The Making of Stephen Elliott

How a product of Chicago's group homes became a local literary cause célèbre

Neil Elliott's listing in Contemporary Authors has him covering Vietnam for Newsweek, touring with a production of Annie Get Your Gun, and writing a handful of books, including a tome on euthanasia called The Gods of Life ("Crap," his son says), an interview with a mob insider called My Years With Capone ("Crap"), and the self-explanatory Sensuality in Scandinavia ("So bad -- total bullshit"). Neil doesn't have to be prompted to talk about his strained relationship with his son, and he has nothing but good things to say about Stephen. To hear him talk, he all but encouraged Stephen to write about that tension.

"I love my son," he says. "Whatever my son says about me is OK with me."

Your son says you handcuffed him to a pipe when he was 13.

"Oh, ha ha ha," he says. "He's always using that story. I get a laugh out of that. Steve uses that to dramatize his background, but that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that."

Here's what happened, according to Neil Elliott: "Steve had run away, and he was staying nearby on the top of a 7-Eleven. People were nagging me about it ... and I said, "How can I bring him home? The doors are always open. He can leave if he wants. Anyway, it's nice weather -- what's wrong with sleeping on top of a 7-Eleven?' So everybody's nagging me .... I went out and got him where he hung out, dragged him home, locked him -- put him in handcuffs to a pipe for 30 minutes. That's the entire history of something he's managed to turn into parental brutality. This is like 30 minutes where I decided if I wanted to institutionalize him. After 30 minutes, I said, "Fuck all the experts, I'm taking the handcuffs off, you go and do what you want.' I didn't have any control over the situation. I didn't know what was going on. Maybe today I would've handled it differently."

Certainly Neil's biased a little, but he's a big fan of his son's work, though he hasn't read all of Consequencesyet. "I'm sure he'll read it when it comes out," says Stephen Elliott. "I'm not sure how he's gonna take it. I know he's read the first chapter. He hasn't read the part where he dies and nobody goes to his funeral."

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