Buck Naked Ambition

If you’d rather listen to this story, check out this episode of the podcast.

1981. Although it was fall, it felt like winter in a wet field just 35 miles north of New York City. The unseasonably cold weather presented a particular challenge for the men standing about clad only in Roman togas and sandals. Sinking ever so slowly into the mud, the fledging actors stood ready to perform in an unprecedented movie: the most expensive gay porno ever filmed. But much like their footwear, the production had become stuck. The film’s director and star were at an impasse with film’s mysterious financier, the mononymous George. And although they know very little about George, what they did know kept them from arguing too vehemently. George had a limo, 10 pounds of cocaine, and a suitcase full of money. This is the story of Buck Naked Ambition.

Born in 1955, to a recently emigrated Cuban immigrant, George Manuel Bosque longed to please his father. Attending private Catholic school, and then a military academy, George excelled in academics and extracurriculars. It was during these school years, that George become obsessed with law and order. So, at a time when many of his classmates were taking part in protests and free-love, George joined the Miami police department’s Explorer Scout program. With the fictional Dirty Harry as his role model, George saw those he considered unpatriotic as “deserters, traitors, and termites.”  Little did George know, however, that in just a few years, he would become public enemy no. 1.

Although he dreamed of a future in law enforcement, George settled for a job as a police dispatcher in Washington, D.C. While his career plans had stalled, George’s personal life changed radically. For years, George had been keeping a secret from his father, and perhaps himself: he was gay. Now, far removed from his childhood home in Florida, George became a more honest version of himself.

By 1975, he met and fell in love with Carl Denton, a habitual runaway who had spent some time in juvenile homes. The two outsiders quickly bonded and moved in together. But George feared that the distance between the US capitol and Miami was not enough to keep his secret from his father. So, the couple moved across the country to San Francisco. But there was one thing George could not escape: his health.

In Washington, George had not only discovered a new side of himself, but he also learned he was an epileptic. And even more than the accompanying seizures, which were terrifying, George feared that his condition would prevent him from pursuing his dreams in law enforcement. So, the epilepsy joined George’s ever-growing stable of secrets. Although they described him as “fun to be around,” George’s co-workers at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also noted that George was ““self-proclaimed Nazi who had his apartment bedecked with Nazi regalia.”

After George’s brief stint as an animal control officer ended in a mysterious firing, George came closer to achieving his dream of locking up deserters, traitors, and termites. Recruited by the San Francisco Police Commission, George joined a regulated force of private citizens tasked with keeping the peace. Finally, George had what the Founding Fathers intended for every Nazi-loving epileptic: a gun. George, however, couldn’t control his excited or his weapon. And after drawing down on an acquaintance’s girlfriend (whom he also handcuffed)—just because he could—he was fired. When George re-applied weeks later, however, presumably wearing a fake mustache, George was rehired. It was probably very difficult to find someone so well-suited for law enforcement.

January 1978. Since George’s work as a nighttime special police officer left him free to pursue additional daytime work, George applied for work with the Brink’s security firm. In addition to their bullet-proof trucks, the 100-year old company was known for its rigorous selection process. So, after three rounds of interviews, and lie-detector, fingerprint and background checks, George was hired. Undetected were his prior arrests, epilepsy, being rejected by police forces in three states, pulling a gun on a friend, or Nazi paraphernalia. This would not be the last time George would exploit a gap in Brink’s security.

In spite of the improved trajectory of his career, George became depressed. Increasingly fearful that his health issues would cost him his jobs, George argued with Carl regularly. More money would help with his health issues, but there was no one to turn to.  There was no way George could go to his father for help. After a desperate, long-shot bid to run for sheriff of San Francisco failed, George became increasingly erratic and argumentative. It was too much for Carl. On August 14, 1980, Carl packed up his bags and rode a bus out of town. The next day, George Bosque would be responsible for one of the most audacious robberies in American history.

It was simple, really. The morning of August 15th, Bosque and a fellow Brink’s employee arrived at San Francisco Airport to pick up a money shipment of over seven million dollars. They were to deliver the seven large canvas sacks filled with $50 and $100 bills to the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown San Francisco. After loading the sacks into the truck, George told the driver that an airline official inside the terminal wanted to speak with him. It was a lie. With his partner gone, George did something never seen in heist movie ever, he simply drove off.

George abandoned the Brink’s truck in the airport Hilton parking lot. As he climbed from the vehicle, he saw a woman bringing her car to a stop in a nearby spot. George drew his gun on the woman, as transferred two of the seven sacks to her car. Then, he took her keys and drove off. Authorities eventually found the car abandoned just a few miles away from the apartment George had shared with Carl. In the vehicle was a note and with a $50 bill attached. It read:

Dear Lady.

Sorry I had to use your car and that you were so scared.

Yours,

A Man in Trouble.

And with that, George disappeared.

Brink’s was appalled and embarrassed. The reputation of the company had been as bulletproof as one its vehicles. Now, they had been victims to one of the largest thefts in US history, and it was perpetrated by their epileptic employee. To make an example of George, Brink’s offered a fifty thousand dollar reward for information leading to his arrest. To ensure his swift capture, Lloyd’s of London, who had insured the stolen money, added another hundred thousand. Despite the massive reward, and a far-flung international manhunt, a year later, George Manuel Bosque was nowhere to be seen. It was as if George Bosque had ceased to exist. And in a sense, he had.

Although George had vanished, the stolen funds appeared here and there. An envelope filled with $10,000 in $50 bills arrived at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A note to the director who had dismissed George under mysterious circumstances three years earlier was included. It directed that the “humble amount” be used for the benefit of the animals and was signed Mr. Anonymous. Twenty thousand was received by George’s former partner on the special police force for “money I owe you.” All of the money was turned over to the authorities.

