“Uncontrollable Urges: The Tragic Death of Stangelyne”
by Dan Kapelovitz
Prima knew something was wrong. The female bodybuilder hadn’t heard from her boyfriend Stan for two days. He wasn’t answering his cell phone, and the couple had a chiropractic appointment scheduled later that day.
She drove to the home of Christina Ross, where she knew Stan had been staying. He’d been switching between the two women for months now. Wednesday evening, Prima had left a note on Stan’s car, which was parked in front of Christina’s apartment building.
Now, it was Friday morning, the note had not been touched, and no one had seen Stan for days. Prima walked up the steps to Christina’s second-story apartment, looked through the door’s window and saw Stan slumped on the floor with his eyes closed. The left side of his face was purple. She dialed 911 as she pushed open the unlocked door. Stan’s foot blocked the entryway, forcing Prima to kneel down to move it aside.
She quickly scanned the room. There were a few spots of blood on and around Stan. Farther away, in the kitchen, she saw Christina, face down on the floor, dressed only in her underwear. Nearby, in the dining room, Prima saw the body of another man she did not, at first, recognize. They were all dead.
That evening, the local news reported that three people had been found dead in a Los Angeles apartment, a scene of a grisly and bizarre love triangle. The newscaster added that one of the victims was a transvestite. That hardly painted the picture.
Stan Wright, a/k/a Stangelyne, was a man filled with contradictions, none of which were diametrically opposed, except to whatever notion of “normalcy” one might expect to find in Hollywood. Not only was Stan an underground cult figure, public-access television star, beefed-up bodybuilder and a glamorous transvestite, he also suffered from a severe form of Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder defined by multiple motor and verbal tics.
Less than 15% of Tourette’s sufferers experience its most famous symptom, coprolalia, the uncontrollable urge to voice obscene and socially unacceptable words and phrases. Stangelyne was one of the unlucky ones.
Coprolalia, by nature, is not random, and is usually asserted at the most inappropriate times, in the most inappropriate circumstances. Not only would Stan loudly blurt the typical profanities–often quickly slurred together (as in, “fuckyoubitch” or “fuckingfaggots”), he’d often shout racially charged expressions like “niggerkike!” “negroes!” “join the KKK!” and “heil, Hitler!” (complete with Nazi salute). Even his less offensive outbursts could be fascistic in nature (e.g., “hail, fitness!”).
As a six-year-old, Stan was possessed with anger; he’d break everything in the garage and beat the family dog. By the time he was 11, Stan was stuttering so severely that he couldn’t even talk. This was the early 1960s, when information about Tourette’s was hard to come by.
Misdiagnosed until he was a teenager, Stan began experiencing involuntary eye-blinking and throat-clearing, common early symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Stan’s offensive outbursts didn’t manifest until his mid-20s when the stress of operating his own business aggravated his disorder. A machinist, Stan specialized in manufacturing prototypes for carburetors, fire hydrants, toilets, shelves and more.
His father, an avid weightlifter, died when Stan was 36. Around this time, Stan began to wear make-up and style his hair in an ultra-feminine fashion.
At first, Stan was an incongruous mix of dark mustache and teased, bleach-blonde hair, which he either wore in a Marilyn Monroe 1960s flip or up in a ponytail atop his head ‡ la Madonna (circa Vogue). Eventually Stan lost the facial hair and began playing with make-up. He obsessed about his acrylic fingernails, and even crafted a wooden nail gauge to measure his fake nails’ exact length.
According to Prima, “He wanted real long nails, which made it impossible to work, but that was part of the whole thing; he was really self-destructive that way.”
Stan was serious about his new look. He played a twisted game with his many hairdressers that involved elaborate contracts. Among these contracts’ stipulations, the hairdressers could drop in on Stan at anytime, and if his hair was not fixed just right, or if he was not wearing long dangling earrings, or could not pass “the lipstick test” (wearing enough lipstick to be able to produce at least two kiss blots on a piece of paper), the hairdressers could dump large quantities of lotion on him, without notice. This wasn’t much of a punishment since Stan loved to be drenched in lotion. But eventually, the make-up masochism became more intense. Stan offered to pay fines when he breached a contract, to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Stan’s life was changing. He felt increasingly isolated building prototypes in his shop, and his designs grew more bizarre. He dreamed of mass producing the “Cock & Roll,” a toilet-paper holder in the shape of a penis that could double as a dildo in an emergency. He needed a new career.
