A Hotheaded Landlord Made a Movie About Murdering His Tenants. Then He Knifed One
When he saw the blood spread across Clayton's white T-shirt, Andre Bauth was instantly struck sober. He dropped the kitchen knife and dragged his roommate, Clayton Haymes, into the dining room.
He called out to his housemates: "Please, call 911! Please call 911!"
Then he fled.
He drove for hours, he would later say, through Nevada and Arizona, into Texas. He ditched his once-sparkling 2015 blue Ford Mustang convertible in El Paso and crossed the U.S. border on foot to Juarez, Mexico, where he spent the night. The next day, on Sept. 9, he saw a doctor and a dentist for what he said were injuries he sustained fighting with Haymes. Bauth made it to Mexico City in 28 hours on three buses.
By then, news of his deed had broken.
"Tonight, the search is on for an Emmy-winning producer and actor accused of stabbing another actor," Pat Harvey dramatically announced on the CBS 11 p.m. news, three nights after the stabbing.
The disarmingly handsome Haymes, a dead ringer for actor Michael Pitt, had survived, and he explained to CBS, through sobs, that the attack was set off when Bauth boasted he would win five Oscars.
Haymes had laughed and then, he claimed, Bauth flew into a rage. He alleged that Bauth stabbed him with a kitchen knife, two inches to the left of his heart, puncturing his lung and nearly killing him.
"I was terrified for my life," a tearful Haymes told CBS. "I just don't understand why he would want to do this to me."
Bauth surrendered to the American Embassy in Mexico City less than a month ago, on Sept. 17, the day after he spoke with L.A. Weekly. He was flown to Los Angeles, charged with attempted murder and booked into Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail. Bail was set at $550,000.
"I wanted always to be famous, but not famous like this," Bauth said. "I won an Emmy three months ago and nobody talks about it. But I make one mistake —I guess that's how Hollywood works."
Hours after the CBS report, The Hollywood Reporter posted a story headlined "Police Hunt for Emmy-Winning Producer Accused in Studio City Stabbing." The Los Angeles Times followed suit: "Emmy-winning producer wanted for allegedly stabbing roommate over Oscars joke."
The headlines could've been written by Bauth himself.
The 36-year-old Colombian-born Bauth had indeed won an Emmy, albeit a Daytime Emmy, and reportedly only because he'd allowed a web series to use his home in Laurel Canyon as a location. He was given a producer credit in lieu of payment.
Actor Clayton Haymes came to L.A. from Phoenix and was taken under the wing of Bauth, who allegedly stabbed him.
Courtesy of Clayton Haymes
His primary source of income lately had come from running a company called the Artist Advantage Group Academy, essentially a chain of boarding homes, each of which housed up to 34 aspiring actors, writers, musicians and artists, all new arrivals to Los Angeles.
Bauth's business was initially a success, so much so that he and his business partners expanded from one house to six. But as the long, hot summer of 2015 wore on, the Academy became an albatross of maintenance problems and tenant discontent.
In an attempt to channel these tensions into his art, Bauth produced and starred in a film, El Landlord, a semiautobiographical tale about, yes, a landlord, who becomes fed up with his tenants — and starts murdering them.
The stabbing, therefore, had a sort of hall-of-mirrors quality to it, of life imitating art imitating life. Many of the film's cast and crew were certain the news reports were some kind of practical joke or publicity stunt.
Bauth himself wondered if the bloody incident might be somehow spun in his advantage. While on the lam, he found time to send an email to his representatives.
"I guess all of you already know about the unfortunate situation I am passing by," he wrote. "Finally the Media present my self as the Emmy Winner and talk about my life and career. Because of something negative is on my curriculum. So sad to see the reality of Fame and what the Hollywood industry is looking for."
The email, which was forwarded to the Weekly, went on to solicit advice: "I am famous now due to this incident. So any professional ideas are welcome here."
His agent, a rather bewildered Theo Caesar of 90210 Talent (located not in Beverly Hills but in Encino), wrote back: "I understand how you feel about the buzz that is currently surrounding you and the fact that others in our industry have also had turbulent pasts. The difference that I see is people like Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke were already internationally known celebrities when their unfortunate circumstances were brought to the light."
Caesar urged Bauth to turn himself in and find a good lawyer.
