The Life and Death of Jesse Jubilee James, Featuring Harlan Ellison
October 12, 2007 10:19 PM   Subscribe

In the grand tradition of Kaycee Nicole, Anthony Godby Johnson, and Kodee Kennings, Jesse James was a studly volunteer firefighter and 9/11 hero who A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson's friend Audrey fell in love with over the internet. He turned out to be not what he seemed. None other than Harlan Ellison himself took part in the intervention, and the ensuing confrontation of the perpetrator was recorded for posterity. Via.
posted by Locative (84 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. I read this at BoingBoing but I didn't know they recorded the confrontation ON TAPE.

I don't think I'll be able to watch the video, though. The whole thing is just too depressing.
posted by MissNefertiti at 10:28 PM on October 12, 2007

Further: A clarification of Josh's article from Audrey herself, who has a blog about the woman behind the hoax, Janna Saint James called piece of fakey.
posted by Locative at 10:29 PM on October 12, 2007

Jesus H. Christ.

I am somewhat in shock at this woman's audacity, and I shouldn't be because this is not the first time I have heard of something like this that was this elaborate.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:32 PM on October 12, 2007

I wonder if my internet girlfriend, Sandy Bullock, would lie about being a skydiving, third degree blackbelt astronaut attending law and medical school.
posted by stavrogin at 11:08 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. People are fucking insane.

We spend much of our lives alone. Some cope with it better than others. The ones who don’t are primed and ready for victimhood. You have to learn to be with yourself, because if you don’t, there’s a whole world of drugs, booze and rotten people who will be your friend until you’ve been sucked dry. Beware of what loneliness makes you do; and beware of this creature, because she is out there, she is real, and Janna St. James is only one of her pustulant manifestations...
posted by Avenger at 11:08 PM on October 12, 2007

Fuck people over and, when caught in the act, angrily deny, deny, deny, pout and, finally, stare off into the distance until it all goes away. She's America's Miss Metaphor 2007!
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:08 PM on October 12, 2007

Golden Rule #3 of the Internet: It's ALL bullshit.
posted by BobFrapples at 11:12 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know Josh Olson a little bit. He's kind of a prick. Actually, not kind of. So I'm sure my feelings about him are coloring my read of this, and somehow, making me feel very slightly bad for St. James. Dammit! It was otherwise a gripping tale of crazy people, though.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:15 PM on October 12, 2007


I mean, that's sad and all that she fell for that woman's bullshit for that hard and for that long...

But really...Jesse James? The firefighter hero/poet? In 20 months she didn't once ask him for a picture of him naked wearing his fireman's hat and swinging his ax? Never once offered to book a discount tikcet on Southwest for $400 roundtrip over a long weekend, yet she bought him an ipod when for $600 and dropped 10k over 2 years?

Sure it's sad, but at some point, it's her own damn fault.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:20 PM on October 12, 2007 [5 favorites]

(man, I should proofread before hitting post...)
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:23 PM on October 12, 2007

I know Josh Olson a little bit. He's kind of a prick. Actually, not kind of.

Yeah, you'd have to be a bit of a prick to put the video on the internet -- though I couldn't watch it either. I didn't mind the story -- it was a bit smug and self-obsessed, but you have to be to transform the raw material of your life into product for others to consume. And what Jenna did was awful, but this was a folie a deux. Who the hell devotes a year and a half of their existance to somebody that they've never met?

But of the two, I think I feel much sorrier for Jenna, whose life must be so empty that an invented life is so much more than the one that she actually has, and fake relationships occupy the place of the real ones that the rest of us have. Post her photograph, by all means, but the video was just petty and vindictive.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:24 PM on October 12, 2007

What a hilarious story.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:31 PM on October 12, 2007

Also: that blog is a bit weird, isn't it? I thought she was supposed to be moving on and getting on with her life? Devoting a blog to her exploits gives her far more power than I'd be prepared to grant her in that situation. Presumably, it's part of the marketing drive for the forthcoming script pitch. Expect to see this story as a Movie of the Week on the Lifetime Channel sometime in the very near future.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:32 PM on October 12, 2007

I'm finding it extremely hard to muster up sympathy for these people. Josh Olson hates this woman because she's ugly and she's fat and she fucked with his friend's head for a couple years. Thanks to the internet and its built-in anonymity, an outsider penetrated the ranks of the angels and wreaked havoc.

Man, but think of it from the perspective of the other them the Batavians. The unpretty, the provincial, the awkward housewives with epic imaginations and pedestrian flesh. This woman, by virtue of her words and raw audacity was able to reach across the void and touch one of the interesting people. Not just touch...manipulate. For two amazing years. It must have been an unimaginable high-wire act, doling out implausibilities in careful doses, always afraid that Audrey would wake up and cry out bullshit. And it wasn't just impersonation. She succeeded in writing her own unpretty self into this story, playing a bit part in a drama she was only half-scripting.

So screw Josh Olson. Screw Harlan Ellison. Audrey and Janna were locked in a wonderful, Borgesian world of fantasy and deferral. The Batavian behind the mask is the only real element in this drama.
posted by felix betachat at 11:47 PM on October 12, 2007 [45 favorites]

Felix, as a Dutchman I have to say: leave the tribe of the Batavians out of this mess.
posted by jouke at 12:17 AM on October 13, 2007

I know Josh Olson a little bit. He's kind of a prick.

That's kind of what I thought after reading the article. The woman's size and loneliness seem to anger him just as much as what she did to his friend. He does come across as a bit of an arsehole.

