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'Last Call: When Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York' Review: HBO Documentary Series Pays Tribute to Lives Lost

In a serial killer story, it’s easy to overlook all but the most annoying of details. This is understandable: the murder is certainly shocking, the details are lurid, the killer is inherently strange, and the search for him is urgent. But amidst all these horrifying squints, lives that were destroyed could be erased again. They become sidenotes and details, objects to be acted upon, rather than topics of value in their own right.

HBO’s ‘ triumph of Last Call: When Serial Killer Stalks Queer New York is how it subtly flips the balance. It’s a rare true crime documentary that focuses less on death than on life – and it’s more about who the victims are, the people who cherished them, the communities that embraced them, and claiming their histories than what happened to them up. This questioning produces righteous anger and unspeakable sadness. It also inspires a sense of love, courage, and an unwavering hope. Along the way, it transforms The Final Call

from a simple retelling to a powerful act of recycling.

Last Call

Bottom line A moving reclamation effort.

Air Date: Sunday, July 9 at 9pm (HBO) executive producer:1993 Anthony Carona, Howard Gertler, Liz Garbus, Dan Cogan, Jon Bardeen, Kate Barry, Elon Green, Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, AJ Dix, Matt Maher, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, Tina Nguyen

this duration The four-hour, four-part documentary centers on four killings that occurred around the New York metro area between 18 and

. All targets – Peter Anderson, Thomas Mulcahy, Anthony Marrero, Michael Sakara – were spotted in Manhattan on one night gay men, only to end up, hours or days later, with their severed body parts in roadside bins outside the city. Director Anthony Carona (FX’s Pride) walks through the investigation step-by-step through interviews with the officers who handled the case at the time (so far as they seem to remember). They are uniquely terrifying. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the murderer was eventually identified, or that the last episode went from the case to the arrest, trial, and sentencing.

But I also suspect it isn’t surprising that it took police officers an exasperatingly long time to get there, and that entrenched homophobia in law enforcement and broader American society hinder their actions. “Why the emphasis on the gay part?” a Pennsylvania police officer once asked Carona. As far as the authorities are concerned, “the gay incident had no real bearing on the investigation other than to find out who might have killed him and where he hung out.” Presumably, the police intended to hold back any suggestion that they would have been better off if Anderson had been straight. Take his case seriously. Instead, the comment underscores how little police know (or care to know) about the communities they’re supposed to be investigating, or about the legitimate outrage and mistrust these populations may harbor toward them. However,

“The Last Call”

ensures that viewers don’t suffer from the same ignorance. Archival footage shows the vicious brutality of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay speeches on one hand and the unabashed homophobia of law enforcement leaders who mocked sodomy as a crime on the one hand, and the outrage of AIDS protests and queer nightlife on the other. pleasure. Activists like Bea Hanson and Matt Foreman (both former members of the NYC Anti-Violence Project) and journalists like Duncan Osborne (via Gay City News ) remembers being inundated with reports of hate crimes and the hostile indifference to them from institutions such as the NYPD or the mainstream media. (Some recent clips connect these ancient prejudices to the rise of anti-gay, anti-trans sentiment today, although The Last Call correctly assumes that most Viewers can make connections on their own.) Importantly, interviewees tend to be early on-the-ground personnel. Facts and statistics can be recited by anyone with a basic knowledge of queer history; the first-hand knowledge of these particular experts makes them personal and immediate.

This is especially true for the Last Call

sit-in with the families of the deceased. The series deftly embodies the art of being patient but not slow. That feeling stuck with Anderson’s ex as he thoughtfully recalled their “first night” between them. When another victim’s high school sweetheart described the photo he sent her as a token of love, it captured a still raw sadness. When Marrero’s older brother still can’t admit that Anthony is a gay sex worker, it documents what goes unsaid — and how much that silence now means to Antonio, the bisexual Gen Z nephew pressure.

When Ceyenne Doroshow (now best known as the founder of GLITS, Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society) recounts memories of Anthony teaching her about concealer, food sharing, and the game of Monopoly , it becomes closer. at her house. She revealed that she didn’t even know Anthony was dead until Carona texted her – and she spent decades wondering where he went. “In my life, people have gone missing a lot for several reasons: HIV and AIDS, domestic violence, being murdered, John Doe,” she said. This heartbreaking line is perhaps the series’ most succinct illustration of how easily Anthony slips through the cracks.

That’s when, near the end of episode two, I realized I hardly cared what happened next.

The Last Call

does finally address the usual questions of who killed these people, how and why, but until Back then, they were almost an afterthought. With so little time wasted analyzing how the killers came to be who they are or why they did what they did, I can’t say I missed it. Instead, I found myself wanting to know more about the tight-knit regulars who listen to Sakara wrapping up his favorite bar every night with his favorite song, or imagine the connection between Mulcahy’s daughters at the time of his death and may develop as he becomes an adult.

All of these people’s stories were truncated by death; that’s the whole reason we heard about them in the first place.


Great acts of service call them out so vividly and so carefully that you can almost see where their lives should still be burning. In the end, what we’re left with is not the shock of their tragic death, but the pain of their absence — along with a healthy sense of frustration at the institutions that failed them and continue to fail people like them today.

No piece of art can bring back a lost soul. But this person did everything they could to bring them back to the friends, family and community that loved them and still miss them.



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