By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
At the January 14 press conference where Diaz accused entrepreneur Estefan of unwanted advances, he denied ever placing an ad in New Times. But the Venezuelan-born Diaz had indeed been a regular client in our classified section since August 1994. Over the years he came to know most of the ad reps. His visits to 2800 Biscayne Blvd. grew more frequent after he bounced a series of checks in 1998, leading the paper to require all future payments in cash. "He was an adult client," recalls one classified rep, "just a regular face that we would see every week." A supervisor, who remembers joshing with Diaz from time to time in the lobby, clarifies: "Basically, he's an escort."
At first Diaz advertised as a masseuse. In one innuendo-laden ad, he offered "total massage for total release" -- 24 hours a day -- "whatever massage you want is the massage you get!" Another ad suggests Diaz was working with others: "Total Massage/Light Touch Full Body Rub/By females or males/Hotel - Home/7 days a week...Now Hiring." Since 1994 New Times has imposed ever stricter rules about what kinds of ads can run in the "Mind/Body/Spirit" section. Currently ads purveying physical contact can only be placed by clients who hold a valid massage license from the State of Florida. Diaz was able to be more explicit in the "Adult Entertainment" section. "Hot muscular male model for all types," touted one ad. "Call Tony." As with his massage services, Diaz seems to have hired and placed other escorts as well: "Ecstasy Models/Females and Males/All Different Types Available/Call & Choose/Now Hiring."
In February 2000 Diaz submitted to the New Times office two nude photographs of himself for an advertisement that would run in New Times Los Angeles. A much bulkier, healthier-looking Diaz appears in the photos, looking almost nothing like the haggard, hollow-cheeked man currently accusing Estefan. Softened by computer-generated shadow, a classically posed Diaz à la Michelangelo's David is balanced by a second, more contemporary view of Diaz's jaw line and torso. In the beefcake shot, an open white shirt is draped over the figure's broad shoulders, bulging pecs, and sculpted abs. His hands, coyly crossed, ever so slightly reveal the top of his package. Assuming the romantic-sounding name Giovanni, Diaz peddled himself to Angelenos as "Hot, masculine, BISEXUAL, Very Discreet."
Diaz's aspirations went beyond the escort industry. In 1998 he landed the lead role of Hector Santos in the independent film Escape from Cuba and won a Crystal Reel Award from the Florida Motion Picture Association in Orlando for Best Actor. Award notwithstanding, the abysmal production never scored commercial release. Only in the favorable climate created by the Cuban-exile mobilization to keep Elian Gonzalez in the United States did this preposterous piece of propaganda find its way into Miami's Hispanic Film Festival.
In April 2000 Diaz made an embarrassing bid for the spotlight in front of the home of the young castaway's Miami relatives. After Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, and other local luminaries offered their heartfelt support from the Little Havana podium, the Venezuelan actor took the microphone to plug his film. "Let Elian stay in the United States," implored Diaz, as a newscaster tried to take the microphone away from him, "and make sure you go see the movie!"
Diaz hired a bottom-feeder publicist, who called New Times pitching a story. Taking no chances on an indifferent press, the aspiring actor placed his own ad in this paper's movie section. Just under a quarter page in size, the ad reproduces the Escape from Cuba poster alongside a photo of a fully clothed Diaz, above the announcement of his "special appearance" at the Tower Theater screening. An oversight allowed the ad to run before Diaz had actually paid for it. For weeks afterward New Times attempted to collect. Unable to place further ads until his balance was cleared, Diaz grew angry. "You're a fucking bitch," he told more than one ad rep, growing so hostile during one call that the department contacted police. "We decided he's not running in our paper," recounts a supervisor.