‘Co**s**ker!’: Inside Story of How My James Ellroy Podcast Episode Went Off the Rails (Video)

A question about online pornography did no go over well with the author

As host and producer of Los Angeles magazine’s podcast, The Originals, I had a good run, recording 26 interviews with cultural icons and legends without ever being told “fuck you!” or even once being referred to as a “cocksucker.” Well, thanks to an icebreaker gone very wrong with author James Ellroy, that streak has now ended.  

The Backstory

Ellroy joined me from his apartment in Denver to discuss his excellent new podcast series, James Ellroy’s Hollywood Death Trip, an audible reimagining of some of his men’s magazine stories about unsolved murders which does an impressive job of recreating L.A.’s sleazy noir past. Though Ellroy is most famous for his novels, notably
The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid, he’s also the author of two very dirty memoirs, 1996’s My Dark Places, and 2010’s, The Hilliker Curse. Between the two memoirs, he cops to enough onanism to have made Philip Roth blush, tells tales of a period he nearly went broke due to an addiction to the wares of Sunset Strip hookers, confesses to breaking into girls’ houses to sniff their panties and steal their parents’ booze as an adolescent, and recalls his more recent recurring paranoia that his girlfriends were “surfing the Internet for donkey-dicked dudes.” Ellroy’s work was brutally honest about his peccadillos, or his “perv view,” as one girlfriend called it, but in the flesh in 2022, the 74 year-old author was not nearly such an open book. The explosion you can see in the accompanying video occurred after I cheekily remarked that given the existence of so much free online pornography it was surprising that the famously tech-averse author hadn’t finally learned how to use a computer. 

Watch ‘Co**su**er!’: James Ellroy’s LAMag Podcast Goes Off the Rails: 

That particular icebreaker: officially retired. Fortunately, Ellroy returned to complete the interview a few minutes later, and what followed was an illuminating, though often awkward interview that may earn comparisons to The Hollywood Reporter’s legendarily painful 2016 interview with Jerry Lewis titled, 7 Awkward Minutes With Jerry Lewis.

Three other takeaways from this very strange, often combative episode: 

He hates both Hollywood adaptations of his books.
Ellroy has long been on record maligning Brian De Palma’s 2006 adaptation of his novel,
The Black Dahlia, but was consistently full of praise for 1997’s L.A. Confidential, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Curtis Hanson, who died in 2016. No longer. “Now that the director, Curtis Hanson, who was a friend of mine, is passed away, I can tell the truth about L.A. Confidential, the movie,” Ellroy said. “I didn’t like it. I don’t think it’s any good. It’s about as deep as a tortilla.” 

Given the choice, he wouldn’t again disclose his longstanding sexual obsession with his dead mother.
“There are lines of decorum that I would cross at 46, in my first memoir, that I wouldn’t cross now as a 70-year-old man who writes only fiction,” Ellroy said of his 1996 memoir
My Dark Places, in which he attempted to identify the man who murdered his mother Jean in 1958 and admitted recurring impure thoughts about her. “I wouldn’t do it now, but I’m not being asked to do it now, and it’s impossible. This was very much memoir of a man in early middle age.” 

John Wayne was a crossdresser.
His 2021 novel, Widespread Panic, includes salacious gossip about many figures from Hollywood’s Golden Age, some true, and some invented. Ellroy says he believes that one particularly shocking rumor from the book is 100% factual: “John Wayne a cross-dresser? I’ve heard it a million times and people who listen to your broadcast will all know. He liked girls, but he liked to wear women’s dresses. I joke in the book that he wore a size 52 extra-long muumuu. It looked good.” 

Listen to Los AngelesThe Originals podcast with James Ellroy.

Or listen here at Apple Podcasts.

Read the Q&A transcript “Being James Ellroy” from our July 2022 issue.

(Photographed by Shayan Asgharnia)

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