But still... wow.
posted by greycap at 12:26 AM on October 13, 2007

Eh.. He may be a bit of a prick, but to me it comes across as someone angry and looking to stomp on someone who hurt thier friend.

God knows the things I've said about people I'd want destroyed aren't indicative of my usual viewpoints about what makes a person valued.

I really refuse to have sympathy for the Janna character. Having already been through this sort of deception once with the Fogelberg community, there was plenty of time for her or those around her to seek care. She didn't and went on to do it again.

And say what you will, but working 100 hour work weeks for sizable stretches plays havoc with your radar for what's normal.
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:06 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not only did they (Josh & "Audrey" -- a pseudonym, to protect her privacy) put the movie on YouTube, they also published links to Janna's e-mail address and her blogger profile, and sent the story to all the Chicago papers, AND a special missive to Janna's daughter. Yeah, I'm finding a great deal of sympathy for the imposter, too. Audrey tossed over a real relationship for a fantasy -- just who is the emotional cripple here? Maybe Janna's worst crime is being an enabler. BTW, here is the site where Janna sells her jewellery. But you already knew she is creative, right?
posted by CCBC at 1:08 AM on October 13, 2007

Yeah, he sounded too good to believe, except for the crazy part, and the PTSD that he got from being traded as a sex toy for four years to pedophile drug dealers by his molesting hippie junkie dad behind his chilly feminist lecturer mother's back.

posted by telstar at 1:09 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

a wonderful, Borgesian world of fantasy and deferral.

I would love to agree with this, and my first impulse was to do so, but I reckon this is only wonderful for us, the unintended audience. It would be truly wonderful and Borgesian if it were fiction, but I doubt very much that Audrey looks back on this as a wonderful experience.

Josh may be an arsehole but his intentions are far more honourable than St James.

The fact that the ugly and unloved also deserve happiness doesn't mean that this was an OK way to obtain it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:21 AM on October 13, 2007 [11 favorites]

I can't tell if this is fiction or not, but that sure is a lot of blog posting.

On the other hand, it's very plausible, so, either way, I enjoyed reading it. Almost enough to start reading LA Weekly or something.

Let me just say, without filling the internet with personal details, that Josh Olson doesn't come across as a prick at all, because, well, when you're writing about something like this, you inevitably sound like he does. It sounded pretty much right on the money actually. And just fucked up enough to be true.

I don't know. Huh.
posted by blacklite at 3:08 AM on October 13, 2007

Hmm. The more I read about this story, the less I believe any of it. Does the writing style of Audrey's blog sound quite similar to that of Josh's article to anyone else?
posted by wilberforce at 3:09 AM on October 13, 2007

Audrey tossed over a real relationship for a fantasy
Apparently, that part was wrong. The breakup happened before Jesse.
posted by the cydonian at 3:20 AM on October 13, 2007

If nothing else, Janna has a sense of humour. I just *love* the name Arts Vandalay for the name of her 'craft' shop. If I was a speculative investor, I'd buy up the whole lot at her current prices, because when they actually do sell that script, prices for her 'work' are going to sky-rocket.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:31 AM on October 13, 2007

Josh may be an arsehole but his intentions are far more honourable than St James.

I disagree.

Josh himself points out that this woman appears to have a condition that resembles Munchhausen's Syndrome. I think he's right about that. People in good psychological health just don't do this kind of thing. They don't have the time, for one. Jenna's behaviour amounts to a more creative but less destructive cry for attention. "Look at me! I'm here! I wasn't to be cared about and admired too!"

Josh, in contrast, is simply parading this tawdry bunch of losers in front of us for his own personal enrichment at their expense.

When they both end up before me on the day of final reckonning, I know which one I'm going to forgive first.

The butter-eating psycho.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:48 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Audrey needs more help than the butter eating psycho. Who falls for such high levels of over the top bullshit?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 AM on October 13, 2007

I feel a lot of sympathy for Audrey, and her friends did good by letting her know that she had been deceived, but I get the feeling from the article that they weren't really talking with her about her experiences during the 18 months this went on. She had a lot of board friends playing into the Mary Sue storyline, but no one who looked at things skeptically. Josh says outright he avoided her a lot because he couldn't stand her rhapsodies over having found this amazing man, but it doesn't sound as if the hero of our story was at all suspicious at that point.

She was obviously incredibly vulnerable, credulous and rationalizing all sorts of discrepant shit away. We're all capable of being fooled to some degree, but this girl's history, including entering into a marriage with a man who she knew didn't love her, suggests that she has to start some difficult self-examination before she finds herself in yet another lousy situation. Getting off the Net for a while might help. Step away from the boards, step away from her blog, and actually spend time with the awesome, protective friends lionized in the article.

Josh, for all his defense of Audrey, is a histrionic prick. His hope that someone flips out and kills Janna one day is sickening.

There’s also this — someday, Janna will prey on someone who is not capable, and strong, and possessed of smart, strong friends who care about her. And that person will snap, and Janna will end up in a ditch somewhere. Call it karma, or call it the natural progression of things, but Janna will end up her own victim. It would be immensely satisfying to witness it, or at least read about it in the paper, but we never will. You just have to learn to accept that these things happen, and that you rarely get to be there for the big payback. Just trust that it’s coming, and take what solace you can from that.

Janna is both destructive and pathetic. Audrey needed to be told the truth, and other vulnerable people need a heads-up. There was enough detail in the article to do that. But Josh's demonization of the woman is sickening, and posting the video was just vindictive. Janna is obviously disturbed and needs help, too. I hope she gets it for her own sake and the sake of any future targets.
posted by maudlin at 6:18 AM on October 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

the awkward housewives with epic imaginations and pedestrian flesh... able to reach across the void and touch one of the interesting people. Not just touch...manipulate.

