In April 2016, the New Yorker published an extraordinary tale of male entitlement. Literary journalist Gay Talese told the story of how self-proclaimed amateur sex researcher and professional peeping tom Gerald Foos had purchased the Manor House motel in Aurora, Colorado and jerry-rigged a viewing deck in order to spy on his guests—which he did for decades, while taking meticulous notes. After Foos made contact with Talese, the journalist eventually ended up visiting the motel and doing some spying for himself. The story of their relationship, as well as Foos’ extensive notes for which Foos received a stipend, ultimately resulted in Talese’s next book, The Voyeur’s Motel, which will be released July 12. The book, Talese told The Washington Post on Thursday, is a 240 pages of hot garbage.
There were numerous red flags in Talese’s retelling of Foos’ life work, the most glaring of which is that this random guy perpetrated a several decades-long campaign of fraud, deception, and invasion of privacy, which Jezebel detailed after the article’s publication. But Talese stood by his work, as well as his upcoming book, until the Post learned that Foos had actually sold his motel from 1980 to 1988, after claiming to have been still conducting research during that time period.
“I should not have believed a word he said,” said Talese after learning about the ownership. “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”
In The New Yorker piece, Foos references a murder he witnessed in his own motel, and Talese notes that he was unable to find any records of such a death being reported. That probably should have been a sign.
According to the Post, the book did mention a 1984 homicide at the motel, which led them to more inconsistencies.
The various sales of the motel in the 1980s came to light in April after media organizations, including The Post, asked about the 1984 murder and other police records on the Manor House. An Aurora homicide detective, Stephen W. Conner, conducted the property record search and found that Foos and his wife Donna sold the Manor House in October 1980 to Earl and Pamela Ballard, a local couple Gerald Foos knew. The Ballards, in turn, sold it in 1983 to Kyong C. LeFebre.
Foos and his second wife re-acquired it from LeFebre in July 1988. The Fooses then sold it for the last time in 1995, the records indicate. Foos confirmed the general sequence of events in an interview with The Post.
Conner, who spoke briefly with Foos in April, told The Post that Foos didn’t have access to the Manor House in 1984 because he no longer owned it. “I have no doubt that Mr. Foos may have been involved in some nefarious activity while he owned the Manor House. I just do not think it arose to the magnitude described by Mr. Talese,” the detective said in an email to The Post.
When asked about these inconsistencies, Talese insisted that he knew about the sale to a “Korean family,” but that Foos still lived in the hotel during that time. The Ballards are not Korean, and they and Foos deny that he lived there.
Talese’s publisher, Grove/Atlantic, still stands by the book, since the bulk of it happened before 1980. But they reportedly would consider adding a footnote.
Good for them! Good for everyone who got paid for this.
Update (12:30 p.m.): Presumably after a spirited phone call with his publisher, Talese has said he was just kidding about the renouncing thing.
Image via Getty.