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Making It Up As She Went Along
It's the sad tale of writer-game designer Theresa Duncan and her artist boyfriend Jeremy Blake, both of whom recently killed themselves. Duncan apparently told a lot of stories about herself; some of them true. Kate Coe extracts the facts from the fiction in the LA Weekly:

IN 2001, THERESA DUNCAN was on top of the world. She had a two-picture deal with Fox Searchlight, and came to Los Angeles confident in her ability to conquer Hollywood. In July 2007, she was dead by her own hand, having washed down an overdose of Tylenol PM with bourbon in her Greenwich Village apartment. New York police say her handwritten note indicated she was at peace with her decision.

News of her suicide spread on the Internet, where she had gained a small but devoted audience as a blogger. A week after her suicide, her longtime romantic partner Jeremy Blake, 35, went missing, his clothes and wallet found on the Atlantic shore at Far Rockaway with a note implying he had walked into the sea.

Online conspiracy theorists quickly repeated Duncan’s accounts of being harassed by mysterious forces, including the Church of Scientology.Others saw a twinship with poet Sarah Hannah, herself a recent suicide, and still others saw parallels to an elaborate alternate reality game. Experts, some of whom had never met her, weighed in on everything from her mental state to her sexiness.

I knew her, and I knew that much of what she wrote about her world was an elaborate tale, taken as fact by the uninitiated. Duncan blogged daily on her elegant Web site, The Wit of the Staircase, about her bohemian-chic cottage on a Venice canal, meetings of the slightly sinister and probably nonexistent Lunar Society of Los Angeles, and the turbulent love life of Kate Moss.

But her image as a player in Hollywood, albeit one with powerful enemies, was at odds with the facts. Perhaps she got tired of patching the little fissures that threatened to destroy her carefully constructed fantasy. Maybe that is why, at 40, she decided not to go on.

For years, Duncan’s storytelling made her a success, as she commingled girly creativity with the high-tech world. She made a splash with her first CD-ROM game for girls, Chop Suey, selected by Entertainment Weekly as 1995’s CD-ROM of the Year. In 1998, with the dot-com craze heating up, she told Chris Larson of Cosmopolitan, “At my old job . . . I started playing with the World Bank’s computers. The more I learned about new media, the more I saw the chance to tell stories — children’s stories, of course — in a really creative new way.”

The Cosmo piece was headlined, “Turn your obsession into your dream profession” — a title that, looking back, seems to have contained a warning about what was to come.

Most of what Duncan told Cosmo nine years ago was true — but not all of it. Even then, she indulged in embroideries, shaving a few years off her youthful age in 1995, telling Entertainment Weekly she was 27. (Born in 1966, she was 28 or 29.) And although friends thought Duncan had graduated from Wayne State or the University of Michigan, both universities tell the L.A. Weekly they have no record of her degree. Cary Logan, her friend, confirms that she worked at his bookstore while attending Wayne State; officials there say that she did, at least, attend classes.

...Duncan impressed journalists, including Anthony Ramirez of The New York Times, who repeated that she had authored a senior thesis at the University of Michigan titled “Electric Fairy Tales: CD-ROMs and Literature.” Even in recent coverage of her suicide, the Los Angeles Times repeated this iconic Duncan tale. Yet U of M spokesperson Joy Myers tells the Weekly the university has no evidence of that thesis or a degree under her name, although Duncan may have written a paper on that subject.

On a reporting note, I see things I know are wrong in books and newspapers all the time. You really can't assume anything is correct, and certainly not because it appeared in The New York Times, where, apparently, they, too, have reporters who are too lazy, lax, and/or gullible to pick up the telephone and dial the University of Michigan (734-764-1817).

I wonder if the LA Times will fix the error. Here it is in a Chris Lee story:

Duncan, 40, the daughter of an art teacher, grew up near Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan after writing a thesis titled "Electric Fairy Tales: CD-ROMs and Literature."

Don't believe everything you read -- and that goes double for you if you're the reporter who's supposed to be putting out the facts.

UPDATE: Ramirez from the NYT just e-mailed me:

In a message dated 8/2/07 8:46:31 AM, writes:

dear miss alkon:

error duly noted. i will start the correction process here.

but a point of information: most people don't lie to us or
need to, especially in a light feature story about children's
cd-roms. if ms. duncan had seemed emotionally troubled at the time,
or something else seemed amiss, we probably would have checked her
resume. but there are only so many hours in the day and she wasn't
exactly running for high office.

so, error duly noted.

regards, anthony ramirez

My response:

Thanks for the note -- point taken. Best,-Amy

UPDATE #2, from Fishbowl LA: Duncan bragged about how she "talked rings around" reporters.

UPDATE #3: Regarding Duncan's education, from the Saturday, August 18, Los Angeles Times, a correction:

Double suicide: An article in the July 25 Calendar section about the suicides of artist Jeremy Blake and writer Theresa Duncan reported that Duncan graduated from the University of Michigan. A spokesperson for the university said Duncan was enrolled for a single semester in 1985 at the University of Michigan-Flint.

