Photo courtesy of Dogwoof.com
A new documentary is coming about J.T. LeRoy, the famed ex hustler LGBTQ writer who wasn’t an ex hustler LGBTQ writer at all; his celebrated books were actually written by author Laura Albert in a big scam on the media and public that I was among those victimized by. Strangely, I was almost onto the whole thing early on. In June 2001, I wrote that “author-prankster J.T. LeRoy [who’d said he wasn’t sure of his gender] may have pulled off his ultimate stunt.” I noted that J.T. did interviews by phone and hardly ever let himself be photographed, but Mary Ellen Mark had suddenly shot him for Vanity Fair. “The problem is,” I wrote, “LeRoy is telling folks that the person Mark shot is actually not him at all; it’s a female friend of his who purposely showed up for the session in a wig and mask. When contacted for comment, Mark said, ‘It was J.T. His saying it wasn’t is just his humor’.”
I didn’t know the full story—that Laura was doing the writing and a girl, Savannah Knoop, the fronting—but it was clear that there were some serious identity issues at play here. Still, I tried to believe Mark, and when I was asked by LeRoy’s publisher to MC a book event for him a year later, I agreed, shamelessly going along with the propaganda machine for this literary bright light, famous for a heroin addiction and for wearing—and giving out--raccoon penis necklaces (in addition to strong, supposedly heartfelt writing). The weirdness only started at that point. At the last minute, on the evening of the event, I was faxed dozens of pages of intros for the readers, with J.T.’s eccentric instruction that I must read every single word of these pages at the podium and not skip over a syllable. (And some of them were pretty lame, I must say.)
At the bookstore, J.T. was wearing a wig and a visor and frantically shaking her leg from nerves (by this point, I felt J.T maybe was a she) as her trans girlfriend Speedie screeched at me, “I’m Cockney, I’m Jewish, and I’m gonna be in your face!”. J.T. didn’t remotely seem like any kind of big author at all, but hey, I’ve known other people who hid their genius behind all sorts of quirks and neuroticism, so I kept on dreaming. Onstage, I read about 80% of the intros—racing through them, so I wouldn’t get booed--and did OK, bringing on a parade of notables who gushed out of control about the brilliance of J.T., then read some sparkling passages as if they had been touched by greatness. It was a gigantic celebrity lovefest for this nonexistent person, whom Albert later said she created because she could funnel a level of prose through J.T. that she couldn’t otherwise. I guess she could only be that honest through dishonesty. How Cyrano de Bergerac of her! Well, when the next reading came around and the LeRoy legend was even grander, I was replaced by a much bigger name, Winona Ryder. I was pissed to be glossed over, realizing the advanced level of mutual whoring that was going on here, and even more horrified to later learn that my misgivings were right on target and I’d been totally had. We’d all been had—and the full exposé didn’t come out till five years after my initial write-up! Albert had deftly proven what phonies we all can be when we jump on bandwagons, but she’d done so with elaborate trickery, so I was torn between “Touché!” and “How very dare you!” The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things indeed. Perhaps Albert should have just written a novel, narrated by a fictional character named J.T. LeRoy. What’s definite is that, more than ever, we need our own, real voices to be heard.
Author: The JT LeRoy Story hits theaters September 9. Watch the trailer below:
AMERICA’S NEXT TOP DRAG STARS
Drag voices are heard everywhere these days—not always screeching, lol—and everyone’s always wondering who’ll be the next one to go national. The buzz starts whenever drag queens are missing from their NYC perch when a certain TV show happens to be filming. This time around, the murmurs have concerned Peppermint (a truly upbeat talent and a legend on the scene), Alexis Michelle (a theater gal who does a fabulous “Don’t Rain On My Parade”), and Aja (who’s uniquely interesting in her looks and performance). These are rumors I can live with.
FASTER PUSSYCAT, KELLE, KELLE
SNAKES IN THE GRASS
We were urged to don Adam and Eve drag for Sir Ivan Wilzig’s annual party around his lavish Hamptons castle, so drunken straight people, Orange is the New Black featured players, and Lindsay Lohan’s uncle converged, all aiming for some kind of woozy return to Eden. Sir Ivan is a rich guy who makes music and likes to decree a fun costume theme for the throngs who come to his soiree. This time, the theme was complicated by the fact that VIPs were handed a Hawaiian lei and a fan, making for a garden full of mixed metaphors. At the peak hour, we were asked to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ivan three times, after which he emerged, dressed like Zeus, on a faraway balcony as we watched from the tennis court below. The birthday boy lipsynched to his dance version of “Imagine,” and then he was carried on a throne through the court, spouting Trump-like utterances at us like “Make the Hamptons great again” and “I’ve seen you naked!” But you had to “imagine” a full buffet. Last year, that existed, but this time there was a food station with delicious apples and apple tarts, though inside the mansion, we did manage to find plates of salad, and in the garage, there was fried chicken for the help, which we were allowed to partake of (after some serious begging). But no birthday cake! Those who never found out about the garage made the bus driver stop at a 7-Eleven on the way home. Another scam for poor little me? Nah. It was a good time—and someone had handed out free joints throughout the crowd, making everyone I ran into seem far more relaxed than an author with a raccoon penis and an identity crisis.