Performer Fatally Shot in San Diego Gay Boat Cruise Tragedy


A gay party cruise on the Hornblower yacht ‘Inspiration’ being run by promoter Bill Hardt to coincide with the city’s Gay Pride festival on Saturday night turned tragic, as one of the go-go boys hired to dance on the cruise somehow fell overboard, and after a series of events was ultimately shot and killed by police attempting to rescue him. The cruise, which featured DJs Manny Lehman and Chris Cox, ran from 10pm to 2am in San Diego’s harbor. When the man, identified as Steven Hirschfield, from West Hollywood, first went overboard, the ship immediately called police who responded while crew members from the ship attempted a rescue. Crew members reported that Hirschfield resisted their attempts to rescue him.

SdboatAccording to the San Diego Union Tribune, “Hornblower crew members threw flotation devices to Hirschfield and stayed near him until Harbor Police arrived, Unger said. A police boat found Hirschfield in the water about 500 feet south of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station on Harbor Drive across from Lindbergh Field. The water is about 40 feet deep in that part of the bay, authorities said. When Hirschfield boarded the Harbor Police boat, he scuffled with the two officers on board, Harbor Police said. Hirschfield knocked one officer to the deck, took the officer’s Taser gun and began beating him in the face with it, Harbor Police said. Hirschfield then tried to get the injured officer’s firearm. As he struggled to get control of the gun, the second officer shot Hirschfield once, Harbor Police said.”

Hirschfield was pronounced dead at the dock.

Emails from Towleroad readers report that it took more than two hours for all to fully disembark from the boat as officers interrogated each and every passenger about the incident.


  1. davefromtampa says

    Strippers and drugs, not a good mix. I want to hear from any of the passengers to hear what happened.

  2. Mark says

    OUSSLANDER and DAVE, forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’ve determined that since it was a go-go boy from WeHo that he was a deranged drug addict and that his death is no loss.

    He may have been suicidal or paranoid schizophrenic. Regardless, I think it’s a tragedy and will try to resist further speculation until more facts are in.

  3. JeffRob says

    Yeah, my first thought was that he was suicidal, and mad that he was being rescued. Certainly that’s not an easy sentiment for any of us to digest, but who knows what was going through his head.

    But taser-whipping a cop in the face? And then trying to grab his gun?

    That’s not suicidal. That’s Tina’d to the gods.

    Just smoke weed, people.

  4. tooboot says

    Why would someone want to go on a gogo shipride if they were suicidal. Circumstancial evidence would suggest that he was high on something.

  5. says

    I disagree with TIMMY and with PAUL. He was assaulting an officer with a taser and attempting to reach for the officer’s firearm. The men and women who put on the uniform and risk their lives daily for society have every right, in my opinion, to shoot and kill anyone putting their lives in jeopardy. Especially someone who must clearly have been whacked out on drugs.

  6. Mark says

    So to get it straight, since it’s been determined that he was clearly a pole dancing meth queen of no redeemable value to the gay population (except as a sex object) and so high off his gourd that he was not of right mind, then he deserved to die.

    I’m sorry to say that my personal experiences with police makes me suspicious, especially in a conservative area like San Diego.

  7. JeffRob says

    The police are not always to be trusted, given.

    But let’s double check our criteria for deserving (or at least expecting) to die:

    pole dancing meth queen? nope.
    sex object? nope.
    high off your gourd? nope.

    reaching for the weapon of an officer you’ve been beating with his own taser, while he attempts to rescue you? you betcha.

    Could they have subdued him better? Maybe, but you’re not gonna subdue a whacko holding a .45 with a taser. And it sounds like he was about half a sec from holding a .45.

  8. ML says

    Seems this guy was a marginally employed actor, appearing in films like “Sexual Magic” in 2001 and “The Return” in 1980 — when he was about 9 years old. (Can’t find any pics.)Hate to sound cynical, but having lived in LA for years, I’ve seen what happens to people who chase fame a little too long. I’m speculating some combo of drugs/steroids/bullshit made him go apeshit. Really sad.

  9. GHB anyone? says

    This story reeks of someone cracked out on GHB which we all know the circuit queens love to guzzle like water!

    Then too there is plenty of times I wish I had a gun to shoot myself listening to Manny and Chris’ sets!!!

  10. says

    As a former police officer, and yes I am gay, if someone reaches for an officers gun and there is any likelyhood of him getting it, the nearest officer usually shoots the suspect. It is that simple. When a suspect decides to grab a gun, he forfeits his life.

  11. anon says

    Did they interview the cop who got smashed in the face? I would expect a thorough investigation.

  12. tooboot says

    What IS tragic is that guys are using methanphetamine at all. Not getting help is tragic and getting to such a state as to create this kind of drama involving the community at a time which is supposed to be about expressing pride is also tragic. It would be great if it turns out that this guy was using, that his death would be a wake-up call for others on the cruise who were using that maybe this is not the route to go down and to seek help, but I’m doubtful that this will be the case.

