Monday, April 03, 2006

Laura "J.T. LeRoy" Albert: the real "How Does She Do It" queen

I've been riveted by the revelation that cult literary sensation J.T. Leroy was a middle-aged housewife named Laura Albert. I wasn't a fan of J.T.'s overwrought tales (I couldn't force myself to wade all the way through the emotionally monochromatic "The Heart Is Deceitful Among All Things"). But I am a mom about the same age as Laura, with a child about the same age (plus a younger one), living in the same city, and so I'm fascinated by how she managed to pull all this off. When I was making the rounds of parent-child swimming lessons and playgroups, Laura, just a few miles away, was writing bestsellers under the guise of an abused boy prostitute and holding forth over the internet about the mystical powers of raccoon penis bones. Not only did she do all that, but she managed to wedge her child into one of San Francisco's most exclusive private schools, one which is legendary amongst parents for its snobby selectivity.

Laura spent, by all accounts, huge amounts of time on the phone with literary and show biz celebs. For one year, she spent hours every day talking to famous director Gus van Sant, who says that once they held an all-night phone call. I CAN'T MAKE EVEN ONE TINY, LITTLE PHONE CALL WITHOUT INTERRUPTION. How the hell can Laura spend all night up on the phone? Recently I was taking part in a particularly riveting phone call, where a friend of mine was recounting her ordeal of being dosed with a date rape drug. My husband loudly interrupted to lecture me, as my child (the very same age as Laura's, mind you) had sat down at the internet browser window I'd carelessly left open and clicked on some link, which led her to pornography. "What's that?" the child inquired, and my husband said, "Pornography, and it's for grownups only" as he closed the window. "But I LOVE THE PORNOGRAPHY!" shouted my child defiantly. As the husband attempted to hash all this out with me, my emotional friend was only midway through her saga of dosed drinks in nightclubs.

So, Laura Albert, how do you do it? How can you spend all night on the phone when I can't manage even twenty minutes at a stretch?

Incidentally Laura alienated many of her celeb pals by soliciting donations to her kid's private school fundraiser. I have two children in two schools with endless fundraising, but so far, I've mainly alienated my mother, since I don't quite have the fundraising chutzpah of a literary hoaxster.

Vanity Fair published a long article about Laura online which completely missed the motherhood aspect. J.T.'s agent reveals that Laura was the biggest timewaster he had ever run across, requiring unending amounts of attention and handholding over the phone. It turns out, according to Vanity Fair, that most of J.T.'s celeb pals hated Laura, and Carrie Fisher begged "J.T." to get Laura out of his life. So she did all that sucking up, all those emails and phone calls, only to be rejected in real life by these people. They only liked her when she was behind the J.T. veil. I find this really kind of heart-breaking. Oh, Laura, you were wasted on them, with your energy and imagination.

As a mom of the same generation, I was surprised no one seemed to have caught the They Might Be Giants ref when "J.T. Leroy", trying mightily to maintain the charade, tried to explain how a quasi-agoraphobic, nigh-psychotically shy person could be such a fame whore, pursuing celebrities with such abandon. Movie stars and rock stars are "supertasters", the author explained, and thus "he" could gain so much more by spending time in their company than with regular people, who are fundamentally incapable of living life to the full. Yes, Laura, we have the seminal They Might Be Giants "No" album, too, and I can sing along to "John Lee, supertaster, tastes more than you do", too. I know how you learned about "supertasters", but do tell, what the hell do you do with your kid when you're on the phone?


2amsomewhere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
2amsomewhere said...

(reposting with fixed hyperlink)

A timely addendum to this classic post...

Author Defrauded Movie Company, Jury Finds

SUMMARY: JT Leroy, the authorial “other” whom the writer Laura Albert employed as her alter ego and self-protective proxy in the world, was found yesterday by a jury in Manhattan to be not just a fictional creation but a fraud.

How to Party with an Infant said...

I was with a friend of mine (he's a writer) while he was on the phone with "J.T" He was so enamored. Sucker!
how does one have time to pull all of this off?
I'm trying to guess the school she sent her kid to--Children's Day?