April 08 2010 3:40 PM ET
Why was Antonio D’Amico, Gianni Versace’s partner, pushed out of the company, and where is he now?
I found Antonio through a publicist who was working with him on his own autobiography a few years ago. He was pushed out of the family because he never got along with Donatella when Gianni was alive. He says he doesn't know exactly why Donatella froze him out. He wonders whether the family blamed him somehow for exposing Gianni to danger in Miami Beach. But he told me that he never understood the family's reaction. Antonio has tried to do many things since Gianni's death. He attempted unsuccessfully to launch his own fashion line. After that he left Milan to live in the countryside in Northern Italy and opened a restaurant there. He has written a book about his experiences and now he is working with aspiring designers to help them get off the ground.
What was unique about Elton John and Gianni Versace’s friendship?
What was unique was probably how genuine it was. Gianni cultivated and entertained celebrities because he knew it was good for his house, but he was not good friends with many of them. Elton was an exception. They each admired the creative restlessness in the other. Gianni quizzed Elton about music and the pop culture world, while Elton soaked up Gianni's love of art and design. Gianni supported Elton when he kicked his drug habit. Elton was genuinely devastated by Gianni's death and was extraordinarily loyal to Gianni's partner, Antonio D'Amico, after Gianni's death — calling Antonio several times a day early on and inviting him to spend holidays with him and David Furnish for a long time after Gianni's death. It was a rare example of true friendship in the celebrity world.
Even today, there is conjecture surrounding Andrew Cunanan's connection to Gianni Versace before his 1997 murder. What have you been able to clarify in your reporting?
Much of the conjecture centered on the idea that Cunanan had been part of a Mafia hit to kill Gianni. I reviewed the 1,000-page police file of the FBI and the Miami Beach police, who together conducted 1,000 interviews during the course of investigating all of Cunanan’s murders. I also spoke with Italian magistrates, tax police, former executives of the house, and their auditors. No one has ever found any connection between the Versace family/house and the Mafia. In the end, we will never know exactly what drove Cunanan to kill Gianni. To be sure, it was a time when celebrities still moved freely: Gianni had no security, and his morning trip down to the News Cafe [in South Beach] to get his newspapers was well known. I personally believe that Cunanan had simply lost his mind during the course of his killing spree and decided to go out in a blaze of glory by killing a man who was his icon.
You write that Donatella felt like a fraud after it was decided she would take the reins of the company. Why?
She was always Gianni's muse, inspiration, and best sounding board, but she had never had anything like the responsibility for entire collections as Gianni did. She was the creative director of Versus — a younger, secondary line within the house — but much of the heavy lifting was done by a staff of young designers. Her great talent was as an editor for Gianni's work — telling him which of his designs worked or not, assembling the clothes into outfits that had the greatest impact on the runway, channeling new trends that she saw in the clubs and the street to Gianni — but she rarely had original ideas of her own. When Gianni died, she knew she didn't have the talent, the vision, and the extraordinary stamina to drive a fashion house, but she felt she had little choice but to step into her brother's shoes.