Felix betachat has nailed it brilliantly. Janna is an auteur in an artform that is too staggeringly original for these half-baked screenwriter types to appreciate. Of course, the work is amoral -- but that's art for you.
posted by Faze at 6:47 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd seen pictures of his friends and ex-wife and son, his sister's house and his llamas. Which, of course, turned out to be Dan Fogelberg's house and llamas.

Well of course they were Dan Fogelberg's llamas. How you could expect a story like this one to not feature Dan Fogelberg's llamas is beyond me.

And I've found my new sockpuppet name!
posted by bibliowench at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Josh sounds like something of a prick, but hey, he's a Hollywood screenwriter and pals with Harlan, also a prick, so it's not that surprising. (And judging by his prose, he's absorbed way too much Harlan for his own good.) He went to bat for his friend, which is a Good Thing, even if he takes too much pleasure in the thought of Jenna's possible demise. And his writing can be effective, in that cheap Hollywood/Harlan way:
And I’m the good friend. I hold hands, I hug, I listen. I do all the things a friend does in these situations, but I have to be honest here — in the back of my mind, I perceive her situation to be analogous to that of the Dungeons & Dragons player who has spent five years developing a Level 12 Elven thief that gets massacred by a Level 14 Orc warrior. Yeah, I feel your pain, but Jesus H. Christ, my heart was broken by a woman I’d actually fucking met, lady!
Anyway, thanks for the post.

And for those of you afraid to watch the video, it's short and actually pretty boring (it doesn't show the initial confrontation, just the waiting-for-a-cab part with muttered questions and accusations and awkward silences).
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2007

I have too much to say about this, but I shall be as brief as I can.

Audrey is an idiot and I excuse all of Janna's behavior. Audrey fell in love with someone an internet friend introduced her to on the internet. If things are heading romantic in an internet situation, you demand unlimited phone access, photos that you have requested ("take a picture of yourself in this shirt I sent you," etc), and you particularly demand meeting in person ASAP. If they bail at the last moment, they are fake. There is no doubting this. End of story. Story would have lasted less than a month if Audrey was not an idiot.

I suppose you can call me a cynic, but I doubt every single thing that every person on the internet tells me. I will run with what they say, because it may be true. But I am equally aware that it might not be true. Take Metafilter, for example. There are people who claim to live in a certain city, be a certain gender, have a certain profession, etc. Any of them may not be telling the truth. So if it were ever revealed that dios isn't a lawyer or miss lynster isn't a woman or jonmc actually hates 70's rock, I would not be surprised at all. But it doesn't really matter, because I don't have actual relationships with these people.

Simple rule, really: If you have never met someone in person, that person has the same chance of not existing as they do existing.
posted by flarbuse at 7:44 AM on October 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

a wonderful, Borgesian world of fantasy and deferral.

Or a Maldororian world of desperation, manipulation and parasitism, of both the psychic and material varieties.

Life is not art. If the texture of your life begins to resemble art, check your assumptions.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2007 [6 favorites]

There’s also this — someday, Janna will prey on someone who is not capable, and strong, and possessed of smart, strong friends who care about her. And that person will snap, and Janna will end up in a ditch somewhere.

Wrong, Josh. This is as far as it has ever gone, and this is as far as it will ever go. Audrey was an idiot of mythical proportions, and Janna ran with this as far as it could ever possibly go. You are saying it will go even further someday. Very unlikely. Much more likely that Janna will be called out -- as she undoubtedly has many times in the past -- well before the year and a half point. Josh should be much more concerned that Audrey will get preyed upon by someone with more sinister intentions than Janna at some point than he should be concerned that Janna will ever do this again to someone.
posted by flarbuse at 7:48 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Simple rule, really: If you have never met someone in person, that person has the same chance of not existing as they do existing.

Shrodinger's Chat.
posted by Biblio at 7:55 AM on October 13, 2007 [27 favorites]

Somebody get this woman into a D&D group.
posted by luftmensch at 8:02 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Man, if there's ever been a story that illustrates why getting up from the computer and going outside is a good thing, this is it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:21 AM on October 13, 2007

Who the hell devotes a year and a half of their existance to somebody that they've never met?

Around here, we call them "Christians."

Cheap shot, but it's true. People devote themselves to the dead, to the nontangible, to the imaginary on a constant basis. Aristists and historical scholars who study Hitler, programmers and patriots, grieving widows and physicists looking for a greater degree of accuracy in the charge of the electron, religious functionaries and shopping mall Santas. The human capacity to become highly involved with the abstract is the source of much of civilization's gains, madness both private and public, and character of life for homo sapiens.

"Audrey" is little different than the wife who discovers that her husband has, unbeknowst to her, an entirely different life or background than she had been told, and that the man she married wasn't what she thought. In this case, it's just a little side of physical existence.

Janna, on the other hand, sounds like a freeloader who has successfully run a script kiddie exploit on someone's psyche in exchange for a little drama and a roof over her head. It's not quite the sophisticated cracking techniques of a professional con artist, but it's somewhere along the track. We'd like it if the definition of "mentally ill" included this kind of behavior, and it might in the future, but right now it just seems cruel and manipulative.
posted by adipocere at 8:42 AM on October 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Never heard a thing about any of this until now, but among my reactions to the story is this one:

We're all self-serving bullshitters to differing degrees. Most of us, if we're lucky, keep ourselves in check, and nobody gets hurt.