P.S. The main campus is Ann Arbor. U of M Dearborn and Flint are "away" campuses.

And finally, it sounds like this comment from The Stranger, from somebody who calls themself "wf," sums it up pretty well:

The saddest part of the story is the implication that she may have finally realized that she wasn't special, that she was talented but normal, and rather than see the collapse of her house of lies as an opportunity to finally grow up, she chose to die. What a waste of her creativity and passion.

Posted by aalkon at August 2, 2007 8:24 AM


I once pitched a half-hour TV series which would have been called "What Really Happened?" People involved in news stories would critique their coverage in the media. I was totally confident that reporting errors would be revealed every single time. Pity the network (BBC) didn't buy it.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 2, 2007 7:19 AM

That's a great idea...and not exactly a surprise, your pitch results!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 2, 2007 7:41 AM

Yeah, like the fact that it's Cary LOREN of Book Beat whose store TD worked in in Michigan, not LOGAN.

All these stories just make you think, man, how frightened she must have been, to use all those natural smarts to just hustle and accuse and snark. Rest in peace.

Posted by: Kim Cooper at August 2, 2007 11:18 PM

Mea culpa. It is Loren, and I need new glasses. I looked at the galley sheets in the Weekly's offices and marked Cory to be changed to Cary and glazed right over the last name.
I think at first, Theresa Duncan didn't know fear. She was brave and bright and her work reflected it. JC Herz told me that CD-Rom s were the perfect medium for a small team of passionate people. But movies are a commercial and corporate product that uses creative people like paperclips.

Posted by: Kate Coe at August 3, 2007 9:18 AM

Hrissikopoulos is linking back to this thing too, with a cartoon from Stone & Parker that comes off like Scientology!

The kids out there today, with their long hair and their rock 'n roll music, have a wonderful expression: "Sucks to be you!" I like it because it's plain, unapologetic and a statement of fact: All lives have darkness and you're a fool if you doubt it. Envy is a game for suckers!

So why, with this story and the one about the guy whose girlfriend is shacking with Ted Turner, are all these tremendously literate and sensible people gossiping so aggressively about the lives and deaths of these unremarkable artistic and literary figures? It's not that I'd prefer that they concern themselves only with Brangelina, but....

There exists in the heart of a NYTimes-reading humanities graduate a capacity for nose-upturned covetousness which people don't talk about. It's a horniness for the blessings of another man's life. Not for his health, not for his wife, or for his Ferrari... And not even for the career, exactly, just for the odor of his resume... For his reputation of fulfillment.

This looks very strange to those of us who are too illiterate (or otherwise disinclined) to participate.

One of the best examples came when Reno got AG in the 1990s, and we were told that a generation of liberal yuppie lawyers were heartbroken to think that they'd missed out. Even though they made more money then Janet and didn't have to cook all those people in Waco.

There's gotta be a name for this thing.

Posted by: Crid at August 4, 2007 9:45 AM

What's wrong with you people?

What vultures! Who raised you?

Someone elses death is just for your amusement?

If you ever wonder why the term "yuppie" is an epithet just look in a mirror.

Could your yuppie undies be in such a bunch because Theresa Duncan was an artist first & a yuppie second?

. . . And that you never knew if she would bow down & kiss yuppie ass the way upwardly mobile yuppies are supposed to?

Poor little yuppies, you're supposed to be safe in your yuppie bubble. You're supposed to be able to trust everyone else not to burst that precious bubble.

Is that why you're all being such assholes & shitting on the grave of someone who never had any power to abuse?

Where are you with this hard ass shit against the people who deserve it?

Oh, you know your yuppie place, not to bite the hand that feeds you, right?

Good little yuppies, now roll over... jump!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 4, 2007 2:02 PM


Someone make him do that again.

Posted by: Crid at August 4, 2007 3:33 PM

Or maybe just read the person's blog? She said in her blog she didn't graduate from college.

If shaving a couple of years off your age makes you a pathological liar, then about 50% of the actresses in Hollywood are pathological liars. Oh, and one must never lie to reporters. The sanctity of the interview, right?

Posted by: min at August 4, 2007 9:04 PM

I just think the unacknowledged dark side of the Alan Watts observation is that some of us are consigned to dance to a minor key -- and that catchy Supertramp songs may in fact be roadmaps to Doom for would-be rescuers.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at August 5, 2007 6:55 AM

She apparently told the New York Times, Slate, and USA Today that she'd graduated from UofM and had the reported senior thesis:

Via Nexis: USA TODAY

May 14, 1998, Thursday, FINAL EDITION

Giving girls more than Barbie CD-ROM pioneer produces heroine who's example for female teens

BYLINE: Mike Snider
A Detroit-area native whose mother is an art teacher, Duncan got
a degree at the University of Michigan (her thesis: "Electric
Fairy Tales: CD-ROMs and Literature"). She collects children's
books; influences include Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory) and Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy). After
college, Duncan cataloged rare books at an auction house. At a
World Bank job, she used Macintoshes to make "multimedia valentines."


