A Man Among Boys

"It wasn't until October or so when he started telling me the fantasies," says Simmons. "He would say, 'Next time you come, could you bring a 10-year-old kid?' He fantasized about raping 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds. Basically what he did to Eddie Werner—minus the murder. When he first told me that, I said, 'Sam, you gotta get help.' He didn't need a lover. He needed a daddy."

Did Simmons ever think to make an phone call, even if he had to do it anonymously, to get Sam help? "I really didn't think he was going to act on it," Simmons says. "He told me stuff in confidence. What difference would it make? I can't call a shrink. His parents apparently didn't want him to get therapy."

'I've got a personality like Bobby Valentine's.'

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When Nick Manzie, a manager with a long-distance trucking company, took a look at his phone bill in the fall of 1996, he was puzzled by $200 worth of phone calls directed to a number with a 516 area code. He called the number and Simmons answered. Simmons told the father that he was giving Sam computer advice. Nick Manzie, ignorant of his son's relationship with Simmons, asked him to have no further contact with his son. Simmons now claims he finally had the excuse he needed to end the relationship.

But Sam's life wasn't taken up entirely by the older man. The boy always had his computer. According to published accounts and the remnants of his former Web page, Sam got heavily into the laser-tag game Q-Zar. He started up a Smashing Pumpkins site on the Web, with a comprehensive list of the band's bootlegs, B-sides and imports. He listed his favorite songs, accompanied by snatches of lyrics. From the band's first hit, "Siva": "Way down deep within my heart lies a soul that's torn apart." From a live version of "Silverfuck": "I don't trust anyone." From the epic "Mayonnaise": "Can anybody hear me, I just want to be me." He detailed the dress code at his school, Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft. He presented an essay titled "Who would win in a fight—Beavis or Butthead?"

Laser tag, dramatic devotion to a rock 'n' roll band, Beavis and Butthead—all of these would have been blamed as a cause for Eddie Werner's death if not for one thing: Steve Simmons.

To this day, Manzie claims he wanted the relationship. But is a 14-year-old mature enough to make his own decisions about sex?

Being a gay teenager in suburbia has been talked about so much that the issue is practically a cliché, though not to the kids who are alienated, confused and scared to death that their straight-arrow parents would never understand, afraid of the crucifixion awaiting them at school. And even if they do have the courage to come out of the closet, how do you find anyone to date?

"In most of the world, this isn't even a crime, because they know 14-year-olds know what they want," says Simmons. "Sixteen should be the national legal age. Fourteen and 15 should be on a case-by-case basis. Especially about gay teenagers."

That's echoed even in gay literature. Of 180 gay and bisexual men interviewed by Ritch Savin Williams, a psychology professor at Cornell University, for his book "...And Then I Became Gay," half of the first sexual experiences of boys aged 15, 16 and 17 were with men at least four years their elder. One of the interviewees remembers as a 15-year-old meeting a 45-year-old man in a theater, having oral sex and thinking afterwards, "Finally I did it! I did it!"

The first tale in My First Time Volume 2, a true-story gay erotic compilation edited by Jack Hart, is about a 16-year-old and a local TV newsman in a shopping mall parking lot. Another chapter deals with a 12-year-old swapping blowjobs with an adult in a K-mart bathroom.

But no matter what those and other stories suggest, Long Island gay activists aren't exactly running to Steve Simmons' defense. "The stereotype is overblown," says Jeff Reynolds, chief operating officer of Bias Help Long Island, a gay-rights group. "It shouldn't be used as a rationalization for predators."

What about Simmons' connections to Long Island gay activities? He made T-shirts for the Long Island Pride Parade, didn't he?

"He did a horrible job and we never used him again," says Jimmy Pizzo, co-executive director of the LI Pride Parade. "Other than that, we don't know him from a hole in the wall."

Simmons explains the lack of support from Long Island's gay community this way: "I've got a personality like Bobby Valentine's. There's no gray area. You either hate me or you like me."

Reynolds, for one, is among the former. "I think typically there's a reluctance to jump out there in cases like these," he says. "It's too bad the DA can't find some legitimate charge to get this guy for. I don't have a lot of sympathy for the offender."

Or is it always an offense for adults to have sex with youngsters? In about 1140 A.D., the jurist Gratian broached the subject of the age of consent, placing the number at 7 years old if both parties were willing, according to research prepared for federal prosecutors. In medieval England, other sources say, the age of consent to marry was generally 12 for girls and 14 for boys, with laws concerning sexual intercourse following these guidelines. In 1861, England pushed the age back to 16. The U.S. followed and began defining guidelines concerning statutory rape.

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