Questions raised about the true identity of author JT Leroy, in an article in New York magazine in October, were answered Jan. 9 when The New York Times exposed the author as a fraud. Count at least a few in the music industry among the dupes.
“Leroy,” who was embraced by such celebrities as Billy Corgan, Lou Reed and Courtney Love, published three acclaimed works of fiction, and is credited as the lyricist for unsigned band Thistle.
But the author actually appears to be the brainchild of San Francisco couple Geoffrey Knoop and Laura Albert. The Times speculated that the latter is the author of the works published under the Leroy name. Knoop’s half-sister Savannah Knoop, according to the Times, appeared as Leroy in public.
Thistle, according to New York magazine, was formed by Geoffrey Knoop and Albert. Knoop currently plays guitar in the band under the stage name Astor, while Albert was the first incarnation of Speedie, the band’s singer.
The band also recruited a new singer, Jennifer Hall—an actress who has appeared in such shows as “Yes, Dear,” “Monk” and “Unscripted”—who also goes by the stage name Speedie.
The band’s sporadic performances tend to be in small, 200-capacity or so clubs such as Cafe Du Nord and the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco and the now-defunct Coral Room in New York. A statement posted on Thistle’s Web site explains that the band is taking the music on the road sans Leroy, of course, because of his “paralyzing stage fright,” which has made it difficult for the band “to perform anywhere outside of their own living room!”
Leroy’s fiction revolves around such topics as drugs, adolescent abuse and teenage prostitution, and his works have earned him a hip, cult following.
Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson wrote a song, “Cherry Lips,” about the author; Corgan wrote a song for Thistle; and those who have heralded his written work include Reed, Bono and Tom Waits. Representatives for each of these artists declined comment.
Leroy was also the guest editor on the sixth installment of the annual “Best Music Writing” anthology published by Da Capo Press; past guest editors include Matt Groening, Nick Hornby and Jonathan Lethem.
Da Capo Press senior editor Ben Schafer described working with Leroy as an enjoyable experience and says the 2005 collection “accurately reflects the persona of ‘JT Leroy,’ his interests, taste and particular style. He also wrote a solid introduction. And on a personal level, I always enjoyed talking with him—or her. ‘JT’ is funny, disarmingly candid, an endearing oddball.”
Schafer met Leroy, or thought he met Leroy, once, when the supposed author was at a dinner with Reed and actor Vincent Gallo. Schafer remembers noting that Leroy “didn’t seem to know anything we’d discussed over the phone.”
Later, Schafer was introduced to “Speedie #1” (Albert) and “Speedie #2,” (Hall) and was told that “Speedie is more of a position than a person.” That comment “tipped me off that there was more going on here than meets the eye.”
Schafer says he hopes Da Capo readers don’t feel cheated. “The only part JT wrote in our book was his intro. It’s an anthology, and the rest are still great pieces, regardless of who chose them.”