Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fascinating

JT LeRoy

The story goes a little something like this. A boy named Jeremiah "Terminator" LeRoy is "raised" by his single mother, Sarah, who at first gives him away and then fights for him back. She dresses the young JT like a girl, nicknames him "Cherry Vanilla," and teaches him how to shake his stuff for truckers at truckstops. JT's life story is filled with sex, prostitution, drugs, abuse, and outrageous experiences few would desire.

Several years later, in 1999, he writes and publishes a book called Sarah, which details his days as a twelve-year-old boy who pretends to be a virginal girl while employed by Glad, the pimp who runs the truck stop brothel in West Virginia. JT calls himself Sarah and tries to be the best 'lot lizard.' Then JT publishes a second book of short stories, detailing more of his wacky and downright awful childhood moments, including sexual abuse and rape at the hands of his mother and many men, and painting the picture of his pained, yet loving relationship with Sarah.

Many in the literary world supported LeRoy, including celebrities like Shirley Manson and Madonna, and writers like Dennis Cooper and Mary Gaitskill. But while he made public appearances and hung out with such celebs, LeRoy claimed he was too shy to appear without a wig, hat, and sunglasses. But then, in 2006, the whole house of cards came tumbling down...when it came out that JT LeRoy wasn't real. It was all a hoax. So, who was the real JT LeRoy?

Well, the books were written by former phone-sex operator Laura Albert, with quite a history of her own, and the public appearances were made by her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop...who is actually a woman. For me, this makes the whole thing even BETTER.

For starters, knowing that it's indeed fiction means that a boy named JT didn't suffer all of these atrocities, and that a woman named Sarah didn't let guys sodomize her son. I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of people who have had similar experiences, but at least there's one less with JT being invented by a female author. I think it takes guts for a writer to create a real-life character and attempt to make that person exist in the world, and though it does seem like a ploy to get more publicity and to rack up sales, I'd like to think of it as a gusty, art-driven (rather than commercial-driven) endeavor meant to shake things up and maybe even to expose the ridiculous irony of a nonfiction story about someone's traumatic life being more compelling than fiction. I think Albert's "hoax" was an interesting little experiment, as she hung out in the shadows of "his" fame, anonymously lending "JT" her writing skills. Even after she was exposed, many who met and hung with JT still supported "him." Asia Argento being one of them.

Argento claimed to have even slept with JT, while she was working on a film based on his stories. That film, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, is dark and scandalous, starring Asia as Sarah, Marilyn Manson as a drunk boyfriend, and Michael Pitt as...well, I'm not quite sure who he was supposed to be. Not to mention those Disney twins of Zack and Cody fame as ten-year-old JT.


Long live JT LeRoy.

-amy

3 comments:

Bex said...

I actually recall coming across articles referencing JT (including pictures with celebrities etc) but I never really took the time to work out what it was all about.

I think I might just do that.

Quiet Violet said...

That movie actually looks really interesting. I'm SOO surprised that those Disney twins were are in such an intense film. :)

amy dupcak said...

o man, it really is an intense film! i went to see it by myself as soon as it came out (which was right after the whole scandal came to light), but the theater was actually pretty empty. the film has its flaws but it's definitely worth a watch! it also does prove that zack and cody can act, which is a good thing!