They were two of Toronto strip club Remington’s sexiest summertime strippers and, before their fateful weekend holiday in Montreal last month, they were at the prime of their careers.
“They were fabulous people and exemplary dancers,” says Remington’s owner Bill Hidvegi.
Mark Kraynak and Steve Wright disappeared Aug 22. Their severely decomposed and fractured bodies were found in a quarry in the Montreal suburb of Laval on Sep 1.
“All our staff and customers are completely shaken up by this,” says Hidvegi. “They were part of the family. What happened to them is completely tragic, a complete mystery and completely unexpected.”
Kraynak, 23, was known to Remington’s patrons by his stage name “Nick” and Wright, 20, performed as “Trevor.” Both were part of a group of six US citizens who made news back in June when they were denied work visas to perform as exotic dancers in Canada. Dubbed the “Backstreet Boys of the gay entertainment world,” the troupe members were eventually issued temporary licences.
Stephan Sirard, CEO of French Connection Français, was with the two men in Montreal before they disappeared in the wee hours of Aug 22. French Connection Français is the male modelling agency that hired the young men and brought them to Canada at the end of June. The weekend away was supposed to have been a special treat to celebrate a successful summer.
“They were my true friends,” says Sirard, from his home base of Santa Rosa California. “I will find out what happened to them, no matter what. It’s my crusade.”
Sirard spent the day with Kraynak and Wright on Sun, Aug 21, along with fellow US stripper Deric Manzi. The four of them spent a leisurely day enjoying the typical Montreal tourist sites. They explored the old town, took a horse and carriage ride, visited the Basilica, and played a bit of blackjack at the casino.
After dinner the men decided to go back to the hotel room to groom themselves for a night on the town. Just before 10pm, the three dancers headed to a club called Vatican that was featuring a ladies’ night. As the bar was closing, Manzi was busy chatting up one of the wait staff, and told Wright and Kraynak that he’d catch up with them a bit later.
After the bar closed Manzi went to a nearby Burger King for a snack. His cell phone rang. It was his friends calling to let him know they were in a cab heading to an afterhours club in Laval called the Red Light. Manzi told them he’d meet them there, but later changed his mind and decided to head back to the hotel instead.
“When Derek came back to the hotel room, I remember checking the clock and asking, ‘Where are the other boys?'” recalls Sirard. It was 3:35am.
When Manzi and Sirard woke up Monday morning, there was still no sign of Wright and Kraynak. Sirard called the cell phone repeatedly, but there was no answer. Early Monday afternoon he called the Montreal and Laval police. The police didn’t take missing person’s reports because only 12 hours had passed since the disappearance. Sirard was trying to cling to a vague hope that they would turn up.
“They were the most reliable guys. Always prompt, always polite, never late for a shoot. It was really unsettling that they weren’t contacting me,” says Sirard.
By the evening Sirard couldn’t wait any longer. He went directly to a Montreal police station and insisted on filing missing person’s reports. He says he was frustrated with the attitude of the police officer he was dealing with. He says he felt that his request lost it’s urgency in the eyes of the police once they found out that the missing persons were grown men who stripped and performed in porn films for a living.
“That attitude really burns,” says Sirard. “It really hurts.”
The men’s bodies were found 11 days later on a grassy ledge 15-metres below the edge of the Demix quarry, not far from the Red Light club. Autopsies on the bodies show no evidence of knife or gunshot wounds. The multiple fractures each body suffered could have been caused by the impact of the fall. Investigators have not determined the circumstances of the fall and haven’t ruled out murder.
Police in Laval, Montreal and California (Wright’s home state) as well as the FBI are now involved in the case. Laval Police spokesperson Guy Lajeunesse insists that the investigation is thorough and professional.
Investigators hoped that a toxicology test would shed light on whether drugs, alcohol or poison were involved in the deaths, but because of the advanced stage of the bodies’ decomposition, the tests were inconclusive.
As yet, police are not much closer to figuring out what happened that night. Investigators are still scouring hours of video footage from the Red Light to find out whether the two men ever arrived and, if so, whether they were by themselves or with a group. They’re also trying to track down the taxi driver who drove the men to Laval.
“We are trying our best to reconstruct the events,” says Lajeunesse. He points out that it isn’t likely that both men mistakenly stumbled into the quarry. To get to the quarry the men had to walk past a parking lot, navigate through a cluttered scrap metal yard, crawl under a fence and then walk another 15-metres to the quarry edge.
“No one will be able to convince me it was a suicide,” says Sirard, adding that both men had “such passion for life.”
He says that Wright loved his job and had plans to get “porn star” tattooed on his shoulder. In addition to his work as a stripper, he also performed in gay, straight and bi porn.
“Steve was the most outgoing person ever. He loved life and always lived it fully,” says Sirard. “He had everything a porn star needed. Great looks, great body, great attitude. His family said they’d rather he was a doctor or lawyer, but they fully supported his career choice.”
Kraynak, on the other hand, was more shy. Sirard describes him as “possibly the most beautiful model we ever had.” He was 6’1 and had an eight-pack stomach. According to Sirard, he was healthy, avoided drugs and alcohol and was always working out.
Before coming to Canada, Kraynak served with the US army in Iraq. He was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart for his military service. He had plans to return to university this September to study business management. Neither his girlfriend nor his parents back home knew he was stripping and modelling. He told them that he was in Canada to do construction work to save up money for school.
“He hated lying to his mom and girlfriend,” says Sirard. “He told me, ‘It’s time for me to retire.’ He was getting homesick. He said if his mom found out what he was doing for a living it would destroy her.”
After the bodies were found, both sets of parents declined public comment. Memorial services are being held for both men in their hometowns.
Meanwhile, at Remington’s, Hidvegi is still trying to digest the news. He says that customers keep asking after Trevor and Nick.
“To me it almost feels like they’re coming back,” says Hidvegi. “I guess that is how I’m coping right now.”