Bill Bottiggi: The Life and Death of a Men’s Magazine Man

Bill Bottiggi: The Life and Death of a Men’s Magazine Man

Ok, bear with us for a moment. Long-time followers of The Rialto Report will know we’re prone to an occasional diversion from our usual fixation with the adult film world in New York in the golden age period – and today’s article is a prime example of that.

Bill Bottiggi was a New York-based writer and editor who worked for classic 1980s men’s magazines like Swank, Stag, and Tux. His sweet spot was writing about adult films, and you can occasionally spot him in the background of photos from XXX film premieres and other porn film-related events at the time.

Bill may not have been at the heart of adult filmmaking but he was part of that world’s fabric, and to this day, a little part of Bill comes alive every time anyone reads a review or article that he wrote. Bill’s friends remember that anytime they went to his modest walk-up apartment not far from Times Square, there’d always be a straight sex scene playing on his TV screen – which was perhaps ironic because Bill was gay.

Bill filled people with soundbite memories: he adored the band Exile, especially their 1978 hit ‘Kiss You All Over’ which he claimed was the best song ever written. He was addicted to the hit TV series, ‘Murder She Wrote’, perhaps because each episode opened with the hero, a writer played by Angela Lansbury, at the typewriter. He was obsessed with the Oscars, rushing out to see the contenders in every category before the big night ceremony each year. And Bill loved to hug the people around him. He would sign off letters “God bless and hug your friends,” and give out ‘free hug’ coupons to people he liked.

One more, sadder, memory of Bill: he was brutally murdered in 1991, stabbed repeatedly, and left to die alone in his apartment. He was just 40.

This is Bill Bottiggi’s story, as told by friends and former colleagues.

With special thanks to Violet, Eve & Rick Marx, and Dian Hanson.


Bill Bottiggi: June 1991

As told by Violet, Bill’s close friend and neighbor in his apartment building at 916 Eighth Ave:

It was an unusually hot June weekend in New York City. Bill’s parents, Yolanda and David, were visiting from Ohio. Since Bill had moved to the city, they came to see him about once a year and would go to the theater – Yolanda absolutely loved Broadway shows. When they were in town, Bill always liked to have me around. I was his beard – the female friend who tried to distract Bill’s parents from the fact that he was gay.

So I was tapped on Saturday 16th June to go to dinner and the theater. Funny, I can’t remember what show it was – maybe something like Miss Saigon. Anyway, as was always the case when his parents visited, Bill was tense. You can imagine what it was like – these conservative older people acting fake-nice to their son who they didn’t really approve of. The irony was that Bill’s mother fawned over him each time she visited – she treated him like the apple of her eye. She’d say, “My son did this great thing, my son does that”, all the time completely ignoring the reality of Bill’s life. It was a mind warp.

After dinner and the show, Bill and I walked his parents back to the Hotel Edison where they were staying and we all decided to grab a nightcap at the hotel bar. Inside we saw some people we recognized from the theater and began talking about the show with them. There was a piano player playing show tunes and we all began to sing along. That upset this woman at the bar and she started yelling at all of us. It got loud and obnoxious so we decided to call it a night. This strange incident added unwanted drama to an already tense evening.

Bill and I said goodnight to his parents and left the hotel. I was worried about Bill – like I said, he was always on edge when his parents were in town, and the fight that ended the evening just made things a little more uncomfortable. Bill was a pretty severe alcoholic at this point, so I feared he might go on one of his benders. When that happened, he’d typically go out to the neighborhood bars, drink too much late into the night, and then put himself in risky situations. Once some teenagers who saw him drunkenly fumbling for his keys in the early hours decided to attack him for no reason. He got a black eye and a chipped tooth from that. And that wasn’t the only time Bill was beaten up. New York was still pretty edgy back then.

So I was relieved when Bill said he was going to grab a six pack of beer and head home. Yeah, he’d be drinking, and he was already pretty drunk from the Edison, but at least he would be home safe. We stopped at a convenience store, Bill picked up the six-pack, and we went back to the building. When we got inside, we said goodnight. I was wiped ‘cause acting the part around Bill’s parents took energy. I knew Bill was unsettled but I was relieved, thinking, “Thank goodness – I got him home”.

The next day was a Sunday and I expected a call from Bill. We’d talked about doing something that Sunday, maybe dinner or a movie. I waited but I didn’t hear anything from him. Late that afternoon I called him and left him a message on his machine. I was annoyed so I was like, “What the fuck, Bill? I’m sitting here waiting for you.” I tried him again a couple more times but no dice. Finally, I left him another message telling him I was going to bed. I remember saying something like, “I’m really fucking pissed with you. You better have a good excuse for standing me up.”

Late afternoon, a couple of days later, Tuesday, I got a call from the magazine where Bill was working. I was listed as his emergency contact and they called to see where Bill was. He was on deadline but he hadn’t shown up for work for the past couple of days, and he hadn’t called them either. That was very unlike Bill – he took his work seriously. He never missed a deadline or a meeting.

