American Crime Story continues to travel back in time, and now we’re roughly a year before Andrew Cunanan murdered Gianni Versace in Miami, Florida. The FX show has taken us to 1996, and the place? La Jolla, California. That’s where we meet Andrew, and he is dressed to the nines as he wanders around in a giant, ocean-view house. However, don’t for a second think that this mansion — and everything inside — belongs to Cunanan. Rather, this all belongs to Norman Blachford and, as we learn over the course of the episode, Blachford and Cunanan had a relationship that quickly went south.
Once again, American Crime Story is mixing fact with fiction, and the story the latest episode, “Descent,” paints is that Blachford was, for lack of a better expression, Cunanan’s sugar daddy. Blachford has been paying for Cunanan to live and party, but for Cunanan it’s still not enough. During an extravagant birthday party, we learn that Cunanan is actually in love with David Madson (remember, who Cunanan ends up killing later on), and isn’t okay with taking a hard “no” for an answer from him.
Cunanan tries to persuade Blachford to give him more money, seemingly so that he can spend that money to win over Madson, and Blachford puts his foot down. Supposedly, these two men have been together for a year, but Blachford has had enough. He doesn’t want to increase Cunanan’s spending money, let alone pay for him to fly around the country, and the world, in first class (??). Blachford is willing to send Cunanan back to school, though, but Cunanan sticks his nose up to that.
So real, or not real? Most of this is actually correct. According to Vanity Fair contributor Maureen Orth, who wrote the book Vulgar Favors: the Assassination of Gianni Versace, which this season of American Crime Story is based on, Cunanan very much had not one sugar daddy, but a few. As Orth writes, “[Cunanan] would investigate older, wealthy gay men who didn’t have families, and he would place himself in those circles. And that was his living.”
Blachford was just one of those men, and clearly one of the most important, if only because he was the last man Cunanan was with before his killing spree. According to ABC News, Blachford, was “a wealthy patron of the arts in his 60s, who gave Cunanan an allowance of $2,500 a month, bought him a car and gave him access to his credit cards.” Supposedly, Cunanan really did throw a fit when Blachford refused to write him into his will, which we see happen in the episode. That eventually leads to their falling out…and sends Cunanan into a drug spiral, and going back to Madson, that leads him to Minneapolis to kill him, and eventually down to Miami for Versace.
As for what’s fiction in the episode, at one point Lee Miglin pops up at Blachford’s house, and that probably did not happen. The family of Cunanan’s first victim has steadfast denied that the two knew each other prior to the killing, but that’s just one of the unanswered questions about Cunanan’s motives and actions we’ll unfortunately never know.