Some people, like Janna, are bullshitters to an extreme degree, and people like Audrey elevate "extreme" to "dangerous" when they blissfully provide the medium in which the bullshit can flourish.

The Olsons and Ellisons of the world are in a special category. As people who deal in the bullshit of the entertainment industry for a living, they are fortunate enough to actually reap considerable rewards for the bullshit they heap on other people.

Something to think about next time we fork over our hard-earned cash for a shitty (or, in the case of History of Violence, disgracefully, unforgivably shitty) movie or book.
posted by Rykey at 8:45 AM on October 13, 2007

I don't get it -- we like this manipulative conwoman because she's middle-aged and fat? That makes this art? Or because she only conned the woman out of room and board? Or because she's "sick"? Or because the woman she conned was desperate and emotionally needy and we hate the weak? Or because a man speaks angrily about her for what she's done and we don't like him? Or because Harlan Ellison is overrated? Or because we are certain that everything we hold dear is true?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2007 [12 favorites]

I have been deceived by Janna and wish to comment.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:33 AM on October 13, 2007

So many pricks, so many bags of hot air. It's a recipe for disaster, I tell you...

(Metafilter: So many pri... etc.)
posted by benzo8 at 9:41 AM on October 13, 2007

After reading this, I'm 99% convinced that Josh Oslon is a pseudonym for Ellison. They think/talk/act/write way too much alike.
posted by treepour at 10:16 AM on October 13, 2007

Having read the LA Weekly article, I can't wait to watch the video. This promises to be juicy. I need to go freshen my coffee.
posted by jayder at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2007

She should have been suspicious when, during cybersex, Jesse Jubilee James had to take a moment to put on his robe and wizard hat.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

As if I believe ANY of this bull.

I call performanceartfeathers.
posted by konolia at 10:28 AM on October 13, 2007

People, get a grip.

Willfully deceiving somebody for 1.5 years, fucking with their mind to the point of depression is most certainly not the equivalent of believing the bullshit, or writing fiction for a living.

The fact that Jenna is fat and ugly and pathetic doesn't excuse her. She's still a lying, exploitative sack of shit. The fact this is unnormal and 'sick' doesn't excuse her. She's still a lying, exploitative sack of shit.
posted by signal at 10:31 AM on October 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

I don't get it -- we like this manipulative conwoman because she's middle-aged and fat? That makes this art? Or because she only conned the woman out of room and board? Or because she's "sick"? Or because the woman she conned was desperate and emotionally needy and we hate the weak? Or because a man speaks angrily about her for what she's done and we don't like him? Or because Harlan Ellison is overrated? Or because we are certain that everything we hold dear is true?

We feel sorry for Jenna because she's a fat, friendless, emotionally damaged loser who probably will never get better, and will continue to scam people because she thinks it is the only way anyone will ever like her. She is damned. Publicly calling her out is a good action because it will prevent others from being scammed, but the public confrontation, videotaped, was like kicking a rabid dog. An emotional and ineffective response to damage done.
posted by zabuni at 10:54 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

So in other words it's a Seinfeld plot, where everyone's an arsehole. Jerry as Josh, Elaine as Audrey, Frank Costanza as Harlan Ellison, and as Jesse/Jenna... NEWMAN!
posted by hangashore at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was speaking more to the confrontation than the actual publication of the videotape. Yelling at her did no good. The picture should be displayed far and wide.

I almost think there should be some website devoted to this exposing online charlatans, although given the massive, massive amount of drama associated with actions like these, it would probably implode sooner or later.

An aside: what is it about Internet fandom that attracts people like this? I've heard this story over and over on the boards.
posted by zabuni at 11:20 AM on October 13, 2007

signal nailed it on the head.

Some of these comments cannot be serious. The tone of the article does not earn Janna St. James a get out of jail free card. In what world does being overweight excuse you from treating fellow humans with decency? Most likely, her amorality is the cause of being lonely, friendless, and desperate -- not the other way around.

Buyer beware, and Audrey certainly willfully bought into a load of hogwash. But there is a special place in the afterlife reserved for compulsive liars who fill their empty lives by trading off the trust of others.
posted by samh23 at 11:51 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suppose you can call me a cynic, but I doubt every single thing that every person on the internet tells me.

Oh that's got to be bullshit, I don't believe you.
posted by freebird at 11:57 AM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now this is only speculation here, but...

I wonder whether the guy's anger is partly because he realizes that real guys and real relationships don't measure up to the romance novel fantasy of love, and that his friend preferred the fantasy.

I wonder if his friend in some ways wanted to be fooled, found it exciting, or wanted to blur the line between fantasy and reality.

Maybe instead of rescuing his friend, if he had left her with the overweight lying woman, they would have developed a mutually beneficial homoerotic relationship based on fantasizing about this perfect firefighter cowboy poet.
posted by Schmucko at 12:14 PM on October 13, 2007

In what world does being overweight excuse you from treating fellow humans with decency?

In what world does being fat amplify the grotesque heinousness of any malfeasances you may have committed?

Oh, wait, this one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:22 PM on October 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

After reading this, I'm 99% convinced that Josh Oslon is a pseudonym for Ellison. They think/talk/act/write way too much alike.

I can tell you this, they wear different size tee shirts.
posted by Jezztek at 12:27 PM on October 13, 2007

Oh and also, this thread seems to point out why metafilter occasionally makes me feel the same way reading LGF makes me feel. Where some bizzare adherence to a dogmatic worldview can result in the most profound bullshit being bandied around and normalized.

