The Voyeur's Motel
April 5, 2016 6:04 AM   Subscribe

 
Holy crap. It's like a Unit 731 of voyeurism.
posted by Talez at 6:49 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


That was really unsettling.

I'm not sure how to feel about reading the actual entries - it seems very much like looking at nude photos that you know to have been taken without the subject's consent, which is not okay.

I also found it odd that the author was obsessed with finding out more about the murder, but seemed unconcerned about the multiple rapes that had apparently happened.
posted by twirlypen at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


What a douche.
posted by bigendian at 6:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Lea Thau interviewed Gay Talese on the Strangers podcast. He's into some weird shit.
posted by My Dad at 7:00 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The necktie anecdote is pure comedy gold.
posted by chavenet at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Make sure you read the Genius annotations.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:09 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yes, I have devoted my entire life to stealing Kit-Kats from the Seven-11, but it's because I'm a rigorous observer of Kit-Kats, not some commonplace kleptomaniac
posted by milk white peacock at 7:21 AM on April 5, 2016 [86 favorites]


I'm not sure how to feel about reading the actual entries - it seems very much like looking at nude photos that you know to have been taken without the subject's consent, which is not okay.

Yeah, reading them and then republishing them seems at best weird, although I enjoyed the article. I think it's marginally better than nude photos because the subjects aren't identifiable, but probably not okay, although I'd note that if we had a document like this from 300 years ago it would be an incredibly valuable historical record, even considering the writer's clear unreliability.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:22 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Guest murders girlfriend
*crickets*

Guest wipes mouth on bedsheet
"YOU SUNUVABITCH!"
posted by valkane at 7:25 AM on April 5, 2016 [67 favorites]


This fucking guy. "My scientific interests included watching women do it with each other. I had little sociological interest in watching men do it with each other, because that did not, scientifically, make me want to jerk off."
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:28 AM on April 5, 2016 [90 favorites]


Had I become complicit in his strange and distasteful project?

Yes. Next question?
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:29 AM on April 5, 2016 [34 favorites]


Then he covered the openings with louvred aluminum screens that looked like ventilation grilles but were actually observation vents that allowed him, while he knelt in the attic, to see his guests in the rooms below. He watched them for decades, while keeping an exhaustive written record of what he saw and heard. Never once, during all those years, was he caught.

His knees must have been really sore after all that time.

*rimshot*

That's some sloppy writing there Talese. Guys like you are why I can't find any inspiring male writers.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:34 AM on April 5, 2016 [29 favorites]


This is like the Roko's Basilisk of human sexuality: mere awareness of it transmits complicity.
posted by cstross at 7:34 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I feel dirty and wrong for having read that. And yet I did keep reading it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


*lurks*
posted by Molesome at 7:36 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Amazing story. Best of the web.
posted by Melismata at 7:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


He seemed desperate to share his findings

An apt description of Talese as well.

Like Foos, he has invested considerable time and effort over decades (decades!) in behavior that he knows is fundamentally wrong. Like Foos, he tries to justify that investment by inventing an acceptable rationale for the behavior ("research" for Foos, "journalism" for Talese). And, like Foos, he craves affirmation from others that his justification is defensible, and that affirmation comes in telling the story. It's telling that the essay is written in the first-person: its purpose is not to whitewash Foos' sins, but Talese's.
posted by googly at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [23 favorites]


This just plays into my niggling suspicion that maybe I don't want to have sex in hotel rooms.
posted by Kitteh at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


Man oh man, how many Fooses go uncaught and die with their secrets?
posted by little onion at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm kind of glad I usually get so exhausted when I travel that anyone watching me would see me channel surfing until I find The Shawshank Redemption, getting Cheet-o crumbs in the bed sheets and then falling asleep.

I wonder how many other motel owners are right now browsing Amazon for just the right kind of vent louvers.
posted by bondcliff at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I got increasingly disturbed and quit about half way through, apparently before the murder. Motels and hotels will now creep me out forever.
posted by nubs at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm sure there are many people like Foos. The desire to violate the privacy of others seems like a pretty fundimental aspect of human nature. Personally I'm having a hard time separating "this is a pretty incredible anthropological document" and "this is a perverts pervy diary". I'm just glad his wife encouraged him to write down his observations otherwise he would be utterly irredeemable .
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do really wish the author had gotten to know Donna more. She's much more interesting than her husband who is, sadly, just a very self-aggrandizing version of a fairly common type of creep.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I started out reading with a sizable excitement, but finished feeling gross. Which I think is how voyeurism is supposed to feel.
posted by little onion at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Had I become complicit in his strange and distasteful project?

This wasn't a "project." He was committing crimes.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on April 5, 2016 [19 favorites]


Voyeuring the voyeur voyeuring?
posted by jim in austin at 8:01 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: I started out reading with a sizable excitement, but finished feeling gross.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2016 [23 favorites]


This article is creepy. I think its primary appeal is to the creepy part in all of us, the secret wondering of what it would be like to be able to peep in on motel guests. Or maybe it's the fear part in us, the fear we are being peeped upon. Either way it's creepy.

maybe I don't want to have sex in hotel rooms

Try not to think too hard about how often the comforter on that bed gets laundered.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is why I bring a blackout tent with me into hotel rooms.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Try not to think too hard about how often the comforter on that bed gets laundered.

Or eating chips in bed with the same hand you're using for the remote control.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Or eating chips in bed with the same hand you're using for the remote control.

And for other things, presumably.
posted by Melismata at 8:13 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess that Psycho didn't kill off the quaint little independent motel industry completely, so here comes Talese to finish the job.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


You know, how weird is it that there was an X-Files episode in the reboot season that was apparently in part based on this Talese project? How do we explain it? Time travel? Prophecy? Quantum entanglement?
posted by mwhybark at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I quit after the part where Foos the voyeur got pissed with the couple that turned off their room's lights before they had sex --- then Foos ran out and shined his car's high-beams into their room to light them back up, which pissed off Foos even more: they dared to have sex in his motel, but under the covers! What terrible, inconsiderate people they were! Sheesh.

If Foos were really honestly sure that he'd done nothing wrong, he wouldn't have gone to all that trouble of hiding his view-ports, nor would he have made Talese sign that no-telling agreement, nor for that matter would Foos have waited until he believed the statute of limitations was up before letting his little hobby become public knowledge.

On top of that, Talese knew this for the last 36 years..... so he knew and didn't do anything for 15 years when Foos was still actively watching, from 1980-1995 when Foos sold the motel: I believe that's some version of aiding & abetting; i.e, also a crime.
posted by easily confused at 8:28 AM on April 5, 2016 [22 favorites]


This wasn't a "project." He was committing crimes.

Don't forget stalking and not reporting several major crimes like rape and (possibly) a murder.

Talese committed a crime by not reporting Foos' crimes, and he did it for profit.

In addition to the sex crimes he was complicit in letting Foos continue to commit, Foos could've easily escalated his behaviour and committed violent sex crimes.
posted by mayonnaises at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: have I become complicit in this strange and distasteful project?
posted by mwhybark at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2016 [23 favorites]


Is this actually real, or did one of them make it up? Some of the dates are wrong, and there are no records of the murder, for example.

Still, amazing, disgusting and bizarre if it's all true.
posted by marienbad at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Don't forget stalking and not reporting several major crimes like rape and (possibly) a murder.

He reported the murder. If it happened. I wish there was a way to separate truth and fantasy here.
posted by Leon at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


There was a study in Quebec recently that suggests that voyeuristic behaviour - among other "paraphillic" behaviours might be more common than we think. But what really stands out for me about voyeurism along with some of the others is the non-consensual nature of the behaviour, and that's what turns this whole article away from "interesting anthropology" to "wrong and illegal" for me.
posted by nubs at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Donna is is played by the mom from That 70s Show in my brain, I just realized, which makes Foos Kurtwood Smith.
posted by mwhybark at 8:33 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


I opened the link, saw Guy Talese's name as author, and noped the fuck out. From reading the comments here, looks like I made the right choice!
posted by tavella at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


mayonnaises: "In addition to the sex crimes he was complicit in letting Foos continue to commit, Foos could've easily escalated his behaviour and committed violent sex crimes."

