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MISS AND THE CITY
When Pulitzer-winning Novelist D. S. Montgomery went missing for three months, the industry was shocked to discover that the Wunderkind never left.
06 Nov 2006
We know D.S. Montgomery preferred Bourbon over ice. We know he preferred Cubans for his Sunday morning Central Park strolls. We know that despite his mere twenty-eight years, he could channel the likes of the machismo literary gurus of decades past. In fact, we know an awful lot about D.S. Montgomery.
Hailed as the print-publishing world’s savior in the face of the digital revolution, Montgomery was able to bridge the gap…
...by appealing to the Plugged-In Generation with his sardonic prose while holding the hand of Baby Boomers with thematic nostalgia. In his personal life, he was likewise successful in consolidating the modern and the antiquated: for each Bourbon consumed, there was a Red Bull and Vodka; for each quiet Sunday stroll, there was a Saturday night Celebu-tante soaked rave. The details of his more salacious exploits were micro-documented on gossip-fueled blogs and social networking sites. At the same time, his literary academic achievements were being dissected in collegiate classrooms around the country.
We know an awful lot about D.S. Montgomery.
But from January to March of 2006, the unlikely trans-generational messiah went missing, and the entire literary community resorted to reading between the lines of the many knowns in order to find out the unknown.
The publishing world’s savior: an analog author in a digital world
Montgomery crashed New York literary elite circles in early December 2005 with the stunning debut
Timothy’s Turn to Cry
, a daunting commentary on the miasma of post-modern consumerism and obsessive cultural navel-gazing. Told through the eyes of the disgruntled Midwestern teen Timothy, the book has been described as a “scathing indictment of societal normalcy”.
It wasn’t long before the inevitable Holden Caulfield comparisons were made, with some critics hailing it as Generation Y’s
Catcher in the Rye.
Montgomery dismissed this attention, attributing such comparisons to “the delusions of the Adderall-snorting frothy run-off” of the
—a quote cited 5,000 Google-hits over, gaining him street cred amongst the Snark Blogosphere.
Jimmy King, a modest webhost known to the internet as King Henry VIII, runs an eponymous site devoted to the traditionally stoic publishing industry. “Actors have Perez Hilton, politics have Wonkette, and the book world has K-H-8. Montgomery was our Lindsay Lohan,” King explains.
“Everyone was teabagging
for its literary acumen, blowing their load over The Man Who Would Save The Printed Word…but after that comment, I knew we weren’t dealing with a Salinger. Montgomery wasn’t going to lock himself in Cornish and watch his balls wither.”
In fact, K-H-8 got 1.2 million individual hits after King posted Montgomery’s comment, along with a NSFW photo taken as Montgomery stumbled out of a limo in SoHo. “Suddenly, the comment section went bezerk,” King says. “They wanted to know who he was dating and who he partied with. I tripled my ad revenue in December.”
King wasn’t the only one tripling income as a result of the intense media scrutiny. Book sales for
exploded, and the major chains had a hard time keeping it in stock. Montgomery, a middle-class, State University graduate from Ohio who preferred jeans and a Buckeye hoodie, was suddenly immersed in Versace, The Ivy, Diddy’s White Party.
Timothy Turn to Cry
ceased to be analyzed for its thematic validity or metaphorical legitimacy, instead read salaciously pool-side: was Timothy a thinly-veiled Montgomery? Was love-interest Katonia really Dutchess Althea, with whom Montgomery had been linked? And what to make of Chapter 28?
Read between the lines
Who, exactly, was D.S. Montgomery?
The story, it seems, is best told backwards, where the recent events are fresher in the public’s mind. Three months after Montgomery resurfaced, his agent and long-time friend Judas McCarthy invited journalists to an impromptu bruncheon, to set the record straight: Montgomery would write again. But, would anyone care? By the time the details of Montgomery’s dissociative fugue were microprocessed on a macroscopic platform, public favor had soured, and Montgomery, once Priest, was now Pariah. McCarthy’s agent had little else to offer to journalists, save for an expertly crafted political truce:
“D.S. is fully aware of his actions, and sends heart-felt apologies to the Literary Community, Consumers, Fans, Publishers, Retailers, and His Grandma. The intent was never to mislead the readers or sodomize the sacred reader-writer bond in unholy and unnatural ways.” [Editor’s Note: This particular journalist recommends the Mocha Chai Latte, as it was the highlight of this bruncheon.]