Thanks god we have a few Bookhouses out there to remind me the hivemind entire isn't poisoned.
posted by Jezztek at 12:36 PM on October 13, 2007

Bookhouse: I don't get it
I don't like this damaged, manipulative person, but I dislike Audrey and her friends very much. It's one thing to out this person, it's something else to hound her and demand she feel pain. A website devoted to this incident? Letters to her daughter? Attempts to get other people -- strangers -- to insult her ("Write Janna and tell her what you think of her.")? Tormenting the mentally ill is not a healthy pastime. Even Audrey thinks this is vindictive and calls herself a "cunt" for doing it.
Josh has a half-assed grip on a point when he talks about payback. But he's into payback territory, too.

cydonian: I took "younger man" to refer to the guy Audrey took up with after Jesse shot himself. The original relationship (with Simon) ended after the e-correspondence began. All in eighteen months.
posted by CCBC at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2007

Bookhouse wrote...
...we like this manipulative conwoman...

I challenge you to find one post here by someone who likes this woman.

...Or because she's "sick"?...

We have compassion for her not because she is "sick", but because she is sick. Humans who are whole do not do this sort of thing.

You are, however, making the classic Bush-era mistake of confusing compassion with trust, approval, etc. I suppose you are just a product of the times, but it really is possible to treat someone as a human being while still finding their behavior reprehensible.
posted by tkolar at 2:30 PM on October 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

I know Josh Olson a little bit. He's kind of a prick.

Heh. I kinda assumed that had to be the casing seeing as he gets along so swimmingly with Harlan. Don't get me wrong, I love some of Harlan's stories, but he is somewhat notorious for being an asshole.
posted by juv3nal at 3:00 PM on October 13, 2007

Why is u.n. owen coming to mind.
posted by marble at 4:03 PM on October 13, 2007

The public videotaped confrontation seemed to me like a really good way to get a lot of people to know what she looks like, so that she will have a harder time doing this in the future.

The next time Jenna decides to try to win someone's affection by pretending to be someone she is not on the internet, my guess is that she will not be leading with a photo of herself. Showing people on some website what some scam artist looks like will not help to prevent people from being scammed in the first place -- unless Jenna breaks with tradition and shows people what she looks like. And that, of course, would defeat the whole purpose of what she is doing.
posted by flarbuse at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2007

We have compassion for her not because she is "sick", but because she is sick. Humans who are whole do not do this sort of thing.

Wow. That excuse would work for anybody doing anything wrong whatsoever. Sort of a reverse catch-22. If you do something sick, you are automatically excused as you are not "whole".

Get a grip. She's a douche.
posted by signal at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2007

'Simple rule, really: If you have never met someone in person, that person has the same chance of not existing as they do existing.'

That is quite some grasp of probability. That there is a chance of the purported person's nonexistence, just as there is a chance of their actual existence, does not mean that the two chances are equal.


The claim that Audrey deserved this deceit is beneath contempt. This is nothing but blaming the victim. Do we enjoy the duping of the sucker so much that we have to validate it? Perhaps it's also that these comments distance Audrey away. As if the speaker could never be so badly fooled.

Yeah, Josh does comes across as a bit of an asshole.

And could the article have been more enthused about Harlan Ellison? Whoopity-fuck.
posted by BigSky at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2007

"After reading this, I'm 99% convinced that Josh Oslon is a pseudonym for Ellison. They think/talk/act/write way too much alike."

I can tell you this, they wear different size tee shirts.

Which isn't telling much. Doesn't mean Ellison doesn't write some or all things that are published under that name. Or maybe they collaborate and everything ends up sounding like Ellison -- he does have a very strong and distinctive voice, after all.

Maybe there is a Josh Olson who writes his own stuff. This essay? I'm 99.9% convinced it was Ellison ghostwriting. He even did the shocker photo-at-the-end thing in a previous essay that was published in a book of essays titled "Harlan Ellison's Hornbook" (don't recall the title of the essay).

Call me a conspiracy theory nut if you wish, but I can't help reading this as an essay about fabricated identities written by a (somewhat) fabricated identity. That makes all the more weird and disconcerting.
posted by treepour at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2007

Well, let's hear from the woman herself (or at least from her Blogger profile):
Every decade or so I get a taste to pose as a man (and up to 20 other people simultaneously) and reel me in some juicy middle-aged woman flesh for purposes they never quite explain. It sure ain't money or sex. This is because I'm a an expendable being who happens to be a conduit to much more interesting people they seek for the pursuit of their own issues and cons. My repeated flaw is devotion to people I actually know rather than a need to be safe and/or popular with strangers. So proceed to read me with caution. I can bend the minds of the uberintelligent and the agendized, and that's sayin' something.
I don't feel sorry for anybody in this story at all, to tell you the truth.
posted by jokeefe at 5:59 PM on October 13, 2007

I am totally with jokeefe on this. I also don't believe any of this. I imagine there is a book deal and movie rights in the works. I do have to say it's an interesting bit of fiction harnessing a relatively new medium to tell a story as old as dirt. Call it performance art, or whatever you want, but it totally reads as fiction. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but this really isn't as strange as some fiction I've read. Phony as El Lay.
posted by Eekacat at 6:58 PM on October 13, 2007

Fat chicks RULE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 PM on October 13, 2007


Well, let's see...the true love of a woman's life dies and she doesn't attend his funeral?

The true love of a woman's life shoots himself in the stomach and she makes no attempt to rush to his side to be with him?

A grown woman considers moving her life across the country to be with a man she has known only through telephone calls and e-mails? A non-consummated relationship of two years, during which noone got on a plane?

