Jun 25 2007
The jury in the suit filed by a film company to recoup film rights granted by
Laura Albert for Sarah by JT Leroy found Leroy to be "not just a
fictional creation, but a fraud." As part of its verdict in the civil
case, the jury ordered Ms. Albert to pay $116,500 to Antidote International
Films, which signed an option contract with JT LeRoy to make a feature film of
his novel Sarah (2000), about a cross-dressing boy who follows his
prostitute mother to ply his trade at a West Virginia truck stop.
Long before this court case, when Sarah was first published, JT LeRoy became the damaged darling of the art house set, befriending the likes of Courtney Love and Winona Ryder. All the while, it was Laura Albert, a mother and obscure novelist from Brooklyn Heights, who was behind it all. She gave interviews by phone or email and even paid her former boyfriend’s half-sister to appear as JT LeRoy at literary readings and at the international film festival in Cannes. She went on to pen The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2002) and Harold's End (2005, originally published in McSweeny's in 2002) under the name JT LeRoy, with glowing reviews from the likes of PW and The Washington Post.
In testimony, Ms. Albert suggested that JT LeRoy was far more than a pseudonym in the classic Mark Twain-Samuel Clemens mold. She offered the idea that JT LeRoy was a sort of "respirator" for her inner life: an imaginary, though necessary, survival apparatus. The 8-day trial included testimony about her history - a litany of adolescent trauma including sexual abuse, institutionalization and 13 years of telephone therapy in which she spoke to her psychiatrist in the adopted persona of a teenage boy she called Jeremiah.
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