So What’s Up With Vanity Fair’s Art World Suicide Story?

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A conflict of interest? Discrepancies in a post-suicide timeline? Who knows…

Some thoughts concerning Vanity Fair‘s article on the suicides of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake. The whole story — an artistically prominent couple relocates to New York amid alienating their friends with paranoid talk of government-Scientology conspiracies and subsequently commit suicide — reeks of high weirdness. At various times, Beck, Amy Sacco, Malcolm McLaren, Paul Thomas Anderson, vid game company Rockstar Games, Muslim scholar Reza Aslan, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and members of the Washington DC punk bands Fugazi and Nation of Ulysses all float in and out of the piece. There’s a budding internet underground of researchers of the strange circumstances of Duncan and Blake’s death and the extremely odd (and sad) Beck connection (which Vulture parsed yesterday). To make a long story short for those who haven’t been following… Theresa Duncan was found dead in the rectory apartment of an East Village church on July 10, 2007; her longtime boyfriend Jeremy Blake was reported missing on July 17 on Rockaway Beach shortly after a woman called 911 about a man swimming into the ocean. His body was discovered five days later.

But here’s what troubles us:

  • The article’s original author John Connolly (aka the Anthony Pellicano investigator supreme) was reportedly pulled off the story in favor of Nancy Jo Sales. (Note: E-mails to both Connolly and Sales have not been returned as of press time)

  • Sales is the ex-wife of radical East Village Episcopalian priest Frank Morales, who was renting his rectory apartment to the couple (and was one of their closest friends). This fact was not mentioned until the story’s 11th graf, buried deep on the first page. If that isn’t a potential conflict of interest — we don’t know what is. Especially for an investigative piece such as this. What was VF thinking?

  • A small but troubling factual glitch concerning the progression of events in the piece. According to Vanity Fair‘s Sales, both Blake and Morales sat together in the living room after Duncan’s body was taken away from the couple’s bedroom drinking whiskey for about an hour:

    When Morales came back to the apartment, he said, Blake had moved to the living room. “Please don’t leave me,” he said. He and Morales sat in the dark, drinking whiskey, saying nothing for about an hour. Blake just held his head in his hands, looking at the floor. And then the silver cuckoo clock Duncan had bought when they moved into the apartment started chiming. “Cuckoo, cuckoo,” 12 times. “Well, that about sums it up,” Morales said in the quiet, meaning that it was all so unbelievable. Blake looked up suddenly. “You got that right, man,” he said. Other friends came soon after and put Blake to bed.

    But Newsweek‘s Tony Dokoupil claims that Morales and Blake were actually drinking for three hours:

    After the coroner took his lover’s body away, Blake spent the next three hours with Morales, silently drinking glasses of Glenlivet until the bottle was empty.

    A small thing to quibble about, but still… More importantly, what lead to Connolly’s name being taken off the piece (we hear from numerous sources that Connolly was their interviewer) and for Sales to be put on, especially considering that she’s the ex-wife of one of the story’s main sources? Weird.