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Using Pedro.

A year before he died of complications from AIDS at the age of 22, Pedro Zamora, the AIDS activist and star of MTV's third installment of the Real World, asked legislators on Capitol Hill who would carry on his efforts to educate the nation's youth about HIV and AIDS. "I wonder now as I look around me, Who is going to pick up my torch?" he asked.

Since his death in November 1994, four entities have been named for Zamora: a memorial fund run by AIDS Action, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that represents more than 2,400 local AIDS service organizations; a youth health clinic at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; a second health clinic, Boston's Pedro Zamora Center; and the West Hollywood, Calif.-based Pedro Zamora Foundation. While the memorial fund raises money for AIDS Action's fellowship program for young people and the clinics provide HIV and AIDS services, it is the foundation that was created specifically to continue Zamora's crusade.

"The Pedro Zamora Foundation was established by Zamora family members, friends, and MTV Real World cast members to continue Pedro's work for educating America's youth about HIV/AIDS," reads the foundation's mission statement.

But now, just two years after the foundation was created, Pedro's sister Mily Zamora, his Real World roomates Judd Winick and Pamela Ling, and his lover, Sean Sasser, say they want the Pedro Zamora Foundation shut down. The problem, they say, is Brian Quintana, 32, president and chairman of the foundation's board of directors. They say he is running the foundation against their wishes and with no supervision by anyone. In essence, they charge, Quintana is using Zamora.

Winick and Ling, who became a couple after their stint on The Real World and still live together in San Francisco, are among the original five members of the foundation's board (the others are Quintana, Mily Zamora, and Alex Escarano, a longtime Miami friend of Pedro's who died of AIDS complications in the fall of 1997). They claim Quintana has ignored all of their directives, has kept basic financial information from them, and has failed to carry out the foundation's mission to educate America's youth. Making matters worse, they say, Quintana has spent a good deal of the past year fighting felony criminal charges that he sexually assaulted another gay man in October 1996.

"If Brian Quintana tells you he's working in the best interest of Pedro Zamora, don't you believe it, because he's not," Winick says. "The foundation has nothing to do with anything Pedro would have been interested in. Brian was a friend for a long time, someone we thought we could trust with Pedro's name. At every turn there was a lie."

Quintana, meanwhile, denies the charges by Winick and Ling--who, he says, were removed from the foundation's board March 26--and says he will continue using Zamora's name to educate young people. "Pedro would be the first person to say, `Use me, exploit me, put my name out there, put my picture out there if it's going to make a difference in the lives of young people,'" Quintana says. "This is not about any one individual or any one person involved. This is about making a difference."

But what started out as an effort to make a difference by picking up Zamora's torch has devolved into an acrimonious exchange of charges and countercharges. And today those who created the Pedro Zamora Foundation disagree on just about everything connected with it--down to such elementary points as how Quintana met Zamora in the first place.

IN THE BEGINNING

Quintana says he first met Zamora in 1989 at a party given by Zamora's uncle. "As two young Latinos, we clicked," he says. "He was really excited to meet another Latino who was doing something with his life." Five years after that initial meeting, when Zamora was dying in the hospital, Quintana organized a fundraiser--at Zamora's request, he says--at a Methodist church in Hollywood. He raised $45,000 to help pay some of Zamora!s medical bills.

Winick believes Quintana did not meet Zamora for the first time until he was near death and barely able to speak. Winick and Ling say they were grateful for Quintana!s work on the benefit. "We were very impressed by his ability to do an event like that," Winick says. "Brian made it his job 24-7."

After the fund-raiser Winick and Ling started talking to Quintana about plans for the Pedro Zamora Foundation. While they were interested in creating a foundation, the couple didn't have any fund raising experience. Quintana, on the other hand, had worked on political campaigns and fund-raisers, had boundless energy, possessed connections in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., and seemed like the right guy at the right time.