My first thought was that he’d taken off with somebody – maybe a guy he picked up or something like that. In the end, I walked up the stairs to Bill’s floor. When I got up there, I could see down the hall to his apartment and noticed his door was ajar and some light was coming through.

Once I saw that, I immediately had a really bad feeling: “Oh damn, this isn’t good.”

Rather than go in by myself, I went and knocked on the door of Julie and Eric, couple-friends who lived in the building and were also close with me and Bill. Julie wasn’t home but Eric was. I explained the situation and asked him to come with me to check on Bill’s apartment.

Eric and I knocked on Bill’s door. No answer. We went in, with Eric in front and me following right behind him. It was immediately clear that something terrible had happened. The front door entered into the kitchen and there was blood everywhere. On the floor, on the phone, on the door to the bathroom as if someone had tried to get in there to shield himself. There was lots of blood, but no Bill.

Then we saw a trail of blood leading towards Bill’s bedroom, as if someone lying on the floor had dragged himself in there. There were also footprints in the blood – some facing the direction of the bedroom, some facing away from it. Eric and I slowly walked towards the bedroom. That’s where we found Bill. He was lying on the floor clearly dead. It looked like he’d been there for a while because his body was bloated to about three times its normal size, maybe because of the heat wave we’d been having the past few days. I don’t remember any smell then – I guess I was just in total shock.

There was plenty of blood in the bedroom as well – including on the bed, where we found a pile of blood-drenched clothes balled up. It was clear the clothing wasn’t Bill’s – we assumed it belonged to the killer who perhaps had stripped down and put on some of Bill’s clothes so he could leave the scene without drawing attention to himself. Everything in the bedroom was ransacked. All the drawers were pulled out and their contents dumped on the floor.

The idea that the murderer had been in there pillaging the place, changing into Bill’s clothes while Bill lay dying on the floor, still haunts me.

Bill Bottiggi


Bill Bottiggi – The Early Years

William Bottiggi was born November 30, 1950 in Wickliffe, Ohio – a Cleveland suburb, population 5,000 at the time of Bill’s birth. His parents David and Yolanda were deeply religious and exceedingly conservative. David had fought in the infamous Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in the Second World War, and returned home to earn a mechanical engineering degree under the G.I. Bill. Yolanda was a charter member of the V.F.W. Auxiliary and an avid bowler. She was an avid letter writer, averaging ten a week – a habit Bill would inherit.

Bill also inherited a love of travel from his parents. When Bill’s sister Patricia was born two years after him, their parents started taking the kids all over the United States, a tradition that continued for years. Between their trips, Bill and Tricia spent every Sunday of their childhood at church under the watchful eye of the family’s parish priest – and an outsized figure of Jesus hanging from the cross. Religion, so important to the Bottiggi parents, was emblazoned on Bill’s psyche.

Bill realized early that he was different from the boys around him. While they were quick to explore the great outdoors, Bill was more interested in disappearing into books. When he wasn’t reading, Bill spent every minute his parents allowed him in front of the living room television watching shows like Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. And Bill adored movies – there weren’t any theaters in Wickliffe but occasionally the Bottiggis would drive into Cleveland to take in a film. The silver screen transported Bill and, like books, opened his mind to new worlds.

By the time he reached puberty, Bill knew he was different in other ways as well. While his friends began talking about girls, Bill was thinking more and more about boys. He tried dating a girl in high school but it was no use – Bill knew he was gay, and he knew that neither his parents nor God would approve – both of which appalled him at first.

He threw himself into overachieving in school activities to drown his shame: Bill was in the Scholarship Club for academic high achievers, was a member of the National Honor Society, and led his high school academic team to win a local TV quiz show. He was in the Dramatics Club and had a role in the school’s stage production of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. He joined the Spanish Club and the American Field Service, an international youth exchange program. As a senior he served as the High School’s student vice president. And Bill developed a deep love of writing. The more Bill read and studied, the more he longed to write.

Bill BottiggiBill, center

Bill’s academic pursuits were rewarded with acceptance to the University of Miami. There he became a member of Delta Theta Mu, committed to philanthropy and social activism. He also joined Sigma Phi Epsilon, a fraternity dedicated to ‘Building Balanced Men’, enticing members with the following mission:

True brotherhood is not instinctive but must be learned by sharing, experiencing, and reacting to life situations. Common loyalties, responsibilities, and goals produce interdependence among individuals. Under these circumstances a young man’s perspective expands from himself to his associates. A strong sense of kinship exists between brothers. The strength of this bond is apparent. By sharing his feelings, he can establish a close bond with those close to him and at the same time discover himself. After brotherly love develops, new emotions are felt.

Bill BottiggiBill, center

Bill graduated the University of Miami magna cum laude in 1973 and went to the University of Kentucky in Lexington to earn a master’s degree in English Literature. For a time, Bill found happiness in Kentucky. In addition to the academic immersion, he had easier access to culture. Performers were constantly coming through town: Three Dog Night, America, War, Randy Newman, Herbie Hancock, to list a few. And away from the watchful eyes of his Ohio upbringing, Bill explored his homosexuality, even though he remained circumspect about it with friends and classmates.