Let's get Talese for crimes Foos might have committed later maybe

(come on, there's enough ick here already!)
posted by chavenet at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


getting Cheet-o crumbs in the bed sheets and then falling asleep.


YOU SON OF A BITCH!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:48 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


I came to the comments section because I thought that all of Metafilter would be basically burning down with outrage. How can we ever get mad about anything that anyone writes, ever, if we don't get furious about this?

Guy Talese knew about an active sexual predator for decades and didn't inform the police. He took part in a crime and did not inform the police. Now he is getting paid by the New Yorker to publish an article using information he gathered from this sexual predator, and helped facilitate this sexual predator being paid to write a book about his crimes?

I don't understand the first goddamned thing about journalistic ethics if any part of this is acceptable and his career doesn't go down in flames. I mean, people call for journalists to get fired when they use offensive language about sex crimes - Guy Talese committed a sex crime and then helped cover up a murder.

Somebody explain this to me, because I don't understand.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [99 favorites]


mwhybark, you just cast the made-for-cable movie. The whole thing resembles a David Cronenberg film.

Gotta wonder how much of the story to believe. And once you start thinking that some of it may be made up, you wonder if those parts were simply planted to provide deniability.
posted by Flexagon at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is creepy all the way through.

I am enjoying the Foos snark here, though.
posted by Floydd at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


He reported the murder.

He reported the murder years after he found out about it, and only after Foos told him it was okay.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I read the whole thing. After a while I was hoping to find some redeeming quality in Foos, and it just didn't happen. He sank lower and lower, mostly through his own hypocritical thinking and power tripping. In the end, he's still ego tripping, wanting some sort of praise for all this shit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, I have devoted my entire life to stealing Kit-Kats from the Seven-11, but it's because I'm a rigorous observer of Kit-Kats, not some commonplace kleptomaniac

This is also, I feel obligated to point out, more or less how Humbert Humbert attempts to justify his fixation on nymphets.

As for how Talese gets to keep his job after this... He appears to be a white man, and an educated, well-connected one at that. Consequences do not exist for that kind of person.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


Seriously, can't someone sue Foos and Talese? Let's say the family of the murder victim for added grief.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Foos bought the motel to raze it, before the story came out, so there would be no proof?

I once went to a restaurant, it was in SLC, and was called the Swiss Chalet, or something like that. The management insisted on uniforms for the waitresses that they kept, and laundered. So, the waitresses were compelled to dress in the company bathroom. When I went to that bathroom, the manager had left the door behind the two way mirror, open and I could see into his office, because of the time of day, it was strongly back lit. I got a waitress and I told her she should see this. She was appalled and they all got a look that day. I think it was over soon after that, and you thought they were just into banking and chocolate...
posted by Oyéah at 9:03 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


April Foos?
posted by paulhyden at 9:04 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


"family of the murder victim"

The Doe family of Aurora, Colorado.
posted by Oyéah at 9:04 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]




Welcome to Brighton, y'all. Come for the voyeuristic murder motels, stay for our bombed out industrial parks.

... Wait, I've got a story about Brighton, but I have to go to a meeting right now. I'll be back.
posted by boo_radley at 9:06 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


So this is an article that starts out with the reader icking out about a voyeur, then slowly realizing that Talese is just as icky for covering and/or being complicit in it. Then the reader realizes that they too are just as voyeuristic for reading the whole sordid thing, there being no other point to the story other than, "here is a voyeur, let's watch him voey". Is that the point the NYer editors were trying to make? We're all voyeurs? Well I, for one, did read the whole thing, though I just skimmed some of the details. So there.
posted by jetsetsc at 9:07 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


This just plays into my niggling suspicion that maybe I don't want to have sex in hotel rooms.

Some creep watching you from the attic the least of your concerns. (SLCC/NSFW)
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2016


Kitteh: "Well, Gay Talese is having a not-great week already mostly because he can't seem to name female authors or journalists that inspire him."

"No, I can't think of one woman who has, for example, poisoned a lover for money; or slept with a corpse; or bred dogs for fighting... Nothing comes to mind at all."
posted by boo_radley at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just assumed the whole thing was fiction, Talese's part as well as the motel story.
posted by Slinga at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: here is a voyeur, let's watch him voey.
Sorry.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


The nine non-viewing rooms were saved for families or individuals or couples who were elderly or less physically appealing.

And people say there's no age discrimination!
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's a "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" joke to be made here, but I can't put it together.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:33 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


'He started another, more biographical notebook, which he called “The Collector.”'

Yeah, I'm guessing that name is not a coincidence.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, yes, yes. BUT, ickiness and creepiness aside, this story does provide some fascinating insight into the character that many human beings reveal when they assume that nobody is looking.

It makes me think of Jonathan Swift. In the private recesses of our diseased souls, ridden with greed, fear, anger, lust, and pride, we are all pretty icky.
posted by crazylegs at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think I'll just tell myself that most of that was fiction, but I don't doubt that there were and are intricate viewing platforms or cameras in many hotels - especially the little roadside family owned ones. There are a few in my town that I'd be very surprised to find out most of this stuff is not happening at. It's decent writing, but I can't say I really enjoyed it. I did get a chuckle out of this line though:
He is very ignorant of sexual procedure and foreplay despite his college education.
I learned some things during college, but not from college. I suspect I would have picked up the same knowledge in my early 20s if I never went to college. What does he think goes on in college classrooms?
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


chavenet, it is not unusual for sexual crimes to escalate; if someone conspired to conceal the earlier crimes with a mind to profiting later by writing about them, I certainly would hold them morally implicated. It's possible it didn't happen here, but I sincerely doubt that these were the only or last sexual crimes the creep in question committed.

But yes, this is white male upper-class privilege made manifest; even on such sites as twitter and metafilter, there's only the most delicate of criticism. Talese is a pervert and a criminal, and it's obscene that the New Yorker decided to reward him for it.
posted by tavella at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Man oh man, how many Fooses go uncaught and die with their secrets?

Feece
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2016 [36 favorites]


Well, Gay Talese is having a not-great week already mostly because he can't seem to name female authors or journalists that inspire him.

On that one specific point, the followup explanation—in which he'd taken the question as asking about what female authors or journalists had inspired him when he was young and starting out—seems plausible, and a lesser sin than that which is being imputed to him.

On that point, anyway. This article is a whole 'nother ball o' wax.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some creep watching you from the attic the least of your concerns. (SLCC/NSFW)

And here I was thinking you were going to segue into the Erin Andrews hotel camera scandal.
posted by Talez at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't like Gerald Foos. Not too crazy about Gay Talese and now I'm not liking the New Yorker very much either.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


What are the odds this is some sort of bizarre April fools prank?
posted by Jacen at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2016


This just plays into my niggling suspicion that maybe I don't want to have sex in hotel rooms.

I kind of wonder if voyeurism and exhibitionism are... um... "normal"? The people here obviously did not consent to being watched, so what Foos apparently did (does Foos exist?) was criminal.

However the story reminds me of Donald Richie's awesome and extremely "preverted" Japan Diaries.

Richie, who acted as a bridge between Japan and the United States after the war, and who wrote on film, travel and other stuff about Japan, also had one hell of a free life in Tokyo. He wrote about it in his diaries, and he loved to show off the more sordid or sexually open aspects of Japan to his American visitors (who often were, at the time, the A-List of American pop and avante garde culture).

Richie went to live sex shows and gay bathhouses and "no underwear" coffee shops. He often went cruising in Tokyo's parks. He also observed (men and women) fucking in the park at night (it's all in his excellent Japan Diaries).

A few years ago there was a revival of Kohei Yoshiyuki's photography. Yoshiyuki took photos of people fucking in the park, and the men who watched them.

