Michael G. Portantino, publisher of San Diego’s longest-running LGBT newpaper, the Gay & Lesbian Times, has died of an apparent suicide.
Reports from the County Medical Examiner’s office and San Diego Police confirm that the 52-year-old Kensington resident appears to have leapt to his death from the seventh story of the Park Manor Suites Hotel Dec. 8.
His body was discovered on the sidewalk across from Balboa Park at about 8:10 p.m. by passersby. A 911 call was placed and paramedics confirmed the death due to obvious signs of trauma.
Larry Pease, the hotel’s general manager, declined to comment on the incident, citing “respect for the family” of the deceased.
It had been a tough year for the longtime publisher and former stockbroker. Portantino’s newsmagazine of more than 20 years ceased publication in September and he had put his home on Cromwell Place up for sale.
Those closest to Portantino said the paper’s closure was devastating to him. He also was under investigation for business practices by the district attorney’s office.
Nicole Murray-Ramirez, who wrote a column in the Gay and Lesbian Times for many years, said Portantino’s financial and legal troubles were a result of him trying to keep his publication afloat.
“He was really depressed the last time he talked to me, and said he should have just shut the paper down (earlier),” Murray-Ramirez said. “The paper was his other baby, and he thought he was a failure.
“I think his legacy is going to be that he helped out the community,” Murray-Ramirez added. “He made sure he supported all the nonprofit organizations through advertising … (though) he was never appreciated; he was never thanked.”
Delores Jacobs, chief executive officer of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, said Portantino provided invaluable support to The Center and other LGBT organizations through the pages of the Gay & Lesbian Times.
“Michael served and supported the San Diego LGBT community and the San Diego LGBT Community Center for nearly 25 years,” Jacobs said. “His trademark passion and intense dedication to equality were his unmistakable signature.
“Many of us argued frequently and fiercely with Michael, and laughed with him just as often,” she said. “His larger than life presence at The Center was palpable for more than 20 years. Today, our hearts and thoughts are with his daughter, his brother, all of his family and his friends. The staff, board, and volunteers at The Center share their loss and feel with them the immense grief at his passing. “
Portantino is survived by daughters Tatiana and Samantha, mother Barbara Portantino, brother Anthony Portantino, a Pasadena-based state assembly member and others.u
—Pat Sherman, SDUN Assistant Editor, and Margie Palmer, SDUN Reporter