  13. Jefferson says

    A few points I’d like to make. I knew Steve. Not well, but he dated a friend of mine for about 9 months last year and I had spent a fair amount of time with him when they were together. He was not a “gay trash whacko.” He was neither GAY, nor TRASH, nor WHACKO. He had some substance abuse issues, yes. Although I don’t claim to know all the facts, I do not believe he was a “meth head.” Regardless, he was a human being, and a kind one. He did not deserve what happened to him. It was senseless and preventable. I have no idea what he was on or what transpired that day that would have made him do something that would be so clearly endangering to himself, but unfortunately I understand why the situation unfolded as it did. Still, the whole thing never should have happened. Be as catty as you want, but this was a man with parents, a sister, and friends who loved him and cared about him.

    Carry on.

  14. realitythink says

    What a bunch of nasty bitter queens you all are. Jesus H Christ, have some compassion. You have no idea who he was or what happened so you should just shut up about it. At least until the story evolves a bit.

    No wonder we have so much more work to do.

  15. says

    You guys, I used to do meth, alot. I never got violent But many times I was convinced someone was standing outside staring in my window (sun came up and it turned out to be a mailbox), been in the middle of an orgy where I didn’t know a single persons name wondering what day it was, not showing up for work, watching my teeth rot, I could go on and on. It does sound like this guy was high as fuck. However, I can say this to all of you who basically think he was worthless.

    There but for the grace of God……..

  16. jeff says

    Yes, we need to get all of the facts. But, lord, if it came down to a raging, thrashing guy or a cop who had to take a bullet, I’m glad the story ended the way it did.

    Can you imagine the fallout if that tweaker had secured AND USED the gun?? Kiss gay marriage in California goodbye.

  17. echovic says

    thank god for the last few comments – and i second mark and jefferson – stop being stupid bitchy queens. a guy is dead, guys. one of us, somebody’s boy and somebody’s love of their life. i never read comments here becuse they’re often stupid and catty – but i got on to this one because I though it would bring us together like the comments when CA legalized gay marriage: of course not – you decided he was on meth and a “stupid fag” and deserved to die. nobody deserved to die, guys, and he may have had a psychotic attack or something else not related to drugs. or he could have been using, which so many of ‘our people’ have – do we all deserve to die? who needs jesse helms when we have each other.

  18. Jimmyboyo says

    Everyone is assuming

    1- the guy was high on something
    2- the police are telling the truth

    The reality could have been the police pulled him aboard and started mocking him = gay go go dancer in skimpy outfit + straight police

    He got upset and a fight occured between him and the officer. He got shot. The police as all police generaly do to protect each other = circled the wagons and concocted a story.

    In other words NOBODY knows anything till everything is investigated.

    Stop judging te go-go dancer and stop assuming the police are always right. They are not saints, just humans doing a job (hard job)with all of the issues, hang ups, and screw ups that all humans have and do

  19. Timothy says

    According to a friend on the boat:

    They had noticed Hirshfield earlier in the trip observing that he was both obviously heterosexual and obviously heavily under the influence of some type of drug.

    He also reported that all the passengers disembarked in small groups and everyone was questioned as to what they knew about the situation.

  20. Br!on says

    Everything here is speculation. Everything.

    But DanB and the rest who feel it is ok to shoot somebody, anybody anywhere… wow.

    My former lover was murdered by San Diego police in the mid ’90’s.

    I’m sure there is another way to stop someone. Shoot in the leg perhaps. . .

    William was killed from 25 feet away. Five shots in the head and chest.

    So sad to see nothing has changed.

  21. Yeek says

    I actually feel sorry for everyone involved. Is that ok?

    It sounds like a terrifying, bizarre, and unpredictable situation that involved a huge amount of risk to everyone involved.

  22. Br!on says

    Thanks JB.

    My point is we don’t know what happened and maybe it was necessary, but to jump to any conclusions based on no knowledge is a mistake.

    I feel as well that any end of life must come with that thought process.

  23. D. says

    i just can’t understand why he would attack the people who were trying to rescue him. where is the logic? drugs or not, it doesn’t matter. personally, i don’t like to blame drugs. i suppose he could have been still freaking out from having fallen overboard but i don’t know. there are just lots of ??????? in my mind. my drug days are over, but i can say i’ve never had a violent freakout caused by any drug i’ve ever done.

    i feel bad for all those involved, however i can’t say i find anyone at fault in this particular case, given the limited details we’ve received.

