Jeff Feuerzeig Unravels the Literary Saga of JT LeRoy: VICE Talks Film

I love truth is stranger than fiction stories and you know I had never heard of JT Leroy in 2006 when when the scandal broke at the time it was being called you know the biggest literary hoax of our time hey I'm Ben Shapiro and welcome to the vise talks film today I'm joined by Jeff fears aghh a documentary director who explores lives of outsider artists through films like the devil and Daniel Johnston and most recently authored the JT Leroy story which is one of the more perplexing and morally ambiguous documentaries I've seen in a long time JT Leroy is a 21 year old writer with two books of fiction based on his experiences as the son of a truckstop prostitute hat I'm JT jeremiah terminator Laroy there's not a lot of discovery in publishing William Burroughs janae allen ginsberg to hear a new voice was exciting he doesn't like to show his face to the press JT I just thank you from the bottom of my heart some people think that JT Leroy might not really exist my name's Laura Albert and I am the writer je t lo voy I felt like a misfit I didn't want to write as myself JT Leroy was created from my dream blond-haired blue-eyed boy turning tricks living on the street the books were taking off j2 had to walk amongst us Savannah was over at my house and I said you look like JT Leroy you're where the sunglass is a blonde wig it was like Frankenstein let there be life JT Leroy is a literary kid boy Tory are alive it was a revolving door of celebrities Missy bono giving JT industry advice suddenly JT is a go-to person for the fashion world I showed just enough to make them interested the media was tugging pretty hard at the curtain it turns out he may not be at heat and may not even exist people are calling me I don't know if the thing is bad or not what the heck is going on I really need to talk to you I didn't know how to shut it down it feels like the whole world is watching I'm not filming am I suddenly I got a call Warren paid off from an air time he says I'm gonna get you he knows everything there is a huge tornado that's about to hit Jeff thank you so much for being here thanks for having me I wanted to start with more than anything just a compliment I think that you're making hands-down some of the best portrait documentaries and I think my hunch is that that's because the subjects that you're choosing Daniel Johnson now JT Leroy are intensely personal to you for people who aren't aware can you tell us what that story is but who is JT Leroy JT Leroy during you know the late 90s and 2000's was a young boy from the hills of Wild West Virginia who was a lot lizard a truckstop prostitute the boy was dressed up as a girl and had a mom named Sarah who was also a truck stop lot lizard prostitute and he was writing transgressive fiction you know really raw vivid autobiographical it was said to be but fiction and these two books that JT Leroy published Sarah and the hardest deceitful above all things they became international bestsellers they were very well reviewed and in 2006 the New York Times pulled down the curtain on Jake Taylor Ryan it turned out JT Leroy in fact did not exist it was a Laura Albert the the author of the fiction on and off the page when he first became aware of it what made you say I want to cover that I had never heard of JT Leroy in 2006 when when the scandal broke um I had not read the books but a friend of mine a journalist turned me onto the story a few years later so I I read there was many many articles a lot of ink was generated on on the scandal when it broke and I just had this feeling that there was so much more to the story than we were being told so I reached out to the author Laura Albert and I sent her my film the devil Daniel Johnston and you know for people who haven't seen that film it deals very vividly with the intersection of madness and creativity and she watched the devil and it it really spoke to her and that's the reason she chose to share her story with me when you read trade – Leroy is writing for the first time how did it strike you I read Sarah the novel first I read it on a plane in one sitting it was very entertaining I loved it and it was like you know I thought this is a great a great novel and then it didn't surprise me that it was so well reviewed when it was published and then I read the hardest deceitful above all things which is a collection of short stories much more brutal but absolutely you know great writing and I knew Laura Albert was hiding in plain sight so within the fiction that she wrote she had left clues and I found those clues and it was very much like when I was a young boy uh finding the the Beatles clues of a paul is dead like i'll never forget the experience of playing strawberry fields forever and in the playout groove you hear I buried Paul and you're just like wow that's what happened when I was reading these books Laura Albert had left clues that she was you know she wanted to tell she had a secret but she wasn't ready when when JT Leroy was published and the great reviews and the aqil aids came in it was a rare zeitgeist moment in in literature in publishing history because this was really hardcore transgressive fiction this was not JK Rowling this was not Harry Potter yet you had lines around the block for four readings at bookstores a clubs um you don't I go to readings I friends you write books I mean you're lucky to have fifteen people there so something just clicked um with a the writing on the page and B the persona of JT Leroy it resonated and spoke to too many people and that's perhaps why I cross over into music into Hollywood into literature publishing um fashion um I don't think we've seen that before this was not Oprah's Book Club I don't know what it was it