Laura Albert: Liar, Genius, or Both?

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The documentary opens with a dewy-eyed Winona Ryder on the microphone at some event, gushing about her love for JT LeRoy. But who is JT LeRoy?

I remember hearing about literary darling JT LeRoy some time in 2001 from one of my friends who is more aware of artistic trends than I’ve ever been. The buzz was interesting even in Arkansas. LeRoy’s novel Sarah, meant to be an autobiographical account of his truck-stop prostitute mother, was published 1999. JT claimed to be a former prostitute himself, pimped out by his mother to men who preferred “boy-girls”. He was HIV positive and a former heroin addict. With his emergence onto the literary and Hollywood scenes, it had the makings of a fairytale. And that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

The character of JT LeRoy came from the mind of Laura Albert. She was depressed and called a suicide hotline. “Terminator” spoke to Dr. Owens, and Laura presents it like she was a conduit to this troubled young man who needed his story heard. According to Albert, she started calling suicide hotlines and pretending to be a boy when she was a young teen living in an abusive environment. She felt she got more support when she presented the trauma as if she were a boy.

Dr. Owens suggested that Terminator start keeping a journal to deal with his feelings. Along with Dr. Owens’ help, Laura learned that Terminator’s real name was Jeremy.

Meanwhile, he/she managed to reach out to Dennis Cooper and land his agent Ira Silverstein. Silverstein felt that he had found a fresh, new voice.

LeRoy initially refused to do readings, claiming that he was too shy. So other people would join in to read for him. But eventually that wasn’t enough. So Laura Albert enlisted her boyfriend’s sister, Savannah Knoop to play JT. Savannah had an androgynous look, and Laura added giant sunglasses and a blonde wig to complete the costume. Laura added the characteristic of trans to JT’s story. The high voice and hairless face were attributed to hormone therapy.

Laura always felt like an outcast, and now she was suddenly a star. Only no one knew it. And she was still struggling with her weight and self-esteem, along with childhood trauma. To insert herself into the JT LeRoy narrative, she started speaking with a British accent and presented herself as JT’s assistant and best friend, Speedie. Geoff, Laura’s partner and Savannah’s brother, was a part of JT’s entourage as well. He went by the name Astor.

JT LeRoy’s rise was fast and furious. He became a star- a society darling, fashion icon, literary star. And that’s when Albert’s make-believe character really became self-aware. Or she put it, “her Barbies came to life.” Which was a strange way to put it since she mutilated her Barbies as a child. Savannah got to hang out with actors, rock stars, authors, directors. Gus Van Sant hoped to adapt one of JT’s books.

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A raccoon penis bone-a reference to truck stop prostitutes-became the symbol of JT’s cult. There is a photo of U2’s The Edge wearing one on a necklace. LeRoy’s champions included Bono, Billy Corgan, Courtney Love, Michael Pitt, and Eddie Veder.

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (LeRoy’s second release) was made into a movie that got into Cannes. Savannah (as JT) is invited to sit on a panel, while Laura and Geoff had cameos in the film but they were cut.

Rumors flew that Dennis Cooper or Gus Van Sant wrote the books, but eventually people started to realize that it was probably Speedie pulling the strings. A high school friend of Geoff’s was eventually the whistle-blower.

New York Magazine’s Stephen Beachy broke the story in 2005. Celebrities came to JT’s defense. More stories followed, but Albert dug her heels in, other than admitting the truth to Billy Corgan and David Milch.

But once a photograph of Savannah surfaced, denial was no longer an option. Savannah and Laura were determined to stay quiet, to not give the media what they wanted. But Geoff spilled everything.

Laura Albert insists that JT LeRoy was never a hoax. JT LeRoy was very much real to her without being a physical presence. And that’s perhaps where the lines got blurred. She didn’t write the stories of JT LeRoy knowing that she would have to produce a real person. But when the time came, she did so instead of admitting the truth.

Each book was categorized as fiction, but was understood to be based on JT LeRoy’s life. So yes, she was deceitful. But she also gave the people what they wanted. Though it’s obvious that JT LeRoy’s backstory helped Laura Albert get the work published, she insists that wasn’t her intention.

In Author: The JT LeRoy Story we get Albert’s story firsthand. From her troubled youth all the way to the make-believe that got away from her. It’s interesting to watch, though somewhat voyeuristic considering that much of the material focuses on recorded phone conversations in which celebrities didn’t know they were being recorded.

