Artist Goes on a Hunger Strike to Protest The New Yorker

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Players: New York Painter John Perry; David Remnick editor of The New Yorker. In August of 2010, The New Yorker's Tad Friend wrote an article about the disappearance of admired actor, artist and musician John Lurie in which a fight between Lurie and Perry, once the artist's closest friend, is blamed for driving Lurie into hiding in 2008. In the article, Perry comes across as a stalker who threatened Lurie with comments like "Scumbag, one day you'll be gone and this earth will be delivered from the virus of our existence."

Opening Serve: Perry didn't like his portrayal in The New Yorker and demanded that the article be retracted. When the magazine refused, Perry began a hunger strike--it's been almost 18 days. The New York Post reports, "In addition to the hunger strike, Perry has been heading from his Yorkville pad to Petrosino Square Park in SoHo, near Lurie's home, each day for more than two weeks and sitting for at least eight hours a day to publicize his protest." Perry insists that he did not stalk Lurie and just wants "some acknowledgement from them that the not completely in accord with what was written in the piece," he told the paper. "The last thing they want is for me to drop dead out here, because then someone will look over that article with a fine-tooth comb. It will call into question their renowned fact checking."

Return Volley: Despite Perry's public plea, Remnick is sticking to his guns. "The piece was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, and is a fair representation of both sides of the story. We looked into [Perry's] complaints carefully and found nothing to correct or retract," he told the Post. "As concerned as we are about his health, we can't print something we don't believe is true."

What They Say the Fight's About: Perry argues that The New Yorker's description of him is incorrect and insists that if the article were more thoroughly fact-checked, the errors would be revealed. The Post also talked to "sources at The New Yorker" who said "many of the story's descriptions of actions that appear to be stalking--such as tracking Lurie to the Caribbean--came from Perry himself."

What the Fight is Really About: Regardless of who is right, this seems like a classic case of regretting one's words, or actions, once they appear in print. As Remnick pointed out, the magazine can not retract an article simply because the person quoted is unhappy with the truth.

Who's Winning Now: Perry's hunger strike has gotten his complaints the attention he wants, but launching a obsessive, self-destructive campaign is not the best way to disprove his portrayal as an obsessive, self-destructive friend of Lurie. Speaking of whom, Lurie told the Post "the article had no regard for the truth or the damage it would cause to the lives of those involved," before adding, "He's conducting a hunger strike a half block from my house to prove he's not a stalker."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.