The Pedro Zamora Foundation was created in May 1996, 18 months following Zamora's death. In the paperwork submitted to the California secretary of state's office, Quintana listed himself as president of the board and Winick as secretary.

In a biography he wrote shortly after the foundation's creation, Quintana lists impressive credentials, including his work with various AIDS charities, both Clinton-Gore campaigns, and campaigns for California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. In addition, he had experience as a candidate, running unsuccessfully for the California assembly in 1992, then entering but dropping out of the assembly race in 1994.

Quintana also once worked for the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, run by Stefanie Powers, star of the TV series Hart to Hart. However, that relationship ended badly. In the spring of 1995, Quintana obtained a temporary restraining order against Powers, claiming that a person who he says worked for her had called him and threatened his life. He also claimed Powers had forced herself on him sexually and had refused to pay him $4,500 in foundation commissions owed to him. As a result of his charges, the National Enquirer ran a story with a headline that screamed YOUNG ASSISTANT TELLS ALL: STEFANIE POWERS FORCED ME TO MAKE LOVE TO HER.

But Powers, in a written statement to the Los Angeles County superior court on June 2, 1995, said of Quintana: "We may bring our own claims against him for the damage we believe he caused our fundraising effort by ... forging the signature of an executive of one of the Walt Disney companies on a letter pledging a $15,000 `sponsorship' of the event."' Ultimately, Powers denied all of Quintana's allegations, and a judge ordered that the temporary restraining order be vacated "not just by the preponderance of the evidence, but by the overwhelming weight of the evidence."

A year later Winick and Ling agreed to let Quintana take a leading role at the time of the foundation's inception. However, they say he was supposed to be helping them find a professional executive director and additional board Members with experience running a nonprofit. "We were more concerned about getting people in to do nonprofit work, and that just wasn't happening," Winick says. By November 1997 Quintana was still at the helm, and, the couple say, they were very concerned about the activities of the foundation.

At this point they started asking Quintana for copies of the foundation's bylaws and for financial information, including how much money he was taking in and how it was being spent. But they say they received nothing but a runaround, while Quintana maintains he "honored every request" they made. Winick says Quintana would answer their requests for information by saying such things as "Yeah, I'm putting it into the mail today" or "Oh, you didn't get it?" and "I don't know where it is."

As for the money, Quintana says that in 1997 the foundation took in $69,767. According to a tax Ming he furnished The Advocate, $17,560 was spent on "professional fees and other payments to independent contractors," $13,168 was spent on "occupancy, rent, utilities, and maintenance," $3,339 was spent on "printing, publications, postage, and shipping" and $35,518 was spent on "education events, engagements, and programming." After expenses, the group was left with $182, according to the tax document.

Told of Winick and Ling's claims that there have been only fund-raising parties and no education programs at all, Quintana says the foundation's Peer Education Program conducted 110 speaking engagements in 1997 and that 30,000 youths had received "face-to-face" HIV/AIDS education "as participants at these peer education forums and our other awareness events."

But that was a surprise to Ling, who says she had never heard of the Peer Education Program. "Was Brian able to tell who the peer educators are, who's on the speakers bureau?" she asks. "This is how he operates. He'll never provide you with any concrete evidence of these programs."

Indeed, when asked by The Advocate to provide a list of speakers who could be contacted to confirm they worked with the foundation or a list of specific speaker events he had set up, Quintana did not do so. He did, however, provide a letter from a nonprofit group called the Peer Education Program of Los Angeles, which details its involvement with the Pedro Zamora Foundation education programs. But a secretary at the program's office said the director was out of the office for health reasons and could not confirm the program's connection with the foundation.

"All proceeds have been spent correctly on programs," Quintana says. "Because [Winick and Ling] have not been actively involved [in the foundation], they don't know how many engagements we've done and what expenses are incurred."

When the couple called Bank of America in April, they were told there was only about $40 left in the foundation's account. "The fact that there is no money in there makes, us sick beyond words," Winick says. "We always thought the money going in was sitting there. We were told everything was being donated. As far as we knew, the money wasn't being spent."