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The question remains: was JT LeRoy an elaborate hoax or a work of fiction that came to life?  Given Albert’s history with telling the truth, this documentary does not give a satisfactory answer.

 

 

 

 

Divorce: a gift from celebrities

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I promise I’m not one to enjoy the suffering of others. But with all of the terrible things in the news every single day, I’m so relieved for a big fat celebrity divorce.

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Remember when he doinked some random chick while Demi stayed home on their wedding anniversary? 

Today the headlines include slideshows of Brad and Angelina’s life together. We have timelines of their previous relationships. We have statements from “sources close to the family”.

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Sorry guys, your divorce is old news.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The news has been so depressing and stressful lately. I’d like to think the divorce was timed just for us, the anxiety-ridden American public. If only for today, it will be easy to avoid political news and heartbreaking headlines about terrorist attacks across the world.

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Nobody’s listening to these two today unless they want to weigh in on Brangelina.

Am I proud to get wrapped up in celebrity gossip when it feels like the world is falling apart? No, way. It’s kind of disgusting. But who cares?

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This divorce could have been enjoyable, but the Scientology gag order reduced our fun tremendously. 

This is no ordinary celebrity divorce. This is Brad and Angelina, you guys. They have tons of kids and tons of properties. They have a freaking estate in France. Nobody you know has an estate in France. And you probably don’t know very many people who have six children. This shit is gonna get ugly! Not as ugly as racism and fascism, but that’s fine.

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Thanks for saving us from world events.

Once the Brangelina divorce dust settles we can go back to giving attention to the terrorists and fathead politicians. For today, let’s speculate on whether or not Angelina Jolie is jealous of Selena Gomez.

Marnie is the worst

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I have a love/hate relationship with the show Girls. The first season was a breath of fresh air. It felt honest and funny while not shying away from the gritty turmoil that is the 20’s. It evolved over the next few seasons into an annoying bitch fest. The four main characters were constantly bickering and neglecting one another as their narcissism increased in intensity. Season 5 brought it all back around for me, except for Marnie. She sucks so hard.

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Your problems mean nothing to me, peasant.

The character arcs in Girls have been both frustrating and interesting in varying degrees, depending on the character. Though Hannah is a spoiled, self-centered brat, she is talented and unashamed of her flaws. We’ve seen her go from aimless writer to a teacher pretending to be a grown-up, and hopefully back to following her passion because she’s realized that’s her only path.  Shoshanna and Jessa have also been on paths of self-discovery that have set them up to mature and grow. Even the under-utilized Elijah is growing up. Then there’s freaking Marnie.

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The sheltered Jewish virgin is now a worldly Japanese girl.

The series began with Marnie as an uptight art curator. A rich girl with excellent taste, and a preference for perfection that bordered on OCD. Then she decided to wanted to be a singer. By season 5 she’s in a band with her ridiculously annoying ex-husband. And they’re already successful, because this is Marnie we’re talking about. The problem is that following her bliss caused her no suffering. Quitting her job to pursue a dream never put her in a position to live off of bread and peanut butter for a week. Her teeth are just as white and her hair is just as shiny as it ever was. Even going through a divorce hasn’t seemed to have a maturing effect on her. She’s gone back to using Ray for her errand boy, just like in season 3. She still gives zero shits about anyone’s problems but her own. And she’s super annoyed by how her ex-husband is handling the divorce, because it’s about her after all.

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Started as the worst character and now he’s the only reason to watch the show. 

The writing on Girls has been equal parts brilliant and frustrating throughout the series. But character development like Adam’s from season 1 to 2 have kept it interesting. I don’t know if Marnie is the result of a dropped ball in the writers’ room, or if she’s meant to be an example of how much some people are just truly awful. We all know jerks who never learn lessons, or who never learn to think beyond their own needs even when their friends are sinking. So maybe Marnie is just an asshole.

The Canyons: lower your expectations, even if they are already low.

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Warning: This review is lousy with spoilers, but it’s fine. You’re not going to watch this movie anyway.

First of all, let me say that I sometimes like Bret Easton Ellis’ work. Not always, but I get that he’s satirical and “post-empire” and when he’s not being a self-righteous d-bag, he actually has interesting commentary on society. So I hoped that his screenwriting would be a plus for this film.