I don't know where I'm going with this. Maybe Gay Talese comes from that 1960's Boomer era of total "sexual openness" (for men) and amorality that Richie inhabited.
posted by My Dad at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


This reporter tailed Talese and Foose two years ago in Denver but didn't figure out what they were really talking about. Today she has a story about the story in the Denver Post.
posted by beagle at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2016 [23 favorites]


“All we’re trying to do is determine that on a certain date – November 10, 1977 – a woman died at a certain address that I have,” he told Salley. “We don’t want names, next of kin. I don’t want anything but confirmation that your department has records to confirm that a woman between the ages of 20 and 30 died in a motel in Aurora called the Manor House Motel. That’s all we want.”

Salley kept repeating that it was against state regulations to give out such information, but Talese refused to hang up until Salley gave him the number for Ron Hyman, the state’s registrar of vital statistics.

By 3:45 p.m., Talese has gotten Hyman’s voicemail for the second time. Hoping to find a better number, he walked over to consult with Barb Hudson, the library’s crack researcher. Sitting with Gurman, I took the opportunity to find out what, exactly, this dead person had to do with the New Yorker article.

“I can’t tell you, because it’s contracted,” said Foos. “I can’t tell you the name, or what it’s about. But it’s about my secret life.”

“He’s not a murderer, or a cheater,” said his wife.

“I’m not a serial killer,” said Foos.

“I feel like if you have to say ‘I’m not a serial killer–’” said Gurman.

“What’s that mean?” Foos interrupted. “You ever met a serial killer?”

“I don’t know,” Gurman said.

“You know, there are one hundred in Denver? But they’re just plotting right now. They’re not acting, but they’re thinking. Some of them are interested in guys. Some are interested in little children. Some are interested in school teachers, some are interested in high political guys or CEOs. Some are interested in nice looking girls like you, OK?” he said, looking at Gurman. “They will follow you around in secret, take pictures of you, follow you home, take a picture of where you live, find out how many you live with.”

Just as we were trying to get our heads around that, Talese pulled up at the table to present his Hail Mary plan: Storming Hyman’s office at CDPHE.

posted by zarq at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


New theory: The blond murder victim... was Donna.

(also, this just gets creepier and creepier the more I think of it )
posted by Jacen at 10:21 AM on April 5, 2016


Man, this is like a weird matryoshka doll of observation or something.

Denver Post reporter observes New Yorker reporter observing a guy who gets off on observing other people.

Like, how far down does the voyeurism rabbit hole go?
posted by Tknophobia at 10:24 AM on April 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


Denver Post reporter observes New Yorker reporter observing a guy who gets off on observing other people.

Like, how far down does the voyeurism rabbit hole go?


You missed the top of that food chain, which is us observing the Denver Post reporter.
posted by chonus at 10:30 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I get the outrage - nobody's going to feel better about themselves, or the writer, or the protagonists, or indeed anybody connected with the story (the sweet furry incident excepted), after reading it. And, inasmuch as what was reported actually happened, there's little doubt that had Foos been caught at the time, he would have been open to prosecution.

But.

This is a fascinating and insightful piece of reportage, for all the unsettling insights it offers into the writer and the subject. It wasn't about the writer, who does admit his misgivings about his part in events and what that says about him, and while there may be and perhaps should be a more introspective piece to be written by him this wasn't it, nor should it have been. He's telling a story about an unusual person doing unusual things, and it is better these stories are told than not.

It is the job of a journalist to tell stories. This often involves personal moral compromise, and acting in a way that others would not (and not acting in a way that others would) when encountering stuff. There is the requirement of honesty and self-awareness, but the blacks and whites of reportage are not the blacks and whites of everyday life. Journalists are not priests or policemen.

It is important that we know how narcissists think and act. It's perhaps even arguable that Foos, in admitting that he was driven by arousal but deciding to mask it in 'research', and which he also uses to feed his sense of superiority, is not that different to others who research stuff for reasons other than disinterested duty towards increasing the sum of human knowledge. His actions were vastly distasteful and probably criminal, but (like many functioning psychopaths) he took care not to cause actual harm, because he realised that to do so would increase the risk of disclosure. He could have gone on to physical predation but he didn't - it seems that the principle person who was damaged by his compulsion was himself.

There are many difficult questions that this piece raises but does not answer (and I'm nowhere near as sure about the correct answers as many clearly are). What is voyeurism, where are its limits, and what does it do to the voyeur and the voyeurised?

Inasmuch as this story illustrates complicity, compromise and coercion, and the very unclear boundaries to what may appear to be perfectly clear ideas, I think it is valid journalism and I'm glad the story was written and published.

Doesn't mean I don't want to shower after reading, though.
posted by Devonian at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2016 [28 favorites]


> Like, how far down does the voyeurism rabbit hole go?

Ask the people lurking on this thread.
posted by ardgedee at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


Well, he did cause harm, at least if the story as reported is true.

A woman was beaten, and he observed it. He chose not to get her medical attention, and she died.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:36 AM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


He's telling a story about an unusual person doing unusual things, and it is better these stories are told than not.

No, he's telling stories about a criminal committing crimes, and conspiring to allow those crimes to continue. I think our world will do just fine if the stories told about those events are coverage of the trials, not shined up with the name of New Journalism and given pride of place in the New Yorker.
posted by tavella at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


Like, how far down does the voyeurism rabbit hole go?

We're all presided over by advertising networks watching profiles, building profiles on our sexual tastes and motel travel preferences with loving grace.
posted by Nelson at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jesus is the only pervy voyeur I'll ever need, thank you very much.
posted by Think_Long at 10:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ceiling cat is watching you blog.
posted by ardgedee at 10:56 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


White broke up with Foos when she discovered that he had a foot fetish.

Eponysterical.

(I'm guessing that “Foos” is either an anglicisation or a regional spelling of „Fuß” (“foot” in German).)
posted by acb at 10:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


A woman was beaten, and he observed it. He chose not to get her medical attention, and she died.

Did that even happen though? I'll admit to skimming a few bits but I'm under the impression that the Aurora police are/were unaware of any such murder.
posted by MikeMc at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is a perennial story. I've been hearing about this same escapade all my life. Usually becomes public because the voyeur is caught. Two examples: an access crawl space behind along the length of the wall, caught because he sneezed. The other one was a guy who found out how to get behind the mirrors in the motel bathrooms and he'd scratch a small hole to watch. Only discovered because someone darkened the bathroom and saw a beam of light coming out of the mirror because the voyeur had left a light on in the mirror-back access space. Talese's guy also sounds pretty low tech, imagine what is possible with the latest gadgets.
posted by telstar at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2016


"Talese's guy also sounds pretty low tech, imagine what is possible with the latest gadgets"

I assume that high-res cameras are now close to microscopic, and that this sort of thing is probably close to ubiquitous. I went to the Spy Museum in DC the other day, and it was quaint how clunky cold war era spy tech now appears. Mini cameras and tape decks that used actual film and tape.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly, when I first read, or rather skimmed, this- I thought it must be fiction. The New Yorker does publish that. I didn't think it was particularly good fiction - I was waiting for a deep insight that never came- but I walked away feeling... Weirded out, but not not okay

But apparently it is not fiction.

So, in that case: this is totally disgusting and abhorrent. Foos is really disturbed, but more to the point so is Talese, who is apparently a "great journalist" or something? And in a just world would be in jail.

Really, really gross and nausea inducing.
posted by Cozybee at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


Oh, weird. As soon as he mentioned the name of the motel, I could picture it clearly.

That area is a really interesting one. I think, once upon a time, Colfax was a fairly common travel route, but from the time I was familiar with it, it was used as shorthand for 'seedy.' It certainly wasn't true of the whole street*, but that part of it was definitely considered sketchy. There were lots of motels for an area that didn't see many travelers, so most of them were either residential or sex motels. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels in the area (they gave me the "bad neighborhoods"), and I had several clients who lived in residential ones. The rest were mostly used for sex purposes (sex work, extramarital activities, and swinging), and I THINK that was one of the swinger motels, where customers would leave their doors open as an invitation, from what I was told. This would have been in about the 80s. This could just be my brain making a connection for obvious reasons, though. I don't really have a point with that beyond, "Whoa, I remember that place!"

And re: the criticism about him not reporting rapes: Not defending this by any stretch, but realistically, based on the descriptions in the article, it'd be hard to get the police to perceive them as rapes even now. But around the time they happened, almost nobody would have seen them that way. The police would have probably laughed at him if he had reported because most of them were scuzzballs too.

