Theresa Duncan against the multitude

Devil’s Haircut

Spurred on by a multitude of interested bloggers, two new articles from LA have effectively disassembled Theresa Duncan’s public image. She never received the degrees she claimed she had; she took full credit for collaborative work; her done deals were more like the half-sincere moviemaker promises that even most of us get from time to time. The crumbling resume at the bottom of this deep, moving tale is full-on pulled-rug zeitgeist; we can each count on a similar deflated ending.

The lies she told to sustain that fabricated reality with inevitably devolved into a massive, consuming paranoia that started off articulate and Radiohead-y but turned rambling and deadly. She was convinced that a cabal of Scientologists were after her, coordinated by Beck (reverse-mirror scenario of the Devil’s Haircut video).

To the list of stories that don’t check out, let me add: she could not really have been as moved by the book of choice called out on her Wit of the Staircase blog, Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. A true Hardt-Negriphile would have understood from Multitude’s precursor Empire that the conspiracy theory doesn’t exist. The appearance of conspiracy theory is just a quirky byproduct of the spectacle.

To Wit:
“We do not mean to suggest that there is a little man behind the curtain, a great Wizard of Oz who controls all that is seen, thought, and done. There is no single locus of control that dictates the spectacle. The spectacle, however, generally functions as if there were such a point of central control…. Conspiracy theories of governmental and extragovernmental plots of global control, which have certainly proliferated in recent decades, should thus be recognized as both true and false. As Frederic Jameson explains wonderfully in the context of contemporary film, conspiracy theories are a crude but effective mechanism for approximating the functioning of the totality. The spectacle of politics functions as if the media, the military, the government, the transnational corporations, the global financial institutions, and so forth [the Scientologists] were all consciously and explicitly directed by a single power even though in reality they are not.” 3.5

Conspiracy theory serves the same purpose today that superstition did before—the communication of fear. Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they aren’t after you.

L.A. Times: The world as Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan saw it
L.A. Weekly: The Theresa Duncan Tragedy

Chris Lee’s LA Times report ends:

“Schlei also pointed out that one of Blake’s favorite movies was Robert Altman’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye,” in which a character played by Sterling Hayden takes his own life by walking into the sea.

“Life imitates art,” Schlei said.”

The Long Goodbye had two separate runs at the Film Forum this year.


  1. Effectively Disassembled?
    Posted August 6, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Coe’s piece was a hack job. Monica Gesue did not come up with the idea of Chop Suey, Theresa did. I worked at Magnet and was friends with them, and Monica was in awe of Theresa. Isn’t it a little suspect that Theresa’s next 2 CD-ROMs have incredibly similar ideas and tone as the first one, and yet Ms. Gesue had no involvement? Or that we’ve never heard of Monica again, while Theresa’s fame only continued to grow?

    My point is simply that because she uses “evidence” like Monica’s to bolster the piece, the entire framework of Coe’s article is extremely shaky. Indeed, if her point is to contend that *Theresa’s* career was rendered suspect by her modest indiscretions (she shaved a year off her age! Sacrilege!), shouldn’t we hold her journalism to the same standards?

  2. George Krompacky
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Use your real name if you are going to call someone a liar.

    If you look back at the press at the time “Chop Suey” came out, you’ll see that stories about “Chop Suey” talked about Gesue and Duncan as “co-creators.”

    For example, the Washington Post has reposted a story about “Chop Suey” at

    Was that Gesue’s work, too? Did she trick the reporters with her sham evidence 12 years ago?

    Coe quotes Gesue as saying she came up with the idea. She didn’t say she did it on her own; she didn’t say that it was mostly her creation. It was co-created. But Theresa, later on, had a problem saying that.

    The reason Ms. Gesue had no involvement with the subsequent two CDs is, obviously, that their partnership broke up. Also, Gesue never had much of a interest in computer games, and soon chose to leave them behind.

    I could speculate why the next two CD-ROMs had the same ideas and tone, but I won’t.

    Fame or the lack of it doesn’t make one person right and another wrong. Some people are interested in fame, and some aren’t. It’s really irrelevant to the point, except in the sense that Theresa built her reputation partially on Chop Suey’s success, while at the same time excising its co-creator whenever she mentioned it.

    Theresa told lots of people that she created “Chop Suey.” You keep telling enough people the same thing, eventually it sticks. And in fact, she did create it–but not on her own. Later on the collaborator she would acknowledge was David Sedaris. At that point, with his own deserved fame, it made her look even better to point out working with him way back when.

    I am Gesue’s spouse and I have known her since the early eighties; she has never deviated from her explanation of what happened back at Magnet. She has always spoken with great nostalgia of her times with Theresa, but also with sadness at the way things turned out. Yes, she was in awe of Theresa. Most people were.

  3. Not that Monica
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I thought Coe’s article, out of all the revisionist history I’ve read recently, came closest to the Theresa I knew and … well… knew.

  4. Posted August 8, 2007 at 11:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Theresa Duncan did more than shave a year off her age. In an interview last year with she said she was “35 or so.” I’ve done a little research and found 3 evidences of plagiarism on just one topic on The Wit site. (see my site for the evidence) Based on what I’ve seen so far, it seems that Jeremy was the talented one.

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