised on a plan where John would give the kid enough money to rent the amplifier.

“You don’t even have to pay me back,” John said. The way he figured it, the kid could use the money he made from playing at the dance to rent the amplifier the next time his band got a job. “That way,” John explained later, “I thought he could keep making money and that he wouldn’t come to me for it anymore. I told him, this is the last time: I don’t want to see you around here anymore. I says, ‘You think you can go tell about us, but I’ll just deny everything. Who do you think they’re going to believe? Asshole!’ And that was the last I heard of Voorhees until May of the next year.”

In March 1968, Voorhees told his father a story about the outstanding Jaycee chaplain in the state of Iowa. The little secret went to a Black Hawk County grand jury, and the world exploded in John Wayne Gacy’s face.

*Name changed.

CHAPTER 6

LOOKING BACK ON IT
years later, John could see how his father was right about politicians. They’re all phonies and liars. Just like the sodomy charge: the whole thing was a frame constructed by his political enemies. “How it came down,” John explained, “is that the Voorhees kid is sitting at the table with his old man. Well, the night before, I had had Voorhees, Sr., at my house, and I told him I was going to run for Jaycee president and I wanted him to be my campaign manager.”

BOOK: Buried Dreams
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