* Colfax is the longest continuous street in the US, so it was weird that the whole street was characterized that way, but it was.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:26 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I assume that high-res cameras are now close to microscopic,

A guy I used to work with got caught doing this in a rental property he owned; the cameras he used fit inside the smoke detector and he saved plenty of videos on his computer, apparently, so technology is definitely making it easier and hard to detect. He got no jail time for it, too, which is an outrage.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ask the people lurking on this thread.

Or the NSA robots watching the lurkers reading the thread.
posted by ymgve at 11:31 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is the job of a journalist to tell stories. This often involves personal moral compromise, and acting in a way that others would not (and not acting in a way that others would) when encountering stuff.

No one is arguing against the story being told. We're having problems with someone knowing someone was breaking the law and allowing it to continue to happen for decades.

His actions were vastly distasteful and probably criminal,

His actions were criminal, not probably. In addition to the Criminal Invasion of Privacy, he also did things like follow women home from his motel to continue spying on them. And he would regularly go into his guests rooms and fondle their underwear.

but (like many functioning psychopaths) he took care not to cause actual harm, because he realised that to do so would increase the risk of disclosure. He could have gone on to physical predation but he didn't - it seems that the principle person who was damaged by his compulsion was himself.

What about the harm to society of yet another case of a man being a sexual predator and not just getting away with it, but being rewarded for it? Look at all of the people in just this thread talking about not feeling safe in motels. Think about how for a lot of women this is just another brick in the wall that they have to constantly be on guard to protect themselves.

Oh, and lets not forget about the decades of victims who might read this article today and realize there was a man in the attic who watched them at their most intimate moments and took notes on it. And now he's getting a paycheck for it.
posted by mayonnaises at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2016 [33 favorites]


Foos was the criminal voyeur, but I do not believe that Gay Talese cared in the least about the women whose dignity and safety were disproportionately compromised as crime victims.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The police lack of information on the murder reminds me a bit of the woman who wrote this article [previously], and the way the crimes and victims fell from memory. So, maybe there was no murder, or maybe it was misfiled or fell between the cracks or pushed off to another jurisdiction or who knows what.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:44 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


From the 2013 Denver Post blog post that beagle linked:
Things continue like this until she [the facilities director] finally told him [Gay Talese] that Hyman [the CO state registrar] was just not available.

“He’s in a meeting? I can wait here till midnight. But if I don’t see Ron Hyman, I’m going to be so unhappy!”

“They’re all off-site at a meeting,” she said. “I don’t even know how to get hold of them. The whole division is off-site.”

“Now they tell us! We came all the way from New York to come over here? And now we learn the man in charge is not even on site?”
I get the feeling that the Denver Post journalist was somewhat... less than impressed with Talese. These direct quotes make Talese out to be kind of petulant and maybe not that organized when it comes to investigating. Like, why would the facilities director care whether or not Talese is unhappy? How is that her problem? And maybe Talese could have called ahead (from New York even) to find out what (and who) would or would not be available from the records office?
posted by mhum at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hey, in Talese's defense, he SIGNED A PIECE OF PAPER which totally means that there's no possible way to come forward with information about crimes.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Man, Talese is so old-school journalist Tom Wolfe's white suits smell of him. He's 84. And, evidently, still relevant.
posted by valkane at 12:00 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


This motel is very, very close to my house. When we first moved in we tittered about the fact that the marquee proudly offers "Adult Movies" and "Clean Rooms." If you have to announce "clean rooms" in the marquee you may have already lost the battle for the Michelin star.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:01 PM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


This motel is very, very close to my house.

Did you read the part where they razed the property? There is no motel anymore. Check your gps.
posted by valkane at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2016


Honestly, when I first read, or rather skimmed, this- I thought it must be fiction. The New Yorker does publish that. I didn't think it was particularly good fiction - I was waiting for a deep insight that never came- but I walked away feeling... Weirded out, but not not okay

Creative non-fiction?
posted by My Dad at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Moonorb: Foos and Talese crept up into the attic to spy through the fake vents.

"I saw a naked couple spread out on the bed below," Talese writes in the New Yorker story.

They were having sex. To get a better look, Talese leaned closer — and his necktie slipped through the louvered screen that shielded the spyhole, dangling "within yards of the woman's head."


Talese didn't just interview the guy, he participated. I don't know what the Colorado law was at the time, but currently:

"18-7-801 Criminal Invasion of Privacy

(1) A person who knowingly observes or takes a photograph of another person’s intimate parts, as defined in section 18-3-401 (2), without that person’s consent, in a situation where the person observed or photographed has a reasonable expectation of privacy, commits criminal invasion of privacy."

So yes, criminal.
posted by tavella at 12:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


Well, he did cause harm, at least if the story as reported is true.
A woman was beaten, and he observed it. He chose not to get her medical attention, and she died.


Worse than that, she was beaten because of him. He stole the drugs, the guy assumed she stole the drugs and beat her for stealing the drugs. And even if he were afraid of being caught, he could have gone outside and walked past the door and knocked because he heard noise, or called the police because he was walking by and heard noise, or whatever.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


Reminds me a bit of Gang Leader for a Day, wrt questions about the ethics of documenting illegal and violent activities.

In my work I've observed and shot video of illegal activities as they were happening and I think there is value in telling such stories. What Talese participated in and writes about is sexual violence, full stop, though I wouldn't be surprised if a writer of his generation doesn't see it that way.
posted by theory at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sorry, I hadn't made it to the very end. I was just overcome with civic pride. I assure you there are fifty fleabags just like it still remaining on good old East Colfax. But this one had clean rooms.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:07 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


cool.
posted by valkane at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2016


This is skincrawly creepy, and Talese does come across as strongly complicit in it.
You know, how weird is it that there was an X-Files episode in the reboot season that was apparently in part based on this Talese project? How do we explain it? Time travel?
I'm sure I remember either reading or hearing a less-detailed version of this story a couple of years ago -- probably the Strangers episode My Dad linked above, or possibly on a Moth episode.

And it may well just be coincidence: "peeping-Tom hotel manager" is a fairly common urban-legend/tropey fear, and if I remember rightly the X-Files episode did it more in the classical "through the eyes of a painting/suit of armor" way.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, interesting article or not, my takeaway was that the author knew a dude had committed and was continuing to commit sex crimes for years.

That's pretty hosed up.
posted by Mooski at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's pretty hosed up.

Yeah, Hunter Thompson shoulda turned all those Hell's Angels in a loooooong time ago! LOL.
posted by valkane at 12:37 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Richie, who acted as a bridge between Japan and the United States after the war

That must have been hard on the abdominals.
posted by Gelatin at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the Hell's Angels were operating in an atmosphere of secrecy that enabled their crimes. If only the cops had known about them.
posted by Etrigan at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2016 [22 favorites]


More about Gerald Foos's historic sports collection.
posted by beagle at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The comparison that comes to mind for me is the Vice reporter who was embedded with ISIS.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


More about Gerald Foos's historic sports collection.

WTF? Talese helped make his video?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:00 PM on April 5, 2016


This makes me feel less paranoid about spending a little time inspecting a hotel/motel room and looking for signs of stuff like this, especially if there is going to be sex happening in that room or I care about my privacy at all.

But I also do it out of personal curiosity and just playing spy-hunter. I haven't personally found anything yet, but I have observed/found hidden cameras in unexpected public places.

Or even expected places. Many modern elevators have a small camera hidden in the control panel behind smoked glass or plastic.

These days you can get a wireless high definition night vision infrared capable camera and battery pack into a package smaller than a book of paper matches. You can even go smaller than that if it has a wired power source available or wired video/data connection. Tapping power off of a phone line, HVAC control line or even a small AC-DC transformer is an easy thing.

And you could easily stuff dozens of these into a room in many different and difficult to detect places. It only needs a pinhole for the camera lens to see out. This can be hidden in many different ways. In a bedside clock, in the TV, in smoke detectors, smoke detectors and alarm boxes, in power outlets, in vents and even behind mirrors or art on the walls.