was just the right thing at the right time but you know where does anyone come from you know I mean people always start you've never heard of them in the next day you have and then it gets passed around and there was a word of mouth and there was buzz and someone else passes a buck on to you and you read it and the next thing you know you're wearing a raccoon penis bomb yeah I couldn't stop him to start and even explained the raccoon penis film cuz that to me was it was a real like that is it said in the film it's an incredible piece of marketing well what one of the symbols in the book Sara of course was the raccoon penis bone now the raccoon penis bone you know I'd never heard that raccoons had you know out of all mammals the largest proportional penis size to their body I did not know this but I guess Laura Albert did and down south they're collected as a good luck charm uh truckers wear them around their necks if you put under your pillow it'll bring you good luck it'll also perhaps make you better in bed and that's in the story so I thought it was brilliant and other people clearly did as well when I guess she must have bought from from some guy you know hundreds and hundreds of them and autograph them and then of course at the readings they would be at the merch table and I don't think there was a celebrity during that era that wasn't photographed wearing a raccoon penis bone just going back a little bit to Dana Johnson as well it seems like you're drawn to these characters that struggle with mental illness that are intensely creative but intensely troubled what is it the draws you that people like this well I mean I think there's two things I absolutely find the intersection of madness and creativity you know infinitely fascinating it's just how it is um I also love underdogs and I think those are the stories that suck us in and I think there's so much to learn about humanity inside those stories and inside those minds so you're saying that Laura Albert is an underdog I mean she the books were so successful she was discredited but I feel like she made the statement that she was going out to make oh well once again JT laroy's books were bestsellers there was no such thing as Laura Albert Laura Albert is the textbook definition of an underdog because of what had happened in her childhood because unfortunately she was sexually abused at a very young age that manifested into you know an eating disorder body issues as well as you know a hotline telephone addiction as herself she's an underdog she said this was one of the most difficult films that I've ever made why well I mean this film is the most complicated story I've ever taken on because well this there's two stories going on at one it's like the main story of the saga of JT Leroy you've got Laura Alberta's herself she's also Jeremiah Terminator Laroy on the phone Savannah her sister playing JT Leroy in public Laura is also playing the British handler speedy and then she's created two other characters her boyfriend / husband Jeff canoe Pisaster and her son is Thor so already it's a it's a pretty large cast dominated mostly by one person so that alone you know is it is it is a very complicated through line but it also raises questions least for me about about the authority that your storyteller has over your own narrative I was impressed and surprised with the creative choice of giving Laura Albert such a place from which to narrate the film I mean it's one thing for her to be a character but she seems like she could be a kind of unreliable narrator from the action from the actions that she's taken and from what she's saying do you consider her a reliable narrator well it's interesting before she steps into the chair and sits down for this 8-day interview you could absolutely say that she would be a textbook definition of an unreliable narrator it's just a fact because of so much deceit that had taken place and in literature as well as cinema you know the unreliable narrator is held in a very very high regard but what was interesting in my experience when making the film was that when she did come because remember this was her choice to come and share she took me through you know every beat of her life soups in US as well as the saga of JT Leroy which is just you know filled with massive amounts of deceit but I found that she shared everything you know 100% honestly she was very very forthcoming about her life her backstory and all the deceit so therefore is she an unreliable narrator is the question you just asked me and that's for you to decide uh you know I found her to be 100% forthcoming when the Jay Taylor a scandal broke in 2006 it broke amidst a completely different media climate than the one that we have today do you think that if this story happened in the last few years it would have happened in the same way or is it even possible for adapt and today I think it's possible through the internet because I keep hearing stories that it happened it can't happen yet but in a different way the JT Leroy story really took place in many ways over the phone for many many years where you don't visually meet or see a person Laura Albert was you know hiding in her bathroom talking as JT Leroy on the phone and I think the phone allowed that and then when the internet it finally came and dominated our lives and young people are now telling me this um you're getting these stories where people can have you know a better self a different self another identity perhaps I think the Internet has changed the culture I'm not sure if the reaction when people are ultimately found out is any different that Jeff it's a real honor to meet you I'm such a fan thank you so much for talking to me today thanks Benny I totally appreciate it yeah man thanks again thank you cool

