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Is J.T. LeRoy a Hoax?
Status: Yes, he's a hoax
image J.T. LeRoy is either a) an extremely shy young man who, at the age of 13, while living a life of abuse and prostitution on the streets, met a psychologist who encouraged him to write down his experiences, which he did, thereby propelling him to literary stardom (now in his mid-twenties, LeRoy has three books, one of which has been made into a movie); or b) a woman in her late-thirties called Laura Albert who, for the past eleven years, has crafted an elaborate hoax to make people believe that LeRoy is a real person.

Stephen Beachy believes that option B is correct, and he lays out the reasons why in an article appearing in the current issue of New York Magazine. His basic argument goes like this: Laura Albert (aka Emily Frasier) is the woman who supposedly took LeRoy in when he was a young teenager. Beachy thinks she didn't take him in. She invented him. For years no one ever saw LeRoy. Blaming shyness, he would only talk on the phone or via email. Beachy suggests that Albert was the one doing the talking. When LeRoy finally did start to make public appearances (in 2001), he would conceal his features with a wig and sunglasses and avoid talking to people. Beachy believes the LeRoy seen in public is an actor hired by Albert. Then there's the odd fact that all of LeRoy's royalty payments go to Albert, or members of her family.

Beachy offers up plenty of other suspicious pieces of evidence, and I'm inclined to think he might be right. The biggest point in favor of LeRoy's reality is simply that it would be pretty outrageous for anyone to devise such an elaborate, and long-lasting, hoax. But then, outrageous is something hoaxers do well.

I suppose with time we'll discover the truth behind this story. My guess is that if LeRoy is a hoax, Albert will try to "kill him off" at some point when it becomes too difficult to continue the deception.

Update, January 4, 2006: Laura Barton has managed to interview JT LeRoy in person, and reports about her experience in the Guardian. She's not at all convinced that the person she interviewed really was LeRoy. She writes:

What strikes me most is the inarticulacy of LeRoy's speech. The delivery is stilted, the distinctive LeRoy vocabulary neutered. And while there is no reason for authors to be verbally articulate, I cannot find the pulse here, nor an intensity that in any way relates to the work of JT LeRoy. He seems distant, not only from our conversation, but from the work and his own argument. Much of what he says is identical to the phrases used by Albert in our telephone conversation, and it is hard to decipher whether this is LeRoy speaking Albert's words, or whether Albert was simply recycling LeRoy's. Whoever this is, sitting so sweetly beside me in the back of the car, I'm not wholly convinced it is the person who wrote the books. I would say two things with some certainty: I think it's a woman, and I think she's a real cutie pie. But whoever she is, our conversation seems cursory, a mahogany finish sprayed onto the solid wood beneath.

Update, January 9, 2006: The New York Times has revealed that the person appearing in public as LeRoy seems to be Savannah Knoop, the half-sister of Geoffrey Knoop (the guy who supposedly helped rescue the teenage LeRoy). I've posted an entry about this new evidence here.

Update, February 6, 2006: Geoffrey Knoop, the partner of Laura Albert, has admitted that Albert wrote all of JT Leroy's books. He also concedes that the face of JT Leroy, whenever Leroy made any public appearances, was his half-sister Savannah Knoop. The New York Times has quoted Geoffrey Knoop as saying: "The jig is up... I do want to apologize to people who were hurt. It got to a level I didn't expect." Knoop also says that he doubts Laura Albert will ever admit to being JT Leroy: ""For her, it's very personal. It's not a hoax. It's a part of her."
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 10, 2005
Comments (39)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
I never heard of this before, but if it's a hoax, it's a good one! I LOVE stuff like this.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Oct 11, 2005  at  01:55 AM
Hmmm reminds me of that Whoopi Goldberg film, "The Associate" where she invents a white, male business partner Mr Cutty.
Posted by Deediddums  on  Tue Oct 11, 2005  at  03:52 AM
This reminds me of the "A child called It" series, which, I believe, were also exposed as hoaxes. The scenario sounds similar, people fell in love with the character outlined in the book, a boy who had suffered much abuse. Later, as I understand, it transpired the character was more fiction than fact.
Posted by Pixie  on  Tue Oct 11, 2005  at  01:57 PM
It sounds like a hoax to me too.
Posted by Dany  on  Tue Oct 11, 2005  at  05:25 PM
'he's got a site:

Apparently 'he' wrote the origional screenplay for Gus Van Sant's Elephant. 'He's also written liner notes for Billy Corgan and Courtney Love, and we all know CLove is a fictional character created by Billy Pumpkin, so... the mystery deepens.
Posted by katey  on  Tue Oct 11, 2005  at  07:04 PM
JT is a hoax. If you read the Beachy article, JT sounds like a girl on the phone. JT says it's because of "female hormones".

Riiiiiight. Anyone who's ever heard a tranny can tell you that the voice doesn't go with it.