But Bauth wasn't the only one seeking a silver lining in the "unfortunate incident."
Hours after the CBS segment, Haymes, convalescing at his parents' house in Arizona, texted talent manager Peter Santana:
"Do you think I can find new theatrical rep with this or does this video not help me?"
He later added: "There's over 1,100 articles about this its in the United Kingdom and Germany I would love to turn this negative painful time into something positive and to smile about."
Producer Andre Bauth arrives at the 42nd annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Burbank in April 2015.
Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters/Newscom
In 2006, Andre Bauth (his real surname is Bautista) flew to Miami with $13 in his pocket. His first night there, he slept on the beach. He didn't speak a word of English.
He'd acted in a few soap operas in Colombia, and did a few commercials in Miami.
"But my focus is really to make great films," he told the Weekly, speaking over the phone from Mexico City. "Since I can remember, it is my deepest dream to get an Oscar."
In 2007, he moved to Los Angeles with around $200 in his pocket and checked into the Banana Bungalow, a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard. Without credit or a cash deposit, he eventually found a two-bedroom apartment in Whitley Heights with a friend he met at the Banana Bungalow, aspiring Mexican actor Andres de la Fuente. They shared one room and rented the second one to four other guys from the hostel.
"After that," Bauth said, "I saw a business opportunity there."
Bauth and de la Fuente then rented a large house in North Hollywood and sublet the other rooms to 13 people. Later Bauth went on his own, renting a house in West Hollywood and in 2011 a much larger house (accommodating 40 to 50 tenants) near Highland and Franklin with a new business partner, producer Albert Rivera.
"The demand was there," Rivera says. "Hollywood is so expensive nowadays. It's way better than a hostel."
Their partnership didn't last. "Andre, he's a nice guy," Rivera recalls. "Easygoing. I would say the only bad thing, he has this Napoleon — what do you call that? Complex. Instead of earning respect, he just wants people to give it to him right away."
People who know Bauth have seen, over the years, contrasting sides of his personality.
"He has a kind heart," de la Fuente says. "He sends money to his family all the time, helps his friends out. But he also had tendencies of blowing up."
Conflicts with his tenants, even then, consumed Bauth's life.
"This business of renting rooms is a curse," Bauth said. "The people, to save one month of rent, they called Immigration — twice! They hit me, attacked me. One of them, a drug dealer, was going to send five guys after me."
In 2012, Bauth handed over control of the Highland house to Rivera and started fresh, this time with a new business model. "I think of an idea — to have the people, but more focused," Bauth said. "I wanted the actors and the artists, who are in transition, arriving in town to make their dream happen."
Bauth hired acting coaches to teach twice-weekly classes at his boardinghouses and dubbed the enterprise the Artist Advantage Group Academy. He got Peter Santana to run a management company to represent the standout performers.
The first such house was on Laurel Canyon, where Bauth lived and later allegedly stabbed Haymes.
Sierra Renfro in her illegal converted bedroom — a former closet — at Chaplin House
Photo by Hillel Aron
A cream-colored modern contemporary with a swimming pool in the back, it was marketed to Academy members as the Stanislavsky House. When that house filled, Bauth rented out the "Shakespeare House and the Nakano House, named after Jack Nakano, a youth-theater guru who died in 2009. Then came the Chaplin House and James Dean House.
Sierra Renfro was 19 when she moved to L.A. on Valentine's Day of 2015. She'd saved for two years, working at a Chipotle in San Diego. She saw an ad for Artist Advantage Group Academy on the website EasyRoomate.com, which promised — for an initial fee of $275 and a monthly fee of $550 per shared room — acting classes, free headshots and discounts at local businesses.
With the housing-affordability crisis in full bloom, rents were prohibitive for people like Renfro. The Academy seemed like a bargain.
Her parents helped move her into the Chaplin House, a Victorian built in 1917, on Grace Avenue just north of Franklin, mere blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It had six bedrooms, two of which had been illegally converted from a basement and a closet, all crammed with bunk beds. Of its three bathrooms, one had been converted illegally from a closet. Thirty-four people lived there, as many as six to a room (that part, perhaps oddly, was legal, according to the City of L.A. Department of Housing, and "boardinghouses" don't require permits in California).
It was like a coed frat house but with a few classes.
