Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Synopsis: The story behind literary persona JT LeRoy, the fictional writer created by American author Laura Albert.
Director(s): Jeff Feuerzeig
Production: RatPac Documentary Films
  1 win & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
110 min

I first met JT years ago

years ago --

many years ago.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And a few years later...

you know, Sarah.

[ Laughs ]

And so I'm so excited

to be here tonight,

and I'm so excited all of you

came to celebrate his work,

his words, and his -- his, um...

just beautiful, beautiful voice.

So I just thank you

from the bottom of my heart.

And I thank JT from the bottom

of my heart and soul.

[ Laughs ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

I love you, JT.

You are an inspiration.

Thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you, JT!

My guest, JT LeRoy, is

a 21-year-old writer

with two books of fiction based

on his experiences

as the son

of a truck stop prostitute.

When LeRoy was 15,

his therapist, Dr. Terry Owens,

encouraged him to write.

Although LeRoy is forthcoming

about his life,

he doesn't like to show his face

to the press

and does most of his interviews

by phone.

This is Fresh Air.

So, um, so, why do you

still feel it's so important

to keep

your identity hidden?

You know, I'm writing

about pretty personal stuff,

and, also,

the gender issues.

Sometimes I like to go out

as a girl.

Sometimes, I like to go out

as a boy.

So, I really never want someone

to come up to me

and say, "I know

what you really are,"

and be in that position

where they could hurt me.

Although your work is

really catching on,

some people think that

you might not really exist.

In other words, that JT LeRoy

might be a pen name,

or a hoax, or some kind

of extended performance piece.

-[ Chuckles ]

-I mean, do you run into this

a lot that people think

that this is just

some kind of hoax?

[ Answering machine beeps,

clicks ]

[ Beep ]

[ Beep ]

[ Beep ]

[ Beep ]

[ Click, whir ]


I'm JT --

Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy.

-[ Shouting indistinctly ]

-Jeremiah's from the Bible,

but I like it.

It makes me feel protected.

I was born in wild West Virginia

on Halloween.

[ Cat yowls ]

My mom is Sarah.

She had me when she was 14.

She was doing drugs

and didn't even know

how to change a diaper.

Sarah is a prostitute...

a lot lizard.

We live in cars, motels.

Every new town,

we change our names.

I can be a boy,

or I can be a girl.

But usually, we're sisters

because it's more allowed.

Sarah gets married

lots of times.

Men just love her.

She's beautiful.

I keep thinking...

if I can be

as pretty as her,

she would see

something in me.

[ Click ]

[ Telephone rings ]

I remember

that first call very well.

A very soft female voice said,

"May I speak

to Bruce Benderson?"

Right away,

I was very suspicious

because it sounded like

a young girl

of maybe 13 -- 12, 13, 14.

She said, "Well, I'm

a great admirer of your work."

[ Click ]

[ Click ]

So, I said, "Are you a boy?"

And she answered, "Well,

last time I checked, I was."

[ Fax machine dials,

beeps, whirs ]

On the floor, there was

an incredible

curled pile of paper.

And I sighed,

and I tore it off.

[ Paper rips ]

And I started reading it,

getting ready to throw it away.

"The heroin inside

to tell you God's truth."

And I thought, "My God,

this is unbelievable.

This person is a genius."

He had given me

his telephone number,

and I immediately called

him back.

[ Telephone dials ]

[ Telephone rings ]

[ Receiver clicks ]

And then I said,

"This is amazing --

amazingly written."

[ Receiver clicks ]

It was something

I always knew.

Heroin coming in balloons was

a special message to me.

Yeah, I'll smoke,

shoot the dark,

tarry clump inside.

[ Inhales deeply ]

But the balloons are

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Jeff Feuerzeig

Jeff Feuerzeig (born 1964) is an American film director and screenwriter best known for The Devil and Daniel Johnston, his profile of cult musician and outsider artist Daniel Johnston, for which he was awarded the Directing prize for Documentary at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and which was released theatrically in March 2006 by Sony Pictures Classics. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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