Second, Paul Schrader directed The Canyons. Though his directing career hasn’t been epic, he wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So you’d think he had a handle on this film-making thing.

Third, if I don’t like something, I usually stay quiet out of respect for the artist’s vision and all that. And I know sometimes the story in your head doesn’t end up on paper so I try not to be overly critical. But I just can’t freaking help this one. The Canyons left me with a lot to get off my chest. Maybe because I went into it with the attitude that it couldn’t be that bad. Movies are rarely as awful as the critics claim. But it is that bad, you guys. It really is.

It's not porn because I only show my dong once.

It’s not porn because he only shows his dong once.

The first scene is painfully boring. It’s a conversation between two couples, Christian (James Deen) and Tara (Lindsay Lohan), and Ryan (Nolan Funk) and Gina (Amanda Brooks). Christian is a producer or something and has recently cast Ryan in a film as a favor to his assistant Gina since Ryan is Gina’s boyfriend. And because Tara insisted that Ryan was just perfect for the role. Whatever the hell that role is, or what the movie is, or any of that shit, no one knows because none of that seems to have anything to do with the plot. And this is the scene that sets up the entire film.

This opening snooze-fest conversation centers on Christian announcing to the table that he brings people over to watch him have sex with Tara, and to sometimes to have mini-orgies. Because that’s dinner conversation in the canyons, my friends. There’s lots of time on smartphones, then there’s a close up of a lime being squeezed into a cocktail.

Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.

Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.

Okay, so Tara is living with Christian who is a spoiled trust-fund baby wanna-be filmmaker who only dabbles in filmmaking to keep his dad off his back so he doesn’t lose his trust fund which allows him to live in ridiculous luxury and debauchery. I guess his dad is some sort of Pablo Escobar type figure. Because art.

We soon learn that Tara is doinking Ryan behind Christian’s back because they used to be in love but she couldn’t take being poor anymore. Bartending and going to auditions was just too taxing for her, so she moved in with a spoiled douchebag who sometimes makes her do it with other dudes and sometimes chicks, but hey, she doesn’t have to hold down a job.

Christian knows something is going on so he constantly interrogates Tara, then tells her he trusts her. And her hair extensions are TERRIBLE.

Then Christian tells a gay producer to tell Ryan his part will be recast unless he sleeps with him. Why? Not sure. I guess to see if Ryan swings both ways, or to see how desperate he is to keep his part. But that question is never really answered, because who really gives a shit by then?

Also, Tara (Lohan) sun bathes a lot but she is as pale as talcum powder. Do they make SPF 1000?

This is how she spends her days. Every single worthless one.

There are lots of shots of abandoned movie theaters. I’m sure it’s supposed to be some metaphor about how films have changed, and to justify Schrader’s Kickstarter campaign to get this festering turd made. But really the abandoned theaters can also be a metaphor for what happens when Lindsay Lohan and James Deen get top billing in movies.

At least they don't have to screen The Canyons.

At least this place doesn’t have to screen The Canyons.

This girl named Cynthia who Christian still has sex with sometimes confronts Tara to tell her that one time Christian roofied her and had her gang-raped on camera. So that’s why they still hang out, I guess.  Also, Cynthia knows that Ryan and Tara used to date, but Christian does not.

It turns out that Cynthia’s story was a lie, because that’s super helpful for rape victims, you dumb bitch. And she did it because she wants Christian back, who really is a waste of resources. I mean, seriously, there’s a water shortage in California. Nobody should be sharing water with Christian.

And then there’s a four-way where Tara turns the power tables on Christian which is supposed to be erotic and important to story development but really it’s just kind of gross. Then we learn that Christian’s dad also requires him to go to therapy in order to keep his trust fund.  His therapist is Gus Van Sant, because WHY NOT? So he tells Gus Van Sant that he didn’t enjoy losing his power during group sex. Boo hoo, pervert.

The disco lights let you know that it's about to get FREAKY!

The disco lights let you know that it’s about to get FREAKY!

Apparently, Christian’s a psychopath or some shit and really needs that therapy because he totally murders Cynthia for lying about him. He goes all stabby-style while she screams, “Christian, NO!” Then Ryan calls Cynthia right after it happens and Christian picks up and says, “I can’t believe what you did to her, dude.” So obviously Ryan drives straight to her house and leaves his mark on the crime scene, instead of doing something crazy like calling the police.

