‘Talk Show Murder’ Inspires Play at Abyss Studios

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Ronnie Larsen’s play “Sleeping with Straight Men” opens April 4 at The Foundry at Abyss Studios in Wilton Manors. Credit: Submitted photo.

When a gay Michigan man revealed his secret crush on national television in 1995, the appearance would set forth a chain of events that ended very badly.

Scott Amedure, 32, was a guest on the syndicated “The Jenny Jones Show” on an episode titled, “My Secret Admirer.” The only problem was the object of his affection was an unsuspecting straight acquaintance, Jonathan Schmitz, 24.

During the segment, Amedure was encouraged by Jones to share his fantasies about Schmitz before the man was brought onstage. The men exchanged an awkward embrace before the host dropped her bombshell. In response to Amedure's disclosure, Schmitz laughed, then stated that he was “completely heterosexual.” He had been led by a producer to believe his admirer was a woman.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Later that evening, the men went out drinking and an alleged sexual encounter ensued. Amedure left a note at Schmitz’s home three days later. An enraged Schmitz purchased a shotgun and murdered his admirer. Schmitz left and called 911, confessing to the killing. Despite a “gay panic defense,” the man would later be found guilty and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

The tragedy that began on a sensational talk show fascinated playwright Ronnie Larsen. The creator of the hit Off-Broadway comedy “Making Porn” has long been open about his own attraction to “straight” men.

“Everything that could have gone wrong for (Amedure) did, basically,” Larsen said. “At the time, those shows like Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer were always about the ‘set up’ and rarely did they not end up without some sort of sweaty brawl. The fact that Schmitz took the surprise so well should have been a big red flag.”

As the story unfolded on the TV news and in tabloids, Larsen became intrigued with the men. Soon, the tale began to shape itself into a play. The writer even journeyed to Michigan to research his subjects and the bizarre chain of events that unfolded in just a matter of days during that cold winter.

“They say life imitates art, but in reality, ‘Sleeping with Straight Men’ is art imitating life,” he explained, but then adding, “except my story is kind of a comedy.”

In his research, he discovered that the men’s relationship was far more nuanced than a newspaper headline or wire service story might convey, just like all romantic relationships—straight or gay.

While not strictly biographical, the resulting play was critically and commercially successful in its Off-Broadway, London, San Francisco and Chicago runs several years ago, and Larsen felt the timing was particularly right to mount a new production at the new Foundry at Abyss Studios in Wilton Manors: Schmitz was released from a Michigan state prison seven months ago.

“Sex and love are risky and then, unlike now, you couldn’t just post a hashtag when you were hurt,” Larsen said. “People were literally putting their lives in jeopardy, all in the hope of finding love.”

“Sleeping with Straight Men” will be performed April 4 – 29 at The Foundry at Abyss Studios, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $20 – 50 at RonnieLarsen.com.


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