From Girl games to glamour
"With the new project, I was interested in examining glamour as a semiotic system," she claims, revealing her slightly wonkish academic background (her senior thesis at the University of Michigan was on technology and narrative)."

NY T 5-25-1997
"I love books and I love CD-ROM's, but most of all, I love storytelling," said Ms. Duncan, 28, whose senior thesis at the University of Michigan was titled "Electric Fairy Tales: CD-ROM's and Literature."

The fact that she later let loose with the truth on her blog was perhaps a sign that she was tired of maintaining the lies or was cracking. Perhaps if somebody had fact-checked her she'd still be alive, and so would her boyfriend.

As for the person above who accuses me, apparently, and the others who post here of being "yuppies." Um...I started giving free advice on a street corner in Soho in 1988 with two friends, and now I write an advice column in coffee shops and in my Venice shack...I'm not exactly driving my Lexus to Wall Street every day to manage a hedge fund. But, even if I were, would that preclude me from blogging about Theresa Duncan's death?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 9:57 AM

Furthermore, I've talked to Kate, and it seems she lied about a great deal (stuff that didn't make it into the story)...and a pattern of lying is often a sign of psychological disorder.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 9:59 AM

And, one other thing, for all you "Oh, it's no big deal that she lied and no journalists checked" types: Which kind of stories do you want to read? Those from journos who believe everybody or those who have a more realistic appraisal of human nature?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 11:01 AM

Well since you asked for my advice Goddess. . .

No, you're not "just blogging" about Theresa Duncan, you (& the peanut gallery) are dancing on her grave.

Do I really need to spell out what makes a yuppie a yuppie?

Well it's not a working stiff who happens to wear a white collar instead of a blue one. That's for sure.

It's a spiritual choice.


We live in an insane society.

Those who can't see that are part of the insanity.

When those people have college degrees they're known as "yuppies" (the poor & the working class are entitled to their ignorance, since they rely on the media for their "education").

But don't tell that to a yuppie, they'll say that's one "sign of a psychological disorder" and call the yuppie fascists in white lab coats.

Tell me yuppies, how do you get a college degree in psychology without reading a single page of R.D. Laing or Tom Szasz or Fuller Torrey? Is it because they have all the degrees that the system has to offer yet still repudiate it on moral grounds?

In other words they're heretics & you don't have to listen to no stinkin' heretics, right? Oh, but I thought psychology is a science & in science you have to debate. It's not like politics or religion, where power rules & debate can be stifled.

Oh, and don't start to lecture now about what passes for "journalism". . . Pleeeease! It's so hard to rank which kind of yuppies are worse, but "journalists" have to be near the top of the list. Are you calling that smear job that Kate Cole did in the L.A. McWeekly "journalism"?

Hey Advice Goddess, since you know the women, would you try asking her what made Theresa Duncan a racist. She did insinuate that didn't she? And she did it the way all yuppie "journalists" do, by getting someone else to do it for her & not giving the object of the attack a chance to speak up for herself.

Oh yeah, she's dead.

No need for yuppie mouses to fear her rapier wit anymore. Roar! Now they're tigers.

I grew up thinking that when women (& other formerly oppressed groups,) got into positions of power that things were going to change. Well they didn't did they? Is that because they became (dare I say it?) yuppies?

That's the difference between yuppie feminism & real feminism; wanting to change the system, not just wanting the equal opportunity to become a part of it.

That's the difference between yuppie journalism & real journalism, when the roots & origins of our problems are off limits we get mindless celebrity culture & making a sport out of other peoples deaths. The latter can happen on a retail or wholesale level.

It's important to mock & ridicule those who fiercely insist on keeping an open heart & mind.

Everything to distract from all the suffering that our gluttonous way of life causes in the world.

Did Theresa Duncan try to distract people from those "Ugly Truths"? No she was willing to look on the dark side & see it for what it was. Maybe that contributed to her death.

Joseph Campbell might say that she took "The Hero's Journey" into the underworld & didn't make it back. He also used to say that "we live in the terminal moraine of mythology & it's up to the artists to create a new one".

I think Theresa Duncan felt the same way about what it means to be an artist.

Even though she hobnobbed with the elite, she still identified with The People. Distinctly un-yuppie like.

It's no wonder the yuppies in Hollywood, who have the nerve to call themselves artists, hated her so much.

The same yuppies like to call themselves "Buddhists", but don't have a clue that Buddha's first step on his spiritual journey was to leave the palace grounds. Born a prince only to renounce his bourgeois privileges & go out into the real world to live with The People.

How could he have known diddly squat about suffering otherwise? Why would he care?

America is the palace. How many yuppie princes & princesses are ready to take the same step?

You can start by not making the death of strangers into entertainment. If this is all you have to say about Theresa Duncan then why say anything at all?

Try writing your own obituary in the same fashion, why don't you? Or, now that you've gotten this out of your system maybe you can write Theresa Duncan's obituary the way you could've the first time?

What kind of advice are you giving anyway Advice Goddess? (. . . How to dance on the grave of someone who never hurt anyone except herself?)

