It appears Oprah has been had, along with some others in the Hollywood community (not that this would be difficult in hollywood, everyone lies here). The Smoking Gun has a long piece with all the police reports and other documents to refute most of what is written in this book, A Million Little Pieces, written by James Frey. It’s supposed to be a non-fiction book about an addict hitting bottom and then picking himself up. Sounds nice right? It would be if any of it was true: (h/t Dangerous Dan)
Three months ago, in what the talk show host termed a “radical departure,” Winfrey announced that “A Million Little Pieces,” author James Frey’s nonfiction memoir of his vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal, was her latest selection for the world’s most powerful book club.
In an October 26 show entitled “The Man Who Kept Oprah Awake At Night,” Winfrey hailed Frey’s graphic and coarse book as “like nothing you’ve ever read before. Everybody at Harpo is reading it. When we were staying up late at night reading it, we’d come in the next morning saying, ‘What page are you on?'” In emotional filmed testimonials, employees of Winfrey’s Harpo Productions lauded the book as revelatory, with some choking back tears. When the camera then returned to a damp-eyed Winfrey, she said, “I’m crying ’cause these are all my Harpo family so, and we all loved the book so much.”
But a six-week investigation by The Smoking Gun reveals that there may be a lot less to love about Frey’s runaway hit, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies and, thanks to Winfrey, has sat atop The New York Times nonfiction paperback best seller list for the past 15 weeks. Next to the latest Harry Potter title, Nielsen BookScan reported Friday, Frey’s book sold more copies in the U.S. in 2005–1.77 million–than any other title, with the majority of that total coming after Winfrey’s selection.
Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey’s book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw “wanted in three states.”
In additon to these rap sheet creations, Frey also invented a role for himself in a deadly train accident that cost the lives of two female high school students. In what may be his book’s most crass flight from reality, Frey remarkably appropriates and manipulates details of the incident so he can falsely portray himself as the tragedy’s third victim. It’s a cynical and offensive ploy that has left one of the victims’ parents bewildered. “As far as I know, he had nothing to do with the accident,” said the mother of one of the dead girls. “I figured he was taking license…he’s a writer, you know, they don’t tell everything that’s factual and true.”
Frey appears to have fictionalized his past to propel and sweeten the book’s already melodramatic narrative and help convince readers of his malevolence. “I was a bad guy,” Frey told Winfrey. “If I was gonna write a book that was true, and I was gonna write a book that was honest, then I was gonna have to write about myself in very, very negative ways.” That is repeatedly apparent in his memoir, which announces, “I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal.” It is an incantation he repeats eight times in the book, always making sure to capitalize the ‘c’ in Criminal.
But he has demonstrably fabricated key parts of the book, which could–and probably should–cause a discerning reader (and Winfrey has ushered millions of them Frey’s way) to wonder what is true in “A Million Little Pieces” and its sequel, “My Friend Leonard.”
When TSG confronted him Friday (1/6) afternoon with our findings, Frey refused to address the significant conflicts we discovered between his published accounts and those contained in various police reports. When we suggested that he might owe millions of readers and Winfrey fans an explanation for these discrepancies, Frey, now a publishing powerhouse, replied, “There’s nothing at this point can come out of this conversation that, that is good for me.”
It was the third time since December 1 that we had spoken with Frey, who told us Friday that our second interview with him, on December 14, had left him so “rattled” that he went out and hired Los Angeles attorney Martin Singer, whose law firm handles litigation matters for A-list stars like Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Britney Spears. While saying that he had initially asked his counsel not to send us a pre-publication legal letter, Frey apparently relented late Friday night. That’s when Singer e-mailed us a five-page letter threatening a lawsuit (and the prospect of millions in damages) if we published a story stating that Frey was “a liar and/or that he fabricated or falsified background as reflected in ‘A Million Little Pieces.'”