TicketsFri., Oct. 28, 7:00pm
UCLA Bruins Men's Soccer vs. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Men's Soccer
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 7:00pm
CSUN Mens Soccer
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 7:00pm
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah JAzz - Verified Resale Tickets
TicketsSun., Oct. 30, 1:30pm
"I was like, 'This is perfect!'" Renfro says. "I didn't want to move to L.A. and not know anybody and live by myself. You want to be around people to make projects and network and stuff."
Many of her housemates, too, felt they'd stumbled onto something special. Michael Eric Ross was in his mid-50s when he drove to L.A. — "a classic attempt to jump-start one's life," he says. His options were to sleep in his car or move into Chaplin.
"I came down to pursue screenwriting," he says. "Other folks were doing acting, directing. A couple were into modeling. People were pursuing a lot of creative endeavors. It was really refreshing. Folks were excited about the possibilities."
Geoffrey Lichtman, another aspiring actor, as well as a DJ, managed some houses for Bauth and was an investor in Chaplin House, which filled to capacity soon after opening in December 2014.
"For four or five months, people were really happy," Lichtman says. "It was like this crazy utopia.
"Then stuff started to get weird."
While Bauth's business was booming, his career was floundering. The only role of any real significance he'd landed, in 2014, was a small part on The Bridge, an FX show set on the El Paso–Juarez border. And he got that producer credit on the web series The Bay after it shot in his home free of charge.
"He was never on set, except when we were shooting at his house," says series creator Gregori J. Martin. "He never complained. He stayed out of the way."
When The Bay was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding New Approaches — Drama Series," Bauth's name initially wasn't included. He called Martin and asked to be added. Martin reluctantly agreed. In April, Bauth attended the ceremony and returned home with a gold statue.
It was, at least in his mind, a crucial step toward achieving his dream.
"He said, 'I'm gonna win at least six Oscars,'" says Felix Nwokeabia, a friend of Bauth's who lived in the Laurel Canyon house for a few months. "'I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win.' He said that all the time. I don't think there was a week that went by where he didn't say that."
But Bauth's confidence was tinged with spite.
"It is well-known, if you can't drop the accent, you can't make a name for yourself," Nwokeabia says. "That weighed on him. He walked around with a chip on his shoulder."
Bauth began pestering Santana to get him an agent.
"He believed that he deserved to be with big agencies like CAA and APA," Santana says. "He started telling me, 'You need to find me an agent and tell them I am an Emmy winner.' I just [thought], 'Oh my God, when is this guy gonna get a clue?'"
Bauth's self-regard extended to the Academy, which he saw as not just boardinghouses but a mini-studio and talent incubator. He rented an office in the pricey Century Plaza Towers, which, according to Sanders, sat mostly vacant. And he bought 55 acres of land in his hometown of Bucaramanga, Colombia, with the dream of building a movie studio there.
Other expenditures were more conspicuous. Bauth bought a Mercedes and, later, a new 2015 Ford Mustang convertible, for which Lichtman co-signed, an action he would later regret — the car is presumably sitting in an impound lot in El Paso, or possibly Mexico.
Seeing Bauth in a Mercedes or new Mustang didn't exactly endear him to his 100 or so increasingly unhappy tenants.
"It's already hard in L.A., everything's expensive," says Bobby Jones, a 26-year-old musician from Stockton living at the Chaplin House. "So for me to be giving all I have to someone who's taking it and buying new cars and the newest watch phones, and for me to be struggling, it hurt."
The discounts at local businesses never materialized, save for a deal at an L.A. Fitness gym. Professional headshots were taken infrequently, and some felt they were low quality.
The classes, though enjoyable, were seen by many as remedial, little more than workshops, with no lesson plan or curriculum.
"We weren't really learning anything new through these people," Renfro says. "It was kind of the same stuff I learned in high school."
Tenants say the crowded houses were falling into disrepair.
"The stove was broken for two weeks at Shakespeare," Lichtman says. "People were paying late, and [Bauth] would say, 'They didn't pay. I don't give a shit!' I was like, 'That's not how you do business, man.'"
"There would be one thing after another that would break down," says Travis Fear, a friend of Lichtman's who helped manage the houses. "Andre would say, 'No, we don't have the money.' But it was obvious that there was money coming in, from the books."
But the final straw was the email.