Did you ever notice that we don't have Goddesses in so-called "Western Civilization"? Why do you think that is? There were Goddesses "once upon a time" in what could've been Western Civilization, but they got snuffed out & smeared didn't they? And the women that went with them.

You don't think they had the same sick perverted culture as us do you? At war with nature instead of being at one with it. Which culture do you identify with Advice Goddess?

Theresa Duncan never lied us into a war, did she? She never lied about the worthless junk bonds that replaced the real assets in your pension fund, did she? She never lied about how putting mercury in children's vaccines is just a preservative, did she?

Go smear someone else!

Step outside the palace grounds yuppies.

It was just a state of mind anyway.

Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 5, 2007 5:45 PM

Uh, nobody hated her...I only vaguely knew of her through LA Observed postings about her blog, and because I saw her boyfriend in Venice a bit.

Anybody ever mention to you that you seem a tad...unhinged?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 5:58 PM

Oops, I put the P tags in because I thought I had to. Guess I didn't... Sorry.
And I don't mean to be too harsh, it's just that I had to wade through a lot of filth over the web to find out what happened.
People dancing & spitting on her grave with sadistic glee, at least on this blog it wasn't that bad.

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 5, 2007 6:07 PM

Ok, I take that back.
You deserve the harshness.
Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 5, 2007 6:09 PM

Oops, I put the P tags in because I thought I had to

I know, because you're not trained in the ways of the web like us yuppies!

Uh...nobody's sadistic glee. Try reading the blog item before letting loose with the projectile logorrhea. Twice.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 6:14 PM

What are you talking about?
Sure, you can say I ain't no D.H. Lawrence.
You can say that I'm ranting & need an editor.
But you can't say I wasn't specific.
What are you referring to?
Who's the one that's being irrational?
What's the matter, did I hit a nerve?
Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 5, 2007 6:40 PM

Keep 'em coming, Joe!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 5, 2007 10:45 PM

No thanks Advice Goddess.
I have better things to do.
You have some thinking to do before I can respect your "Goddesshood".
Let me know when you develope an intellect, instead of just a yuppie superiority complex.
Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 5, 2007 11:59 PM

I have better things to do.

A pity that didn't occur to you before you typed in the vast blocks of text above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 12:34 AM

To say that Coe’s piece "extracts the facts from the fiction” is laughable. The fact that Monica Gesue was accorded with having the “definitive” account of Theresa’s time at Magnet, for one, is a major red flag for me (I worked with them at the time it happened).Monica, it should be made clear, is an ex-collaborator of Theresa’s with an axe to grind. She seems to have been waiting for a decade to revise the story after being been jilted by the younger, smarter and more ambitious Duncan. And what better time than now, since Ms. Duncan is not able to answer her false assertions?

Besides the insidiously vague comment she makes about there being “whispers” about Theresa’s past, her taking credit for coming up with the idea for Chop Suey simply not true. Why didn’t Coe seek out an objective source to dig a little deeper than Gesue’s side of their breakup, such as Magnet’s senior management?

In any case, it seems the point of your post was actually to defend Theresa from accusations that she lied, by pointing out how writers can misinterpret things. I guess I'm referring to another journalistic shortcoming, which is to insufficiently assess the objectivity of one's sources - especially when the other side of the story is not being presented.

Posted by: JJ at August 6, 2007 12:58 AM

Back in 1997, someone else who worked at Magnet wrote to Wired, to set the record straight.

Several published interviews with Duncan had her saying that David Sedaris was her collaborator on Chop Suey.

Posted by: Kate Coe at August 6, 2007 8:19 AM

Here's that letter:

s a creative director in the kids' entertainment business and a producer of online entertainment, I am always excited to see more content devoted to girls ("Girl Games," Wired 5.04, page 98), who have been underserved in the CD-ROM world. As the article mentioned, Chop Suey broke the mold. However, I noticed a blooper in G. Beato's story. Chop Suey was the collaborative work of two women: Theresa Duncan and Monica Gesue. Not only did Gesue conceive, illustrate, and art-direct the CD-ROM project, some of the more memorable writing was hers as well. Heck, Cortland, Ohio - where the story is set - is Gesue's hometown. In the spirit of professionalism (and good manners), you should give credit where credit is due. David Vogler

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 8:51 AM

I'm glad to see that Kate Cole has been to this blog, because my "yuppie diatribe" was really aimed at yuppies like her.
So answer the question Kate, what made Theresa Duncan a racist? Isn't that what you insinuated? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Hey Advice Goddess, all I meant is that I have better things to do than try to have a debate or intellectual discourse with someone who refuses to exercise her ability to reason.
Dissent & debate are the life blood of an intellectual life; whether it's science, religion, politics, you name it. But all you did was react emotionally & there's nothing wrong with emotions, but it took millions of years for humans to evolve the ability to reason & so many people are content not to use it.
Even people who consider themselves open-minded liberals.
You just don't want to admit that you did something crass.
You're a happy, friendly, loving person and that's not the way you think of yourself.
I never accused you of "dancing with sadistic glee" on Theresa Duncan's grave (that was the other filthy blogs I had to wade through), but you were dancing... If not on her grave then close to it & not to celebrate the life a beautiful soul who's gone forever.
I have no problem with sarcasm (if I dish it out I'll take it back), but it needs to pepper something of intellectual substance.
If you want to defend you "right to blog" about Theresa Duncan's death then do it with reason.
Give it a try sometime Advice Goddess... if you want your advice to be worth giving.
Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 6, 2007 10:32 AM

all I meant is that I have better things to do than try to have a debate or intellectual discourse with someone who refuses to exercise her ability to reason.