The apology, whilst serving as, at the very most, a shoddy life-raft for the likes of James Frey and other dishonored contemporaries of Montgomery, doesn’t appear to have solved the writer’s problems; Althea is married, and Montgomery filed for Chapter 11.
Still living on the Upper East Side, Montgomery has since shied from the public eye. He’s occasionally still seen in Central Park, his cadre of admirers no longer in tow. He has not granted an interview since the disastrous revelation upon his return, and little effort has been made by mainstream media to pursue the once-hot svengali; Barbara Walter has rescinded her year-end interview invite, his own alma mater has revoked his honorary doctorate, and K-H-8-related post hits have dwindled, the spotlight now usurped by other troubled writers claiming booze, sex, and drug addictions. If only those were Montgomery’s worries.
In 2006, Montgomery’s March came out like a lion; an angry, vicious, zombie lion.
The first of the year saw Montgomery carousing in Times Square, eagerly guzzling champagne and groping willing female fans congregating around him amongst the massive New Year’s Eve crowd. The year 2005 had been a good one for Montgomery, with the stratospheric rise to fame and fortune, notoriety and nobility. His agent McCarthy, known to keep a relatively tight leash on his client, let the slack out for special occasions, and was even on hand to personally pour the Veuve Cliquot. “Montgomery Rocks Out With His Cock Out”, read the K-H-8 Blog-line.
The comment section was a virtual cum-dumpster of effervescent idol-worship. “I wuz totes there,” stated user moneeovahbitchs. “hez a rockstar LOL.” Another, from marrymemontgom_1989: “he grabed [sic] my boobs & my BF took pix. Check out my facebook!”
Well after midnight, well after the champagne swilling and breast groping, after the show, the after-party, after the party in the hotel lobby, Montgomery cleared the lobby around four, presumably to take it to the room and freak somebody. From New Years Day until the end of March, D.S. was M.I.A. from I.R.L. This, however, was Montgomery’s most public and prolific time-period.
In the dark months of February syndicated television, Montgomery appeared on
, to her second-highest ratings to date (the first being the introduction of the Jolie-Pitt family’s twelfth celebu-spawn). Audience members received a free autographed copy under their seats, a Martha Stewart handmixer, and for a select few, an invitation to an afternoon book club lunch at Big O’s private estate, to discuss Montgomery’s work, with an added bonus of a sneak-peak at works-in-progress.
Suburban domestician Sally Kelly from Aurora was one of such audience members, and recounts her time spent with Montgomery at the O Compound just outside Chicago.
“He was handsome, and gracious, and charming. Oh Lord, my husband’s going to read this. And young! I mean, I’m 40somethingcoughcough, but to think that such a young mind produce such a work of wisdom… just blew my mind. He was witty, and he made Oprah laugh the same way I’m sure Gail makes her laugh, you know, as friends do.”
Many attendees had similar assessments, generally enchanted with Montgomery. Margaret Kerns, however, was the lone dissenter. Also present at the literary circle-jerk, Kerns, a 26-year-old law student from Northwestern, had a less favorable impression, but initially dismissed her observations.
“Okay, first of all, I want to make it known to your readers up front, that the only reason I was at the Oprah Show in the first place was because my friend Tommy took some bad ‘shrooms the night before and couldn’t take his mom for her birthday. The tickets were totally free.”
Kerns relates that the show’s interview itself was “micromanaged”, but cannot elaborate secondary to audience member non-disclosure clause legal documents. The lunch, however, was fair game: “I didn’t have to sign anything to get into Goddess O’s house, which is odd, but hey, that’s her problem.
“If she doesn’t care that everyone knows her dogs shat in the living room, than I have no qualms sharing.”
The book club, meeting for a little under two hours, ranged from the mundane to… the mundane: “I’m sitting there, right, with like six white moms or equivalents, and they’re absolutely, absolutely gushing over him. He’s taking it in stride, but I know he’s eating it up. When Oprah tried to steer the conversation back to the book, the symbolism and dark mythology, it was clear that most of these kitchen-jockeys had even read A book, let alone HIS book.
