Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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.



  • At 3:42 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Heh heh.

    This is my favorite bit from the Times (when will the self righteous phoniness end????):

    "As a transgendered human, subject to attacks," ["Leroy"'s] statement read, "I use stand-ins to protect my identity." In the past, JT Leroy has invoked transgenderism to explain confusion over his identity."

    Sucka please! You were caught! Give it up!

    I read that several writers are suspected to have written various "JT Leroy" works, and whoever wrote that press release must also have been the author of that piece of shit second novel, which was such a snooze that I just could not get through it.

    I dunno. Maybe things work differently in San Francisco, but in New York when you're caught in a big fat lie you put on your cutest sunglasses and pose for the cameras. You fall on your sword with dignity, you don't try to fend off the critics with farty PC platitudes that lost their zing in 1997. Ms. Albert needs to be a little more Martha Stewart, a little less Michael Jackson.

    My other favorite quote was from the melodramatic dyke who's been posing as JT the past 5 years:

    "Reached by telephone, Ms. Knoop said, 'I don't need this in my life right now,' before hanging up. She did not respond to several voice mail messages seeking further comment."

    Hahahaha, I love that "I'm so over this shit" attitude.

    In a way, she's handling it better than Ms. Albert. At least it's more in the bratty spirit of "JT".

  • At 3:07 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    Hang on a minute... so some woman dressed up as a teenage gay prostitute and wrote a bunch of books about life on the street as a teenage gay prostitute, and then leaked to the press that 'he' was HIV+? And noone figured it out till 5 years later? How does that happen?

  • At 3:28 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Well, there was one young woman (in the photo above) who played JT at parties and events. Separate from her, there was a woman (or her and her husband or her and other people) who concocted the character JT Leroy and wrote under that pseudonym.

    A loooooot of people (ok, me) didn't believe that JT's voice was the voice of a teenage hustler. I knew (no, not in that way) gay teenage hustlers in NY and San Francisco, and none of them write as if they've been to writing programs every summer for the past 10 years. It was very clear when I read Sarah that an educated middle class adult had written it. You can just tell by the way she uses language (not that it's particularly great -- I would call it mediocre). But the mainstream press really ate up the character and the glamor. As Emma B said, there's not much faith in fiction on its own right now. To sustain our interest, it needs a celebrity behind it.

    I totally agree that it's laughably bizarre that other celebrities didn't notice that their "good friend" JT was actually a young lesbian who didn't speak or think the same way as the author of the books. I guess it proves that celebrities are not the sharpest observers of human behavior. Now that is shocking.

  • At 1:14 PM, Blogger LL said…


    btw, I hate liars and deceivers with a passion.

  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    heh yeah, i think that's why a lot of people take hoaxes like this personally. you feel for the people who were duped (even if they are winona rider and carrie fisher).


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