Proof of the so-called relationship survives, in detail, on a blog. These blog entries are subsequently re-posted, in their entirety, after this entire charade comes to light. Why on earth would anyone re-post page after page of doe-eyed protestations of transcendant love to their own blog after it became public knowledge the whole relationship was a complete sham? This isn't a record of a relationship. It's a virtual paper trail left to corroborate this nonsense after-the-fact.

The whole "intervention" was videotaped. Why only the last two minutes on YouTube?

The writer of this story - an Academy Award nominated screen-writer, mind you - has a new movie in production and another in development for Warner Brothers. Both projects - Until Gwen and Oz - are mentioned in the piece. Twice, I believe.

This story is full of fantastic details which supposedly speak to the veracity of the story because they are so fantastic. Not to mention it's chock full of some pretty effective "hooks":

- a woman in distress
- a woman in a loveless relationship of convenience who finally finds the man of her dreams...but at a price.
- a skeptical narrator. One who comments constantly on how fantastic all of this must seem - "Hey, I was skeptical, too, but swear to GOD that's how it all happened...."
- dogs. Seriously. People love dogs and hate seeing dogs in danger - it's a common theme in horror and/or suspense flicks. Her dog - her old dog, her faithful companion of many years - tragically dies after her dream lover (the one she's never laid eyes on in two years) dies of stomach cancer. Then, her new puppy - her defenseless new puppy! - is left alone in the house with the psychotic, obese, potentially dangerous con-artist who's devoted the last two years to mindfucking this complete stranger for no apparent reason whatsoever, other than she's desperate, pathetic and, perhaps, jealous. (Hmmmm, sounds alot like Single White Female. Or maybe All About Eve. Maybe even Notes on a Scandal, which they just happen to be watching when the gig is finally up! Not to mention countless other films wherein an innocent, naive woman is set upon by an ugly/fat/plain woman because, hey, she's fat! And ugly! And plain! And driven to deep psychosis because of it!)
- The plucky young friends who set-about finding clues on the interwebs! What they find is unbe-leeevably shocking! (Good thing they're so good at googling, unlike the professional writer. Or the blogger. The one who only knows her dream-fireman - you know, the one who was at Ground Zero AND in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - from the internet.)
- The grizzled, cunning, omniscient outlier who comes up with the plan that saves the day! (Who, by the way, is such an asshole he insists our heroine leave her new puppy at home with the potentially dangerous psychofucknut after summoning her to his house with a clever ruse. Oh, and she knows him, see. Because they met before, see, when he cheered her up after her phantom boyfriend whom she'd never met died of stomach cancer.)

This whole thing stinks. Harlan Ellison and Josh Olson are having a good laugh at this very moment, and the traffic to this silly woman's silly blog has surely increased. I'll eat my hat if this whole thing doesn't end up on the big screen by next summer.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:29 PM on October 13, 2007 [5 favorites]

I'll place my chip on the concocted pile. It's all too tightly woven.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:20 PM on October 13, 2007

Yeah, after letting my undecidedness stew for a bit, I am with the doubters. Put me down for "bullshit".
posted by blacklite at 10:27 PM on October 13, 2007

Harlan Ellison has some experience with sad manipulators.
In every human being there is only so large a supply of love. It's like the limbs of a starfish, to some extent: if you chew off a chunk, it will grow back. But if you chew off too much, the starfish dies. Valerie B. chewed off a chunk of love from my dwindling reserve... a reserve already nibbled by Charlotte and Lory and Sherri and Cindy and others down through the years. There's still enough there to make the saleable appearance of a whole creature, but nobody gets gnawed on that way without becoming a little dead. So, if Cupid (that perverted little motherfucker) decides his lightning ought to strike this gnarly tree trunk again, whoever or whatever gets me is going to get a handy second, damaged goods, something a little dead and a little crippled.

Having learned that, all I can advise is an impossible stance for all of you: utter openness and reasonable caution. Don't close yourself off, but jeezus, be careful of monsters with teeth. And just so you know what they look like when they come clanking after you, here is a photo of one. the package is so pretty, one can only urge you to remember Pandora. Be careful which boxes you open, troops.
From Harlan Ellison's "Valerie: A True Memoir" (1972), currently in print in The Essential Ellison, which I am going to pull of the shelf and start reading again. Even the juvenilia at the beginning.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:27 AM on October 14, 2007

I don't believe a single thing Ellison writes, in the sense of "this actually happened as told." He's a terrific storyteller, and like any good storyteller he prefers a good story to boring literal truth. Add to that the inevitable skewing we all bring to our own experiences, and all that ranting about the people who nibbled off bits of him just makes me chuckle wryly. Dollars to doughnuts Charlotte and Lory and Sherri and Cindy would have very different slants on the Ellison Experience, and frankly I'll take theirs sight unseen over the Great Kvetcher's.
posted by languagehat at 2:47 PM on October 14, 2007

To be honest, this Janna woman really reminds me of someone.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:06 PM on October 14, 2007

(Very different people, very different cons, etc... but upon what I've read here I do see their issues to have some similarities, actually.)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:08 PM on October 14, 2007

I wondered if this was fiction or some sort of viral marketing campaign as well, but a quick Google Groups search (for "Janna + Dan Fogelberg" turned up this thread.

Her response in the thread (posting under the name "ShammyFauxley" but signed "Janna") to another group member who has called her out, point by point, on her fabrications about her relationship with Fogelberg, and the lies about her own personal life, is breathtaking:

My life, no matter what form it has taken, is none of your business.
You. Do. Not. Even. Know. Me. Nor is it the business of anyone else
here, save for those who do know me. Your collection of folklore,
myth, mystery and accusations about me may titillate you in your
lonely moments and obviously vacant life, but your capacity for
accuracy...well...the only word for it is "sucks."

