Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Obituary Of The Day: Lee Israel

Lee Israel, who has died aged 75, was a writer who enjoyed modest success with biographies of the American actress Tallulah Bankhead and the gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen; but after falling on hard times she embarked on a new career as a literary forger, churning out letters purportedly written by such cultural eminences as Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, and selling them to collectors and dealers.

At the time she began her criminal spree in 1990, she was drinking too much, her cat was ill and she needed money. “It happened incrementally,” she told an interviewer later. “I needed the dough. I was in a lot of trouble... I went to the library and was given a bunch of letters which I should not have been given. I needed to come up with 40 bucks to get my kitty’s, Doris’s, tests back. And I took a couple of Fanny Brice letters, slipped them in my sneakers, and sold them to a place called Argosy, on the East Side of New York City... Some of the autograph dealers told me that they would pay more for better content. So, there was a big white space at the bottom of a letter after, 'yours truly, Fanny Brice’. I got an old typewriter and I wrote a couple of hot sentences that improved the letter and elevated the price." ...
Wow, just wow.

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