"He'd just go a thousand miles a minute and by the time it was over you wouldn't know which way was up," says Evan Batt, a liquor distributor he worked with in Dallas.

"I didn't even know what his real name was," recalls Trina Rose, a production designer he worked with in New York. "I was just in this tornado of feeling screwed over."

From city to city, details changed, except for this: at the middle of all the turning was Manos.

Elizabeth Thome, Josh Ek and Darren McCulley suspected there was more to their employer “Mordan Stefanov” than he let on. They couldn’t believe how much more.
HAL SAMPLES
Elizabeth Thome, Josh Ek and Darren McCulley suspected there was more to their employer “Mordan Stefanov” than he let on. They couldn’t believe how much more.
Robert “Peach” Petrie accused Manos of racking up $70,000 in unauthorized charges on his American Express card, although he now claims the matter is settled.
HAL SAMPLES
Robert “Peach” Petrie accused Manos of racking up $70,000 in unauthorized charges on his American Express card, although he now claims the matter is settled.

Even today, locked up without the couture, the Botox or his expensive hairpiece, Manos plays the victim in his own life story, the target of a years-long personal vendetta on the part of a cousin and an ex-boyfriend. Convincingly, he offers excuses for bad behavior, providing long-winded, difficult-to-corroborate answers, a mixture of facts, opinions and celebrity encounters that find him in just the right places at just the right times.

He was born in 1963 in Poughkeepsie, along the Hudson River two hours north of New York City. Manos' mother was a college administrator, and he came from a middle-class family.

In a back story he frequently told in recent years, Manos' father was a rich Greek philanthropist who'd left him a trust fund for his education, but otherwise disowned him when he learned his son was gay. According to Manos' 67-year-old mother, Elizabeth Martin, while the man's family was Greek, the rest was pure invention, and his father died years ago.

Manos grew up as Michael Martin, believing his stepdad—whom he describes as the stereotype of a gruff New Yorker, someone who would beat him—was his real father. Manos' Catholic grade school was no escape: he was picked on for being smaller than other kids and struggled with his schoolwork. His mother says he was diagnosed as dyslexic and hyperactive, and even before he knew he was gay, he just didn't fit in. "He would act out, try and fit in different places, and it just didn't work."

When Manos was 15, his uncle Jimmy snuck him into a New York City nightclub. Suddenly, Manos says, he glimpsed a world where he could fit in: disco lights, all-night music, Donna Summer and Cher.

Poughkeepsie couldn't compete, and Manos began running away for weeks at a time, off to New York City, Florida and California. "He'd live in this fantasy world," his mother says. At age 16, he left Poughkeepsie for good.

Manos spent his nights at Club A, the Ice Palace, or the Underground—"When it was really the Underground," he says—partying with Prince and Madonna, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. "In Poughkeepsie, New York, I couldn't be me. I was always considered a freak," Manos says. "All of a sudden, I was going to events at the Plaza—when the Plaza was really the Plaza."

As high as he shot into the glittery world of drag queens and party lights, he dug himself into the darker side of the after-hours life, too. His first prison stint stemmed from a conviction—sealed today because he was 17—for a bank robbery. He says he was roped into the crime by a drag queen named Chicky. He was still a scrawny kid, just turned 18, when he went to prison. After a few months behind bars, he was back in the party life he'd known. In L.A., he says, he attended a cookout at Elizabeth Taylor's Bel Air estate, with Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine. There were parties with Prince, Michael Jackson and Michael J. Fox. His name-dropping from those years seems endless.

He landed in Washington D.C., where he says he parlayed his personal relationships into jobs running high-dollar escort services. Under the name Jason Michael Manos, he appears in a 1989 Washington Times story connecting Republican insiders to a blackmailing ring of gay escort services. The story accuses Manos of charging thousands of dollars on a Labor Department official's credit card; Manos says there was no fraud because the man consented to all the charges. It's a time he revels in recalling, "running through the halls of the White House" in the Reagan years—accompanied by powerful friends in the Senate with whom he says he is still close.