I think you mean somebody who refuses to rubberstamp your nuttery, but if it makes you feel better to make more unfounded remarks, you go right ahead.

And, since you keep claiming to have "better things to do" come you're not actually...doing them?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 10:51 AM

P.S. In what sense do you find Kate Coe a yuppie?

I believe somebody elsewhere was accusing her of being a Scientologist, which is hilarious considering that, like me, she's been scarfing ADD drugs for years.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 11:15 AM

Why do you keep asking me questions if you want me to buzz off?
And when I answer why don't you try using the intellect that The Goddess gave you, instead of just juvenile name calling?
I can still respect people I disagree with & have a civilized debate, even if it includes sarcasm, as long as it's based on reason. Where's your reason Advice Goddess?
Be as sarcastic as you want, just back it up your intellect.
Peace out!

Posted by: Joe Coletta at August 7, 2007 1:47 PM calling? Uh...where?

There's no evidence of a god, a goddess or an easter bunny, far as I can see.

And're the entertainment. Feel free to come back. (P.S. We're not laughing with you...)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 7, 2007 4:44 PM

Dear JJ:

From your point of view Monica Gesue waited a decade to revise a story. From Monica's point of view, she waited until Kate Coe asked her about the history of her partnership with Duncan. "Chop Suey" was co-created by Duncan and Gesue, a fact no one I've read disputes, especially since it is documented in several articles from the mid-90s.

While speaking to Coe, Gesue brought up the fact that she had the initial idea for "Chop Suey" because of the irony therein--that in later years Duncan wouldn't even speak of Gesue as co-creator, never mind as the person who first had the germ of an idea. Ultimately, it doesn't matter who had the idea, because "Chop Suey" only became a reality through the work of Gesue, Duncan, Svenonius, the programmers, etc.

Kate Coe clearly describes Gesue as someone who fell out with Duncan, so she didn't pretend her source might not be the most objective person to interview. She also clearly states in the article that she cross-checked on Gesue's assertion that Duncan was forcibly removed from Magnet offices. So she did speak with at least one other Magnet employee.

For my part, I've known Gesue for about a quarter-century, and I'm married to her now. Her story about the "Chop Suey" days has never changed. This is now the third blog where I've encountered pseudonymous commentors accusing her of lying because "they worked at Magnet." The bottom line is that the only people who know who came up with the "idea" for are Duncan and Gesue. It was never important to Gesue to claim the idea for her own, because it was always a product of the two minds working together.

You're probably right--Duncan was "younger, smarter and more ambitious" than Gesue. But average people like you and me can have a good idea once in a while, too.

Posted by: George Krompacky at August 7, 2007 8:48 PM

Thanks, George, for posting that. And, in my opinion, you're right on about Kate. FYI, I've heard there's a New Yorker piece and a Vanity Fair piece being written about Duncan now, and I'm guessing the JJs and Joe Colettas of the world will be further disappointed by what they read in them.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 7, 2007 9:17 PM

Dear fellow yuppies (sorry): I find it strange that so little has been said about the elephant in the room, y'know, the one the Scientologists and the Heritage Foundation put there? Oh, that's right, there is no elephant, because the woman was, likely, seriously mentally ill, likely paranoid schizophrenic, and likely to get worse as she progressed into her 40's. Maybe only in New York and L.A. can you go this mad and have people assume its a style choice. I think her partner shielded her from ever having to really confront the consequences of what was happening to her (and thus seek treatment). Like a friend of mine, though, who followed the same path, she found her own way out; at the end, he didn't blame the "evil forces" that had hounded him, either, but simply said "life got too hard." I think she, too, knew from whom she was really escaping.

Posted by: Michael F. at August 10, 2007 1:35 PM

I can only speculate on that, but I'd guess that they both had an interest in keeping the world at bay. When you become that insulated, there's nobody to tell you you're acting nuts -- or who can maybe get you to understand that you need some help. You'll find numerous negative posts about Scientology (and, in fact, all religions) on this blog, but let's wait until somebody has evidence they've actually done something before we accuse them.

P.S. Real friends and people who really love you are those who care about you or love you enough to tell you when you're nuts or an asshole, even if it kills the friendship. And maybe some people did in this case, who knows.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2007 6:09 PM

I am having trouble understanding why
so many people are airing Theresa's dirty linen.
Don't you believe that the dead deserve their dignity? ---

Posted by: Anonymous at August 13, 2007 10:06 PM

I am having trouble understanding why so many people are so angry that somebody has aired the truth about another person. It happens with my column all the time. I put out the word about solid data, which shows something or other, and people get FURIOUS at me for dispelling the status quo notions.

