Journalist Revisits a Celebrity Biographer’s Fraudulent Ways

The late author’s editor would not talk to reporter David Cay Johnston. Neither would Simon & Schuster spokesperson Paul Olewski.


But there it is, nonetheless, detailed in the latest issue of Newsweek magazine. The litany of errors and fabrication committed by celebrity biographer C. David Heymann, who passed away two years ago in New York City:

It’s too bad CBS didn’t want to hear more, because all the celebrity bios Heymann wrote for them and other publishers — dealing with JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe — are riddled with errors and fabrications. An exhaustive cataloging of those mistakes would fill a book, so a sampling from his long career will have to suffice.

Johnston wrote an earlier expose of Heymann for the Los Angeles Times, involving the biographer’s first celebrity effort about Barbara Hutton, way back in 1983. The evidence he revisits in connection with that tome and others is simply astounding:

When I got Heymann (and his lawyer) on the phone, he insisted he had interviewed Hutton many times but had no tape recordings, only handwritten notes. He could not describe the hotel suite where he said he repeatedly interviewed her. He told me he had flown out to Los Angeles from New York many times for these interviews and stayed in hotels, so I asked for his plane tickets and lodging receipts, which would be a paper trail supporting his claim. “Why would I have those?” Heymann asked. I explained that without receipts he could not deduct those expenses on his tax return.

Johnston suggests that as a result of making up so many quotes and anecdotes over the years, even Heymann himself couldn’t keep the stories straight, substituting for example the knife Monroe allegedly pulled on the last night of her life for, later, a hurled champagne glass. At the end of the Newsweek piece, Johnston wonders why CBS/Simon & Schuster are still peddling the author’s books.