A former john named Doug Hezlep recalls meeting Manos in the mid-'80s—he was going by the name Jason Wentworth and cruising around in a red Nissan Z car. In an angry letter to her son in January 2008, Elizabeth Martin says Manos "robbed several guys in Washington, D.C.," and today, Hezlep says he was one of them. By Hezlep's account, Manos told him he was deep in debt, and Hezlep loaned him $30,000 that Manos repaid months later with bounced checks. Manos denies ever getting the loan. "He was in love with me, and he sent me packages in prison," which might explain why Hezlep would be willing to join Manos in Dallas 20 years later.

Bouncing from coast to coast, Manos says he led a double life of extravagant parties and petty crime, relapsing into "stupid little things" in the pits of his manic depression. At a social-services office in New York in 1988, he recognized Robert Wooley from a stint in the Westchester County Jail years before. In a letter to the Observer from prison, Wooley says he was struggling to support his heroin habit, and they teamed up to make some quick money, stealing checks from Wooley's housemate and depositing them in Manos' bank account. They'd counted on the money transferring well before their mark could notice, but Wooley got antsy after a few days, when the money still hadn't gone through. In the early morning of May 16, 1988, Wooley surprised his sleeping housemate, and according to the prosecution, beat him with a baseball bat, stuffed him into the trunk of his car and drove to Yonkers, where Manos was living.

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10 comments
Henry Vinson
Henry Vinson

I know Michael Manos well and he leaves a path of destruction. He always destroys everyone around him and he quietly disappears as a thief in the night.

marie
marie

I met that criminal when he was in Sing Sing twice a parole violator. Everything that comes out of that criminals mouth is a lie.

Dave
Dave

"Dallas?" celebrities, society, "bella Boyz hottest new reality show?" is this some kind of a joke. What next "the real Housewives of Collin County?' I can't stop laughing.

Joe
Joe

Haha, I wonder who the dumbass was that let him into inner circles.

Mark R.
Mark R.

I met Tony and "Peach" the same night of the NY's party. Nice guys, sorry to see they were taken. My brush with fame, I guess :) Good Job, Observer folks!!!

Ginny
Ginny

Sounds like his name should be Seneca Smith! Thnat is the biggest con artist I have ever run into- lies to make you think he is someone that he is not, always changing his name, steals stuff and sells it to others (like cars) and needs to be in prison.If you run into someone like 6'5 who says his dad is in charge of Virgin records or something else big and rich, you may want to think of this article and BE CAREFUL!!!

chevytexas
chevytexas

Hm, "defrauded the gay community"? I hardly think that statement flies. "Defrauded a few self-deluded queens" doesn't make a community; chumps come in every category. Dallas isn't much different from Atlanta in recognizing a scam, but allowing it to proceed for the sense of theater. This guy's story is interesting for an article, not much of a bump in the scale of fraud. Doesn't anyone remember the Meaders' anymore? Shades of the Potashniks.

Ben Had'ee
Ben Had'ee

Had a relative show up at that Bella party and they called me going off about what a special event it was..I could smell the scam from their description of everything and when I saw pictures of this cartoon character working the "red carpet" omg I cracked up laughing. In a way these kind of characters are good for cities...they remind us all of how thin the line is between the real thing and make believe. How could anyone take his "scene" seriously...if they did..maybe they need to analyze why. This smacks of Bruno'esq antics where the fool may be making a bigger fool out of it's victims.

Hall
Hall

This happens every year or two in Dallas. Last one I remember was the 'Rockefeller' child, virtually identical facts. Come on, anybody with half a brain knew when they met him, heard all the plans, this was a con. A high-rise leased without a credit check? Nobody sat him down, "Who the Hell are you?" (I can understand a Reagan administration official being too stupid, that's another story.) It was fun, entertaining, in the grand scheme of things, really didn't cost all that much.

Skipper
Skipper

BC Dallas is a suckers town. There are several "high flyers" in Ft. Worth too. All the ladies of court like be entertained by the flamboyant jesters and will get burned if they get too close to their flaming batons.

 
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