The Guardian has called it ¨perhaps the most succesful and sustained of any of the hoaxes¨. Laura Albert says: It was not a hoax.
It wasn´t a well-considered plan, or, rather, it wasn´t a plan at all. Laura Albert has adopted the identity of teenage prostitute´s son in purely therapeutical purposes, at least that´s what she claims- she wouldn´t be able to write as a woman about painfull things engraved in her own memory
Everyone knew him. JT Leroy, teenager with vague sexual identity who managed to get away from the hell of Southern truck-stop prostitution world into which his own mother immersed him and who has put his terrible experiences into writing thanks to the suggestion of psychologist dr. Terrence Owens- as it turned out, in suprisingly sophisticated form. The doctor shared his discovert with his neighbour, editor, Eric Willinski, that one has contacted JT with his favourite poet, Sharon Odds. That´s how the first collection of short stories written under the name ¨Terminator¨has seen the light if the day and thereby the legend was born, soon growing on such a large scale that the author couldn´t disentangle herself from it.
Celebrities have fallen in love with Jeremiah ¨Terminator¨ Leroy at first reading, declairing emotional catharsis they have been experiencing with every chapter. Winona Ryder was thanking ¨from the bottom of her heart¨, Courtney Love, Bono, Tom Waits, everyone was bombarding JT´s voicemail with thank-you messages and he, morbidly shy, hidden behind huge glasses, was trying to deal with unexpected fame. Since the begining, particular voices have been defending the thesis that Terminator could never have existed, being an alter-ego of Gus Van Sant or other art world figures. The legend was swelling, the stars were swelling with pride and Albert, as british social worker called ´Speedie´who rescued JT from the streets, was appearing incognito on public readings.
Talking with Vice, Jeff Feuerzeig, an director of the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story stumbled across the book ¨Sarah¨ by accident. Refering to his binge read on a long plane travel, he says:
¨Laura Albert had left the clues that she wanted to tell, that she had a secret but she wasn´t ready¨
She had her reasons. During her speech recorded couple years after the true has came to light, she points out the group home where she has been living as a teenager as a place where she´s started soaking up with stories and looking for a way to express her own.
I´m on this writing classes and everyone´s looking at this one cool guy…[…] and I´m in group home, and I´m looking at him and I wanted to be him because he matches the voice and I don´t want him to know it´s me cause it´s gonna ruin it¨
Feuerzeig´s documentary features the story as unbelievable as famous Searching for a Sugar Man. However, instead of holding out on us, he puts his cards on the table, letting Albert admit: I am JT. The story is carried by her and in opposite to copybook docs her voice is not really confronted with the others. This choice of narration exposes the strongest and weakest part of all the legend created- Albert´s personality. It becomes a confession but with no regret. Albert never says sorry and never will- she’s strongly convinced she did the right thing letting the show go on.
The books gained amazing success mostly because of one factor- their value is corelated with emotional resonance of author´s authentic experiences. Almost every review before exposing the hoax reffered to the fact that the story is based on life of JT. As says Susan Vega, quoted in the introduction to Sarah- ¨JT Leroy has a gift ti be able to articulate his world so dearly[…] without glossing over the pain and brutality of it¨. Another quote, from Jerry Stahl, sounds a bit ironic in the new context ¨Whatever young LeRoy had to live through to write a book like this, we´re lucky he´s here.¨ Basically, Sarah and ¨The Heart…¨ lacking the root of authenticity, in the eyes of critics turn out to be a cheap story using shortcuts and threadbare archetypes: fanatic Southern Christians, degenerated truck drivers and drug- addicted hookers.
The story of adaptation starts the same way as it did with the documentary. Asia Argento has read the book and became so attached to the character of JT that she decided to put it to the screen. Asia’ s second film as a director is filled with grotesque, brutally bombarding the spectactor with uncomfortable scenes of abuse; it lacks any ornamentations, in certain parts being simply ugly and repulsive. Looking at her most recent “Misunderstood”, glamorous adult fairytale, it’s hard not to notice the lift at the level of aesthetics. The acting of Asia featuring title role- Sarah, abusive irresponsible mother of Jeremiah, overwhelmes as she seems to constantly fight for the foreground. New York Times has crushed the movie after the truth came out; not only ms. Argento’s skills as a filmmaker have been criticised, but the movie itself was called “well-high unwatchable” partiallly thanks to the quality of source material.
‘ They called me fake fiction writer’ she laughs in her speech. People were angry, offended and craving for revenge for making the fools out of themselves. But at the end, how does it matter if JT exists if these devastating child stories have and will exist and Albert has put the light on it.