Obvious hiding and camouflage places are behind grills, vents and dark or glossy surfaces to obscure the shadows of pinholes or the reflection of a lens. Behind a framed and glassed print or painting is especially effective and difficult to detect, as you can easily hide the pinhole in the artwork.

Here are some camera and peephole detection techniques:

Carry a bright LED flashlight or penlight. You can use this to inspect inside grills, transparent plastic surfaces and to look for the glint of a glass or plastic lens in weird places. (You can practice this on your nearest modern elevator! Look for a small glint or bubble of glass in a hole.)

You can also use a flashlight to detect two-way mirrors or holes behind one-way mirrors. Darken the room that the mirror is in or cup your eyes and press your face to the glass, then press the flashlight flush against the glass. Scan it over the surface and change your viewing angle or move along with the flashlight to detect any holes or removed silvering behind a modified one-way mirror.

If you want to get really nosy, a small pocket multitool can be used to carefully and harmlessly open smoke detectors and other suspected utility appliances or boxes. This can also be used to remove ventilation grills to look inside them. (Warning or pro-tip: Sometimes other guests hide or abandon contraband stuff in vents.)

Another detection tool you probably already have in your pocket is a digital camera that detects infrared light - your cell phone camera. You can test this by aiming a TV remote at your camera and pressing some buttons on the remote while viewing the live camera screen. If you see some purple, blue or dark red lights flashing on screen your camera has some IR sensitivity.

Many digital cameras also detect varying amounts of IR. You can test these in the same way.

Some digital cameras also have a built in night-vision mode that relies on ambient or artificial IR light. These are particularly sensitive by design.

Dim or completely darken whatever room you're in to try to trigger any automatic camera night vision systems in play then sweep the room with your phone in camera mode, looking for sources of infrared light on screen using your very own real world high tech spy camera detection system.

You can also find IR nightvision cameras in public places doing this. Check out the darkened ceilings of nightclubs or bars, or alleys in cities. Or if you ever go to an amusement park with "dark" rides like Disneyland you'll find hundreds of hidden IR cameras all over the place.
posted by loquacious at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2016 [79 favorites]


Yeah, Hunter Thompson shoulda turned all those Hell's Angels in a loooooong time ago! LOL.

Not sure there's a valid comparison to be made between a journalist being embedded with a motorcycle club for a year and another who is aware of a voyeur hotel owner spying on his guests for over ten years, but your mileage may vary.
posted by Mooski at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think there's a distinction to be made between grey areas of reporting on large criminal organizations like gangs, organized crime, ISIS, etc., and failing to turn in (and, in fact, willingly being an active participant in the crime on at least one occasion). Not okay, not responsible journalism.

In my mind part of the journalistic calculus should be the risks/benefits of revealing the activity to the authorities. There's a level of legitimate public interest in understanding organized crime, say, in a way that may only be doable through reporting that happens over a long time. But this situation is one journalist who is reporting on one (well, two) criminals. How was the public or the "truth" or whatever served by the reporter's knowingly allowing these ongoing criminal acts to continue?

If I'm a journalist and I find out about some guy who goes out every Friday night and shoots up stop signs, maybe I talk to them for a few weeks or months to learn more about their motivations, whatever -- but at some point I'm just letting a vandal do vandalism. This is the same thing and the article would never have seen the light of day if it weren't for the fact that the crime in question is titillating.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Or eating chips in bed with the same hand you're using for the remote control.

BTW if you want to be even more repulsed by every single thing (but especially the remote) in every hotel room you've ever occupied, Not Safe with Nikki Glaser has some thoughts for you!
posted by psoas at 1:20 PM on April 5, 2016


Try not to think too hard about how often the comforter on that bed gets laundered.

LOL. The first thing the wife does on entering a hotel or motel room is strip the bed cover and throw it in a corner.
posted by notreally at 2:20 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Somebody explain this to me, because I don't understand.

I explain it by not really believing any of this happened, and thinking this entire thing is someones bizarre jackoff fantasy.

But that's just me. And i'm ready to push all my chips on to the red square for this coming from the department of yea-that-happened.
posted by emptythought at 2:22 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" joke to be made here, but I can't put it together.


Guy Talese has a Creeper?

Also, the Denver Post reporter must have been chortling that the whole piece was following Talese around as he fails to talk to a desired interviewee, which is the heart of the Sinatra piece.
posted by mwhybark at 2:33 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Warning or pro-tip: Sometimes other guests hide or abandon contraband stuff in vents

Like The Regal Motel?

10-12 years ago a motel manager on Tunnel Road in Asheville was busted for "monitoring rooms." Manager would steer women he thought were attractive to certain rooms he'd rigged. I think it was a fire inspector who figured it out and called the cops.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2016


The odd thing to me is that he had two wives that did not seem to think this was odd? How does one have this conversation? 'Honey we need to sell our house so I can watch people have sex from secret places I'll build within the ceilings. We have to find a motel this will work in. You can come up with me and have sex'

That's for wife number one. For wife number two, how many women did he date before he met the one the situation clicked with? Were there women he was seeing that he had to have the talk with? ' That motel I own? It serves as both my livelihood and ...?' That's the article I want to read.

His kids must want to change their names.
posted by readery at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


This has been a roller-coaster thread for me. I read to the end. I was convinced I was reading fiction, and I was kind of appreciating the verisimilitude. (There's a character in the Kinsey movie who shows up and has a similar kind of measurement and record-taking fetish that I thought was the model.) It seems to be so clearly a hoax or a joke, but well-done. I'd already half-written my analysis of the way the whole article works, why we think it's okay to write anonymous reports of sexual experiences without the consent of all parties if we've participated in them but not if we spied on them. But it was kind of academic, like clearly this didn't happen, but let's pretend for a second, what then?

Then I read the thread as the confirmations come through, the other articles, the sports collection site, the video. Hoaxes can go this deep, but I dunno. If this really happened, Gay Talese has violated rules that would get an ethnographer in trouble. If it's not fiction, it's not just hypothetical. People will recognize themselves in the narrative. They'll remember having stayed at the motel. They'll sue. What publisher would expose themselves to that risk? I just don't want to believe it.

As fiction, this is actually interesting. As non-fiction, it's not just disturbing, it's dumb, destructive, and kind of boring. Of course such things exist: but it takes much more imagination to make it up than to just find a guy who did it all and cover for him for three and a half-decades until there's enough material to sell.

Better to be a liar than an immoral hack, I think.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:01 PM on April 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


Back in my day, we wore a necktie when we went up to the secret upstairs motel sex viewing platform. Kids today!
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 3:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


I have difficulty visualizing how a necktie can fall through a grille louvered finely enough to conceal the fact that you are looking through it. Is Foos the embellisher, or is it Talese?
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


More about Gerald Foos's historic sports collection.

WTF? Talese helped make his video?


Mmm, I didn't even notice that when I posted the sports collection link. Talese (with a necktie on) is skulking around, asking a few straight-man questions throughout the video (which at the moment has only been viewed 248 times). You have to wonder what they were thinking over at the New Yorker. They've published this whacky piece about Foos, mainly on the strength of Talese being the author. Meanwhile, Talese is helping the subject of the story market his sports memorabilia collection. Not to mention Talese having made himself part of the story itself long ago by joining Foos in one of his voyeur expeditions to the attic.
posted by beagle at 3:13 PM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Seems like Talese, after the necktie incident, could've walked straight to the cop shop and dropped a dime on Gerald Foos, then flown back to New York first-class to write a ruminative and captivating piece on complicity in journalism, farted it into The New Yorker, and gone on with his life, hands clean. But he allowed Foos to continue, because he wanted The Story, damn the consequences. Fuck you, Gay Talese.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think I will always think of him as "Talese (with a necktie on)" from now on.
posted by Etrigan at 3:18 PM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


The odd thing to me is that he had two wives that did not seem to think this was odd?