When George disappeared, millionaire businessman and philanthropist J. R. Lewis materialized. Donning this new alter-ego, George reemerged first in New York, then Chicago. Cash rich, he quickly made friends among the wealthy and powerful. As his circle grew, however, so did his paranoia. So, he never stayed in the same place for long, and kept his suitcases of money in sight at all times. After Chicago, he travelled to Denver, Dallas, Florida, and Peru, spending money freely on fancy clothes, five-star hotels, and limousines, as well as handing thousands in cash. George was living he believed he had deserved, but life on the road was wearing him down.

Returning to New York, George settled into an apartment in Greenwich Village. He made friends in places both high and low. Between helicopter rides, caviar and champagne at the Waldorf and even a $500-a-plate fundraiser for Jimmy Carter, George became a regular fixture at local gay bars, bathhouses, and adult theaters. It was there that he met movie director Chris Covino, the man who would become the architect of George’s greatest legacy.

Like George, Covino was a gay man who feared his family discovering his true identity. A decade earlier, Covino had begun working on adult films to hone his skills. He longed to transition to more traditional fare. George was immediately struck by the charismatic Covino and suggested they work together. Covino Chris insisted that although he made adult films, they were all straight. George asked if one hundred thousand dollars could to change his mind. Covino initially laughed it off – a budget of that size was unheard of in gay pornography. Then, George showed him suitcases full of money. And thus “Centurians of Rome” was born.

When George proposed a classy big-budget (porn) movie, Covino was happy to oblige. Covino concocted a story in which two Romans during the reign of Caligula are sold into slavery and must plot to earn their freedom…by any means possible. With generous financial backing from George—which grew to well over one hundred fifty thousand dollars—Covino assembled a cast and crew of veterans of their various trades. Shooting would take place over two weeks in Nyack and New York City, with landmarks like the New York Stock Exchange and Customs House serving as backdrops. With so much cash available, and so many professionals involved, production should have been smooth. It wasn’t.

Every morning, George arrived in a stretch limo. Every evening, he paid everyone in cash. In between sunrise and sunset, the production seemed poised for collapse. George roamed the set making unwelcome suggestions and changes to the script. Sometimes he disappeared with one of the performers. At one point, a set collapsed because a crew member leaned on the wrong pole. Actors with no training were forced to film scenes on horseback. Some of the local accents were so thick that the one editor jokingly dubbed the movie “The Centurians of Bayonne.” But no one minded. The Craft Services George supplied, included food, drink, and a ready supply of drugs.

After two weeks of filming, George threw a wrap party at the Underground nightclub in New York City. The swag: cocaine and marijuana. In an example of life imitating art, the gathering quickly degenerated into an orgy that would have made Caligula blush. When it came time for post-production, director Chris Covino only had a small amount of George’s money left. But calls to his mysterious financier went unanswered. George had disappeared as suddenly as he had in the aftermath of the Brink’s heist.

Chris Covino would never see George Bosque again, but he still worked hard to complete their film. A fan of George Lucas, Covina added a Star Wars-style opening sequence. He also “borrowed” liberally from John Williams’ score and Queen’s music for “Flash Gordon.” “Centurians of Rome,” which incidentally was misspelled, was released to much financial success, but mixed reviews. While some critics praised the quality of the production, some criticized the performances – especially the adult aspects – which were clearly impacted by all the drugs George had supplied in abundance. The Film World Guide may have summed it up best, dubbing it “the strangest gay adult film ever made.”

While George had been living his life openly, he still kept many secrets. The one that most plagued him was his epilepsy. His seizures were getting worse, both in frequency and intensity. Fearing being alone when struck by a terrible attack, George though back on the best time in his life, his time with Carl. In truth, despite the debaucherous adventure, George continued to think about Carl during the prior fifteen months. He still hoped to reconcile. So, in November of 1981, George returned to the literal scene of the crime: San Francisco.

Living out of a cheap hotel in San Francisco, George made daily days to old friends from a telephone booth at a nearby store. Like the manhunt to find George, however, Carl had left no trace. George was unaware that his old love had moved to Texas. Then, on the evening of November 22, 1981, with as little drama as when he walked away with 1.85 million dollars, George was approached by the police. Eager for the reward, one of George’s old acquaintances had tipped off the authorities. George offered no resistance when apprehended. When asked why he took the money, he said, “I did it because I was losing a lover of five years, I was having these epileptic seizures that could have cost me my police department job. I wanted to go to home to Miami for medical treatment but I couldn’t tell my family because of my gay lifestyle.” He was relieved it was over.

George Bosque pled guilty to his crimes. And although the judge was inclined to offer him a relatively light sentence, the authorities believed George still had money hidden away. After all, how could one burn through almost two million dollars in fifteen months? So, the prosecuting attorney, Robert Mueller (yes, that Robert Mueller) asked for the maximum sentence of twenty years. The judge settled for fifteen years. Additionally, Lloyd’s of London sued Bosque for the full amount that he had stolen. And since George persisted that all the money was gone, the only option for the insured would be to attempt to take ownership of “The Centurians of Rome.” Lloyd’s declined to pursue. And while he couldn’t have anticipated precisely how, George did somewhat satisfy his dream of a life in law and order. It was just on the receiving end of it.

Epilogue: After just five years, George Bosque was paroled in 1986 and returned to San Francisco. He was never able to reconcile with Carl. And by 1991, George was dead of a drug overdose. Before he passed, he was asked how he spent all the money. He said he had spent “half of it gambling, drinking, and making a porn film.” He also admitted he was happy at times. He summed up his time on the run by saying “My biggest enjoyment with the money came about when I shared it with other people. I’ve met some very wonderful people and done some nice things I will never regret or be embarrassed about.”

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