Bill BottiggiBill, far right

After graduating, Bill hung around Lexington for several years. He worked as a part-time English instructor at his alma mater and took trips to visit his old schoolmates as they dispersed across the country and beyond. Bill also wrote more than ever, publishing the occasional essay or article. One of those articles was published in a mystery fanzine called The Armchair Detective. It was to become Bill’s calling card as a writer. Titled ‘The Importance of “C-ing” in Earnest: A Comparison of The Maltese Falcon and Chinatown’, the piece closed with the following paragraph:

Both directors, likewise, use visual images as injunctions to their respective protagonists and the film viewer as well. If we continually “see,” we will experience the same bitter triumph of Spade as he sends the beautiful Brigid over. We will know by the climax that she embodies murderous evil… Polanski, therefore, forces us to experience, like Jake, the ultimate horror of a nightmare – a nightmare caused but the failure to see.

Overwrought? Sure. But it was enough to get Bill in the door with several publishing houses in New York. Bill was ready to leave the Midwest behind and make his way east to the Big Apple. He arrived in 1981: it was a time when the city was experiencing record high crime rates, and the sex business was booming.

Bill BottiggiBill, graduate school


Bill Bottiggi – The Birth of a Magazine Man

Rick Marx

I met Bill at Charlton Publications, a company we both worked at in the early 1980s. The office was around 50th St and 8th Ave, right near Times Square. I was there as were people like [adult film director/writer] Jerry Douglas. We worked on the adult content Charlton put out under the name Stallion.

From the start, I could tell that Bill was very kind and a real people person. He just loved people, and he was so open. And he was attracted to outsiders. As we became friendly, he told me about his rigid childhood so maybe it was because of that. He had a really diverse group of friends.

Bill was also both a good listener and a great storyteller – it’s rare you get someone who is both, but he was.

Eve Marx

I met Bill when I was in a weird transition period – I was about to leave a magazine called Tux that I briefly edited. Tux sounded to me like Tucks hemorrhoids wipes. When they hired me, I had to control myself from saying, “Are you sure you want this to be the name of your magazine?”

I left Tux pretty quickly because Chip Goodman offered me a better job as editor of Swank.

I started working with Neil Wexler when I moved over to Swank. Neil was a freelance magazine writer who also wrote scripts for porn films. I met a lot of people through Neil, including Rick who went on to freelance for me. And I’m pretty sure it was Rick who introduced me to Bill, though I never hired Bill to write anything for me.

Shortly after I started at Swank, I also met Susan Netter. She was working at Swank, but she was also the editor of Stag magazine. Bill was also doing a fair amount of writing for Stag at the time – he was freelancing for Susan and frankly doing a lot of Susan’s job because she wasn’t doing much of anything. She had a lot of personal issues going on so she just sat at her desk crying a lot.

Before long, Chip fired Susan from Stag. He asked me if I knew anybody who could take over her job and I suggested Bill. He was already doing so much of the work so it wasn’t that big a leap – so he became the editor of Stag.

All of us editors of different men’s magazines were lined up on a single building floor in our own offices. Joyce Snyder had an office – she was the editor of Swank before Chip took the job away from her and gave it to me. Next was Susan, who was replaced by Bill, then there was Neil who was also doing all these cockamamie pulp books like ‘Girls Over 40’ – crazy shit. Next was the art director at the time – a guy named Bruce Perez, then there was me. And then Irwin, who was the boss of all of us.

I loved Swank. It was actually a very nice place to work. I know a lot of people had bad feelings about it, but Swank was very good to me. Everyone I worked with at the magazine and at that office – we were all a tight group of friends. Bill became my friend too.

Bill BottiggiBill (right) with Eve (center)


Bill loved being surrounded by all the porn writers at the time – people like Richard Milner, Steve Krause, Neil Wexler, Rika Mead, Dian Hanson, and Peter Wolff.

When Bill became editor at Stag, he was so proud of the work he did for the magazine. Don’t forget, Stag wasn’t some sleazy publication – it was actually an important magazine. People like Mario Puzo, Mickey Spillane, and Bruce Jay Friedman contributed content to it. Bruce even worked there as an editor at one point.

Bill’s aspirations were to be a magazine editor, and Stag was his baby for a while and he loved it.


Everybody in the office knew and liked Bill. I was OK to recommend him for the Stag role because I felt like he would be safe: we would all kind of look after him. He’d never had a full-time job before that – he’d only worked freelance – so he hadn’t been a boss and wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do.

His work pace was slow because he was a stickler. He was a good writer, a good editor, and very creative. But it would take him forever. He would spend a million years putting in commas and fixing people’s prose. He also wasn’t used to keeping regular work hours. When you’re a freelancer, you don’t have to be somewhere at 9 o’clock in the morning.