You...are nobody. Cowards with no true identity who fabricate a big
picture, under many names, from torn pieces of gossip and innuendo
without ever questioning the agenda of those who perpetuate such, are
pitable and ill. You have tried for YEARS, literal YEARS, to take my
pride, my existence, my alliances, my very life for ransom with those
torn out little bits you, who do not know me, pasted to a piece of
paper you choose to call the truth. If only the cruel and unusual like
you could truly erase the past.

You, who don't know me, lose. For if you believe I said I went to
school in Peoria, and to the extreme of tracking down yearbooks to
look me up where I did not go, then it follows as to why you choose to
believe everything else you collect and/or make up.

You're a stalker. I think the deaf and blind can see that by now. You
write the same things about me over and over and over because you're a
lazy stalker. You can't find anything new about me, so you write the
same thing. For years. And years. All things based in a belief in the
words of other people who years ago set out to use me as a conduit to
Dan Fogelberg. And failed.

Back in the day, without knowing anyone or saying a word I was
immediately wildly popular among some Internet Dan fans. Now everyone
likes to be liked, but I didn't for one moment believe I was so darned
interesting all these people would flock to me, claiming things like
wanting to be "the sister I never had" and moving hundreds miles to do
so. I. Was. Aware. And I said so. To many. So if any con who set out
to con me is angry about being counterconned, that has to be too bad.
If you dish it out, you better be ready to take it. There was never,
ever a time I promised anyone a meeting with Dan Fogelberg, nor would
I. Ever. Not done. But imagine if I had. Look at the caliber of people
I would have brought him!

So, be my guest. Continue your quest. You have my permission because
you, who do not know me, of all people, can never get what you want
from me. You can rewrite my history all you want. But that's all it
will ever be. What you write. And what you write is wrong.

posted by sock it to me monkey at 6:29 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

So if it were ever revealed that dios isn't a lawyer or miss lynster isn't a woman or jonmc actually hates 70's rock, I would not be surprised at all.

Oh, what a relief!
posted by miss lynnster at 6:36 AM on October 15, 2007

....And here is how she began trolling for suckers in her Dan Fogelberg scam back in 1996; reposted by an group member in 2003:

The Solicitation By J*nn* That Started It All.....

Sandy Smith

Since this appeared on a public board (the original "Pete's Page" in
1996, I am quoting it verbatim -

Dear Dan fans,

Since I first heard of Elvis I have long been interested in the
relationship between those who entertain and those who respond to them
in a myriad of ways. For me it is not Elvis that is impressive, but
the phenomenon that surrounds him.

After much consideration, I have decided to make this the topic of my
doctoral dissertation. However, since I believe the subject of Elvis
is rather tired, and it may or may not (depending on who you talk to),
be possible to interview him, this is not the proper subject for my

Dan's career is one that is enduring and successful due largely to his
talent, a talent recognized and supported by a legion of loyal and
devoted fans. For almost 30 years Dan, with a FRACTION of the media
exposure that surrounded Elvis, has managed to entertain and satisfy a
board base of individuals.

Also, I am fortunate in that Dan and Anastasia are a daily part of my
life. Dan has agreed to give me his take on his longevity, what his
fans mean to him and the correlation between the two. In preparation
for this, I would like to hear from anyone who feels Dan and/or his
music has had an impact on their life. Response from Dan, and those
who admire him, in tandem, provide the criteria I need for my project.

All responses will be confidential beyond me, Dan and members of my
dissertation committee.

Any consideration given this project is greatly appreciated. I will be
collecting information until the end of December. Thanks so much…

Ever On,

J*nn* St. J*m*s


And a note regarding this from someone who bought into the whole scam:

I can assure you that these responses were NOT kept confidential. I
have in my possession one that she GAVE to me. Many others were

She told me the PhD was for the University of Chicago. She told her
roommate and I that she was going there for her oral review during a
trip to Chicago in 1999, and told us she did indeed receive the PhD. I
was not allowed to read her "paper." She also said she did not want
her husband to know she was getting a PhD as it would make him "feel

During the confrontation she admitted to not having any degrees.

Talk about "owning your own mess..."
posted by sock it to me monkey at 6:40 AM on October 15, 2007

Weird. I can't find a picture of her online, but Janna and Vicki Zackheim (the woman who invented Anthony Godby Johnson) look like they could have been sisters.
posted by amro at 6:41 AM on October 15, 2007

Okay, sock it to me monkey, you have a point. I went ahead and looked at all the blogs - the blogs! just, christ on a bike, these people looooooove to air their soiled sheets in public - and it does look like this Janna St. James person exists and is, in fact, a complete psycho. So, my mind is changed a bit about the fact of this whole incident.

Perhaps it is a string of unbelievable coincidences. I suppose it's possible. I mean, Olson's story is written as an homage to Ellison's story cited above, damning photograph at the end and all, because Ellison just happens to be one of Olson's intimates AND have met Audrey after Jesse James' (good lord) demise. Perhaps it's to be expected that Olson can't help writing the story as he wrote it, hooks and all - he's a screen writer. A History of Violence, if I recall, is structured similarly to this narrative. Maybe the timing of his latest films and the outing of St. James is just an incredible coincidence, too, one tailor made for a pre-production piece to drum up renewed interest in Olson and his latest projects for Warner Brothers. Everybody wins, I suppose - Audrey gets her vengeance, Olson gets his publicity and outrage, and now the public knows about the scourge of this dangerous con artist. Everybody wins except St. James.