In 1996, Stan started dating Michelle, whom Stan nicknamed Prima (after the popular anabolic steroid Primabolan). Stan was interested in massage, and Prima, a professional message therapist, helped open the doors for him. Stan became certified in Shiatsu and other massage techniques.
Stan had amassed a large collection of firearms and was always armed. He’d ham it up for videocameras, wearing nothing but Jockey tighty-whitey underwear and cowboy boots, performing action-film-style moves, brandishing huge assault weapons–half Terminator, half female impersonator. But Prima convinced Stan that if he was going to be involved with bodywork, he should stop carrying a gun.
By the time he met Prima, Stan had already assumed Charles Atlas proportions. His biceps bulged, his shoulders and pecs were humongous, and his thighs were like tree trunks. His father’s passion for weightlifting had found its way into Stan’s bodybuilding regimen. However, unlike his father, Stan worked out in full make-up. Unwilling to break his contracts with his stylists, Stan would pump iron wearing thickly painted red lipstick, three shades of eye shadow, finger and toenails shellacked Ferrari red and hair teased into a full-on flip.
As often happens in the world of weight training, Stan regularly injected steroids. Unlike most musclemen, however, Stan openly bragged about it. “Bodybuilding is 10% effort and 90% drugs,” he’d often half-joke. The steroids were not all without side effects; one supplement caused him to kick down a bathroom door in an angry fit.
Stan stayed away from recreational drugs because they didn’t mix well with his Tourette’s, but he loved Gamma hydroxybutyrate, better known as GHB. The so-called date-rape drug is used by many bodybuilders because it’s thought to stimulate growth hormone release.
Stan acted as if he were the drug’s official spokesman. “If you want to sleep, it helps you sleep,” he’d say. “If you want to stay awake, it keeps you awake. It makes music sound better and food taste better. It’s completely natural; your brain already produces it.”
Even so, too much GHB causes the user to pass out, hence its date-rape rep. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, GHB can even induce a coma. But just the right amount of GHB can generate feelings of euphoria.
After his mother–who was extremely glamorous herself–died in 1999, Stan used GHB more regularly, ingesting a couple of tablespoons over the course of each day. According to Prima, “GHB can enhance any mood. If you liked to be sad about something, you could be real sad about something. He would get very melancholy and start crying about his mother being dead and what a horrible son he was. That was the beginning of the end for him. It really contributed to his death because he just wasn’t thinking clearly anymore.”
GHB was legally available and sold at nutrition stores until 2000, when President Clinton made possession and distribution of GHB a federal offense.
This didn’t stop Stan from buying large quantities of the drug for himself and his friends, and selling some on the side. Unsavory characters began buying from Stan, one of whom turned out to be a violent gang member who demanded GHB even when Stan didn’t have any.
Stan started carrying a gun again at all times.
While Prima introduced Stan to the world of massage therapy, Stan turned her onto bodybuilding. Stan moved into Prima’s two-bedroom apartment, and the couple would work out up to five days a week. Prima too bleached her hair, and the blonde, muscular duo started offering tandem massage sessions they dubbed “The Platinum Touch.” Prima was also taking GHB on a regular basis.
Stan had been calling himself “Barbie the Barbarian” and “Stanetta,” but Prima suggested “Stangelyne,” and the name stuck.
The couple became regular guests of “The Threee Geniuses,” a truly bizarre public-access TV show. Stangelyne quickly became the star. He supplied the cast and crew with healthy amounts of GHB, making the already mood-altering program become even more so. He wore a variety of wild outfits, including a blue leotard with New Wave sunglasses and a McDonald’s flag as a cape, making him look like a psychedelic superhero. Stan would often blurt out, “Science!” like the Thomas Dolby song, or utter, “Sha-wa-wa-wa-waaah!” The Three Geniuses ran these Tourette-fueled outbursts through an analog tape delay, producing endless echoes of spastic verbiage. At one taping, Stangelyne brought his expensive cutlery collection. He wielded a large knife while singing, “O. J. can you see?” to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
But Stan didn’t listen and eventually started seeing Christina behind Prima’s back, possibly as early as April 2000.