  24. P says

    Facts: I was on the boat and at about 11:30pm, Bill Hardt (promoter) made an announcement to everyone that someone decided to “go for a swim” and that the San Diego Police had ordered the yacht be returned to dock. Hardt also mentioned that the music on the upper deck was going to be shut off but that the party would continue on the second (enclosed/indoors) level. At this time, there were no additional facts or details provided.

    However, once the yacht returned to dock, the music did continue on the upper deck – though at a lower volume – and some people continued dancing upstairs. Though the yacht returned to dock, I’m pretty sure that no one was let off early.

    At 2am (the posted closing time for the party), Bill Hardt made another announcement that everyone on the yacht was going to go through a 15-second interview by San Diego police on their way out and that it would take about an hour to get everyone safely off the yacht. (You can only imagine everyone’s reaction when that announcement was made.) Of course, at this time there was no mention of Steven Hirshfield’s death. I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of people thought Hirshfield was rescued by police and that the “15-second interview” was standard procedure to determine if there were any witnesses who saw Hirshfield jump or fall off the yacht. (And I use the word “assume” here because that was the consensus among my group of friends.)

    It wasn’t until Sunday morning that most of us learned of Hirshfield’s tragic death by reading it in the paper or online, watching a news report, or hearing about it from a friend.

    I was saddened by the evening’s tragic events during what is supposed to be a celebration of pride and progress in the GLBT community.

  25. Jake says

    WOW. I can’t even imagine all the good drugs that got flushed the minute they announced that everyone was gonna get interviewed by the cops. I’d be FREAKING so bad I’d probably jump ship too.
    This is a “sad” story, but the cops did what they had to do. I really have a hard time thinking that the SDPD would kill a dude, just for the hell of it. If he was beating the cops, and reaching for a gun, then we’re lucky no one else was seriously hurt or killed.

  26. isntitpossible says

    Um couldn’t it be that the cops called him a faggot and in his hetero-defensiveness, he took a swing at them and then got shot?

  27. Pekemo says

    you know, I’m of the personal belief that the concept of life should come with a certain amount of respect. No one knows the exact circumstances of the guys death, he could’ve been in shock, he could’ve been high, he could’ve been hallucinating from the shock to his body, either way, the guy was a person. The way some of you talk you all sound like you made snap judgment without any insight as to who this guy is. He was someone’s son, he could’ve been someone’s significant other. Unless you know this person’s journey through life you have no right to tear him and his memory to shreds like that. Have some respect, seriously.

    Now, personally I want to know why the rescuers felt the need to carry firearms, couldn’t they have just as easily carried tranquilizer guns?

  28. says

    i booked steve for gogo dancing and legit gigs (he did extra work on nip/tuck) for past 6 years in LA. steve was a nice guy who had some substance abuse issues. he was straight, never gay for pay and chasing the dream of just being a legit performer.
    I’m going to miss him. When he was sober, he was one of my best employees.

  29. Marty says

    I am just curious —

    All of those who dismiss this man as somehow worthless because of some assumed state of being and assumed state of mind —

    What are *you* worth? What is *your* contribution to the greater good?

    Like I said, just curious.

  30. A.Jay says

    Most of these posts make me sick to read. Most of commentators are pretty much ASSUMING facts that, as they say, are not in evidence yet. I like the assumption that the police officers were straight. How do you know that? I’ve met several gay officers in San Diego, couldn’t they have been the ones who responded to the initial call for help? And no one here, absolutely no one here, can relate to what happened unless you have been through a situation like this. As a retired police officer, I know what it’s like to be in a fight for your life with someone intent on taking your firearm away! Until you walk a mile in these shoes – STF up!

    And whether this poor deceased man was gay, straight, high, sober, suffering from psychological problems or whatever – he was still a human being with friends and family who are in mourning over his loss. Show some respect, show some compassion and kindly keep your conjecture, rumors and speculation to yourself.

    PS: Tranquilizer guns are for animal control officers PEKEMO, & Police officers don’t “feel the need to carry firearms”, rather they are required to carry firearms due to the dangers associated with their position.

  31. Bette Diddler says

    First off, I have nothing but compassion, irregardless of the circumstances, for someone who takes their life. And really, that is what this poor guy did. His actions were equivalent to suicide, or “suicide by cop”. I hope his family and friends can deal with this, as well as the officer who had to shoot him, which is never an easy decision for a cop. Those going on and on about the drugs or kill happy cops are using the same old tired stories to get their point across.

    I have a tired old story of my own, and it has little to do with Steve, but more to do with a situation I have always despised.
    Why are promoters booking STRAIGHT guys to dance at GAY parties, and at PRIDE no less??? Surely we have enough of our own eye candy, and young, up and coming kids that could use the break AND the money, then to be paying a 37 year old straight man to do the job? Once again, nothing against Steven, but I definitely have an issue with what seems like a discrepancy in what we pay for and what we get. I want GAY dancers at GAY events. Period. I want them to be comfortable with their job and I want to know that we are supporting our own community. Some times I wonder whats happening to SD Pride, the events, and our whole scene in general.