“For reasons unbeknownst to me, I actually had. It was alright, I suppose, if you’re into that cerebral masturbation, but I wasn’t into the hype.” Toward the end of the meeting, Kerns excused herself to the ladies’ room (“Too much macrobiotic shit”), and ended up running into Montgomery in one of the many labyrinthine hallways.
“He looked… distraught, is probably the best way to describe him. He had been so A-game at the table, politely fielding the banalities of the company, remaining so composed… but he just looked disheveled, then. His hair was tossed, his shirt not completely tucked in.”
Kerns nodded as they passed each other in the hallway, but reconsidered. “I turned around, called him on his bullshit... I grabbed his hand, and said, ‘You know, even Hemingway knocked a bitch around every once in a while.’ He didn’t get it at first, but then he laughed. But I was reading between the lines.”
Montgomery had gone pale, and tremored. Any K-H-8 reader would attribute this to a quick coke hit in the loo, but Kerns has a different interpretation: “I took a criminal psych class in undergrad. He was guilt personified.” But what was Montgomery guilty of?
Kerns admits that, in retrospect, “now it’s obvious as hell. I could have been Woodward, or Bernstein… or Linda Tripp, but I wrote it off. I mean, I was either seeing the drugged-up tortured artist, or the quirky-eccentric author. Who knew it was neither?”
episode, though aired in February, was pre-recorded, and had filmed before the close of 2005. Nary a sighting from January to March, Montgomery at least had a knack for at least staying in the public’s mind when not directly in the public eye. And so it went, until mid-March, when people began asking questions.
Works initially debuted in snippets at the O-ho’s bookgasm eventually became published shorts in
The New Yorker
shortly after the interview, and spoke to a darker sensibility; even for the author of
Timothy’s Turn to Cry
, this was uncharted territory.
Close advisors, family friends, and his agent McCarthy initially worried; had Montgomery’s hard lifestyle caught up with his psyche? Were his ramblings a cry for help? Would this be the end of their meal ticket? Pre-released copies of the magazine wagered mixed reviews. His usual hard-hitting machismo prose was rendered impotent, leaving a salty, slightly acidic aftertaste in reviewer’s mouths.
Pay No Attention to the “Man” Behind the Green Curtain
With no immediate explanation from the Montgomery camp, his absence from the spotlight became painfully obvious. Althea, the on-again-off-again Montgomery romance, was definitely off again, having been spotted in the Maldives with a Saudi businessman. Pending appearances, red-carpets; all went unattended. Montgomery was simply unavailable.
Timothy’s Turn to Cry
, being optioned by several production companies, was placed on the back burner. A scathing
ad, placed by one such company Head, chastised Montgomery’s work ethic, paternalistically denouncing future partnerships with the troubled author. Still, journalists were met with “No Comment”.
Mid-March, in an odd juxtaposition of revelations, Montgomery’s public life had become private, his private life, public: in an astounding HIPAA violation, cafeteria Jell-o cube-sized nuggets were leaked to the press regarding the state of Montgomery’s health.
Long surmised that Montgomery’s hermitage from the spotlight was secondary to book-in-progress, or Betty Ford Day Care, it turned out that the author’s whereabouts more likely approximated New York City; Mt. Sinai Hospital, to be exact, and had been as such for three months. Physically, anyway. The man known internationally as Montgomery was mentally in a coma, and had been since New Years.
Montgomery had passed out after a bender list that reads like an EPIC FAIL how-to: cocaine, Jack Daniels, cat tranquilizers, Reddi Whip, Clorox ™ Bright-n-Shine floor cleaner, four Big Macs, and a pile of vacuum bag contents suspected to have residual cocaine. His female companions, at the time concerned about potential media attention, first contacted Montgomery’s security guard.
After attempts at resuscitation proved futile at best, he was privately couriered to the Manhattan hospital and admitted under the pseudonym of D.M. Smontgomery. And there he sat, or laid, for three months, surfacing just in time for his coming out party.
