|The Naked City||Dec 30 2009|
Police Gazette tries to draw correlation between meat and murder—of humans.
The good folks at the National Police Gazette are in rare form on this December 1973 cover. For instance, the teaser “The Truth About Liz and Dick” carries a rather interesting double meaning. Taylor was always bashed in the tabloid press for being a bit of a harlot, however, leaving aside the obvious sexism of the sentiment, her reputation was probably undeserved. Her fifth husband Richard Burton pointed out, during the height of the furor over their affair and marriage, that Taylor had loved only five men in her life and married them all, whereas certain actresses who had never been married might as well have had yield signs outside their bedrooms to deal with all the traffic. We’re paraphrasing. He was just trying to point out the chasm between perception and reality. Of course, the press didn’t care about that and dutifully continued to portray Taylor as a dragon lady.
But that isn’t the story that interests us—we’ve talked about Taylor here and here, and that’s enough for this year. Check the text in the blue box. The editors pair a teaser about some murders in the Houston, Texas area with one suggesting chemicals in meat can turn you gay. You’re probably gay before you eat the meat, but that point notwithstanding, this is one of the most insidious pieces of gay-bashing you’re ever likely to find, because the murders to which Gazette editors are referring are none other than the Corll/Brooks/Henley killings of 1970-1973. They became known simply as the Houston Mass Murders, and they were the worst serial killings in American history at the time. We mean worst in terms of numbers—twenty-seven confirmed dead. And the sexual nature of the crimes had anti-gay forces ready to take to the streets.
The story is stranger than anything we could invent—it involves a man, two boys, and an unholy pact between the three. When Elmer Wayne Henley met Dean Corll and David Brooks in 1970, Corll and Brooks had already killed nine Houston teenagers, including two boys Henley knew. Corll, pictured at left, was the leader, with the younger Brooks functioning as more of an assistant whose job was to lure attractive teenaged victims. Henley, who was fifteen at the time, was supposed to be just another victim, but Corll took a particular liking to him and recruited him. How he knew Henley would be amenable to the arrangement is one of those eternal mysteries. Henley could have simply appeased Corll long enough to get out of his clutches, then called the police. But in yet another validation of unerring serial killer instinct, Henley actually did join in the crimes. Like Brooks, his job was to lure fresh victims. For every boy he delivered, Corll paid two-hundred dollars.
The arrangement worked fine until one night in mid-1973, when Henley brought his girlfriend and a male acquaintance to Corll’s house. We’re a little fuzzy on why that happened. It may have had something to do with the girlfriend deciding that night to run away from home, and Henley being somewhat baffled as to where to take her. At any rate, it’s clear he didn’t plan for Corll to harm her. However, Corll was enraged that Henley had brought two friends over. Keeping a low profile was crucial. After an argument, he seemed to calm down and began to drink and socialize. The teenagers got plastered and passed out—and awoke tied up. Corll screamed that he was going to torture and kill them all, but a desperate Henley convinced Corll he was still a loyal accomplice and would rape and kill his girlfriend while Corll dealt with the other boy. Corll agreed, but once untied, Henley got his hands on Corll’s pistol and shot him six times, leaving him in the very dead state you see below.
By the time the December Police Gazette hit the streets, all of America was in an uproar over the murders. Corll had shot some boys, strangled others, and tortured them all in the most painful ways, including shoving glass rods up their urethras. All had been raped. And this meant Corll’s sexuality became central. So, taking all that into consideration, you can see that the Gazette is really being quite inflammatory on their cover. It would have been equally valid to discuss whether it is heterosexuality that leads to murder—after all, in terms of sheer numbers, straight folks have gay folks beat all to hell in the killing department. But as we’ve pointed out before, reason doesn’t sell tabloids, so the Police Gazette gleefully tarred an entire community in pursuit of profits. Now, as far as how they tie all this to chemicals in meat, well, that’s just too silly to get into today. Maybe some other time.
Above: investigators unearth the skull of one of Corll's victims.
TexasHoustonPolice GazetteElmer Wayne HenleyDean CorllElizabeth TaylorRichard Burtonlgbtmurdertabloid