Also in the Beachy article, other people who are in fact Southern, busted JT's "southern" accent as being completely fake.

And, on and on. There's so many hoaxes to JT's story it's unreal. Laura is an idiot, but she did an amazing hoax that got her millions.

Finally, CPS would have been called in if anything JT had written was real. 10 years ago (when "JT" would have been 12) CPS was pretty forceful and they would have stepped in. Anyone would have phoned up if this was going on.

It's definitely a hoax.

Laura, you're busted.
Posted by Mr. E  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  01:46 AM
Where did my posting go?
Posted by Tamandua  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  04:09 PM
I removed it. It was off topic and I won't let this thread devolve into a religious argument. There are plenty of other threads for that, if that's your thing. Try
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  04:14 PM
Devolve? This website posts plenty of entries that are related to religion. Each of them is a critique of religion.

When we see topics about "An image of Jesus in a piece of toast" as a hoax... it automatically carries the assumption that God did not, or would not communicate this way.

Taking stabs at religion is not "my thing" per se. It seems that this website does a good job of it by featuring "religious hoaxes".

Just what are you afraid of, if I compare the literary hoaxing of J.T. LeRoy with the literary hoaxing of Jesus Christ?
Posted by Tamandua  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  05:16 PM
If you want to debate the Bible as a hoax that's fine, but there are other threads to do that in. This topic is about J.T. LeRoy, not God.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  06:03 PM
Well what if the people who faked JT Leroy used a blueprint for faking devised from the methods used to fake the literary interpretation of Jesus? That's sorta relevant, as far as i can tell.
Posted by "not God"  on  Wed Oct 12, 2005  at  10:59 PM
One of my first exposures to hoax bullcrap urban journalism masquerading as fact, came from the book, "Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member" (1998).

The book was supposed to outline the life of Kody "Monster" Scott, a Los Angeles gangbanger and convicted felon turned evangelical Black Nationalist.

The book is filled with impossible accounts of murderous rampages, prison life and whatnot.

In this case, an author tells lies about their own life (to bring the reader to a "higher ground"), in a similar way to how LeRoy invents a non-existent person (and of course tells lies) for the same effect.
Posted by Tamandua  on  Thu Oct 13, 2005  at  11:13 AM
JT LeRoy...isn't he the subject of that Garbage song, "Cherry Lips" ?
Posted by Chingon  on  Thu Oct 13, 2005  at  08:43 PM
If I remember right, the New York Times had a series on a child who was a drug addict / pusher that was totally made up by the reporter. One of the Washington D.C. papers had something similar a couple of years later. Is this Laura Albert a journalist?
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Wed Oct 19, 2005  at  07:04 PM
*Sigh* I don't actually know if this is a hoax or not, there is some pretty good evidence against the "guy", but then again, you never know. Reality at times can be a lot stranger than fiction.

I mean, I was watching this one show about feral children, and there was a little girl named Jeanie (I think) who was literally locked in her bedroom for 13 years of her life. Couldn't talk, couldn't walk, and was locked in a cage at night. That sounds like a plot you would find in a fictional story, but its true.

And could so many people be fooled like that? But I'm sure most of you know about the Bonsaii Kitty hoax. Many people still think that is real, there is even still an email petition going around to put the sickos away. So the theory that he doesn't exist at all could be true.

I think "he" is a he and that he did probably have a screwy childhood similar to the stories, but being a writer, he probably made some of it up, or bent the facts.
Posted by Carrie Furtado  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  09:46 PM
Pretty silly response, Carrie. The question is not around whether the LeRoy's story could happen but whether it did.
Posted by Horatio  on  Sat Oct 29, 2005  at  12:41 AM
In the article it says that Laura Albert's mother is a New York Theater Critic and she picks up JT's(sic) checks at the agent's office, as JT doesn't have a social security number (*cough*), or anything that anyone normal or dysfunctioning member of society would have.

Especially one as wealthy as JT (*cough*). However, what an elaborate hoax! Laura Albert are you living in Pacific Heights mansion now with your family? (She is married and has a child with her husband). No wait, it's Noe Valley, right?

You gotta hand it to her. She's got chutzpah, cajones, etc, whatever it is - narcisstic personality disorder, because she keeps insisting on her blog that she's not hoaxing and has her b list friends say that she's "real, maaaan". The only 2 names I saw were Stephen Jenkins of 3rd Eye Blind (does he even have a career anymore?) and Shirley Manson (sort of still maybe has a career).

The thing is, so many many young people are fooled by Laura.

Posted by JT Leroy is a Hoax  on  Tue Nov 08, 2005  at  11:29 PM
I'm missing something about the issue, here. Many writers use pseudonyms instead of their reals names. So what's the problem? Surely it's the quality of the artistic work that matters, not the personality, or lack thereof, of the author. LeRoy/Albert/Speedie can call her/himself Abrahman Lincoln if s/he wants, so long as s/he keeps writing.
Posted by Carlina  on  Mon Nov 14, 2005  at  10:04 AM
Carlina said:

"I'm missing something about the issue, here. Many writers use pseudonyms instead of their reals names. So what's the problem?"

