HOT TROPICS: HOW WE LEARNED TO LOVE AGAIN
June 12, 1991: the city of stars lost a few lights and Hollywood went haywire when five of the brightest talents of their generation suddenly vanished. David Arquette, Ione Skye, Lala Sloatman, Donovan Leitch, and Balthazar Getty were last seen shortly after completing an infamous Detour Magazine shoot set in a Hollywood Hills mansion, and now, after 27-years of frenzied searching, conspiracy theories, and fading hopes, their whereabouts have been discovered and the facts are out.
The sordid saga unfolded as follows: overwhelmed by the rabid response to the Detour shoot, the team realized that they could no longer go out in public without endangering themselves. Obsessed fans harangued them day and night. They were forced to go into hiding by the government, assuming new identities under the Witness Protection Program and retreating from the limelight to a mansion in the hills, where they’ve remained ever since. Now, 25-years later, they’re ready to step out and tell all.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Greta Garbo, and I believe she left at the perfect time. So, rather than grow old in front of all the skeptical eyes, after we left that Detour shoot, we decided to grow old together away from the spotlight,” Arquette tells me, dressed as his alias, a “girl named Sue.” Wearing a royal blue evening gown with sequined sleeve details and an orange wig, “Sue” confides in me what the last two decades of her life spent living with her friends in hiding have been like. “We’ve done everything together. We’ve committed international crimes. We’ve had group orgies. There have been conflicts—we’ve all individually fought each other in hand-to- hand combat—but I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else while I’m hiding out from the rest of the world,” she tells me.
Lala sloatman, now named “julian,” echoes arquette’s sentiments, adding: “I feel much more in tune with my masculine side here, but I miss the freedom of my past life.” That may be true, but it’s hard to tell—she seems to be doing just fine. Sloatman and the star of 1989’s Say Anything, Ione Skye, have formed more than a friendship during their time here in hiding. Skye adopted the alias “Armand Barragan,” and her situation differs from the others in an important way: she didn’t go into hiding by choice, but was instead kidnapped from her bed in the middle of the night by U.S. federal agents, as requested by Sloatman.
“What seemed like an abduction at the time was really an act of God,” she explains. “Once I was reunited with Lala—er, “Julian”—in the mansion, we came to find that our astrological star signs were remarkably compatible. After discovering our compatibility, I decided to stay in this house, and 27-years later we’re still all here.” Like Sloatman, Skye has felt less pressure while in the Witness Protection Program to uphold female societal standards. “Once I put on this suit, I felt just like my father and my father before me, and now I only wear this suit, even to bed. I even made custom pajamas to look like a tuxedo.” Happy as she is, she does occasionally wonder what life might be like outside. “Maybe I’d be working at a gas station where I would meet the love of my life. Something that the everyday man would do,” she says somberly, dreaming of the ordinary life she never had.
Balthazar Getty is less impressed with new-age inventions, and is the only member of the house that seems to have a severe case of cabin fever. “The thing I miss most about my born identity would have to be the parties—and, well, having access to practically everything,” he tells me, draped in a sequined rainbow jacket and only responding to the name “Isaac von Hallberg.” I turn my attention to “Mr. Wilde,” formerly known as Mr. Leitch.
"You know, Balthazar, David, and I are old-timers in the Hollywood circuit, and when we read what was going on we knew what was going to become of Hollywood,” Mr. Wilde explains. “So we decided, why not pay the government to allow us to hide in this big beautiful house and live as the people we’ve always wanted to be?” Wilde tells me that together the group has created a sort of paradise where it seems time stopped in ’91. The only modern convenience they’ve adopted is Postmates. “We don’t use Uber because we never leave, but we love all the new food delivery services. The one great thing about Los Angeles, and how it has evolved since we’ve disappeared, is the food industry, and I’m all about that.”
Once this article is released, sue, Mr. Wilde, Isaac von Hallberg, and Armand Barragan will be forced to rejoin society and adopt their former identities. While they’re a bit worried about losing 24-hour protection from the government, I tell them not to fret too much— after all, the eye in the sky is always watching. Before our interview ends, I inform them that a lot has changed since they’ve left the scene. Hollywood isn’t exactly what it used to be. I’m curious to know where Mr. Wilde thinks they’ll all end up once they leave this life in hiding once and for all. “The Abbey,” he replies. “We’d kill it at the Abbey.”
Written by Eva Barragan
Photographed by Easton Schirra
Styled by Lisa Bae