Here's a question for you: Why do you feel you had to post that comment anonymously?

And why do you think, when two relatively young people who seemed to have a lot of promise kill themselves, that people would not wonder who they are and why it happened?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 14, 2007 5:14 AM

Kate Coe's ways of making sweeping generalizations and her clearly one-sided tone are the problem of the piece, it's not about telling the 'truth' about someone whether dead or alive, it's about abusing your power as a 'journalist' to write something so clearly one-sided and with an axe to grind that is the problem. Coe's tone and aims are very clear even if you've never heard of Theresa Duncan.

Posted by: anon at August 18, 2007 5:34 AM

"Sweeping generalizations" such as?

And where do you find her "tone" one-sided?

I know Kate, and I became friends with her because I respect her ethics -- it's an important quality to me in all my friends.

It's my belief, from talking to her at length about this, that she wrote the story because she wanted to to get the truth out. I actually think it's pretty evident from reading the story.

I realize, as I noted above, that there are people who don't like their version of a legend shown to be not quite the legend they've made themselves out to be. Perhaps if her friends had picked her stories apart a little and gotten her the therapeutic help she clearly seems to have needed she'd still be alive?

Your attack on Kate, like the rest of them, without an example to back you up, seems like exactly what you accuse her of: filled with sweeping generalizations and containing a clearly one-sided tone.

Calling her a "journalist"...woo, that's low.

Unlike you, Kate writes in her own name and comments in her own name. If you're telling the truth and she's not...why can't you tell it with your name behind it?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 5:45 AM

I never said that Theresa was a racist--the tone of Shoo-Fly Pie's humor was perceived as having a racial edge. If Magnet had wanted to make the CD-Rom, it would have been made.
And my sweeping generalizations? Show me one example--just one.

If anything, I tried very hard to not make any conclusions about Duncan's state of mind, rationales for action, or motivations for her actions, including her death. My piece was sourced beyond what my editor required--better sourced than any of pieces that have appeared in the LA Times, NY Observer or the Washington Post.

Thanks, Amy, for all kind words. And while I'm here--I've never worked for any network/cable network news outfit. A Current Affair was cancelled in Sept 2005, I left that May, having done about a half dozen pieces for them, including one on The Children of God, for which I got harassed and gangstalked.

Posted by: Kate Coe at August 18, 2007 10:47 AM

A half-dozen pieces...why, I'm sure Rupert Murdoch has you on speed-dial!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 11:06 AM

Funnily enough, many people who were upset because so many people who were/are making *negative* comments about TD are doing so anonymously.

Kate Coe's article is mucho schadenfreude-y. and with very little compassion. Much, at least, my own criticisms of Coe are not about keeping a 'fantasy' about TD alive, but about having some balance and integrity of the voices that speak for those who no longer can speak.
So called 'attacks' on blogs made toward Coe are because Coe's piece feels like an underhanded attack made in the guise of journalism. people get disgusted by that, and react accordingly- when one person's voice counts for so much, and they abuse it.
There's a difference between showing flaws (which is fine) and trying to paint someone as a liar psychopath because they even have flaws.
I think that Coe's piece displays that she has many problems she accuses TD of having- being predatory, competetive, worried about her reputation, doing anything to get ahead, etc. It's transparent and that's why it offends so many people.
The problem is not that Coe points out TD's flaws, it's the questionable conclusions she jumps to, and the utter one-sidedness, she's clearly on a mission to show TD in as negative a light as possible, and people can see through it.

Posted by: fox at August 18, 2007 11:57 AM

Funnily enough, many people who were upset because so many people who were/are making *negative* comments about TD are doing so anonymously.

Hmmm, scrolling up, I see, for the most part, negative comments about Kate Coe left anonymously. The rest of the comments mostly have first and last names on them, except for Crid, and many or most of the people posting here and on other sites I believe know his last name.

And yet again, "fox," you post anonymously and attack Kate, yet again, sans substance.

Got a name, "fox"?

Regarding your loud boohooing that Kate painted Duncan as a "liar psychopath," uh, Duncan was clearly a liar, and I don't think it's a stretch to suggest she had psychological problems. Were you one of her friends? It's a pity nobody looked beyond the legend to get this girl some obviously needed help. I consider being willing to tell your friends when they're being assholes or self-destructive true friendship. Anything less is just an intent to socialize.

As for your criticisms of Kate -- not one of them substantiated -- I can see why you don't sign your comment with your real name. It allows you to be an asshole (and potentially libelous) without paying any penalty. Personally, I've made a pact with myself to always post in my own full name or not at all. You'll notice that Kate seems to have a similar policy; borne, I'd imagine, of integrity. Do try some on one of these days.