Quintana says it is "conceivable that there was less than $100 [in the account] at the time they checked it. We don't have a huge cash reserve."

Winick's and Ling's frustration is understandable, according to Kathleen Enright, director of public relations at the National Center for Nonprofit Boards. Enright says denying records to board members is unacceptable: "The board, has to be fully up-to-date on financial information. They need access on a quarterly basis to anything and everything they ask for. If I were a member of a board that was denied access to financial information, I would immediately resign."

Zamora's lover, Sean Sasser, whose romance with the young activist was chronicled on The Real World and who since has served as an infrequent adviser to the foundation, says Quintana was able to run the foundation without oversight because Zamora's family and Winick and Ling don't live in the Los Angeles area. "He took direction from himself," Sasser says. "He didn't get board approval to do anything. It's a clear case of someone taking advantage."

THE EVENTS

While Quintana is proud of the support he has secured among Hollywood celebrities and local politicians, Winick and Ling say the foundation's history is marked by a series of debacles. The first, they say, was the Concert to Benefit the Pedro Zamora Foundation, which was to be held at Los Angeles's Great Western Forum and was to feature acts such as Jewel, Joan Osborne, Soul Asylum, the Presidents of the United States of America, and Extra Fancy. After three separate dates were announced in local newspapers and then canceled, the idea was dropped.

The next black eye, Winick and Ling say, was Quintana's arrest on three charges of sexual assault and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, just five months after the foundation's incorporation. The charges stemmed from an October 1996 encounter with another gay man on the porch of a private residence near the leather bar Cuffs in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. Soon after he met Quintana on the street, the alleged victim said in court testimony, the two of them started engaging in sex on the porch. The alleged victim charged that when he decided to cut the sex short, Quintana twice shoved his fingers up his anus.

"I did not want something like that to happen," the alleged victim testified in court last January. "I know that when I pulled away, I pulled away. That's when he placed his hand inside me." When the alleged victim tried to leave the scene, he said, Quintana threatened to hit him with a brick. Quintana pleaded innocent to the charges.

After she heard about the sexual, assault charges, Mily Zamora sent Quintana a letter, dated December 9, 1996, asking him to "immediately separate yourself from leadership positions in any activities carried on in Pedro's name, pending the resolution of the sexual-assault case against you." In addition, she asked that the foundation be dissolved and that Quintana "cease representing yourself as an adviser to the Zamora family or anything similar."

Quintana says Mily Zamora privately supports his efforts but was embarrassed by his arrest. "People who are involved--certainly those with public profiles--feel a need to distance themselves from me, if not outright, certainly publicly," he says.

Winick and Ling, however, stood by Quintana when he was hit with the charges. Believing Quintana when he said he was innocent and that the charges would soon be dropped, Winick says, "We basically were going to try to stick with the foundation to salvage it. We felt by resigning right then and there it would create a bigger mess."

PEDRO GOES HOLLYWOOD

In July 1997 Quintana held a grand opening party for the foundation's new headquarters at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. At the event the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS presented Quintana with a check for $10,000. For the event Quintana secured proclamations congratulating the foundation from a wide range of public officials, from President Clinton to California lieutenant governor Gray Davis. Those accolades now line the walls of the foundation's offices.

In November 1997 the Actor's Fund of America and the United Way organized a benefit performance of Rent in Los Angeles, and Quintana signed up such young celebrities Neil Patrick Harris, Mefer Sutherland, and Brendan Fraser for the event.

Quintana says the foundation netted about $23,000 from the benefit, but to Winick and Ling the parties were meaningless. "I think he's using Pedro's name to speak to people in Hollywood," Ling says. After more than a year and half of existence, the foundation had thrown only fund-raising parties; it had done no AIDS education, the couple says. "It was papier-mache," Winick says of the foundation. "There was nothing there."