Stan’s friend, Giddle Partridge, remembers her none-too-fondly: “Christina was a hideous bitch-cunt. She had the two-toned skin disease that Michael Jackson wishes he had. She had long brown hair, a greasy ugly face, lizard eyes, a lizard mouth and the sex appeal Meryl Streep dying of AIDS. She was on disability like some white-trash welfare bitch.”
What did Stan possibly see in her?
“She was just a nasty slut,” Giddle theorizes. “She’d probably come up to him at the gym and say, ‘Let me lick your balls tonight.’ She was the type of girl who’d give cab drivers blowjobs in the back seat.”
Christina abused Crystal Meth for many years before moving onto a wide variety of prescription drugs. “There’s nothing better than working out on Vicodin,” she would say. Unfortunately, she shared her psychotropic pills with Stan, which didn’t interact well with his Tourette’s.
Perhaps worse than her drug usage was the fact that she was still legally married to a mentally ill stock broker named Randy Ross, another prescription-pill addict. In June 2000, the two separated. She stayed in their L.A. apartment, and he moved to Temecula, California, about a two-hour drive away.
Randy eventually learned of Christina’s and Stan’s relationship and would leave threatening messages on Stan’s phone. In an eerily prescient performance on homemade video, Stan can be seen imitating one of Randy’s threatening calls. It’s a hilarious presentation until the end, when Stan stops the impersonation and deadpans, “Who knows? He does have a gun.”
“Randy and Christina were very vindictive people,” recalls Prima. “She would do something to hurt Randy, and he would do something to hurt her back. It got to be a nightmare for Stan, because he would never stay sober. He would always take a little more GHB, finally pass out, then wake up and take a little more so he wouldn’t have to cope with what was going on around him.”
After Christina sent her estranged husband some GHB, Randy called the post office to report that Stan was sending illegal substances through the mail. Now, in addition to having to worry about psychotic GHB buyers, his lover and her crazed husband, and that his business might go bankrupt, Stan had to worry about the cops.
On Wednesday, February 7, 2001, Stan visited Prima’s apartment for the last time. Abruptly, Stan said, “I have to go.”
“Why do you have to leave?” Prima asked.
“I want to go shopping for shoes,” he said.
“So Christina is waiting for you?” Prima asked.
“Well, yes,” Stan admitted as he left Prima crying in the apartment they once shared.
Randy called Prima that day and said he was coming to L.A. Strangely, the two jilted lovers communicated throughout the stressful relationship between their significant others. “He sounded a little weird,” Prima recalls. “I told him that I was through [with Stan], that I really had it.”
Prima also told Randy that she thought Christina was trying to move into Stan’s mother’s house, which Stan had been renovating. Christina was set to move out of her apartment by the end of March, the same time that her divorce with Randy was to be finalized.
Suddenly, Randy burst out, “I’ll kill ‘em. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll just kill them.” Prima brushed it off as an idle threat.
Instead, Randy drove to Christina’s apartment.
That evening, Stan was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, when he heard someone knocking at the door. Stan was shirtless, wearing jeans and a purple robe around his shoulders. His hair was up in a ponytail.
When Stan opened the door, Randy immediately shot him at close-range. The bullet went through Stan’s heart, shattering his spinal column and killing him instantly. Christina heard the shot and ran toward the kitchen, where Randy shot her in the back as she tried to escape. Next Randy took the gun, put it under his chin and pulled the trigger, blowing bits of brain, beard and blood all over the dining room.
Police questioning later revealed that neighbors had heard noises but figured they were just from a car backfiring. For nearly two days, the three remained in the apartment lifeless and unnoticed by anyone until Prima came to the door that Friday morning.
Stan used to joke, albeit in reference to his steroid use, “As long as you look good in the coffin–that’s all that counts.” Stan looked great when he died, but he never made it to the coffin. His long-lost cousin–one of Stan’s only surviving relatives since Stan was an only child and had no kids of his own–pocketed the money that the city donates to bereaved families of murder victims to defray burial costs. Instead of burying his exquisite corpse, his cousin cremated Stan on the cheap and hired a courier service to dispose of the ashes. He promptly sold Stan’s house, his business and his belongings and made off with the money.
Thus was the undignified ending to one of God’s most fascinating creations, Stangelyne.
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