Let's go through a few of your unsupported criticisms of Kate Coe:

I'm not sure what "predatory" means to you. Ambitious? If so, I'm predatory -- and I'd hope all of my friends, including Kate Coe, are, so they can eat and feed their children.

Being "competitive" is another negative for you. Uh-huh! Well, I'm guilty there, too! As is just about every friend I have.

"Worried about her reputation" -- well, I'd think that's a reasonable concern for most people.

"Doing anything to get ahead" -- right. Suddenly, this is "All About Eve," the dead girl version? Please.

If you're going to make allegations, back them up.

And do it under your real name, you wussy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 3:35 PM

Fox, you're all over the internet, cutting and pasting your same attacks on me. Can't you at least write up a fresh one for every site?

Ah, yes, my schadenfreude. That would be why I have long email exchanges with Theresa, which I did not publish, about lenses and filters, and how to get grips and gaffers to respect you, and what to expect when her studio suits would pay a set visit.

I'd say I took her plans and goals more seriously than many of those who claimed to be "working with her" on developing these projects. Even when I didn't really believe in her studio deals, etc., I never questioned that she had the ability and the drive to direct her script.

Posted by: Kate Coe at August 18, 2007 3:43 PM

P.S. Not liking the truth isn't the same thing as finding it untrue.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 3:46 PM

Note the correction in today's LA TImes:

Double suicide: An article in the July 25 Calendar section about the suicides of artist Jeremy Blake and writer Theresa Duncan reported that Duncan graduated from the University of Michigan. A spokesperson for the university said Duncan was enrolled for a single semester in 1985 at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 4:31 PM

Is it possible that the "lunar society" Theresa was referring to was group therapy? Is it possible that she was ill and was trying to get help? Is it possible that Blake, loved her so much that when he realized that she was lost beyond lost, decided that he would prefer to join her than to be without her? Perhaps he decided to live her illness as well?

Just some thoughts...

Posted by: browsing at August 18, 2007 5:20 PM

Interesting that you say my claims are unsubstantiated. when I write something with more detail about the flaws I saw in Coe's article, um...where is it I wonder?
My points were substantiated, excuse me. I made them calmly and rationally. For some reason you're choosing not to post it.

for you, criticism= 'attack', unless Kate Coe is doing the criticizing, or unless you are (calling me an asshole, a wussy, and libelous- are you nuts? this is a blog).

Anyway, you can't be trusted if you don't post comments that answer the questions you pose and try to actually say what it is that's bothered me about Coe's article.

Posted by: fox at August 18, 2007 11:22 PM

They are unsubstantiated because you make accusations and don't back them up with anything from the article. That's the meaning of "unsubstantiated."

I'm fine with criticism. I've been met with a firestorm of it for my posting on Ray Richmond outing Merv Griffin. All of those commenters, however, don't just call names. They give details on why they think I'm wrong and Ray is wrong.

You say merely this:

I think that Coe's piece displays that she has many problems she accuses TD of having- being predatory, competetive, worried about her reputation, doing anything to get ahead, etc.

A comment which you are running around the Internet posting on multiple blogs.

As for this bullshit excuse to get out of actually posting something other than name-calling:

Anyway, you can't be trusted if you don't post comments that answer the questions you pose and try to actually say what it is that's bothered me about Coe's article.

Uh...I can't see into your tiny little head, but I'd imagine that you're desperate to cling to your notion of this woman as some golden girl, and not a disturbed plagiarist and liar.

On Seaword (where you posted, almost verbatim, your earlier comment here), there are even examples of where she copied book notes off Amazon and posted them as her own writing. They actually happen to be of the work of somebody I know -- the evolutionary psychologist David Sloan Wilson, who favors the theory of group selection. As I was reading the words she plagiarized, I was impressed at her apparent command of the ev. psych concept of altruism -- and then, of course, it wasn't her command at all that she was evidencing.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 12:19 AM

Actually, excuse me, I believe they were notes about David Sloan Wilson's work on Amazon.

What's most tragic is the energy so many people are putting into fighting to maintain the myths about this woman -- assuming some of you or many of you knew her in life and may have found it easier to ignore signs that she was in deeply need of psychological help.

Furthermore, Kate Coe tells me not one person has written her to voice criticism on the piece. I'm sure she'd respond to it if somebody wrote her. But, I think people are, again, more interested in screeching that the myth had to be true, and that Kate must have some horrible agenda in seeking the actual truth.

And for all of you alleging that Kate Coe wrote this piece because she was desperate to get ahead, I have to laugh. Sorry, but I don't think the climbers of life are making their way up the golden ladder by writing articles for alternative weeklies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 12:28 AM

thanks, this tiny little head of mine knows the definition of unsubstantiated, I'm also aware of where I've posted comments. you are posting comments on other blogs (at least one) as well.
Anyway, I wrote another comment here yesterday, it never got posted, actually getting into more detail about the issues I had with Coe's article. If you would have posted and/or read it, you'd see that I did address several specific points.
The comment that I made, which never showed up here, I posted on Seaword's blog instead. And I'm glad, because Coe rationally responded to my points.
With your accusatory assumptions about me, name-calling (wussy, tiny-headed, on and on), and general hostility toward anyone who disagrees with you or Coe, you are really making a fool out of youreself.
And in my opinion, you are doing a disservice to Kate Coe, who can rationally and decently respond to criticism, even with people that clearly don't agree with her- whereas your responses are immature and hostile and not worthy of paying any more attention to.