He always looks this confused.

Ryan always looks this confused.

Tara wants to leave Christian. He says she can as long as she provides him with an alibi for the time he spent murdering the yoga mistress. He also says that if she ever sees Ryan (“if you’re ever even in the same room with him again”) he’ll kill Ryan and get away with it. Because, you know, white rich privilege and all.

This dungpile ends with another boring dinner scene. This one with some rando actress telling Tara that she heard about her from Christian, but then she asks Tara how Christian is doing.  Because that makes sense.

By this time, Tara is with some other dude and they just got back from Dubai, where Tara “shopped and laid out” like the slutty sloth she is.

So the rando chick goes to the bathroom at the restaurant and calls someone who we assume is Christian to give the Tara update, but is actually Ryan because the next shot is him staring hauntingly at the camera. Maybe not so much hauntingly as blankly as in “wait, what was I supposed to do here?”

The point it that two men are obsessed with Tara, a woman with bad extensions who chain smokes and shops all day. And really doesn’t seem to do anything else except lots of sexing.

The movie would have been better if instead of Christian murdering just Cynthia, he murdered everyone in the movie and then committed suicide. It would have been fine, because every single character was so underdeveloped that vapid seems to rich a word to describe them.

Never change, General Hospital!

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I’ve been watching General Hospital on and off for most of my life. This is not something I’m proud of, but it’s just part of who I am. You cannot imagine my relief when GH (yeah, I call it GH) was spared from the daytime soap chopping block at ABC.

I know it’s hard to understand why I’m loyal to a show with cheesy dialogue and far-fetched storylines. But these are the things I love about the show. It’s the purest form of escapist television.

On soap operas, ANYTHING can happen.

Currently on GH, mob hit man Jason Morgan was presumed dead not once, but TWICE! Then he was in a hit and run and his face was all smashed up and then repaired into super HAWT form and he has amnesia (there are two people on the show right now with amnesia-so rad). He’s going by the name of Jake, which is also the name of his son who was presumed dead but was recently found alive (on Cassadine island, natch). So now, we’re waiting on pins and needles to see if he finds out who he is before he marries Elizabeth, who knows who he really is but has always been in love with him and wanted him for her own and now she has him even if his pretty little brain is broken.

I don't know who I am, but I know how to screw on a silencer!

I don’t know who I am, but I know how to screw on a silencer!

They ain’t got to explain NOTHING.

Everybody’s rich somehow. There’s a mob element but we don’t really know what exactly they deal in. And assassins (like the above Jason) never go to jail, and if they do they get pardoned quickly through some magical technicality. The beauty is: it doesn’t have to make sense or be explained. Things move too fast around here for actual plot development!

I should be in jail for murdering Connie, but instead I'm boinking my daughter's boyfriend. Don't judge me!

I should be in jail for murdering Connie, but instead I’m boinking my daughter’s boyfriend. Don’t judge me!

Storyline recycling is the way of the walk.

I love to watch the storylines recycle every few years. Some things are obvious: One-night stands always result in a pregnancy. Pregnancies are never healthy and normal. Dead spouses always show up to weddings.

Oh nuts! Is that your dead wife? Rude much?

Oh nuts! Is that your dead wife in the doorway? I hope she brought a gift.

And a few things take longer to resurface. For example, Olivia got pregnant by mobster Julian Jerome after a one-night stand (these people DO NOT know about birth control), so she had Ned Quartermaine say the baby was his just like he did when Alexis Davis got pregnant with mobster Sonny Corinthos’s baby a decade or so back. It’s hard to remember exactly when that happened, because I think that kid should be about 10 but she’s about 20 because of SORAS (soap opera rapid aging syndrome, which is totally a thing).

Recast, recast, recast!

Recasts don’t always turn out great, but sometimes they are fantastic. The original Carly, Sarah Brown left to pursue her movie career after she was cast in Big Momma’s House 2 or something. A few Carly’s later, GH was happily settled in with Laura Wright. But Sarah wanted her job back and fans loved her. So…they recast Sarah as a mob princess. Things didn’t quite work out, but it was fun to see them be all “hey, why the hell not?” about the whole thing.

