It's July 5, and Antunes drives his black GMC through Middletown past an old man on a tractor. He is an anomalous motorist in Middletown, where pots of petunias decorate every porch and signs for Jesus grow out of the earth. At three-quarter profile, Antunes can look so much like Tom Cruise that it's hard not to ask him for his autograph. "That's what Tina Turner said," he says, smiling.
Antunes has two tattoos on his arms: One is an American flag he had emblazoned on his arm after September 11, which was the day before Aucoin was diagnosed with the tumor that had been growing in his brain for 30 years; the other is a red heart split by the word KEVYN.
"I wanted to get this tattoo because I love him so much and I knew it would make him happy, and I'm glad I did it," says Antunes. "Except he was on the cell phone the whole time while I was getting it, and that made me kind of angry -- he was always on the cell phone. I didn't get it expecting him to get one, too. He couldn't handle pain." He turns onto a tree-lined dirt road past a nervous family of deer. "This is my house -- this used to be my house." Right now, he is staying in the guest cottage a little farther past the handsome stone home he shared with Aucoin and Samantha until May. He is locked out of both the farmhouse and Aucoin's Chelsea apartment, where Aucoin's mother has been staying while she settles the estate, cares for Samantha, looks through her son's things, and cries.
In the state of New York, if one member of a legally married (heterosexual) couple dies and there is no will, the surviving spouse automatically inherits the entirety of the estate. Aucoin did not leave a will, but although Antunes wears both the platinum wedding bands he and Aucoin exchanged at an unofficiated, videotaped ceremony in Hawaii, the two were not, of course, legally wed.
Antunes met Aucoin on January 7, 1999, when he was 24 years old, and his "journey set itself on a new course," as Antunes would later profess to Aucoin in front of the matrimonial video camera. "We met at a bar," Antunes says, smiling apologetically. "We met at G," a slick gay lounge in Chelsea. "It was like fireworks. He was looking at me and I was looking at him and I just walked over to him because he looked familiar. We started talking, and it was like there was no one else in the room. It was like a 'we-knew-each-other-before' kind of thing."
This is a common experience of falling in love, but it was also a common experience of meeting Aucoin. "You know when you meet somebody and it's like you'd known each other for a long time?" says Cher. "It was like that for me and Kevie." "I met him at an event years ago with Gwyneth Paltrow, and that's when I had my Kevyn moment," says TV producer Casey Patterson, who was with him at Westchester Medical Center when he died after his liver and then his kidneys failed because of Tylenol toxicity. (Tylenol is an ingredient in both Vicodin and Lorcet.) "If he loved you, he loved you, and there was no one else in the world."
But there was someone else the night Antunes met Aucoin. "Kevyn was at the bar with his ex-boyfriend Alex," says Antunes, "and I could tell Alex was kind of pissed that I was there. But we just started talking about Tori Amos and how I was a playwright, and Kevyn thought that was cool and he asked for my number." Antunes gives a shy laugh. "I waited for him to call me."
Aucoin phoned the following week from a shoot in Los Angeles, and the two arranged to meet for dinner. The morning before their date, Aucoin called again. "He said, 'Do you mind? I forgot I made plans with a friend of mine, Gina Gershon.' Later, he told me that he was really nervous, so he called Gina to go out with us."
"Halfway through the date, they were making out," says Gershon. "I think we were at Moomba. I felt like I was witnessing something great. Every time Jeremy would get up, we'd be like, 'What do you think?' 'I think he's great! Do you think he's great?' It was one of those times when you just didn't want the night to end."
"He was very touchy-feely, and I let him make all the moves," says Antunes. "I walked him back to his place, but, you know, Eric was still living there, so, you know, nothing happened."
Eric Sakas and Aucoin still lived together in Chelsea, though they had not been romantically involved for two years, and Aucoin had been dating other people.
The week of Aucoin's birthday -- Valentine's Day -- about a month after he met Antunes, the two went on a vacation with Aucoin's family in Florida, where they all stayed at the home of Tori Amos. "They were very warm to me," says Antunes.
If you were going to get to know Aucoin, you were going to get to know his "moma." "My mom is my hero," he wrote in Making Faces. In every book Aucoin made, she would be photographed, made up as Coco Chanel, as Marlene Dietrich.
The day Aucoin was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, February 14, 1962, "was my best Valentine ever," says Thelma Aucoin, who adopted him one month later. He was the first of four children whom the Aucoins adopted because they could not have biological children. "Kim and Keith were rougher," says Mrs. Aucoin. "Kevyn and Carla were more sensitive, so they sort of paired off. I didn't think Kevyn was a sissy; I just thought he was a gentle child." Aucoin often said he knew he was gay from age 6. In The Art of Makeup, Aucoin wrote that his mother "even let me buy a pair of lime-green, patent-leather penny loafers with gold buckles." He wore them to school every day -- until his father found them and threw them away.
Aucoin's career began with Carla, whom he had started transforming with a tube of tangerine-colored lipstick when she was 6, moving on to haircuts, perms, homemade clothing, all meticulously documented with Aucoin's ubiquitous camera. The Polaroids he took then -- the beginning of a lifelong habit -- are evidence of his Mozart-like precociousness with style. "Kevyn always felt guilty about leaving Carla behind," says Antunes. "There was a lot of jealousy, because Kevyn was so successful and his sisters Kim and Carla are still in Louisiana, living across the street from each other in a trailer park."