Another Kaycee Nicole?
November 21, 2001 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Another Kaycee Nicole? A celebrated teenage author and Aids sufferer may turn out to be a hoax, concocted by his "mother". (More inside).
posted by liam (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Armistead Maupin, who corresponded with Anthony Godby-Johnson, has recently published a fictionalised account of their relationship, questioning the boy's existence. This week's New Yorker has a long (print-only) article implying the same, claiming the mother spoke for the phony "Tony" on the phone. There were doubts when Johnson's book was published back in 1993. The publishers claimed he was too ill to appear in person. However, according to the New Yorker he's still e-mailing, and "A Rock and A Hard Place", in its fifth printing, is still getting 5 stars from readers over at Amazon. Does anyone know any more about this?
posted by liam at 12:49 PM on November 21, 2001

Link to the geocities site isn't working.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:13 PM on November 21, 2001

This reminds me of another interesting memoir hoax.
posted by feckless at 1:13 PM on November 21, 2001

assuming it is a hoax, any ideas on the motivation?

financial, psychotic or political?
posted by nobody_knose at 1:17 PM on November 21, 2001

The geocities site just went down. Here's a google cache.
posted by liam at 1:32 PM on November 21, 2001

I'm confused.

Armistead Maupin, who corresponded with Anthony Godby-Johnson, has recently published a fictionalised account of their relationship, questioning the boy's existence.

Maupin had a relationship with a boy. That boy wrote a book. That boy has AIDS. That boy may not be real. So... Maupin wrote a **fictionalised** account of that relationship? What am I missing here?
posted by amanda at 1:51 PM on November 21, 2001

"Tony" also got to befriend (online and by phone) celebrities including Tom Robbins, Mickey Mantle, Fred Rogers, Jermaine Jackson, Keith Olbermann, and Paul Monette, who wrote the introduction to the book. If this is a hoax, my guess would be that Vicki (the mom) created a noble "surrogate" child and a heroic narrative, to fill some hole in her life. And managed to keep it up for eight years. The internet does seem to make the falsification of reality easier, and very tempting to some.

Incidentally, I think it's no coincidence that Tony's website comes down the day the New Yorker article comes out.
posted by liam at 1:58 PM on November 21, 2001

Amanda: Maupin's novel is about a San Francisco writer who gets inspired by a correspondence with a midwestern boy with Aids. The writer goes to find the boy in person, and begins to realize he possibly doesn't exist. It seems like Maupin's way of coming to terms with the fact that he'd been fooled over a number of years.

If it is a hoax, the book was presumably written by the mother.
posted by liam at 2:04 PM on November 21, 2001

I remember being haunted by the memories of this story when Maupin's novel first came out, but not being able to remember enough of the details. I'm pretty sure that I read doubts about it all in Newsweek. It must have been the summer of 1993.

I wrote about it for an anthro class that I was taking, but the prof got all offended and claimed I was being oppressive by denying the kid's authorial voice or something. I dropped that class a day or two later, thanks very much.
posted by bjennings at 2:55 PM on November 21, 2001

Armistead Maupin, bwg. bwg, Armistead Maupin.
posted by dhartung at 3:08 PM on November 21, 2001

geocities site is down due to bandwidth limitations, not becuase it's gone
posted by Mick at 4:02 PM on November 21, 2001

It's up again. I had no trouble getting to it.
posted by ljromanoff at 5:56 PM on November 21, 2001

It's a really interesting article -- what's weird as hell is that there seem to be multiple people engaged in the hoax; the article implies that a (verifiably real) television producer named Lesley Karsten who worked with "Tony" on a television special after the publication of the book later claimed that he had come to live with her -- and "Tony" began referring to living with her at her apartment. This would mean that either Tony is a real person, or that at least one person later joined in the maintenance of the fictive boy's life. A very twisty story.
posted by BT at 8:23 PM on November 21, 2001

This spate of false author personas reminds me of the scandal around Michael Dorris - the 1997, offline version of this idea...of which all traces except this somewhat pro-Dorris Salon article seem to have disappeared from the web. (Or maybe it's just my poor searching skills, compared to other MeFi users' ). I remember a lot more skepticism about Dorris' public persona at the time.
posted by 23lemurs at 5:10 AM on November 22, 2001

The "Tony" story is much like the sick kid faker unmasked by MeFi members. The difference is that the "Tony" impersonater did much better at sucking in the establishment, starting with Maupin. This is a phantom who has an agent, and an editor, none of whom have met him. But they don't care because the book is good business, in its 5th paperback printing with the tale of a boy whose NYC policeman father lent him around a pedophile sex ring. Then the kid got AIDS, lost a leg and a testicle to the disease, and has been on the precipice of death since 1991.

Anyone insists on meeting the kid, the phone number changes, or other "Tony" dupes call them and say their intrusiveness may shatter his fragile psyche and kill him. When a reporter finds that there is no record of "Tony"'s live-in physical therapist anywhere, the information comes back that he's actually in the federal victim witness relocation program.

Oh reeeeeeeally.

Favorite part: When the New Yorker writer finally flies out to where "Tony" and his mother are supposed to be staying, near Chicago, a guy answers the door and says: "It'll be a second -- we're on the phone."

Ten minutes later two policemen arrive and tell the writer that the complainant wanted him led away in handcuffs.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:37 PM on November 22, 2001

OK, he's 21...but because he was "adopted by social workers" we don't know his birth mother's name and can't search for his birth certificate.

An adoption involves a judge. Isn't it on the public record? There should be a record of the adoption in a New York courthouse. Do NY private investigators have quick access to such records? (Yes, I know the public has access, but if there's electronic access a PI or lawyer is likely to have it)

Are the parents listed in a directory of an organization which employs "social workers"? Does NY/NYC require social workers to have a license/permit/certificate which is in the public record?
posted by SEWilco at 5:37 AM on November 23, 2001

Check out this, from the publisher's website:

"The Publisher's Note in the second paperback printing incorrectly states that A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is a work of fiction, when in fact, it is non-fiction. Penguin Books USA Inc. has apologized to the author for the error and is taking a number of steps to correct the error."
posted by MattD at 10:58 AM on November 23, 2001

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