Posted by: fox at August 19, 2007 4:53 PM

I don't copy one comment and post that same comment on blogs all over the place like you do.

If you posted something and it didn't make it onto my blog, you could've e-mailed me like a civilized person and noted that. All your other fluff has posted, and I don't censor people.

Thanks for the advice that I'm making a fool of out myself. Clearly, living in fear that that might happen is a big part of my life, which is why I post on my site and others under my own name.

We'll let Kate be the judge of what a service or disservice I'm doing to her. I'm not trying to be either, frankly. I just like the truth being told, and she was and is intent on doing it.

Now I'll go look for your post.

And you are a wussy, and tiny-headed, and unlike you, I substantiated why above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 5:21 PM

Actually, I just found a post from Kate Coe that somehow made it into my junk folder. Of course, she e-mailed me while I was still working to tell me it might've gotten lost. It should be above. I'll continue looking for the outpourings of your tiny little head, my anono-weenie.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 5:24 PM

Since you chose to stew in your assumptions rather than let me know that your comment was eaten, it seems my junk folder was emptied before I knew your comment was in it. For future reference, here's my Goofus and Gallant instructions for what to do if your comment gets eaten:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 5:30 PM

Once again, I did 'substantiate', and it didn't show up.
Reading your nonsense is an utter waste of time. Learn some etiquette, at the very least. Good luck getting a job at the National Inquirer.

Posted by: fox at August 19, 2007 8:31 PM

"Substantiate" means back up your accusations with examples.

Clearly, you don't have examples so you instead post "Reading your nonsense is an utter waste of time."

My column runs over 100 newspapers, but thanks for thinking of me!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 9:15 PM

As I've said several times now, I did back up ('substantiate') my opinions/criticisms with examples, and the comment I gave them in never got posted here. (I posted it, as I also said, on Seaword's blog instead).

As for your column running in over 100 newspapers, well there's a McDonald's on every corner too- that doesn't mean such crap is worth eating.

Posted by: fox at August 20, 2007 9:33 AM

and the truth about you
c'mon spit it out,while you are stll breathing AA
tell us what's wrong with you while you are still amoung the living.Come on reveal something.
At least you attach your name to your commentary
if Kate's got it straight...? how come she is always on THERESA DUNCAN CENTRAL a site dedicated to ratting moi out.It's one of those mutual admiration affairs-BE WARE! Kate talks about you.
It's not that the dead are due their respect
it's that I'm not available for comment ,to talk back.It's easy for you to stick it to me when I'm dosed and lying down-it's a common position to take confrontation when it's not face to face,that's no exactly confrontation-Kate loves to respond,just like Monica no one would know her name from FUCK if not for her association with moi,wit Wit. Before me her name barely pulled a hit on most search engines,mine came up all the way back in 1995 on my own-Kate's comes up now even faster when you combine it with my name.
THE BIG BAD WIT LIVES ON you just don't get
FUCK CHOP SUey and "all your little advice too".
Amy you are stupid,just plain stupid,just plainfucking stupid,as in the opposite of wit.Goddamn you are dumb.that's kind of my Vince Vaughn impresiario..ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Posted by: DUNCAN at August 29, 2007 5:29 PM

Wow Amy, you're a nasty piece of work. It's really sad to see the thrill you get from tearing people down. It must be hard being perfect.

Posted by: Rob Jacobs at October 7, 2007 7:06 PM

Didn't know this girl, don't have a horse in this race. Just find it amazing that she was so compelled to invent a life rather than just living as who she really was. If you'll read my post, you'll note that it's rather unemotional and states pretty much that.

I'm very open about who I am and where I've gone wrong -- and have unapproved comments on my site so people (even anonyweenies like you with an agenda) are free to criticize me. Had Theresa Duncan been this way -- honest and open -- perhaps she'd still be alive today.

P.S. I think the cult of Theresa -- the likes of little slave acolytes like you -- has largely to do with the fact that she was physically beautiful.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 7, 2007 11:48 PM

Looking at the IP addresses, it seems likely "DUNCAN" is also Rob Jacobs. What were you doing since August 29...home jerking off to Theresa Duncan's picture?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 7, 2007 11:52 PM

Just discovered a complete list of all marked down products at Amazon, sorted by category
and % off, ranging from 50% off to 90% off (thanks Sonja for the effort).

Actually I never thought Amazon would have articles with 90% off, but only in the category
Electronics there are more than 3000 of them - look for yourself, the list is on
[url=]Bargain Hunter[/url] (which is a blog of a woman who specializes in finding good deals at
Amazon, like Britain’s "Jeanie").

Posted by: Mealgefug at February 15, 2008 9:22 AM

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