Stop calling me Carly, I'm Claudia now!

Stop calling me Carly, I’m Claudia now!

Don’t like this plot line? Freakin’ DROP IT!

Occasionally there were be a plotline so dumb, so pointless, that it just disappears with no explanation whatsoever. It’s like the writers are all “this crap ain’t working so let’s just forget about it and hope the viewers do, too”. I can’t explain why, but I admire the attitude that must go along with those actions.

I'm so glad they dropped that whole alcoholism thing so now I can successfully run my bar even though I never have  customers.

I’m so glad they dropped that whole alcoholism thing so now I can successfully run my bar even though I never have customers.

Please, General Hospital, never change. Keep doing what you do and I’ll keep watching and talking to the TV like a crazy person.

 

I love Teen Titans Go!

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I’m sure a lot of parents can relate. After a steady diet of Dora, Max & Ruby, and Team Umizoomi, a cartoon finally appears that doesn’t bore you into a coma and you realize that you can do this. You can watch TV with your kids without fantasizing about inserting your head into the nearest oven.

Not since Phineas and Ferb has a children’s show so captured my attention. Apparently there was a serious superhero show called Teen Titans way back in 2003. I didn’t watch that one because I was too busy not having children in 2003. Anyway, the same voices that brought us Teen Titans have added a Go! to the end and made it a comedy. And it’s oh so good.

It reminds me a lot of Community in that it’s an ensemble comedy and it’s not afraid to go ‘meta’ without warning. And like Phineas and Ferb, it has jokes that are funny to adults (immature adults like me, but whatever) without being raunchy.

My favorite character is Raven, a saucy half-demon who moves via hover.

My hair is an awesome black bob but you can't always see it because of this rad hood.

My hair is an awesome black bob but you can’t always see it because of this rad hood.

There is also Robin, of Batman fame. In Teen Titans Go! Robin fancies himself the leader. It’s nice to see him step out of Batman’s hulking shadow.

Bat who?

Bat who?

There is a cyborg named Cyborg who loves pizza and has a total bromance with Beast Boy, the green vegetarian shape shifter who is in love with Raven. I wonder what shape-shifting quarter-demon babies would be like?

Real friends love pie together!

Real friends love pie together!

And last but not least is Starfire, the cheerful alien princess who has a pet larvae thing named Silkie.

I'm pretty and I love gross things.

I’m pretty and I love gross things.

The millennials who were fans of the 2003 incarnation of the show have their knickers in a twist over this awesome show. There are all sorts of disparaging comments on the imdb board about how it’s not like the original. I have one thing to say to the generation that gave us Miley Cyrus: SUCK IT!

The worst part of Jurassic World

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It’s a really good movie. Not going to lie. But one thing bugged me the entire film. The female lead Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, could have been so much better.

Here’s why: she’s a pent-up career woman who, when reminded by her sister that having children is a ‘when’ and not an ‘if’, gets all teary-eyed and weird even though she’s super successful and who cares if she doesn’t have kids.

But the absolute worst part was her attire. She starts off in a crisp white blouse and skirt combo, complete with heels. She remains in heels the entire movie, even when running from dinosaurs through the jungle. Yet she becomes progressively more undressed. By the end she’s in a tight camisole and her skirt is ripped up the side to give her Angelina-side-leg. And she can finally kiss the hero because she’s suddenly sexy and no longer frigid. Cliché much?

It’s like on Saved by the Bell when Jessie Spano relented on allowing Slater to call her ‘mama’ because he was so damn dreamy. That slippery slope of Freudian creepiness led to straight to Showgirls.

Or on Miss Congeniality when Benjamin Bratt finally showed Sandra Bullock some positive attention because she brushed her hair and put on make-up, because being a badass FBI agent wasn’t good enough until she could walk in heels.

Or my beloved Princess Bride when Buttercup screams uselessly instead of hitting the rodent of unusual size with a stick (they were in the woods, there were sticks EVERYWHERE) as it attacked Wesley.

Jurassic World is a great film, but I couldn’t help but cringe when the movie’s outstanding hero was the strapping alpha male (literally, there’s a whole subplot about him being the alpha in a pack of raptors) who spoke through gritted teeth, even though the damsel in distress saved the day a few times herself. Unfortunately, those heroics were muted by her rack and a hint of thigh.

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