But it wasn't until the postparty for the Rent, benefit, when Quintana introduced a board member Winick and Ling had never even heard of, that they realized how out of the loop they really were. "Brian was now acting unilaterally," Ling says.

THE MORNING AFTER

Winick and Ling say Quintana is supposed to be a volunteer and that there has never been any deal for him to be paid by the foundation, an allegation with which Quintana takes issue. Court transcripts show that Quintana told a judge he used at least $2,500 he earned from the Rent fundraiser to hire new lawyers to fight the sexual assault charges.

On November 3, 1997, the morning after the Rent benefit, Los Angeles superior, court judge Rodney E. Nelson granted a motion at Quintana!s request to substitute lawyer Charles Lindner for the public defender assigned Quintana for the case.

"We had a huge fund-raiser last night on which I was getting a commission," Quintana told Nelson, according to the transcript. "I would like to proceed with the counsel of my choice. It was totally impossible prior to this date to give them any sort of fee."

Today, Quintana says he ultimately did not use money from the fund-raiser to pay his lawyers and that his parents paid for his defense--which he estimated in court testimony cost about $30,000. Regardless, he says Winick and Ling are "outright lying" if they say they did not know he was being compensated for his work with the foundation. He says he was paid $15,400 in 1997. "First of all, it's not Pedro Zamora Foundation money," he says. "If was money paid to Brian Quintana."

But Winick insists, "We never approved anyone being paid any salary at any time. At one point we asked him point-blank, `You're not paying yourself a salary, are you?'"

After the Rent benefit, the couple decided to attempt a coup--specifically voting as board members to oust Quintana and dissolve the foundation. "If we stayed on, we had some hope of using our power as board members to do something about this," Ling says. "If we resigned, it was pretty clear that Brian had no intention of stopping."

THE TRIAL

Quintana went to trial in January on the sexual assault charges. On the stand he acknowledged he had had a tryst but said it was the alleged victim who was the aggressor Quintana said it was he who tried to walk away and that he pushed the other man only because the man would not let go, of him.

Los Angeles County superior court judge Carlos Moreno threw out all three felony sexual assault charges. He did, however, find Quintana guilty of the charge of assault with a deadly weapon (the brick)--reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. He sentenced Quintana to serve 180 days in jail, with the option of work furlough, and up to three years probation. Under the original charges he had faced 18 years in state prison.

"It was the worst experience of my life," Quintana says of the ordeal. "I'm sorry for any negative impact it had on the foundation." In May, Craig Levy, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County probation department, said Quintana was under house arrest and that his location was being electronically monitored through an ankle bracelet.

While Quintana says the arrest and the foundation have nothing to do with each other, the trial did reveal an inconsistency regarding a key issue for an official of an AIDS organization: his HIV status. During testimony Quintana stated he is HIV-negative. Later deputy district attorney Steve Meister confronted him about an eviction proceeding against Quintana years earlier. Meister asked Quintana to read a declaration he had filed in Los Angeles municipal court in 1994 in opposition to the eviction. It read, "I have not been able to vacate the premises by the date set forth on the notice to vacate for the reason I've been diagnosed HIV-positive and am unable to move." Meister asked, "So you lied ... to a court?" And Quintana replied, "Yes."

And then there was the matter of the letter At the time of Quintana!s sentencing, Moreno received a letter on Pedro Zamora Foundation letterhead urging him to be lenient. "Mr. Quintana's direct leadership and personal involvement have been key to the success of this organization," the letter read. "His absence would adversely impact the success of the Pedro Zamora Foundation and the educational programs we provide to youth across America." It was signed by vice chair Brett Ratner and board secretary Judd Winick.

Ratner, a film director, says the letter is a fake and that he didn't even know Quintana had been arrested. "This guy is obviously exploiting me and my name," he says. Ratner's lawyers sent a letter to Quintana, dated March 10, saying that Ratner had never "consented to or accepted any position with the foundation as a board member or otherwise" and requesting that Quintana stop using Ratner's name in connection with the foundation "Vice chair, that's ridiculous," Ratner says. Winick also says the letter is a forgery and that he is in the process of making a formal complaint to police. Quintana would not comment on the forgery allegations.