However, all that said, Olson's real task is to make Audrey sympathetic, to my way of thinking. Come on. Sure, St. James' blog reads like the meanderings of an unhinged crank. But Audrey's blog is all the more depressing because this woman should know better. I'm as sympathetic as the next person to people who are taken for a ride by con artists. But I'm hard-pressed to jump head first into this attention-whoring woman's extended pity party because, if her own ramblings are any indication, she's just enjoying the victim stance way too much. Indeed, there's something delicious to her, it seems, about all this pain.

I'm also incredulous about her friends unilaterally urging her not to involve the police. Well, what if the next person she cons doesn't read the blogs or LA Weekly or know Olson from a hole in the ground? This time, the person loses their life savings. Or kills themself. Or has their reputation ruined. My point is, this crew is screaming pretty loudly about what a cancer this St. James person is (and she is, if all this is true) simply because I'm sure they all believed themselves to be too intelligent to be taken for a ride of this magnitude. Well, no, they weren't. But involving any sort authority would involve both sides laying out the facts. Questions would be asked such as, "And did you ever meet Jesse before you decided to move to Colorado to live with him?" or "So, at that point, you believed he'd died of stomach cancer and you did not travel to Colorado for his funeral?" They're controlling the information output here to minimize Audrey's and their pretty appalling stupidity, it seems to me. And I'm not impressed with someone putting pen to paper and saying they hope St. James will be killed or some such by the next person she cons. This new model of waging an information war on a disturbed person like St. James via blogs and YouTube and pieces in the LA Times is just vigilanteism of a sort, IMO, and, in this instance, pretty damn self-indulgent and unseemly. Sure, information is power. But I find the way Olson & Co. are handling this thing pretty nauseating. St. James is a sick fuck, yeah. But I tend to demand corporeal proof of my lovers' existence before hanging all of my hopes for the future around their very real necks. I guess we can all publicly campaign to ruin pathetic people now to mitigate against our own poor judgment for trusting them with our (pretty tenous) reality. Goody goody gumdrops.

I don't like to see anyone defrauded, but there's no dignity at all in Audrey's suffering, either when she was posting ad nauseum about her sunshine and puppy love of Jesse, or now after the whole thing's been proved a lie. It's gross all the way around. And, frankly, I'd be pretty pissed if my dear friend used my very personal story of heartbreak and humiliation as the basis for a marketing campaign. That may be overstating Olson's intent with the LA Weekly piece, but still. Olson, Audrey, and Co. aren't coming off terribly well in all of this.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

This is Josh Olson

This is Harlan Ellison

They both exist, and are different people with several dozen pounds and years between them.
posted by Megafly at 4:25 PM on October 15, 2007

Actually, I believe you will find that your first link there is David Cronenberg.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:53 PM on October 15, 2007

I was gonna say... 'cuz I recall Josh Nelson looking a bit more unkempt.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:18 PM on October 15, 2007

A side by side comparison.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:19 PM on October 15, 2007

This is Harlan Ellison

He's channelling the late, great George Melly
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:56 AM on October 16, 2007

Weird, weird, weird. They all look like sock-puppets to me, the victim included -- she has three separate blogs, two of which have less than a month's worth of postings, and another which has had half the postings deleted recently, but the cache function of google catches some of the old ones. Lots of throwing about of vindictive rage, and it all looks like high opera performed by drama queens.

A couple of random weirdnesses: who the hell is AdventureGirl?.
She seems to be connected to the whole mess: love and mourning for "Jesse" turns up in the blogposts, and both auBoy ('Jesse's 'Deadwood name) and "Cakey" are in the comments. Speaking of Munchausen by internet, "Adventuregirl" spends a lot of time being hospitalized -- currently for a bone tumor, it appears -- when she's not dashing off to romantic and exciting places like Alaska, Africa and Belize. The voice is similar to everything else the choir of sockpuppets has written.

Another oddity: all the Jesse/Janna/Cakeboy/Jesse tribute blogs are hosted on the same site "bonhorrible", which has an IP address in Los Angeles, even though they are originally blogger sites. They're mirrors or captures kept as evidence by "Audrey" or maybe cached by Joshua Olson? I can see that, but keeping all of them? How easy is it to fake a webpage?

And finally: really, I'm as squicked out by this as TryTheTalapia, and equally skeptical. Assuming Audrey is a real person, and not a fictionalized character created to up the interest, she has allowed her passion for hyperbole to short-circuit her brain. The email from "Jesse" that the 'victim' posted on her blog would have made any normal human being with a half a brain run like a hare: elaborate paranoid outpourings of personal suffering from a guy she apparently knows from a TV forum.

Plus, of course in the 12 months she 'knows' him, he's 1) a stalking victim who cannot give her his real address, so he's using a PO box 2) an AP reporter who's traveled the world and lives in a magnificent mansion with a herd of llamas, but who does not have a cell or a land line. He then 3) quits the journalism career to become an itinerant Forest Service Firefighter and 4) travels to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, because he is of course also 5) an EMT, and as such is needed. This all 'happens' before two months are up, and long before the real hyperbole sets inf: the mental breakdown in New Orleans (PSTD from 9-11) the suicide attempt, the two hospitalizations, the BRAIN SURGERY, the attempted seduction by one gay friend, the successful rape by another gay friend, and flights to a) Pakistan, to find his long-lost birth father, b) Brazil, for treatments for PSTD, and c) Alaska "to feel clean again"'; the climax is his tragic death from liver cancer, which of course no-one's mentioned until now.

Geeze, Days of our lives is nothing to this.
posted by jrochest at 2:44 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

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