This really made my Bullshit-O-Meter ping. One wife? Maybe. Two? GTFO! What are the odds that, pre-internet, you're going to find two women to marry you who are not only cool with your pervy "research" but willing to assist?
posted by MikeMc at 3:21 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


What are the odds

Yeah this too. The first wife was somewhat believable, with the story about nursing and the potential that she was somewhat seduced into it as Foos built his laboratory. But the second wife would have met a Foos with an existing perv lab and a journal the size of an unabridged dictionary to come clean about. Somehow he let her know about it at a time when he did not know how she would react despite an obsessive discretion about being caught?

Talese himself sows a bit of doubt, like the started in 1966/ bought in 1969 date mismatch. This makes me wonder if the whole thing isn't a synthesis of some type, perhaps a collection of observations from various difficult sources (perhaps including Talese himself) arranged into this single anecdotal journal with the convenient backstory.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's questionable, yah, but there were classified ads in certain magazines that were designed to get people with complementary kinks together, so it's not impossible.
posted by tavella at 3:35 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have difficulty visualizing how a necktie can fall through a grille louvrred finely enough to conceal the fact that you are looking thorough it.

Especially a necktie such as would have been fashionable at the time. They were not short on fabric.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wanna continue your Foos voyeurism? Here's another video, only 27 views at the moment — also co-starring Talese — by Gerald about his and Anita's multiple connections, including dolls, guns, coins, plus the same sports collection footage linked above.
posted by beagle at 3:49 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


What are the odds that, pre-internet, you're going to find two women to marry you who are not only cool with your pervy "research" but willing to assist?

Perhaps he sought out emotionally vulnerable/needy women, and waited until they were sufficiently dependent on him that going along with his weird, creepy plans was the path of least resistance compared to ending the relationship. Some emotional blackmail could also have been involved.

Also, it doesn't say how many women he went out with who didn't make the cut (i.e., who didn't look like being in a place where he could rely on them to comply).
posted by acb at 3:50 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The more I think about it the less believable the whole idea becomes. That Foos could have watched so many people in this way for so many years without being caught is a big stretch. While it's stupid simple today, actual eyeballs are pretty reflective and lots of people are sensitive to bumps and thumps from the attic. Ventilation grilles that don't ventilate and actually conduct into an attic space would seem to be a bit suspicious even in Colorado. It sounds plausible until you start to ask about the details.

And the tie thing, while a funny story, totally confounds my mental movie director. Talese doesn't tell us the spacing of these grilles but unless it was at least half-inch I can't imagine a tie being threaded through and falling down the way he describes. (And frankly even then I can't imagine how the original threading occurs if not deliberate.) And I can't imagine watching people through a half-inch pitch grille for all those decades without getting caught at least a few times, because light has to hit your eyeballs to make an impression and eyeballs are pretty damn reflective. The more I think about it the harder I find it to believe.

And of course the hotel is conveniently gone so there is no evidence. He finds a second willing Mrs. DeSade. There is a bunch of correspondence, but that can be faked.

I find myself drifting toward the belief that many of the observations are real, some (in particular the murder) may be made up as things Talese knows has happened many times and perhaps should be observed, and that the ones that are real may be from many sources including Talese.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:58 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


John Wayne Gacy was married twice, for goodness' sake. Weirdoes get married all the time.
posted by milk white peacock at 4:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Were Gacy's wives aware of and enthusiastic participants in his hobby?
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2016


Journals are written at the time events occur. Generally speaking, they can't have egregious chronological errors. If this story is non-fictional then Foos was supplying an account that had been written from memory or brief notes many years after the events. Without having seen some excerpts – and leaving Talese's alleged participation to one side – there's no way to tell whether it's partly, mostly, or totally fictional.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:24 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Great article. (If true) I too found myself wishing for Donna's side of the story. For me, that would have made the piece a grand slam. (In fact, I wish the whole article had been about her - or told from her perspective.)
posted by hoodrich at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


The tie thing wouldn't bother me that much, credibility wise. People's memories can be fictionalized and embellished pretty easily without them even realizing it. Like, maybe his tie was brushing against the vent and Talese misremembered or even fabricated the part about it actually falling through, as that would be the obvious place for that to lead. It also adds a little bit of bathos to a grim and disturbing story, which is a popular narrative formula.

And the wives thing doesn't strike me as being that implausible. There are plenty of sketchy people out there, and their courtship rituals are not unlike anyone else's. They gradually get to know each other and make disclosures incrementally. It's unlikely that the revelation came out of nowhere. They'd probably been testing the waters and revealing increasingly gross behaviors and attitudes over the course of their relationships.

Of course, maybe one or both wives were victims themselves to some extent, at least, but it's also entirely possible that they were bringing their own creepy to the table too.

I certainly wouldn't take every word as gospel, especially with multiple narrators and their unreliabilities. But I wouldn't dismiss the whole account based on some detail that doesn't seem to add up, either.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:01 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Talese's guy also sounds pretty low tech, imagine what is possible with the latest gadgets

I can't even count how many episodes I've seen of Criminal Minds and similar shows that feature this as a plot point. Surveillance society.
posted by limeonaire at 5:12 PM on April 5, 2016


From the article,

"I did this purely out of my unlimited curiosity about people and not as just a deranged voyeur."

More accurately,

"I did this purely out of my unlimited curiosity about people and not just as a deranged voyeur."


Pretty good exhibit of the importance and nuances of grammar.
posted by raider at 5:16 PM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


I liked the part where Talese and his twin brother were chased by drug traffickers through the Florida keys swamps.
posted by mannequito at 5:44 PM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I fact-checked this as far as clicking on the link to see if this was indeed published by the magazine famous for its fact-checking department.
posted by acrasis at 6:18 PM on April 5, 2016


I've wondered about this from time to time in hotels and motels. With cameras so small these days and storage so cheap, I'm sure there are people who book a room, set up cameras, and come back a week or month later to download the footage -- it doesn't even need to be a hotel employee. I don't particularly worry about it, because I'm not a public figure and I'm not hiding anything anyway, but I definitely think about it and wonder sometimes where a camera could be hidden.

I really hope the author of this piece had a number of well-documented meetings with the New Yorker's attorneys both when he first found out and with this piece, because from the outside it sure looks like he crossed some ethical lines.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 PM on April 5, 2016


Bringer Tom: "Were Gacy's wives aware of and enthusiastic participants in his hobby?"

It was really more of an avocation.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:50 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure this is legally covered the same as rape. And should be.

Post a pre-teen experience alone in a hotel room where the neighbors fucked like banshee, I have long had a fantasy about owning and spying on a hotel full of shenanigans. But being a rational empathetic human being would never ever actually do that.

I know it's weird, but hearing people in the throws of passion makes me crazy horny. We are weird creatures. But spying on people is NOT acceptable.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Not just as a deranged pervert," he said, crawling along the jizz-covered walkway.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:09 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


If it's true at all, and I have my doubts it's as neat as it says, then I do not for a second believe Mr Foos' activities to be limited to mostly passive voyeurism. The narcissism, the self-aggrandisement are consistent and plausible, but when you add in the depersonalisation, the "these little people" framings, the violent outbursts, the following people home, the muskrat skinning as a kid? I think Mr Foos has been killing people.
posted by cromagnon at 7:49 PM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


The odd thing to me is that he had two wives that did not seem to think this was odd? How does one have this conversation? 'Honey we need to sell our house so I can watch people have sex from secret places I'll build within the ceilings. We have to find a motel this will work in. You can come up with me and have sex'


This part was oddly touching.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:04 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


He reported the murder. If it happened.

I don't get why Talese stopped with the cops. Go to the newspaper archives for the dates in question. Any local library should have them on microfilm.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:19 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thought his souring view of humanity was interesting. My first reaction to the idea of viewing into people's rooms was "you're going to see a lot of mundane moments and a lot of couples fighting."
posted by salvia at 9:30 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think Mr Foos has been killing people.

.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:28 PM on April 5, 2016


It felt like he started out with a pretty messed-up view of humanity. He violates people's privacy with all the disregard of a biologist examining parameciums through a microscope. Is it any wonder he somehow fails to see any redeeming feature of the primates he watched fucking? No intimacy, no tenderness, no empathy - all of these things were apparently invisible to him.
posted by um at 10:37 PM on April 5, 2016


Going through this entire thread, the tie thing was very Pynchonian. I think there's a lot of things untrue and Talese makes that point without belaboring it so we don't lose interest.

