One week after screenwriter Gary DeVore disappeared without a trace, four of his closest friends sat on the deck of DeVore’s beachfront home in Carpinteria, Calif. As the sun set, they worked their way through a bottle of vodka and puzzled over what had happened to the raffish 55-year-old who wrote scripts for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Raw Deal) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (Timecop, Sudden Death) and had a bit of a cowboy streak.
Being in the fantasy business, DeVore’s friends, the Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips, television producers Mike Metzger and Barry Cahn, and Cahn’s wife, Sheri Mize, came up with some outlandish reasons for DeVore’s disappearance in the Mojave Desert. Could it be a wild movie plot that DeVore was trying out? Was he holed up with a bottle of tequila in some shabby hotel pounding out a script? Did it have anything to do with the 50th anniversary of UFO sightings in Roswell, N.M.? (He had disappeared near that alien home away from home.)
”Given that we’ve all led pretty intense lives, we agreed this was the worst experience we’ve ever been through,” recalls Phillips, who chronicled her Hollywood exploits in the bestseller You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again. ”We also agreed that Gary would hate that this is what made him famous. He wouldn’t want to be seen as a victim; he’s not the victim type.”
The DeVore mystery begins on the doorstep of the goodbye girl. A burly man with a salt-and-pepper beard, he left actress Marsha Mason’s Santa Fe, N.M., ranch on the morning of Friday, June 27, in a 1997 white Eddie Bauer-edition Ford Explorer. DeVore often visited Mason’s home when he was grappling with writer’s block, and he had just spent three days working on his directorial debut, a remake of the 1949 Robert Mitchum film The Big Steal.
Pleased to have sufficiently cracked the back of his story, DeVore, wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and a straw cowboy hat while carrying $300 and a couple of credit cards, agreed to drop Mason’s niece at the Albuquerque airport before setting off on the 12-hour, 830-mile drive home to the Santa Barbara area. Mason later told USA Today that DeVore left ”feeling good, running high.”
While on the road, DeVore called his wife, Wendy, several times from his cellular phone. He told her he planned to drive all night so he could get home and do some writing before friends arrived to watch Saturday’s Tyson-Holyfield fight. She wasn’t worried; her husband, an ex-truck driver, could take care of himself. He also carried a Colt .45 revolver in the glove compartment.
At 10:20 p.m. Friday, DeVore filled up his tank at the High Sahara Oasis gas station in Fenner, Calif., and paid with his Visa card. A few hours later he called his wife and told her he was just past Barstow (a midway point between Los Angeles and Las Vegas), which was particularly rowdy that night as motorists headed to Vegas for the Tyson fight. He said he was going on pure adrenaline, and he’d be home in three hours. Phone-company records show the call was placed at 12:39 a.m., but Wendy puts it after 1 a.m. based on a movie she was watching.