Few stories have generated the number of comments we’ve received for screenwriter Josh Olson’s cover story “The Life and Death of Jesse James: An Internet Love Hoax” (Oct. 12–18). To see the full range of responses, go to laweekly.com.
In response to the article titled “The Life and Death of Jesse James,” I offer the perspective of a professional writer and someone who has witnessed Internet scams. I know it sounds harsh, but the fact is Audrey didn’t need to be scammed for more than a couple of weeks at best. It took me five seconds of research to find the Denver Volunteer Fire Department. She could have found out in a matter of minutes that Jesse does not exist. Audrey’s story speaks for itself. She spent more than 10 grand (by her own admission) and never even bothered to check (as her friends did) if Jesse actually existed. In the end, Janna constructed a fantasy world for Audrey. She sensed that Audrey was ripe to be lied to.
But Janna did not just lie to Audrey. Audrey lied to herself. In fact, I fully believe that we cannot be lied to unless we want to hear lies. This is not a story about Internet deception, however. I read this as a story about what people do when they become so needy in life for attention and an emotional connection that they will do anything to get it. In Audrey’s case, this includes boxing up their furniture and moving to goodness knows where to live with someone she’d never even met. It is thus a story about deep emotional need.
Janna is needy in the way that most of us pray will never happen to us. Her need is to hurt others. Audrey’s need is one that most of us share — the desire to connect with another on the deep emotional level that we call “love.” It is unfortunate that she got hurt in her quest. This is the heart of the story — what we are willing to do in our search for love. In the end, the Audreys of the world may indeed learn something from this article. It may actually be about that old adage, “Be careful what you long for, because you just might get it.” If Audrey sincerely wanted true love, she would have made the effort to verify the facts of Jesse’s life, instead of simply accepting e-mails, pictures and phone calls as the truth. She would have checked into a few things, just as her friends did. The question is: Why didn’t she?
I was enjoying this article until I got to the photo at the end. That was unnecessarily cruel. This woman is not a criminal; she’s seriously ill. Nothing she did was possible without Audrey’s participation. This wasn’t a predator or con artist bilking a mark — this was folie à deux. Olson seems to get that 90 percent of the way through, as he ridicules his friend’s judgment, but then at the end, everything changes and Audrey is suddenly a blameless victim. Sorry, Josh, I’m not buying it.
OMG. When I lived in the L.A. area (’75–’91), L.A. Weekly was a pretty decent rag. Since that time, I’ve occasionally skimmed the paper or checked the Web site, and yeah, every so often I’ve found a moderately interesting article or two. But still, this once-thriving publication is just a faded shadow of its former self. Then again, so are we all. This drivel was the cover story of the L.A. Weekly?! The world’s a bloody mess, we’re all about 3 centimeters away from becoming toast, we have a trajillion global problems that require our immediate attention, and the featured article in the United States’ second-largest city’s hard-hitting alternative press is . . . Gamma Retards in Love??? WTF??!!
Lao Ren Cha
What the article doesn’t go very deeply into, but that Audrey’s blog does, is that Janna wasn’t just pretending to be “Jesse” — she was also pretending to be Jesse’s sister, his best bud, his therapist, his stalker . . . she unleashed a veritable army of sock puppets to maintain the illusion that this man existed. When you have this many “people” saying they know this guy, can you really blame Audrey for being misled? Especially since it seems like such an absurd notion that one individual would go to that much trouble. (Even though they do. Janna St. James is not the only one. Far from it.)
Audrey’s blog is at pieceofcakey.blogspot.com. For letters on other topics, go to www.laweekly.com.
Just want you to know I read the L.A. Weekly 90 percent less now that you got rid of your crossword puzzle. Last week I ran into some other people who, surprisingly enough, said the same thing: “L.A. Weekly sucks now that they got rid of the crossword puzzle.” I’ve been reading L.A. Weekly since I was a teenager, just before the punk scene arrived. I wish you would put the crossword back into your paper. Just thought you should know.
Louie Danoff is not only “dogged,” he’s also famous [“The Case of the Dogged Detectives,” Oct. 19–25]. Louie figures prominently in James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia and so on, as he works on old cases with the author. But I think I know why he wears hats. Multi-decades ago, Louie and my son were in the same Cub Scout pack. Not in the same den, so I only saw Louie on formal, uniformed occasions — all the boys wearing those hats about two sizes too big. Then came a Cub Scout baseball game. Louie plays catcher (he’s good). Batter hits a high pop-up, and in the grand gesture all catchers love making, Louie throws off the mask, the hat goes with it, and Louie is a flaming redhead. He must have hated it, spent his life covering up his hair. Good guy.
Dear Arnold: I woke up in my house in Point Loma four years ago to find the house full of smoke. Being a fully integrated Californian, my first thought was that the Hell’s Angels had parked on my street for a smoke break and were trying to kill me with secondhand smoke. Shortly I found that it was the right half of the county on fire and the smoke was blowing my way. We were having a Santa Ana. Shortly afterward I discovered that there was a fire burning from San Diego to L.A.
I spent the last 25 years in San Diego but moved to Colorado a year ago. I didn’t leave because of the fires or the earthquakes. Earthquakes are natural disasters, so far. Terrorists aren’t yet stuffing weapons of mass destruction between the tectonic plates. That would be expensive and conspicuous. They don’t have to. A book of matches is sufficient to wipe out half of the state of California. It keeps happening. When the warm Santa Ana winds blow west toward the shore, 15 fires break out at 10-mile intervals, the same distance from the coast, in the undeveloped areas, and burn west and achieve out-of-control status and become one huge fire before they reach the residential neighborhoods.
These fires are not acts of God. They are not the result of spontaneous, blue-sky lightning strikes or downed power lines or careless campers or smokers. Whether it’s the work of professional terrorists or Raiders fans or disgruntled teenagers is irrelevant. When the conditions are right, they strike. Instead of spending money on equipment and personnel, after the fact, California needs to practice an ounce of prevention and build a firewall between the boonies and the developed areas from Mexico to Santa Barbara. In the long run it will be cheaper. You can paint the wall green! You can make it look like a mountain range or paint a mural on the inside. Hey, it’s California! After a while they’ll think it’s cool. You can build a walkway on the inside, and Starbucks will open a shop-in-a-grotto every mile. Starbucks might even pay for it. People will come from all over the world to see it. Even the fireproof tunnels for the freeways will be easy to construct. It won’t be like drilling through a mountain. The freeways are already there.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We have to be realistic. These fires aren’t acts of God, Arnold. I know you know that. You’re a smart guy. I love California. I found myself out there. I hope it’s still there when I visit at Christmas. They elected you to protect them. Build a wall! Terminate the problem.