Sent anonymously on July 31, 2015, to 106 members of Bauth's Academy under the subject line "TO CATCH A PREDATOR," the email, obtained by the Weekly, accused Bauth of sexual assault.
"Upon our meeting he insisted I 'party' with him, and when I finally obliged him after multiple texts which started out friendly enough, he proceeded to take my kindness for weakness and spike my drinks with date rape drugs," the email alleged. "I woke up in the middle of the night in a random bed in the garage, with his head between my legs and my pants down. When he noticed I was conscious he quickly rolled over and pretended like he was asleep."
The Weekly did not have a chance to ask Bauth about the sexual assault allegations before he was taken into custody, and his lawyer, Andy Miri, has declined to make him available to respond.
Tenants like musician Bobby Jones, at the huge Chaplin House, lived frugally while landlord Bauth lived it up.
Photo by Ted Soqui
Others, including Lichtman, Fear and Renfro, say Bauth denied the accusations rather flippantly. Renfro says, "Andre was making rape jokes and stuff."
For several people, the email rang true. "It was too graphic," Fear says. "Of course [Bauth] denied it."
Lichtman tells the Weekly, "He definitely did try to come on to me, sexually. When he would get drunk, it would be like a really horny guy pushing himself onto a drunk girl. He liked to drink heavily, to party. He tried to go after straight boys a lot."
Alex Blumental, born in Latvia, was 18 when he moved into the Chaplin House — "like everyone else, to pursue acting," he says.
Bauth, who liked to pick out people from the Academy who he thought had "potential," took an immediate interest in the striking Blumental, texting him, asking him to go to the movies, offering to buy him drinks.
"He would tell me, 'I'm so happy when you're around,'" Blumental says. "I was really uncomfortable with it." He says he resisted Bauth's interest in him.
The same anonymous email that alleged sexual misconduct also urged the tenants to stop paying rent to Bauth's Academy: "If you can not afford to move out, don't fret, it would take months for an official eviction to go through even if the place was legit."
"Close to 60 people stopped paying," Fear says. "We went and talked to them. Some of them came around. Most didn't."
The Chaplin House went into a full-scale revolt, with every tenant refusing to pay rent. When Bauth tried to evict them, he discovered that California law makes that a slow and costly process.
"My dad is a lawyer in Colombia," Bauth said. "When I told my dad the law, he said, 'That's impossible, that a country is in the first world, that that law exists.' My dad said, 'Cut the water and power.' I said, 'I cannot, that's a felony.' It's crazy. I have a house, I'm paying $4,000 rent, plus utilities, and they are living for free."
The other houses, too, were in varying degrees of disarray, according to some who live there. Chris Davis, a resident of the Shakespeare House, says that so many residents moved out after the email that the managers let things go.
"The last few months have been a hellish experience," Davis says. "Someone stole the rent for our current payment. No one knows what happened. ... There's sewage problems. There's bedbugs. I had a knife pulled on me. A guy choked me. Once the creative energy died, it became like Lord of the Flies."
The timing of the anonymous email couldn't have been worse for Bauth, who was about to begin shooting his pet project, El Landlord.
The story centers on a landlord/struggling screenwriter named Luis Ramirez, played by Bauth. Tormented by his tenants, nearly all of whom are comically lazy, greedy and racist, Ramirez begins killing them — first by accident, then in self-defense, finally with malice.
The killings unlock Ramirez's writer's block, and he begins to type away. Toward the finale, one of the tenants discovers Ramirez's typewriter and reads the script about a landlord who murders his tenants. Wheels within wheels, indeed.
Most of the script is, according to Bauth, based on his experiences. There's even a cop — Detective Biag — obsessed with tracking down Ramirez. Bauth said that's the name of a real West Hollywood detective who arrested Bauth years ago. (The officer did not return the Weekly's calls.)
"Basically, everything in the movie happened — except the killings," Bauth told the Weekly.
To flesh out his own story and write the screenplay, he hired Luis de la Fuente, brother of Andres, his friend from the Banana Bungalow.
"At times, he would refer to the script as an exorcism for him, to get rid of all the negativity in his past," Luis de la Fuente says. "He said he wanted to throw it in their face. Kind of like a revenge film. Like, 'I'm gonna be successful, despite everything they told me.'"