But that work environment was protective. People were not out to get you; they were out to help you do the best that you could do. You didn’t work in a vacuum there. There was a lot of teamwork and meetings. He had an art director to help him choose photos. It was all very supportive. Later on, Bob Rosen, who worked as an associate editor under Bill, wrote a book – and he tore into Bill a bit. He was particularly mean about Bill. But everyone else… we all really liked Bill.

Bill BottiggiBill (right) with friend, Ron Dimit


I first saw Bill around 1981 when I was in my early 20s. My sister was living at 916 Eighth Ave, and she let me and our other sister move into her apartment with her. Bill lived in the building so I’d see him on occasion, but I had a boyfriend and I also went out dancing all the time, so we didn’t get to know each other right away.

My boyfriend and I broke up a couple of years later and I started to run out of steam and stay in more. Bill and I started bumping into each other more. He always smelled like weed, and I may have commented on that. He invited me up to his place to smoke a joint and soon enough that became a regular thing. We went from just neighbors to friends. And Bill became my pot dealer too. Actually, he was the dealer for all of us in the building. I think it helped him pay for all the pot he smoked. He smoked so much – he just loved it.

Bill and friend VioletBill and Violet


Bill and I would go to his apartment at least once a week at lunchtime to smoke some pot. It was usually us and Joe Caputo, Bill’s art director. Bill would also have a few beers while we were there.

While Bill was always a good worker in those early years, he was a real drinker too. Some mornings he would come in smelling of booze. Chip would run into my office freaking out, saying, “Bill reeks like gin is coming out of his pores!” And he did – there was really no way to get around that. Bill was so kind and funny and smart, but he was an alcoholic. I’m not gonna put a nice face on that.


I grew up with an alcoholic, so I don’t drink. I mean I’d have an occasional drink, but I didn’t drink-drink – and still don’t. Bill would always want company when he was smoking and drinking. I’d tell him, “Look, I’ll smoke with you, but I won’t drink like you.” So Bill did this funny thing – he found this little glass, and he started calling it his eye-wash glass. He’d pour me a few drops in my “eye wash glass” while he put away a six-pack or a full bottle. At least he wasn’t one of those people who insisted you drink while they’re drinking. He was respectful and he never pushed.

But did anybody tell you about the Bloody Mary parties?


Oh, the Bloody Mary parties! Every Thanksgiving, Bill would invite a bunch of us over to his apartment super early in the morning for brunch followed by a march over a couple of blocks to catch the Macy’s parade. Brunch was really drinking Bloody Marys and smoking pot.

Bill BottiggiFriends gathered for one of Bill’s famous Bloody Mary Thanksgiving parties (Bill at right)


The night before his Thanksgiving parties he would always call me full of anxiety. “Oh my God, Violet. Oh my God. My apartment, it’s not ready to receive guests. It’s a mess. What am I gonna do?” So, of course I’d wind up spending the next five hours cleaning his fucking apartment. And while I’d be cleaning, he’d be making Bloody Mary mix.

Bill had a way of getting you to do things thinking they were your idea. But then when you sat back later, you were like, wait a minute…

Bill with friend VioletViolet and Bill


Bill’s apartment – you could write a whole book about his apartment. Bill was on the second floor right above 8th Ave, so he would never open the windows. And he would pull down the blinds for privacy which meant it was dark in there all the time. Always overflowing ashtrays and piles of clothes everywhere. Really, just a mess.

Bill’s personal hygiene also wasn’t great and he didn’t care much about his clothes. He always wore unique eyeglasses, like big ones with red frames but they’d be held together by scotch tape. But his personality more than made up for his lack of style and hygiene.

Shortly after I met Bill, his apartment building went on strike for about two years. He was deliriously happy because he wasn’t paying rent. He had no heat in the winter and the place was falling apart, but he was happy just not to have to pay.


Bill and I would often go to adult film screenings together so we could write and publish movie reviews for the magazines. That was where Bill really shone.

I remember we were at some adult critics awards one night in midtown, and coincidentally next door there was a gathering of Vietnam veterans. Bill ducked out of the porn awards and spent the whole night with the vets. Bill was very interested in veterans, especially Vietnam veterans. I think it was driven by his attraction to men in uniform.

Bill Bottiggi


When Bill was writing and editing for the magazines, he’d invite me to these film screenings. He’d always want me to come. And being a young, starving person, I would go ‘cause those premieres would often have food spreads. Everyone would watch the porn movie, and then head out to the buffet table. I was the one always gobbling up shrimp – I was that person.

After the movies ended, Bill would ask for my opinions. He genuinely wanted to know what I thought. I would always try to be helpful and tell him things that stood out for me, but really… I was just there for the food.


Bill loved talking about films – mainstream films, adult films, any film. And he talked about women’s body parts like a guy’s guy. He loved Taija Rae. And he absolutely adored Danielle. He would go to Bernard’s near the Melody Burlesk in large part because Danielle was a bartender there.

Bill was a regular at Bernard’s – he would chain smoke Kool cigarettes and always have a beer in his hand. Anything that was cheap. It was more about volume than taste for him.

