The clock continues to tick down on Laura Albert's 30 minutes of fame — that's 15 for her, 15 for her man-boy alter ego, JT LeRoy. But while LeRoy has retreated to the realm of delusion from whence he came, Albert must cope with real-world legal woes that could drag on far longer than the literary hoax she perpetrated.
In June, a Manhattan jury found that she owed a New York film company $116,500 for fraud and breach of contract. The federal suit resulted from Albert using her pen name when inking a deal with Antidote International Films in 2003, three years before the unmasking of LeRoy as her fictional creation. Antidote had optioned the movie rights to Sarah, the 2000 novel about a truck-stop hooker's son — considered a thinly disguised stand-in for the author — that vaulted LeRoy to pop-culture eminence.
As if the jury verdict and LeRoy's outing weren't enough, however, Albert now faces the prospect of paying more than $1 million in attorney fees. That's how much Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Antidote's president, claims he spent on his suit against Albert, a divorcée who lives in San Francisco with her young son.
In court briefs filed two weeks ago, Eric Weinstein, Albert's lawyer, repeats his trial argument that Antidote sued her because she refused to sell it the rights to her life story. He asserts that the company hoped to make “Sarah-plus,” or what he dubs a “meta-movie” — i.e., a film about Albert adopting the persona of LeRoy to write Sarah, a tale of childhood sex abuse and prostitution drawn, at least in part, from Albert's own life.
The demand for “excessive” attorney fees, Weinstein writes, marks Antidote's latest attempt to strong-arm her: Lacking the money to cover the $1 million tab, she instead might be required to relinquish the copyrights to her books, clearing the path for a meta-movie.
Attorney Gregory Curtner, who represents Antidote, says the company has no desire to make a film about Albert/LeRoy. But, he adds, “it has an interest in collecting its money or assets of equal value.”
Meanwhile, Albert frets at the possibility of losing control of her peculiar literary legacy. “If I'm forced to pay the film company's legal bills,” she recently told a British newspaper, “they will be able to take the copyright of my books, anything I've ever written, or will ever write. They will take my babies.”
Without writing, how will Albert make a living? She told Page Six last month that she'd “really dig” posing for Playboy. As “Gawker” not-so-gently observed: “Finally, we'll find out if 'busty' Laura Albert's tits are as fake as her literary alter ego.”