That said where does voyeurism begin and end? After college my thin wall apartment had me listening to my neighbors having sex regularly and loudly. Sometimes I'd put my ear against the wall to hear their dirty talk. Similarly just the other day I was with a friend and her neighbor was having loud sex as we entered the hallway. Perplexed we stopped and listened then went on, joking about it later.

I guess while I think this guy is a creep I don't know why it is okay to listen to people have sex in the hallway, but what he did is bad. I say that knowing what he did is bad but not really being able to say where the line of consent is drawn.
posted by geoff. at 10:42 PM on April 5, 2016


i am sort of amused because I generally find that when i have to check into a fleabag motel it is due to penury and exhaustion
posted by mwhybark at 11:08 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


"18-7-801 Criminal Invasion of Privacy

(1) A person who knowingly observes or takes a photograph of another person’s intimate parts, as defined in section 18-3-401 (2), without that person’s consent, in a situation where the person observed or photographed has a reasonable expectation of privacy, commits criminal invasion of privacy."


So observing the non-sexual, non-criminal interactions between the guests would not have been illegal? Don't get me wrong, it creeps me way out, but it brings up an interesting point. People do things behind closed doors that no one else will ever see. Foos claims in the article that you can't predict a person's private behavior from their public façade. Even if someone permitted you to observe their private behavior, you wouldn't be seeing them as they really are in private because a performance layer inevitably gets applied (see: reality TV). When people enter relationships, new private bubbles are spawned wherein the couple acts differently when alone together than they do out in public, although both individuals probably act differently still when they are solitary.

We are all walking around comparing our private experiences of ourselves and our relationships to other people's public demonstrations. Many books have been written on the topic, but there is no ethical way to apply actual research to the problem, to help pop the illusion that most everyone else is more successful and satisfied that we are. Thus people's self-image suffers, and is probably only worsening in the age of Facebook and social media.
posted by mantecol at 11:17 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess while I think this guy is a creep I don't know why it is okay to listen to people have sex in the hallway, but what he did is bad. I say that knowing what he did is bad but not really being able to say where the line of consent is drawn.

A day later, and this thread is still kind of haunting me. Maybe because I spend almost half my time in a small apartment complex run by a husband and wife. But anyway...

I think what I quoted above is a really good question, and goes to that "expectation of privacy" thing in the statutes. I know there are reasonable questions about government surveillance in public places, but I'm less bothered by those questions than some because - by going out in public I lose my right to expect the same kind of privacy that I expect in my bedroom or bathroom (or anywhere in my home, for that matter). Am I really bothered that the DOT could conceivably produce a record of my commuting in my car because a camera connected to a database scans my tag every time? Maybe there are some theoretical concerns, but practically, no. I know the old saw about "if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about," gets abused as an argument, but I think that's because it's used inappropriately for more intrusive things.

Back to the "loud sex heard in the hallway" example - well, if you choose to have loud sex in an apartment complex, I think you've decided you don't care whether others hear you. Is that consent? I dunno. I think if you put a stethoscope to the wall, hang around in the hallway where you can hear better because your apartment is 2 doors down, or do other things to maximize your listening pleasure - I dunno if you're a criminal, but you're a bit creepy.

So there are, unavoidably, grey areas that reasonable people might disagree on (like reading the article), but what really makes me feel this motel owner (and Talese, for not turning him in, no matter what he signed, and writing about it, and profiting from it, etc. etc. etc.) cut through the grey area, crossed the bright line, and jumped the vast muddy ditch, aside from the obvious (the act of pre-meditatively watching the people itself) is:

- the bastard took amazing chances to protect his own property, worried about missing out on fees that he could have charged for extra guests, did things to his guests like shining his lights on the room because he couldn't see, etc.

- but wouldn't act to potentially save the life of a murder victim. Hell, he wouldn't have had to out himself. He could have crawled down, called the cops immediately the violence started, and told them he was out in the parking lot and heard noises.

If this story is at all true (and I kinda wonder/hope that Talese made most or all of it up, but it's hard to tell), the owner is an accessory after the fact to murder if there ever was one. And Talese is not much better.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:31 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the (reasonable) "expectation of privacy" thing is key. There's an expectation that bathrooms and bedrooms will be totally private, and so a hidden camera/peephole there is invasive and violating in a way that it wouldn't be elsewhere. Maybe a rule of thumb could be that if you'd be shocked to see a visible camera somewhere, a hidden one there is totally unacceptable. Or to make it even more black and white, you could say any hidden camera/peephole is unacceptable without some kind of notice that hidden cameras are in the area (which I think is even the law in many places).

If you make loud noises in your bedroom or leave your curtains open, you can't reasonably expect that nobody walking by will hear or see you, so it's not violating in the same way if they do (even more so if it's not intentional). I think things like using a stethoscope on the wall, actively watching/hiding near an open window, observing someone on a known schedule, using binoculars to see through an open window, etc are somewhat grey - definitely still creepy IMO, but not breaking the expectation of privacy nearly as much as the motel owner (and journalist) did in this case.
posted by randomnity at 7:22 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


That said where does voyeurism begin and end? After college my thin wall apartment had me listening to my neighbors having sex regularly and loudly.

There's a difference between actively seeking out the opportunity to observe/watch/listen to others having sex without their knowledge and consent, and being in a situation where you inadvertently become exposed to other people having sex. I mean, I've been in hotel rooms where the people next door have been having sex, and its a little weird/uncomfortable, and it gets me thinking about just how thin the physical barriers we depend on for privacy are - really, just a couple of inches of space created by some wood and plaster, but once we are inside such a room created by those barriers, we feel safe and private.
posted by nubs at 8:11 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


"White dudes hold the record for creepy crimes."

- Walter Bankston, area grandfather and scrap-rubber processor.
posted by officer_fred at 8:13 AM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Science is pretty lame if you can't masturbate while carrying out your research.
posted by dr_dank at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really don't know what to make of this. I'm prepared to believe that this is basically true, but there's plenty of room for embellishment on the part of Foos or Talese, as has already been demonstrated.
  • The motel itself has changed hands twice and now been demolished, so nobody can verify that this catwalk ever existed.
  • The murder is the only thing mentioned so far that could independently verify that he had surveilled guests, but it hasn't yet been substantiated. Other verifiable details, like the date he purchased the motel, actually refute his journal, since the dates don't match up.
  • Foos was apparently quite fond of doing things that risked his exposure, like routinely letting himself into guests' rooms, but he was somehow never caught, and the closest that he came to being caught was a too-cute anecdote about fried chicken.
  • He apparently found not one, but two Stepford wives who supported him in his creepy and illegal hobby.
I don't think that Talese would make this up, but he basically hands the reins of the story to Foos, who is an admittedly unreliable narrator. Anything is possible, from “all of this happened” all the way to “only the things that Talese saw with his own eyes actually happened and Foos just fantasized the rest.” It's ludicrous that a man would make up a story so detailed, but not necessarily more ludicrous than the idea that he actually did it.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:43 AM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


> ...the article would never have seen the light of day if it weren't for the fact that the crime in question is titillating.

Not even that. We're only hearing about it now, instead of after the motel owner's death some years down the road, because he has some sort of baseball card collection to sell.
posted by fragmede at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Gawker posts 6 seconds of Hulk Hogan's penis from a tape that was anonymously mailed to them and is fined more money than I can fathom. Gay Talese hides a criminal for decades, publishes his journal detailing the sex lives of dozens of people, and nets a book deal and still gets to be a national treasure.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:19 AM on April 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've been unable to take Gay Talese seriously since Doonesbury skewered him in the 1980's.
posted by scrump at 2:07 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Those Doonesbury strips are simply perfect.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:22 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, the mention upthread of Donald Ritchie and public sex in Japanese parks reminded me of something I'd completely forgotten. When I came here as a student in 98, one out of our free days, a group of us went to Ueno to see the park and check out some of the museums. There's an old temple on the grounds modeled more after the Indian stupa style of temple, on a small, wooded hill in the park. We went up the stairs to take a look. The whole thing was fenced off, but there was a staircase on the other side of the hill, and there, and the top of those steps, about thirty feet away from us, was a couple having some pretty enthusiastic sex. We turned around and went back down the stairs pretty quickly.