Taija RaeBill’s favorite model, Bill’s favorite magazine: Taija Rae on the cover of Stag


Bill may have reviewed straight films but he was mostly fascinated by men. He liked manly men and was on the manly side himself. He didn’t like femme gays so much. He was a bear – very hairy. He didn’t talk about his dating life much but later, mutual friends shared that he frequented places like The Spike – places for men in leather. That was his scene.


Bill never told me he was gay, but I got it immediately. It was unspoken. We understood each other without being explicit. We didn’t really have any conversations. I just knew what he was into.

Not long after we became friends, I met his friend Philip. It was clear from the first time I saw them together that Bill and Philip loved each other. And I’m pretty sure they had been a couple in the past but they weren’t any more by the time I got friendly with Bill. I don’t know why they split but it was so obvious that they still loved each other deeply. They talked to each other all the time.

Then around 1986, Philip got really sick and died. I’m sure it was AIDS though Bill never said that specifically. Bill was hit hard when Philip passed. He drank even more after Philip died – if that was even possible. Maybe he’d just building up a tolerance.

But don’t get me wrong: Bill’s was not a sad story. Bill was so funny – really hilarious, and we had so much fun together. I remember one Halloween, Bill wanted to be the King from ‘The King and I’. I had a degree in Fashion Design so I made him an outfit. He was so tickled by that – he loved acting the King that day.

Bill BottiggiBill (right) with Eve (center)


Bill was so much fun to hang out with. Wherever there was a party, there was Bill. And not only was he there, but he’d be the center of the party. The first one there, the last one to leave. He should have been in the Mad Men generation – smoking constantly, drinking constantly. He loved going out, and he loved bars.


Bill was cute. I mean, he was just an adorable person. He always had a twinkle in his eye. And he would say really funny, great things. I was a pessimist, but Bill was always the opposite. And he was so corny. I’m surprised no pictures of him have surfaced with his head buried between somebody’s boobs. He was the king of really bad jokes.

He was a really gentle spirit and super intellectual. A really good writer, very imaginative. Super interested in politics. And he was sensitive. He was the only one of us that wrote long detailed rejection letters to people who submitted pieces to the magazine to publish. People submitted constantly and I was like, “No, no, no!” But not Bill.

You could tell him your problems and he really cared. I remember when Rick and I met and started our affair, I talked to Bill about my feelings. While people in the office were judgmental, Bill wasn’t at all. He understood life is complicated and was just kind and supportive.

Bill BottiggiBill (right) with Rick


There was only one thing Bill may have loved more than people and that’s movies. In the 1980s you could drink and smoke in movie theaters. One of Bill’s favorite things to do would be to grab a six-pack, a few joints, and his cigarettes and park himself in the balcony of a movie theater. He’d watch a few movies and have his own party. I went with him once or twice but mostly Bill did it alone and loved it. The movie theater was his perfect environment.


After about three years at Swank, I left and Rick and I moved upstate. We had a kid at that point and were looking for something different. Bill would come to visit us up there a lot – we would grill and hang out all day. He was my favorite house guest – so much fun to be with.

I felt like I got to know him better after I didn’t work with him. He was even more open. His friends were really important to him. And he was so great with our baby – he really loved children.

I remember once Bill called and asked us if he could bring a friend out with him. He arrived with a ‘little person’, she was really diminutive. Bill didn’t think to mention it when he called. He was totally blind to differences and disabilities that might make someone stand out to other people. He was very accepting.

But his drinking definitely continued. By the time I’d drive him back to the station at the end of a visit, he was usually really, really drunk. I would sit in the car until the train arrived so I could make sure he got on it safely.

Back in the city, Chip eventually fired Bill as editor of Stag. Bob Rosen, who worked for and with Bill, later wrote that Bill was running a scam with prisoners in jails, making them pay to have their letters run. But I never saw evidence of that and never believed it. I mean I believe Bill was corresponding with the prisoners, but I don’t believe he was extorting them for money.

I think in the end Chip fired Bill because of Bill’s alcoholism. Not that the drinking kept Bill from working – Bill always worked, and he always produced high quality writing. But he could be slow and inconsistent. And sometimes he’d show up to work with a black eye or looking banged up. I just don’t think Chip could handle that.

Bill BottiggiBill and Eve


Bill definitely corresponded with prisoners – partly to get content for the magazine, and partly I think because Bill just loved writing letters. Yolanda, Bill’s mother, used to write ten a day and I think Bill picked it up from her.

But the prisoner stuff was real. I know because years later I learned he was sending copies of my photo to prisoners to entice them to write. Not cool Bill!

He’d start corresponding with anybody he met. Some people asked for your phone number, but Bill asked for your mailing address. He’d meet people in the street, in the store, anywhere, and he would ask to exchange addresses. Then he would start writing them.

It was uncanny. He was constantly writing – and he produced a ton. He had like 500 people that he would send Christmas cards to. He would start in October and he wouldn’t be done until January. And he’s not writing little cards, he filled the card up, talking about what happened in the year, and then all the good wishes for the next year. And he would receive cards too. It was great because he’d have a Christmas tree card displaying them all, and it would fill the entire wall.

