Gay Twitter is a hot mess right now. The loosely connected internet community of LGBTQ folks, many of whom are media professionals in New York, just caught a full-on internet catfish hiding in plain sight: “Parks Denton,” a fake account with a stolen identity that allegedly solicited nudes and personal information from countless people. Then, the scammer in question vanished into thin air.
But the fiasco brought the community together, as though everyone had been cheated on by the same jerk. On Tuesday and Wednesday, some people shared tales of how “Denton” duped them, while others pulled out receipts showing they probably should have spotted this predatory imposter a long, long time ago.
So, who is the real Parks Denton? And what’s been going on? The details are still blurry — but don’t worry, we’ll clear up this mess as best we can.
The smoking gun
Over the past several months, @ParksDenton’s avatar depicted no fewer than three different men with vastly different appearances. But on Tuesday, Twitter user @chillowsky realized their real-life friend’s picture was attached to the account — and they called out Denton for it.
“@ParksDenton your profile pic is actually my friend,” @chillowsky posted Sept. 5. “That’s hella creepy, stop. @Twitter, this is why I reported this account.”
Soon thereafter, Denton’s account was gone. The account had more than 2,000 followers.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It seems the account had completely embedded itself in a Twitter community of gay men, almost all of whom live in New York. To figure out what happened, we spoke to a few of them — including one who was supposed to meet up with Denton in person.
Denton’s catfishing targets speak out
According to multiple sources, Denton’s Twitter avatar showed a redheaded white male with a mustache when the account vanished Sept. 5, but that wasn’t always the case. A few weeks ago, some said, his avatar depicted an Asian man. But this account has likely plucked avatars from various places around the web several times before.
The Wayback Machine — a tool that lets users view old versions of webpages — has just one snapshot of Denton’s Twitter account from January. The avatar shows neither a mustachioed redhead nor an Asian man, but a white man with dark blond hair.
(Mic has located the individual whose images were most recently used on Denton’s account and will update this post if we hear back.)
The primary narrative around Parks Denton is that he slid into people’s direct messages with varying degrees of thirst. Some imply that nude photographs were exchanged.
Hugh McIntyre, a writer for Forbes — and, full disclosure, a personal friend — was one of several people who interacted with Denton via Twitter over the last several months. In a Twitter DM, McIntyre told me Denton had been following him for about a month.
Then, on Aug. 27, Denton sent him a private message in which he offered to spice up a donut joke McIntyre had tweeted. Over the next few hours, the two exchanged several messages. In one, Denton implies he offended McIntyre’s “delicate” sensibilities with his flirtations, challenging him to “show [him] otherwise.”
With McIntyre’s permission, screenshots of his conversation with Denton are reproduced below.
“That conversation is the only one we had other than maybe a tweet or two,” McIntyre said. “I honestly didn’t think much of it.”
Another person named Alex, who goes by @thedealwithalex on Twitter, said he and Denton actually had plans to meet up in person — but, as you might expect, Denton never showed.
“Lol, sorry. I forgot how delicate you are ;-)” — @ParksDenton
Alex said he’s met up with several people through Twitter before and that nothing seemed out of the ordinary in his exchanges with Denton — that is, of course, until his profile picture changed from an Asian man to that of a redhead. In a tweet, Alex said Denton’s excuse for the new avatar was that “his friend took a really good pic,” hence his changed appearance.
Alex then asked this Denton fellow to meet up for drinks at Nowhere, a gay bar in New York. Denton agreed. A few days later, Denton asked to reschedule their initial plans, citing busyness at work. Finally, Alex showed up at Nowhere on their new agreed-upon date of Aug. 24, got a beer and took a seat.
“He never showed,” Alex said. That night, on Twitter, Alex confessed he had been catfished.
Unlike McIntyre’s experience, Alex said his messages with Denton were totally innocent.
“It felt completely routine,” Alex said. “Never asked for pics at all. I never sent him any. I’ve met at least 200 folks through Twitter, some of my closest friends. So this was all very normal to me.”
The only potentially strange detail that really stuck out to Alex — aside from the user’s malleable appearance, of course — was that at one point, Denton brought up his work. He told Alex he worked as a copywriter and “was doing some freelance project with an Israeli client.” However, because Alex blocked Denton’s account after he was stood up, he said he lost Denton’s original messages.
Ryan Houlihan, who works as a comedian in NYC, said Denton “liked” nearly all of his tweets but never interacted with him personally.
“I got responses to tweets and lots and lots of likes,” Houlihan told me via Twitter. Houlihan said Denton called him a “favorite tweeter” on Sarahah, an app that allows users to submit confessions. “I thought, ‘Wow, this person is so nice,’ and they would fave/respond to everything I did because they were ALWAYS online.”
So, who is the real Parks Denton?
Denton’s Twitter account has listed a few places of employment, including the digital agencies VaynerMedia and the now-defunct Neighbor Agency. (Mic has reached out to both companies and will update this post with any response.)
For now, the person behind the Twitter account is a complete mystery. Nobody really knows who created this account or whether they’re behind other, similar accounts waiting to be unearthed.
But if anyone can figure it out, it’s Gay Twitter — that is, if some members of the community can get over the shame of not being hit up in the first place.
This story is developing.