I wish I could report that this something I've seen again since I moved here in 2000, but sadly, I must be going to the wrong parks.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:31 PM on April 6, 2016


"He thinks he's the greatest voyeur in the world," Talese said. "He doesn't want to be seen as a Peeping Tom but as a voyeur — not as a pervert but an observer of human nature."

Oh, for fuck's sake. You're not "special" because of this. You're not that unique. You're just yet another creepy old guy whose life revolves around what makes his dick hard at the expense of other people. That makes you abundant and of low value.

God, I get sick and tired of the world apparently revolving around what makes a guy's dick hard.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:30 PM on April 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


I would be so jazzed if this was some elaborate, multilayered hoax and experiment. As I read the article initially I assumed it was true, then started believing it was fiction, then became more convinced that it really was true, thought perhaps again that it had to be fake, ultimately concluded it was real (while not necessarily believing all of the events that happened actually happened in the way described), and then that Denver Post thing comes along.

It's like the Foucault's Pendulum of creepy-ass stroke stories.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:04 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read this as fiction and found it fascinating. As non-fiction it's gross.

It reminded me so much of Harry Mathews's Singular Pleasures, 61 fictional accounts of masturbation from around the world.
posted by taltalim at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess while I think this guy is a creep I don't know why it is okay to listen to people have sex in the hallway, but what he did is bad. I say that knowing what he did is bad but not really being able to say where the line of consent is drawn.

I used to live in a little house in Ft. Lauderdale that was very close to the next house. A lot of mornings, through the open windows, I'd hear the neighbors having sex and then their shower running. I thought it was kind of sweet. I think an important difference between you in the hallway/me lying in my own bed is that the noise is overflowing in a natural way into shared or public spaces, or, in my case, a private space I was entitled to be in. Also, there's something different about sound versus sight, I think. At the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, where everybody was in tents pitched quite closely together, there was a general shared pretense in which everybody just pretended nobody could hear anything. But it would have violated shared expectations for women in general camping to start having sex where they could be seen.
posted by not that girl at 11:53 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]




That shoe took a while.
posted by mwhybark at 6:33 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


(... and duly note the opening sentence)
posted by mwhybark at 6:34 PM on April 9, 2016


hm, kind of a weirdly written piece. Chotiner mentions the supposed murder but never characterizes it as in question; he presents it as fact. He also glosses Talese's carefully-crafted statements of doubt regarding the veracity of Foos and the journal entries. Still, he's in correspondence with Talese and unambiguosly calling the work unethical, which I percieve to be our consensus here despite some posts expressing dissappointment in this thread's general ironic sensibility.
posted by mwhybark at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's like Nicholson Baker and Paul Auster collaborated on a story.
posted by Miko at 8:43 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


just read the Slate piece. I haven't decided how I feel about this whole thing (besides it being an absolutely gripping story) but I think at least part of what's going on is that journalistically, Talese sees himself as being after some very big quarry: essentially, the factors that contribute to surveillance culture, writ large. He gestures to that in the piece, but the end of the Slate piece (his response) gives some sense of what apparently may be the scope of his book. If that's right, then yes, Foos is one story among many driving at this larger set of questions.

Time will tell, but that comment suggested one potential framing I might eventually understand.

If not, well I guess we know what the next season of Serial is going to be about.
posted by Miko at 9:13 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno about "very big quarry" Miko. This just seemed like a creepy perv guy being allowed to keep perving because a creepy journalist didn't feel like intervening.
posted by Nelson at 9:16 PM on April 10, 2016


Yep, I understand that point of view but just don't find it that simple. Personally, I don't think there is an easy conclusion here, and I'm going to wait to see what the ambition of the book is.
posted by Miko at 9:24 PM on April 10, 2016


Joanna Rothkopf of Jezebel actually went and talked to researchers (Voyeurism is Not Research) to see what they thought of Foos "research". Spoiler alert: not impressed.
posted by mhum at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


That piece was an interesting read. Still, I think it was sort of missing the point on most of it. There are different kinds of research. A psychologist studying human sexuality, of course, does have to use the IRB process and record data consistently and behave constantly in an aboveboard way. But of course, Foos' meets no one's concept of a psychologist studying human sexuality. He is a 'researcher' only to himself, and Talese presents the idea of Foos' framing it as 'research' as a justification for his compulsion at a few points in the article. It's wrong to imply that the New Yorker published it as legitimate sexuality research, or that Talese's book is going to present it as legitimate sexuality research, which the piece sort of does, in the end.

There is another kind of research which can use Foos' documents anyway, though. It's still a text, and it can be analyzed like any other in a critical study - in literature, in cultural history, in gender studies, whatever. And, of course, in journalism. All documents are fair game for analysis, quotation, questioning. It's an interesting text in a lot of way, for both its explicit and implicit content. Its subtext, in fact, is way more interesting than its text. That's why we're more curious about Foos than about anyone he writes about. In that sense I think it could potentially be legitimate to use Foos' writing in a project where it is the subject of the research. It is still Talese's research for Talese's book, even though it could never be actual legitimate research for a peer-reviewed scientific sexuality journal.

In general, my strong instinct is to think first about journalism. The New Yorker (among many other outlets) has published a lot of stories in which reporters do things like accompany gang members and attend white supremacy meetings and jihad training schools (Talese himself previously reported on the inner workings of a Mafia crime family). To get that access, they form relationships with sometimes reprehensible people. And they are physically present when these terrible events go down. Reporters can be around to witness a lot of bad things, sometimes for many many years, that they will eventually use in their informative work that tells us a lot more about the world.

Even so, I'd have been a lot more comfortable with the entire thing if Talese had been more arm's length. I think he'd have had to see the observation platform in order to do a reasonable story...it's the only thing that could prove Foos' claims might be true. And I really can't fathom his not at least trying to get information about the alleged murder at the time it happened, especially because clearly he was already thinking about writing something on this topic. Why not document it at the time - even if you had no intention of turning him in, or didn't believe him at all? Trust but verify, right? The idea that the murder even happened is totally in question.

This thing is such a hot mess. I'd really like to learn more. I haven't read Talese extensively and have little sense of him as a person; I've read a few of his magazine pieces but not Thy Neighbor's Wife. Some of his work has been very important, and he undeniably helped forge the journalistic revolution of the 60s/70s that utterly transformed its voice, content, and subject matter, and we wouldn't recognize the media world without it. I don't have a strong sense of him as a person, or a massive reason to defend him if he did overstep. There are just so many questions about this story that I think it's pretty difficult to tell whether he did. He always has played on this line between acceptable and unacceptable closeness to subjects and taboo topics, but there's always the chance that he could be losing his marbles, too. I'm sure some of this will be clarified when the book appears.

I'll also be curious to see whether anyone comes forward. Theoretically there are hundreds - thousands? - of injured parties who could still be alive out there who will recognize the motel. I would be interested to hear anyone say they had stayed there, whether to seek redress or just express their anger. I saw one comment on a piece from someone saying they stayed there once for a "night of hardcore" and another saying it was well known as a "no-tell motel" and swinger spot where you'd leave the door open if you wanted company. But no other first-person testimonials.

Also, that whole statute of limitations dodge - couldn't an injured party, or the family of the murdered woman if that happened, still file a civil suit? Or under the Discovery Rule? You can be damn sure if I'd stayed in this place I'd be looking to tell my story now.

I wrote to On The Media saying I hoped they'd present some analysis on it. Really hoping they do.
posted by Miko at 2:28 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dan Savage weighs in

I have the suspicion that OTM and other venues may be in part keeping their powder dry until the book is officially released.
posted by mwhybark at 7:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I haven't listened to it yet, but the second segment on this week's Slate Culture Gabfest covers this topic.
posted by mmascolino at 3:42 PM on April 13, 2016






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