Bill Bottiggi


After Bill was fired from Stag, he went back to freelancing, though I don’t think Chip allowed him to freelance for any of us. Once you were fired, you were fired. But Bill kept writing – and I think he picked up more work for gay men’s magazines. But he wasn’t working as consistently, and that led to money troubles. I think he was having difficulty paying his rent by the late 80s.

Dian Hanson (magazine editor)

By around 1990, Bill occupied the cubicle next to my office at Mavety Media, writing and editing for the gay mags. He was very outgoing and flamboyant; he loved to tell shocking stories about his cruising adventures. It was the age of AIDS, but he refused to modify his behavior because he loved cruising and casual sex. And he was fond of straight trade, especially young Hispanic guys.


Bill never liked to be alone, and that seemed to just get more acute over time. He always wanted company. Bill was lucky to have us in the building – there was me and our friends Julie and Eric. At any point, one of us was usually available. But it could be draining – Bill was great, but we all had lives and things to do. Usually when we told him we couldn’t hang out, he’d just head to his apartment to write.

He wound up writing a 900-page novel based on a friend of his named Peter. This friend Peter was absolutely stunning – so incredibly beautiful. When he walked down the street everyone would stop and stare at him, including me. But Peter wound up killing himself – he hung himself in his brother’s bathroom. After that Bill shelved the book even though he’d finished it.

After Philip, Bill hooked up with another boyfriend, Dennis, for about a year. And while Bill wasn’t out loud about being gay, Dennis totally was. I remember one night Bill, Dennis, and I were smoking pot and I asked them if either of them had ever been with a woman sexually, actually seen a vagina. Bill said he had back in Ohio, in high school, but Dennis was like, “Never!”

It was like he was offended by the thought of it. Not that Bill seemed comfortable with it either – the little he shared, it didn’t sound like a great experience for him.

I wound up throwing a surprise 40th birthday party for Bill with Dennis in November 1990. Shortly after that Bill and Dennis broke up but not on bad terms.

Bill BottiggiBill and Dennis


Back then it was, “Decide! Are you straight? Are you gay? Who are you? What are you?”

I think Bill would have been very comfortable in today’s non-binary world. I think he would’ve been a much more comfortable person. He was born at the wrong time. And with his parents breathing down his neck, it was all just… judgy, judgy.

He didn’t really have a chance, when you think about it. He was on a collision course with himself.

Bill Bottiggi


Bill would call his mother every Sunday and they’d talk for an hour. Which sounded sweet until she started calling me later. She would get on the phone and whine for ages. She was pretty overbearing.

Bill’s father was really reserved and quiet. When the parents visited, he’d barely engage.

And the religious angle was oppressive. I really think that was at the crux of his alcoholism. Bill couldn’t reconcile who he was with this God who denied him. I really felt that underneath he was just so conflicted. He wanted his mother to be proud of him. He wanted God to accept him.


When Violet wasn’t free, I would act as Bill’s beard when his parents were in town. The funny thing is Bill’s sister Patricia was gay too – also closeted from the parents. Bill knew Tricia was a lesbian though I’m not sure she knew Bill was gay. They didn’t get along so Bill and Tricia never saw or talked to each other.

By 1991, Rick and I moved to LA so I wasn’t around to cover for Violet any more when Bill’s parents were in town. We were in LA when we got the call that Bill had been murdered.

Bill Bottiggi


Bill Bottiggi – Aftermath of a Murder


The days after Eric and I found Bill’s body were surreal. At first, the police asked me a lot of questions. About Bill, about that weekend, about our relationship. They spoke to lots of Bill’s friends.

Once the police had taken all the evidence they wanted from Bill’s apartment and declassified the place as a crime scene, the landlord contacted me saying he wanted it cleared out so he could re-rent it. I called Bill’s parents to see what they wanted to do. His mother said, “Oh, he loved you so much, you do it.”

Eric, Julie, and I couldn’t believe it. This was their son. They should be part of this. But they just weren’t interested.

And Bill’s sister Patricia, not to be crass, but she was an ass too. She showed up in New York to deal with the police but she acted like being in the city was a big party. We were all really sad, and she wanted to go out all the time. We were thinking, “Our friend just got murdered. Can you respect that, and tone it down?”

When we asked her to help us clean out the apartment, she was like, “I’m not dealing with that. Fuck no!” And she was the recipient of his life insurance money! It wasn’t much, like ten grand, but it was something. You would think she would at least have offered us a little bit of money to offset the cost of us moving Bill’s stuff out – but she didn’t.

I don’t know why Bill made Patricia the recipient of his life insurance. He disliked his sister intensely. I guess he didn’t think he was going to die.

Bill’s parents never came back to New York but by the end of June, they did wind up having a memorial for him. Eric, Julie, and I all went to Ohio for it. It was a big thing at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Wickliffe – all the congregation were there. To be honest, the whole thing felt a little performative to me – like they didn’t want the people around them to think they were messed up parents for not acknowledging their son was dead. It felt like they did it out of a sense of obligation.