On Saturday evening, Frey published on his web site an e-mail we sent him earlier in the day requesting a final interview. That TSG letter also detailed many topics we discussed with him in our first two interviews, both of which were off the record. We consider this preemptive strike on Frey’s part as a waiver of confidentiality and, as such, this story will include some of his remarks during those sessions, which totaled about 90 minutes. Frey explained that he was posting our letter to inform his fans of the “latest attempt to discredit me…So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I won’t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.”
This was, Frey wrote, “an effort to be consistent with my policy of openness and transparency.” Strangely, this policy seemed to have lapsed in recent weeks when Frey, in interviews with TSG, repeatedly refused to talk on the record about various matters, declined our request to review “court” and “criminal” records he has said he possesses, and continued to peddle book tales directly contradicted by various law enforcement records and officials.
But during these interviews, Frey did, for the first time, admit that he had embellished central details of his criminal career and purported incarceration for “obvious dramatic reasons” in the nonfiction work. He also admitted to taking steps, around the time “A Million Little Pieces” was published in hardcover in 2003, to legally expunge court records related to the seemingly most egregious criminal activity of his lifetime. That episode–a violent, crack-fueled confrontation with Ohio cops that resulted in a passel of serious felony charges–is a crucial moment in “A Million Little Pieces,” serving as a narrative maypole around which many other key dramatic scenes revolve and depend upon for their suspense and conflict. Frey has repeatedly asserted in press interviews that the book is “all true” and he told Winfrey, “I think I wrote about the events in the book truly and honestly and accurately.”[…]While nine of Frey’s 14 reported arrests would have occurred when he was a minor, there still remained five cases for which a booking photo (not to mention police and court records) should have existed. When we asked Frey if his reporting of the laundry list of juvenile crimes and arrests was accurate, he answered, “Yeah, some of ’em are, some of ’em aren’t. I mean I just sorta tried to play off memory for that stuff.”
However, repeated dead ends on a county-by-county records search turned our one-off hunt for a mug shot into a more prolonged review of various portions of Frey’s book. In an attempt to confirm or disprove his accounts, we examined matters for which there would likely be a paper trail at courthouses, police departments, or motor vehicle agencies.
While the book is brimming with improbable characters–like the colorful mafioso Leonard and the tragic crack whore Lilly, with whom Frey takes up in Hazelden–and equally implausible scenes, we chose to focus on the crime and justice aspect of “A Million Little Pieces.” Which wasn’t much of a decision since almost every character in Frey’s book that could address the remaining topics has either committed suicide, been murdered, died of AIDS, been sentenced to life in prison, gone missing, landed in an institution for the criminally insane, or fell off a fishing boat never to be seen again[…]Here’s how he succinctly described that drunk driving bust in “A Million Little Pieces”: “Got first DUI. Blew a .36, and set a County Record. Went to Jail for a week.”
A report by the St. Joseph Township Police tells a different story. Just after midnight on June 8, 1988, a cop spotted the 18-year-old Frey’s car weaving across the center line of Lakeshore Drive. After executing a traffic stop, the officer noticed Frey’s eyes were glassy, his breath smelled of booze, and he “appeared dazed.” Frey first told the cop he had drank two beers, but later revised the estimate to four. After failing a series of field sobriety tests, Frey was arrested for drunk driving and for failure to carry his driver’s license. He was transported to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, where he agreed to undergo a Breathalyzer test.
Though he would later write of setting a .36 county record, Frey’s blood alcohol level was actually recorded in successive tests at .21 and .20 (about twice the legal limit). As for his claim to have spent a week in jail after the arrest, the report debunks that assertion. After Frey’s parents were called, he was allowed to quickly bond out, since the county jail “did not want him in their facility.” Because Frey had the chicken pox (which is apparent in his mug shot) and the sheriff did not want him anywhere near other arrestees.
This is a loooong read but very much worth it. It basically details how this kid has fooled Oprah and most of the country to get himself rich. And it worked. Gotta love this country when any jackass can get the idiots in Hollywood to make them rich.