Having exchanged vituperative asseveration for untrammelled glee in participating in the on-going carnival that marks the return-of-the-real and death-to-betrayal-of-authenticity that is the scandalised aftermath of JT LeRoy’s literary hoax, I was both surprised the film adaptation of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things hadn’t been inhumed in quicklime, and quite salivating at what would be a pack of deranged hounds eviscerating the quivering marrow of a defenseless Bambi. I wasn’t disappointed.
So, the short version: This “not at all autobiographical” “fiction” is, and I’m putting this as delicately as I can, in close competition for the title of “Most Egregiously Ridiculous Piece of Shit the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Have Ever produced.” Hell!! It may be the most egregiously ridiculous piece of human culture ever created, though I’m sure there’s some pretty bad cave paintings out there.
As such, Deceitful really should blow Showgirls out of the water as the ideal drunken-screaming-queen date movie, and in many ways is just begging for the Rocky Horror Picture Show treatment. I, for one, spent the last half of the movie sketching out my Halloween costume.
But there’s a categorical difference between Deceitful, Showgirls, and Rocky. Care to guess what it is? THAT’S RIGHT!! Nobody would have ever taken this pathetic piece of tragedy tourism even remotely seriously — not even Joe Esterhaz! — if it hadn’t been promulgated as the “real” story of a “survivor.”
Part of me likes the great simulacrum of the media endlessly recreating its own reality until it is all simultaneously real and fake, until it doesn’t matter that an author I really admired for personal reasons in fact is an elaborate publishing hoax perpetrated on exactly the set of media/information-whores who always are so quick to pick up on and decimate an advertising technique by corporate monsters that tries to appropriate the signifiers of the world which surrounds me for the express purpose of making a buck from me out of some apparent loyalty to the sign. The other side of me thinks, “JT LeRoy, you fucking cunt”. No, actually, JT LeRoy doesn’t exist. In the glorious sphere of literary hoaxes occupied by such geniuses as Helen Demindenko, LeRoy is actually an old slag named Emily Albert, with public appearances by sister-in-law, Savannah Knoops.
Mr. Leroy’s tale was harrowing in its details and uplifting in its arc. He was a young truck-stop prostitute who had escaped rural West Virginia for the dismal life of a homeless San Francisco drug addict. Rescued as a young teenager by a couple named Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop and treated by a psychologist, he was able to turn his terrible youth into a thriving career as a writer. JT Leroy has published three critically acclaimed works of fiction noted for their stark portrayal of child prostitution and drug use.
Along the way Mr. Leroy gained the friendship and trust of celebrities and noted writers, who supported his career financially and offered him emotional support when he declared that he was infected with H.I.V. Sales were good, and his books were published around the world. Shy and reclusive, Mr. Leroy, now 25, appeared in public often disguised beneath a wig and sunglasses.
But the young man in the wig and sunglasses, it turns out, is not a man at all. The public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop’s half sister, who is in her mid-20’s.