28 thoughts on “Jeff Feuerzeig Unravels the Literary Saga of JT LeRoy: VICE Talks Film

  1. what a sell-out bull shitter …a hoaxing pathological liar and emtional manipulator

  2. Who is the interviewer? Interesting how his name is not mentioned anywhere

  3. I don't know what the hype is all about. There are writers who write under pen names. Freedom of speech! I would think that her actor friends wouldn't be so upset about it being actors, they should probably give her an Emmy Award or an Academy Award. I watched the documentary and thought it was a excellent. Her imagination brought people into her fictional world. She took on a different name because she felt she was not attractive enough to be out in public. She sent out the actress to play her because she was overweight.

  4. If this would have been true. This boy was still getting expolited. And the fact that ppl happily took signature racoon memorabilia they were sick to get money over the sadness of this boy Life. And they talked to him w any legal guardian AROUND. So what say bout them???

  5. New angle- J T LeRoy is the real author, Laura Albert is the character he made up to hide his true identity.

  6. The American pop culture douchebags. So quick to make literary heroes out of total frauds. Just like the place so much importance in the musical garbage today.

  7. AND: VICE has always been a voice for Alternative Everything. This film is NO exception. If you think it's about celebrities and entertainment and frivolity, kindly shove your Relevant Membership card up your collective asses. It's about a woman's struggle with overcoming serious childhood trauma by using the skills she had, creating tremendous art from her pain and having what ultimately seems like a minor caper in the process. She cost no one a cent, she paid the fine she had levied [against her in a civil suit] and she isn't living like a rockstar.
    1. Struggles with mental health and trauma.
    2. Art. Good, subversive, fresh and edgy FICTION. Almost punk-rock.
    3. Behaved responsibly by taking her undeserved lumps [by paying that ridiculous fine], by revealing herself to the most important people in her life [which kept her from losing her job, thank g_d]. Vice is doing the same sorts of films as ever, the crux of this story is a solid social issue and human interests.

  8. I guess I'll be the voice of ascent, here: This film is AMAZING. I loved the Devil & Daniel Johnston, he is such a beautiful man and Jeff did such a great job at dignifying a life that's so often ignored or disdained. I loved JT's work, I didn't feel at all tricked when all the cream rose because there was no trick, it was never written as an attempt to hoax the hipsters, it wasn't meant as anything but a metaphorical and FICTIONAL representation of the workings-out of Laura Albert's pain and trauma and as far as I'm concerned: She Won Self Care. she's apologetic enough but not overly so, she's plenty self-deprecating and she's honest as hell about her brand of crazy. I'm full of love for Both Albert and this film.

  9. Nice puff piece. The real documentary is called The Cult of JT LeRoy. It's the version Laura Albert does not want you to see.

  10. If Yoko Ono and Carol Channing had a love child, (through Gilbert Gottfried's frozen sperm) it would look like Laura Albert.

  11. I want to see this documentary soooo bad because it's probably the greatest trolling of hipster douchebag left wing pretentious "Cool People" ever. hahahaha.

  12. God Vice used to make documentaries about African warlords cutting the hearts out of a live boy and eating it before going into war high on cocaine and gunpowder totally naked. Now they've just become another faggy left wing weak beta cuck marxist machine.

  13. Why the fuck is this level of investigative journalism focused on triviality and entertainment instead of politics? At least then we'd know what sort of criminal we're voting for.

  14. Who. Gives. A. Fuck. This is the same as that bullshit you did with those two hipster whores who went to be truck stop strippers and ended up in reality being about how they are edgy and doing stuff that their friends on the hipster faggotry farm back home will say wow you so edgy.

  15. vice one sided who give a shit no comment on bullshit story but this shit yes comment ok now

  16. vice one sided who give a shit no comment on bullshit story but this shit yes comment ok now

  17. Just because she was forthcoming doesn't mean that forthcoming information is true.

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