Over the Edge

Already dogged by mental illness, Paul Bear ended his life after a mean-spirited outing by a small-town newspaperman

"I didn't think having a boyfriend 25 years younger than me was a good thing," said Cross, who finally gave in to Bear's pursuit in 1990. The interior decorator came home from the gym one day to find Bear's belongings strewn throughout his home. For the first few months, things were "just wonderful," said Cross, who enjoyed the thrill of having a younger boyfriend on his arm.

"He was good-looking," said Cross. "He was intelligent. He was very affectionate." He said Bear excelled at everything he tried, from baseball to line dancing. Then Bear fell in with some old friends from his drug-heavy partying days, and the tantrums began. Substance abuse, Cross knew, was always a temptation for Bear, who would try almost anything, be it cocaine or ecstasy or crystal meth.

"He'd go into fits and rages and threaten to kill himself," said Cross. "I thought his problem was interfering with drugs. I didn't know he had a mental problem."

Thee Hubbell House B&B was launched by a Baptist minister before Carmichael and his partner bought it. The mansion was originally completed in 1888.
Thee Hubbell House B&B was launched by a Baptist minister before Carmichael and his partner bought it. The mansion was originally completed in 1888.
Downtown Winnsboro's curio and specialty shops draw their share of visitors--but Paul Bear worked with local merchants to increase business even more.
Downtown Winnsboro's curio and specialty shops draw their share of visitors--but Paul Bear worked with local merchants to increase business even more.

Anything might set him off, Cross said. "He'd go storming off and phone me on his mobile, saying 'I've taken all my jewelry off, and it'll be under the car seat when you find my body.'"

The episodes would end as suddenly as they'd begun. "It was almost Jekyll and Hyde," Cross said, and Bear would be back to his old, confident self. During one high period, Cross secured his partner a job at City Gym, the largest workout facility in Sydney. Within a year, Bear had been promoted to manager while doubling the gym's membership.

"Paul had that place running like a military ship," said Cross, who now believes Bear embezzled a large amount of money from the gym. As in his personal life, Cross said, the pinnacle of his success was often the point when Bear would intentionally sabotage everything. "Most of the jobs he got, he'd made raving successes of. Then he'd start embezzling money and spending it and doing stupid things."

Greed, Cross said, was never Bear's motivation. "It was like a compulsion. He wasn't a mean person inasmuch as he was greedy or money-grasping. When he had money, he threw it around and spent it all on his friends."

For the five years they were together, Cross said he saw Bear pick up and drop groups of friends, lavishing gifts on them and then avoiding them during his depressive stages.

Then, he'd borrow money or run up the credit cards, buying tailor-made suits or first-class plane tickets and five-star hotel rooms for jaunts across the globe. "He'd leave his friends and burn his bridges," Cross said. "Once he's drawn you in, then you see the other side of him."

Bear's dual personality, his compulsive spending, his disappearances and suicide threats were all warning signs of bipolar disorder, but nobody in Australia managed to put them all together. He was too good at projecting perfection and covering his tracks. With friends, he'd patch things together with lies. At work, he'd make sure he was the only one with a computer password or technical know-how.

"Paul was very clever at getting totally in control of things," Cross said. Eventually, however, the stress wore down Cross' patience. "I tried to put up with it because I was very much in love with him. He was a wonderful, wonderful human being when he was straight."

Bear's mental illness compelled him to blame others for his problems and leave his home behind once more. "Being the way he was," Cross said, "was everyone else's fault, and not his own."

By the time Bear left--or one might say fled--Australia in 1995, Cross said he owed more than $300,000 to friends and creditors. "I've had the Criminal Investigation Department knocking on my door," Cross said. "I've had American Express phoning me and harassing me. Paul has been gone from Australia for 10 years, and he's still in my life."

When Bear chose to leave Australia, it was the last time he had the luxury of making that kind of decision. After that, he'd find himself pushed out of the homes of angry friends and lovers or forced to run from the law to avoid criminal charges. His first destination was Seattle and a man named Bill.

The two met at the circus that is Sydney's annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras celebration. Bill came at just the right time: He could help Bear leave Australia--and the growing tension between Bear and the people in his life. Bear crossed the Pacific and joined Bill at his communications company in Washington, Cross said.

Later, Bear would tell Carmichael that Bill had stolen from him. "He said Bill had conned him out of $350,000 that Paul had invested in his business," Carmichael says.

After Bear's death, Cross and Carmichael finally spoke, and Carmichael learned the truth about what had happened in Seattle. For starters, the con worked the other way--Bear had stolen from Bill. And Cross would end up telling Carmichael much, much more about Bear, revealing an intricate web of lies Bear had maintained throughout their relationship.

Bill couldn't be located for an interview, but Cross said it wasn't long before Bear fell into his usual pattern of destructive behavior, stealing an unknown amount of money from Bill's business over a couple of years. Furious, Bill told Bear to leave, Cross said. Bear's solution, as it had been so many times before in Australia, was to threaten to commit suicide. This time, he actually slit his wrists. Bill was able to find Bear before he'd lost much blood and checked his partner into a hospital in Seattle. Finally, after sessions with a psychiatrist, Bear was diagnosed as bipolar.

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