But Bill’s cousin Dennis shared a eulogy that really captured who Bill was. That was meaningful.

Eulogy for Bill Bottiggi, by his cousin Dennis De Palma

Though none of us want to be here this morning, I am proud to be chosen to say a few words about my cousin, Bill. After days of thought, I came up with these words to describe him. Intelligence. Everyone here knows of his intense ability to learn and understand. Kindness. His demeanor was one of being nice to all he came in contact with. Gentleness. A true gentleman living in a violent city that he loved. Generosity. Bill would share anything he acquired with anyone he became acquainted with.

But there was something missing in this description of my cousin Bill. I knew if I could concentrate, I could come up with one more word to solidify the description of this man’s life. Finally, the word came to me – adventuresome. Bill was adventurous. He traveled to Europe and he traveled our country, he studied in different parts of the world. He viewed plays, went to movies, concerts, ate in fine restaurants, met new friends worldwide. He chose to live in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

In other words, he did things, met people, and visited places that most of us never have, nor ever will. Unfortunately, our life on earth is ruled by clocks and calendars. So though Bill lived only forty years, by these standards, he squeezed a lifetime of exciting activities and experiences into that timeframe. So when you think of Bill in the future, don’t think of a man who spent 40 calendar years on this earth. Instead, think of a man who spent a lifetime on this earth. That’s the way he would want it.


I came back to New York in July 1991 for a memorial service that some of Bill’s friends arranged for him. On the 20th July, there was a memorial service at St. Malachy’s Actors Church followed by a gathering at Sonja Wagner’s loft. Sonja was an artist who also freelanced for all the men’s magazines in New York. All of her good friends were gay men, and Bill was one of them. Her loft was a great space where we often partied when Bill was alive. At the memorial, Sonja gave out little bags with Bill’s cremated remains in them.

After Bill died, the police were very frank in the way they shared the news of his murder with his parents. The cops said straight out that it seemed likely that it was “gay-related.” As soon as they said “gay,” his parents didn’t want to retrieve Bill’s body. So all of his friends chipped in to have him cremated.

Friends’ eulogy for Bill from his memorial service

Bon-vivant, world traveler, writer, novelist, decisive movie critic, Jeopardy fanatic, Broadway buff, Oscar authority, Lucy lover, and Lotto lord.

Last one off the dance floor. Always. True. Hated cats, but loved ritual. Uniforms, Halloween, Bloody Marys, brunch, and Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving.

A little boy at heart with a childlike innocence, he could also be a devil’s advocate in his avid conversations. A fabulous ear for detail. The memory of an elephant. A penchant for yellow. Call him Cha.

Excellent listener, community catalyst, professional colleague, superb host. Remember his Magic International Christmas card treat. Loyal friend, always grateful and appreciative.

Farewell, we love you. In Bill’s words, “God bless and hug your friends.”

Free HugThe free hug coupons Bill used to give out


The day of that memorial, I snapped. I left early, went to Bill’s apartment, and cleaned up all the blood. The blood was covered up with this powder the police had sprayed on it because the smell was just horrible at that point. The powder was supposed to contain the smell but the stench of decay was so strong. The odor of the powder was horrible too. In fact, the whole place smelled horrific. I scrubbed that apartment clean.

Later in September, we had another gathering to celebrate Bill’s life and also to offer his belongings to friends. Eric, Julie and I had cleared out Bill’s apartment and had tons of his stuff – he really was a hoarder. Early on we got rid of anything that was edgy and gay as we thought his parents might come to town, and we didn’t want them to have to deal with that. We figured Bill would appreciate it if we toned down the gay as he never came out to his parents. But it didn’t matter ‘cause his parents never came.

We brought boxes and boxes of stuff to the memorial, including forty journals that Bill kept. I hadn’t gone through them in advance. I thought they were more regular diary-type stuff. Maybe I should have…


Turns out Bill was a copious diarist. Violet brought a bunch of them to the memorial gathering and I skimmed through them. They were pretty dark. There was a lot of stuff about sex with rough trade. Reading through them, Bill had a real after-dark life. There was a lot of violence depicted among those pages. A lot.


Eve told me what she’d found in the journals so I picked them up and scanned a few. To be honest, I think it was mostly fantasy writing. Not that Bill didn’t pick people up and bring them home – he did – but many times I think it was just for company rather than for sex. I think Bill had a very active imagination.

The police activity died down and the investigation seemed to drag. Julie, Eric, and I didn’t think they were doing enough. We felt like their attitude was, “Bill was out in the middle of the night drunk, what did you think was going to happen?!” We knew Bill behaved recklessly, but that was no reason to dismiss the fact that he was murdered.

So we decided to pool our resources and hire a private investigator. That came to naught. Bill knew so many people – hundreds of people – that the investigator said it would cost a fortune to track down all the avenues. Even just his Christmas card list and the pen pals from prison – we’re talking about a huge number of leads. So we decided we couldn’t proceed. We just didn’t have that kind of money. We had to leave it to the cops.