The film was shot over the summer at the James Dean and Stanislavsky houses. Many cast and crew were former and current Academy tenants, including its director, Nicholas Nathaniel, and a 23-year-old from Phoenix, Clayton Haymes.
Haymes plays Delten, a young tenant who, two-thirds into the film, out of nowhere, tells his housemates that Ramirez raped him. The veracity of the claim is left ambiguous.
After moving to L.A. in July of this year, Haymes rented a shared room at the Nakano House.
Upon meeting Haymes, Bauth immediately offered to move the young actor into his own, less cramped house on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
"He told me he saw a bright future in me, with acting," Haymes says. "He wanted to help my career. I just got to L.A. It was refreshing. He gave me a role in the movie. I was excited."
For Haymes, this meant living in Bauth's own room rent-free. They slept in separate twin beds. Bauth often paid for Haymes' food and drinks and even let Haymes drive his Mercedes. Both men say the relationship was platonic.
"I love him as a brother," Bauth said. "I honestly help a lot of my roommates."
Lichtman says it was more complicated than that.
"Andre would say, 'I'm in love with him,'" Lichtman says. "I do feel that Clayton genuinely did not want to be in a gay relationship. He's not gay. Like most actors in this town, he needed someone to take care of him and support him, emotionally and financially."
On the night of Monday, Sept. 7, Bauth and Haymes went out with a Colombian couple, actress Bibiana Navas and her boyfriend, Ivan Aldana. At Boa, a Sunset Strip steakhouse, Bauth said he split the $700 bill with Aldana. Then they walked over to the Den, where Bauth said he had four or five Long Island ice teas.
Chris Davis says he watched as Shakespeare House, where he lives, turned into Lord of the Flies.
Photo by Ted Soqui
Haymes met a girl there and invited her and her friend to the Laurel Canyon house, where the four started drinking a bottle of vodka.
"I did say I was going to get five Oscars," said Bauth, who claims he was very drunk by then. "That is my goal. And he knew it before. He knew that I am working very hard to win five Oscars — three as an actor, two as a producer. That is my goal."
When Haymes laughed, Bauth said, he thought Haymes was showing off for the girl. Bauth then became visibly agitated. After the girl and her friend left, Bauth said he asked, “Why do you laugh about that? What’s funny about that?”
Bauth said the argument turned physically violent: "He started smashing my head. I don't know, to be honest, who took the knife first. All I know is I have a cut in my right hand and two cuts in my left arm."
Haymes' story is a bit different. He tells the Weekly:
"We were talking about the industry, our careers. We were telling him how he should change his accent to get more work. He said, 'I like my accent, I'm not changing my accent. It's who I am.'
"He said, 'I'm gonna win five Oscars.' Then he went and grabbed his Emmy. We all kind of laughed a little bit, and that's when he got upset. He looked at me and said, 'Why are you laughing? You'll be homeless tomorrow if I want you to.' We were bickering back and forth. That's when he got the kitchen knife."
Days later, Bauth Facebook messaged the director of El Landlord, urging him to do "everything in his power" to finish the film.
"It's sad, the situation," Nathaniel says. "But the publicity, it's definitely gonna help." He adds: "I have so many other projects. ... I guess at this point, El Landlord's gonna have to go to the top of the pile."
By then, Bauth had taken down the Artist Advantage Group Academy's website and Facebook page, and someone had emptied the company's bank account. Lichtman alleges it was Bauth; Bauth said it was another employee. Whoever it was, they got only about $2,600, according to Lichtman.
On Sept. 22, the 17 tenants still living in the Chaplin House sued Bauth, Lichtman and the LLC that owns the house, alleging substandard conditions including rats, cockroaches and mold.
"These 17 individuals came here to follow their dream," said their attorney, Eric Castelblanco, at a press conference in the Chaplin House living room. "They answered an ad that painted a beautiful picture. ... What they got, in actuality, was slum conditions. ... This was not a school, per se. It was a fraud."
Lichtman says of the lawsuit, "You get a whole bunch of uneducated people who are dramatic as is and hated Andre, and this is their way of saying 'Fuck you' to the man."
The day before Bauth surrendered, during his phone interview with the Weekly from Mexico, he tried to pinpoint how it had all gone so wrong.
He chalked it up to his role as the landlord.
"I do regret, deeply, in my soul, renting rooms in L.A.," Bauth said. "It was the worst decision I made in my life."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.