  32. Toldyaso says

    I think that the stripper/hooker in question jumped off the boat to get away from all the squealing, mincing, and prancing. He was also very close to having estrogen overdose poisoning just by being on the boat with those 900 wacked out fruits

  33. SDWolf says

    Christ boys…! I’m ashamed of most of you… are you the reasons for which I and others marched in Pride parades 30 years ago, suffering being spat upon by heckling homophopic haters standing so self rightous and holier than thou along the parade route’s sidewalks…? I think not… “YOU” are judging every much as wrongly as they… and equally as sad.

    I happened to be retreiving my tickets for the boat at the dock side table when Steve walked up and had a brief conversation with one of the women behind the table. She had remembered him from some previous engagement… they exchanged small talk and smiles… I “know” what someone wired on Tina looks and acts like and he wasn’t in the least “wired” at that time… Later I again saw him dancing on the box dancing not 20 minutes before he went overboard. I was down one level on the rear deak when it happened, just in time to witness all the rescue boats swarming… what I’d noticed seeing him on the box earlier was that he was staring out into the distance above the dancer’s heads. I thought it an odd thing for a dancer to do, ignore excited “customers” eager to turn over cash to the man on the box… I don’t know what happened… but least you find your own selves in this situation I advise you all to cut this man some slack…. we all have walked too close to the edge (perhaps too often)and if we haven’t fallen over it may just be luck and not from somehow being more deserving that Steve.

    Sleep well my man… see you on another dance floor… another life.

  34. pete says

    All I have to say is that if you weren’t on the boat, which I was but let it rest. I take things personally, and a life was taken, Period! The only accurate responces are the ones that were there and they are not even 100 % accurate.

  35. Bryce says

    There is something you are all forgetting. He clearly wasn’t suicidal, he had been treading water trying to get rescued for at least 20 minutes.
    Not only does that indicate that he wasn’t suicidal, but he would have been exhausted, so how is it then that he would have fought someone? He would have been way too tired!
    Furthermore, not a single mark on his body was consistent with a struggle.
    So, the police did clearly lie about the struggle. He was not suicidal. And there is no indication that he was on any illicit substances, nor that he had a history of violence or drug usage.
    It is both a tragedy AND a cover-up. You self-loathing people who say otherwise are the reason that we have so much work to do.

  36. Matt says

    meth & suicide… k, what about just being freaked the f* out? that boat is not small, nor is the harbor, and it was at night. how coud he be assured that anyone saw what happened on a noise-ridden boat? someone in that situation could be prone to snapping and becoming delusional b/c of fear. there’s a natural mental angle to his scenario that no one seems to have spoken of.

    i’d still like to see toxicology reports, but there’s another level here no one is considering.

  37. says

    I have a tired old story of my own, and it has little to do with Steve, but more to do with a situation I have always despised.
    Why are promoters booking STRAIGHT guys to dance at GAY parties, and at PRIDE no less??? Surely we have enough of our own eye candy, and young, up and coming kids that could use the break AND the money, then to be paying a 37 year old straight man to do the job? Once again, nothing against Steven, but I definitely have an issue with what seems like a discrepancy in what we pay for and what we get. I want GAY dancers at GAY events. Period. I want them to be comfortable with their job and I want to know that we are supporting our own community. Some times I wonder whats happening to SD Pride, the events, and our whole scene in general. –Bette Diddler

    Wow, guys! I’ve never commented here before, and I’m not going to speculate about Steve’s unfortunate demise.

    But I can’t let Bette Diddler’s ( floating piece of crap drift by without giving you the benefit of my insight.

    Bette, it’s people of your ilk that cause straight people to say the gay community wants “special rights” instead of equal rights. What you are advocating is job discrimination, plain and simple. Steve was providing a service for pay, plain and simple. You don’t think he should have been given the job because of his sexual orientation. Actually, you don’t think at all…

    Consider the reverse. If you were a gay actor, should you only be allowed to work in gay-themed films and plays. What if you were a gay musician?

    What if all straight beauty shop customers decided that only straight hair burners be allowed to do their hair? Or straight homeowners thought only straight interior designers should decorate their homes? Am I getting through, you stupid twit? Equal rights means that gay bars are going to have to hire straight bartenders. You can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other.

    You can’t expect equal rights for the gay community if you can’t accept equal rights for the straight community.

  38. says

    The police are trained to ‘Shoot & Kill’. They should be trained to shoot and maim or disarm in the leg or arm, that way the victim can survive and live to tell…just a thought. I don’t believe in violence and certainly don’t believe in the Police for all their brutality and excessive force. Yes, it is really a Sad, Sad, Sad World We Live in…