I spoke to one of the detectives and he said they were facing the same challenges that our investigator had – Bill knew so many people that the amount of information to go through was overwhelming. They said statistics show you’re much more likely to be killed by someone you know so they weren’t inclined to start with strangers. They had to go through everybody Bill knew first. But we kept saying, “No you don’t!” Because anybody that knew Bill, that really knew Bill, would never murder him. Yeah, he could be annoying and exasperating, but the bottom line is that he was lovable, and he was so loved.


Bill Bottiggi – Postscript

Bill’s case went cold and remained so until 2015 when Bill’s sister Tricia contacted the NYPD. She was calling on behalf of Bill’s mother Yolanda who was, by then, in her late 90s and decided she didn’t want to die not knowing who had killed her son.

The police reopened the investigation, calling Violet, Eve, Rick, and many others associated with Bill and the case. A detective on the cold case at the time shared with Violet that he was confident he knew who the killer was – that it wasn’t a prison pen pal or anyone along those lines. He said the lead suspect was in jail for another crime and they were ready to bring the case to court but didn’t have the green light from the New York District Attorney. But then everything went quiet again. And then Bill’s mother passed away, as did his sister. His father had already passed years back.

The Rialto Report recently spoke with a representative of the NYPD who confirmed that the investigation into Bill’s murder is still ongoing. More than that, the rep said that those working on it feel they are close to getting the case brought to court in the future. Until then, Bill’s last hours remain shrouded in mystery.

There are eight million stories in the naked city. They may come from Ohio, or Kentucky, or within the pages of a men’s magazine. And some of them end too soon and too violently. But they all matter.

This was, and remains, Bill Bottiggi’s story.


The NYPD stress that any shred of evidence could still assist them in driving a conviction, and strongly encourage anyone who might know anything related to Bill’s murder to call 800-577-TIPS.


Rick Marx and Joe Caputo’s tribute to Bill:



  • Posted On: 25th February 2024
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles


  1. Tom Bates · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Thank you RR for not becoming a fan-oriented exercise in pandering to the followers who just want to see their favorite wet dream featured every week. By taking a step back and recognizing people from all walks of the industry, you are truly painting a rich and nuanced view of history. This is a sweet and deep piece.

  2. Lee J. · February 25, 2024 Reply

    I had never heard of Bill……… and now I am totally engrossed and invested in Bill’s story.
    Wherever he is today I’m sure he is happy to be the center of attention one more time!
    Good job, Rialto team!

  3. Nicholas Coates · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Moving and sad. I hope the crime is officially solved very soon.

  4. DS · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Is the suspect still alive today?
    Interesting case, and a sweet man.

  5. Jeffrey Zandrowicz · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Great Story, but 1 question, is DNA an option?

  6. Jeff Robertson · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Awesome Article Keep Up Good Work

  7. Ruben · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Amazing work as always

  8. CK · February 25, 2024 Reply

    I wish we could get a chance to read that 900 page book he had written.

  9. Isaac · February 25, 2024 Reply

    Fascinating and devastating. Bill was right about that Exile song and Taija Rae though . Loved the contrast and similarities in the dueling eulogies.

  10. Tom Steer · February 25, 2024 Reply

    To have a friend like Violet…that’s pretty special… or Eve and Rick…. In that respect, Bill was lucky.

    R.I.P. Bill

  11. Nick · February 26, 2024 Reply

    Great storytelling, as always.

  12. J. Walter Puppybreath · February 26, 2024 Reply

    RR: I wish I had more words to say how important the work you choose to do is…but I don’t.

  13. Alex Douglass · February 26, 2024 Reply

    What an extraordinary story; another landmark in the amazing oral history this site is creating about a vanished world.

    I lived not far from that Eighth Avenue apartment in those days, and looking at the pictures, I think I remember Bill from some very late nights at bars in the neighborhood—chainsmoking, talkative, and as fanatical about plays and old movies as I was. You had to be very careful not to make yourself a mark back in those days; living there, I was mugged twice and once had a “date” go very wrong; what happened to Bill was all too common, and if anything I’m surprised the police, then and now, were as on top of things as it seems.

  14. Michele Karlsberg · February 27, 2024 Reply

    Wow. This has surly brought back a flood of memories as I worked with Bill at Mavety but also were friends outside of work. I remember closing the memorial services asking everyone to stand and give each other a hug. Then we all left the couch to the Jeopardy theme song. I am so happy you shared Bill with everyone. I am grateful.

    • April Hall · March 8, 2024 Reply

      Oh Michele thank you so much for commenting – how wonderful that you got to know Bill.

  15. NSS · March 3, 2024 Reply

    I didn’t know who Bill Bottiggi, but I’m glad spent about a half hour of my life getting to learn about him. My deepest condolences to him, his family, and his friends. I’m glad they were able to at least enjoy the little time they had with im on earth.

Leave a reply

Verified by MonsterInsights