Yes, many writers use a pseudonym but they don't pretend that the pseudonym is an actual, separate person. This author appears to have invented a fake background for her pseudonym, trying to get people to believe that a completely separate person wrote the books. Sam Clements didn't try to pretend that Mark Twain was an actual person. See the difference?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Nov 14, 2005  at  02:33 PM
Of course JT LeRoy is real.

Check this out:
Posted by Bobbie Glenn  on  Thu Nov 17, 2005  at  11:11 AM
I have met JT LeRoy, and Laura, together, so at least they are not the same person.

I believe he is real, the Jt I met bore the marks of a damaged child, but to me he also seemed like an intelligent, observant person, just how I would think a writer would be. The article is seemingly full of evidence, but it is more or less hear-say, and Beachy haven't interviewed those who has really worked with JT. And those he have, later have complained their words were twisted.

And, his books are wonderful, especially Sarah, they speak true.

Posted by Anne Ystenes  on  Fri Nov 18, 2005  at  07:40 AM
Anne: did you read the article? Of COURSE you've met JT & Laura together. "JT" is actually Laura Albert's COUSIN. Who "becomes" JT for appearances. But Laura is always there.

Laura is the voice on the end of the phone when you phone "JT".

It's a hoax because Laura pretended she was a homeless hustler boy who wrote his stuff down, and oooh becomes discovered by Laura Albert aka Speedie, aka Emily aka THE REAL JT.

Laura is the daughter of a NYC critic. She never suffered a day in her life. Her life is one of luxury. She's a mother, she lives with her one and only husband. She's actually a "traditional family" with a very active fantasy life. JT is her fantasy life.

What's sick is the lie perpetrated on the public. That is what the controversy is, that is why people are pissed.
Posted by Jeez You're A Dummy Anne  on  Sat Nov 19, 2005  at  08:13 PM
Anne Ystenes does not really exist. Anne supposedly is a "lawyer" from Norway and "just happened" to have a book dedicated to "her" from JT Leroy.

Once again, it's another persona of our own Laura Albert, aka Speedy, aka Emily, aka JT Leroy
Posted by The Gig Is Up - Give Up Already  on  Sat Nov 26, 2005  at  03:06 AM
What I really love is that all of JT's friends have abandoned ship. Michelle Tea, Susie Bright, etc.

JT phoned Susie Bright up to contribute to send "his" son to the French-American school in SF, which is the most exclusive and posh private school in all of San Francisco. Susie thought it was odd and actually knew the real Laura Albert. She is quite upset at being taken.

The SF Chronicle went to the Knoops' flat (in the better part of Larkin Street, Russian or Nob aka Snob Hill) and "someone" there said that the Knoops (aka Laura and her husband) left to Mendocino. Which I doubt. Because they are such complete liars.
Posted by JT Leroy is a proven hoax  on  Wed Jan 18, 2006  at  03:19 AM
The thing that really bothers me about the Leroy thing, is that I really believed it, when at the same time, I
Posted by Art  on  Thu Feb 16, 2006  at  10:54 PM
Well I never heard of this, but that's probably cause I live in Australia. Therefore I don't know if this things a hoax or not. If it is however (I don't know about the legal system in America much, and I'm only 16) actually proven to be a hoax, couldn't the woman be arrested for fraud?

I mean, other authors who write under different names actually identify in the book generally who they really are right?
Posted by Eddie  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  03:50 AM
Eddie said:

"Well I never heard of this, but that's probably cause I live in Australia. Therefore I don't know if this things a hoax or not. If it is however (I don't know about the legal system in America much, and I'm only 16) actually proven to be a hoax, couldn't the woman be arrested for fraud?"

Actually, probably not, Eddie. As far as I know, there's no law against perpetrating a hoax, so long as it doesn't cross the line into fraud. A reader of the book *might* bring a civil suit against her, claiming that they were induced to buy the book because of her deception, but that might not fly in court, either. American law is kind of funny at times.

"I mean, other authors who write under different names actually identify in the book generally who they really are right?"

Not necessarily. Steven King, perhaps the most popular author in America, wrote several books under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman) and didn't disclose that they were his work for years. You're correct, though, that many authors who write under a pseudonym *don't* make a secret of it.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  02:04 PM
Oh ok. Thanks for correcting me. Aussie law's kinda like American law in a sense, but it's still very different I think. Damn confusing legal systems.
Posted by Eddie  on  Thu Mar 23, 2006  at  03:35 AM
No problem, Eddie. Happy to help. Please keep in mind, though, that I'm not a lawyer, just a guy stating the facts as I understand them.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Mar 23, 2006  at  02:21 PM
ok will do
Posted by Eddie  on  Sun Apr 02, 2006  at  06:01 AM
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