Everyone Loves a Teenage Prostitute
A few days ago the NYT published an exposé revealing that hitherto acclaimed teenage-prostitute / writer JT LeRoy is probably a fiction, created and sustained by the woman who claimed to have taken him in. The scandal has held my interest because it isn't so clear what part of the story is most scandalous. The most serious allegation is that Ms. Albert manipulated the feelings and sympathies of fans and a handful of celebrities by announcing some time ago that LeRoy is HIV positive. Sure, it’s kinda shitty to make people feel sorry for someone who doesn’t exist, but somehow I don't think that really accounts for all of the shock. When LeRoy's first book of short stories came out, I remember the excitement -- LeRoy blew up, he was all over the press, face hidden behind a black wig, bitten red finger nails prominent in Roe Ethridge’s photographs in Index magazine. And yes, in a lot of ways he was the perfect image of gritty youth, far more experienced than the boring majority. How fortunate that he was taken in by an understanding couple and ushered to a savvy analyst who encouraged him to write about his experience and send his work to novelists like Dennis Cooper (who incidentally, is quite taken with teenage prostitutes) which paved his way to success. If it all was too perfect, why should we be surprised that he was in fact tailor-made to please and titillate us? The scandal is only partially about a faked identity, another part of it is about how we like our fiction: based on true events, preferably from the mouths of the young, fashionable and traumatized.
This scandal suggests that there just isn’t that much faith in fiction right now, especially if it’s coming from a less than glamorous source.
Maybe this is a little hasty. We’ll see how Ms. Albert does without her sexy alter ego, and I hope she does well.
JT Leroyculturehoaxsan francisco,litcelebritiesnew york timesgaydennis cooper