THE FUTURE

In April, Winick and Ling held a conference-call board meeting with former member Mily Zamora. They voted to remove Quintana from the board and started the process of dissolving the foundation. The couple also have hired a lawyer in an attempt to have the foundation stripped of its nonprofit status.

But Quintana does not recognize their actions, saying he and a new board voted to remove Winick and Ling two weeks earlier, on March 26. "We acted first," he says. He also points out that Mily Zamora quit the board in December 1996. Quintana says the new board consists of U.S. state department official Andre Lewis; record company executive John Dukakis; Seth Warshavsky, president of Seattle-based Internet Entertainment Group; and medical marijuana activist Jay Schurman. Lewis, Dukakis, and Warshavsky did not return phone calls seeking comment. Schurman, however, confirms he is on the board and that he voted to remove Winick and Ling. But he says he cast his vote during a one-on-one phone conversation with Quintana and that he has never met the other new board members.

So now the Pedro Zamora Foundation is in the difficult position of having two boards of directors, each of which denies the legitimacy of the other. Quintana says he has learned from his mistakes and promises he will document foundation endeavors better in the future. "We are taking measures to document everything a lot more thoroughly now because in the past it was just like `Let's do it and move on,"' he says. In April the foundation launched its new Web site, www.pedrozamora.com, and received a donation of 250,000 condoms from Trojan, which the foundation is now distributing--as part of a safe-sex kit sporting Zamora's picture--at pride events and to small nonprofits. In May the foundation held a concert at the University of California, Los Angeles, featuring the band Wank. Dean Cheley, a student volunteer with UCLA Campus Events, says Quintana assembled the whole event. "We rarely get an opportunity to put something like this together," he says. And Quintana says the foundation is continuing its Peer Education Program, will start showing public service announcements in movie theaters this fall, and even has the backing of another one of Zamora's former Real World cast members, Dave Puck. However, that alliance is sure to raise eyebrows among MTV viewers who remember Puck's antagonism toward Zamora on the show. While Puck says he supports AIDS education, he still has little good to say about the foundation's namesake: "I thought, personally, he was kind of a dick."

However, there are still some problems. The foundation may have to move its offices, and the group is still having difficulties pulling off events. Michael Anketell, a fund-raising producer, says he stopped working with the foundation after talking to Winick and after Quintana wrote him a $1,500 check on a closed bank account.

Quintana says he remains dedicated to the group's mission. Asked how he justifies continuing this work, he says, "To the extent that we are still providing a valuable service, this foundation will continue. That's how we justify it."

Quintana has his defenders. Yesenia Alonso, a 25-year-old teacher who has known Zamora since grade school, says Zamora's wish for a foundation is more important than all the squabbling. "I know Brian has the best interests,9f the foundation in mind," Alonso says. "This is what [Zamora] wanted."

As for the opposition board, Winick has been calling people to discourage them from getting involved with the foundation. He says his lawyer is contacting the California secretary of state and attorney general and the Internal Revenue Service to ask them to investigate Quintana and the foundation.

Sasser says he hopes the government agencies will help Winick and Ling in their quest to stop Quintana. "I would really like to see justice bite Brian in the ass," he says. "I'm definitely for the burn-him-at-the-stake option."

Meanwhile, Mily Zamora says she has given up on Brian Quintana, but she has a simple request for everyone else. "The only thing I ask is that people respect my brother's memory," she says. "Respect means there is nothing that can hurt my brother."

Condon is a staff reporter at the Los Angeles Daily News.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Pedro Zamora Foundation dispute with late actor's family, friends
Author:Condon, Lee
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 7, 1998
Words:4034
Previous Article:Will & Grace.
Next Article:The $195,000 question: how much is too much when it comes to the salaries of AIDS charity executives?


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