The Retrospective Detective
The footnote of
The New Yorker
pieces stated Montgomery had written the pieces while on location for pre-production in Vancouver in January, when the pieces were written. A
fashion spread pinned him in Miami late February, in Gucci skivvies and additional adornment.
D.S. was supposedly a lot of places in those during those three months, but upon revelation that he was, in fact, not, other aspects of Montgomery were challenged. It only took superficial scratching to pull back the entire dermis; embarrassingly obvious, the facts were available to those who had patience to investigate beyond the headlines.
Who’s life has D.S. been living?
Jimmy King weighs in, reluctantly: “Embarrassed? Oh yeah. It was egg on the face of the entire media. He gave us everything, and we took what we wanted. We couldn’t believe we were being handed such a juicy concept. It was the recipe for pot-brownie perfection: Small-town boy’s stratospheric success peppered with talent, and drama, and drugs, and women. Who knew it was the fairer sex that had more than just the bit part?”
Media Studies Professor Haimi Rakim of THE Ohio State University, Montgomery’s alma mater, has studied the phenom, is less nonplussed:
“It took no work to create his story, which is counterintuitive to the very idea of journalism. It should have been obvious, but in this day and age, it doesn’t work like that. The sexiest headline gets immediate attention; post first, ask questions later, if at all. We want it tastier, faster; broadband consumerism: ironically, the very same thing
Timothy’s Turn to Cry
rallied against. I suppose that was just one of the clues we should have paid attention to, one of the many we’re still smacking our heads over. The media, in the most technical terms possible, GOT SERVED.”
Ghost-writers, publicity stunts, and gender bending are nothing new to the literary world, and in fact date back beyond recent Google cache (see: Carolyn Keene,
, George Elliot).
D. S. Montgomery’s life does not fit neatly into any of these categories, or all of them, depending on personal interpretation. We know now, from reading between the lines, that Montgomery did not write
Timothy’s Turn to Cry
The New Yorker
articles. We know Montgomery is not a headline-hogging charming and misogynistic playboy. We know that Montgomery is not anything he said he was, because Montgomery is not a He.
The body of Montgomery belongs to Trevor June, a 28-year-old struggling performance actor with a strong narcotic abuse history. The persona of Montgomery belongs to Shirley Crush, a 58-year-old agoraphobic benzodiazepine-addicted writer from Columbus.
The two met where their story ended: on the internet. Both in treatment for their addictions, they provided online support via an addicts' anonymous forum, and formed a kinship. Professional and personal woes shared, it was decided that Crush should take her work public. But given the constraints of her condition, it would be near impossible to represent herself and catch the eye of potential publishers.
Surprisingly, at the insistence of Crush, the deal was made: June would be the actor, Crush would be the director, and D.S. Montgomery was born: Crush was guaranteed solitude, and June, the 12th of 13 children in a Roman Catholic family, would get the spoils of world-wide attention.
The caveat: June was sworn to secrecy, was to uphold the personage of Montgomery at all times, and to refrain from drugs and alcohol. We know a lot about D.S. Montgomery, and we know that the latter was most definitely not upheld; if not for this broken tenet, D.S. Montgomery still be.
Details are thin regarding the friendship, and even rarer regarding the deal, but in a rare commentary since the aftermath, June states that he and Crush “shared a most profound ethereal and platonic bond” and “still has the utmost respect for Crush… and wishes for media scrutiny to be directed elsewhere, perhaps toward finding out who the
Real Housewives of Orange County
June, having filed for bankruptcy in September, is slowly rebuilding his life, with a small and favorably reviewed part in an off Broadway production.
“Staying clean, paying bills, walking my dogs. I’m ok,” he says. “I’m ok.”
Crush, unsurprisingly, has granted no interviews, has returned no calls, is just as much a ghost as D.S. Montgomery.
The last photo of crush as obtained by K-H-8 is from 1974, with a red-headed and smiling Crush with her second husband, on their Hawaiian honeymoon.
“Business is good, again, but you’re only as good as your last post. We got a lot of hits on her photo,” King says. “Too bad her husbands are dead. I bet they got a lot of shit on her.”
We don’t know a lot about Shirley Crush, and perhaps it should stay that way.
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