On Orange Is the New Black, Larry is often trying to find some way to capitalize on Piper’s imprisonment. While this really does make sense (It’s his story too! …Kinda), it also makes him look like he’s refusing to get off the coattail roller coaster. Well, as reality would have it, the real Larry (who looks like the the result of Tom Waits’ and Jason Biggs’s genetic mashup) is enjoying that same ride. Today, Medium published “the other true story behind Orange Is the New Black,” titled My Life with Piper: From Big House to Small Screen.
Larry’s mini-memoir paints a nice picture of young love/lust, and explores the surrealness of having an existing version of yourself that is way famous, but not quite you. Larry says in the piece, “If you ever meet me, I hope you’ll discover I am neither the saint of Piper’s book, nor the schmuck of a hit show.”
Once The Real Larry get to the indictment and actual prison bit, it reads like a slightly skewed Cliffs notes for the series. Most of it is the same story we’ve seen, with some small theatrical tweaks revealed. There are, though, some interesting differences. If you’ve read The Real Piper’s memoir that the show was based on, these may not be news to you. But I haven’t, so they are.
-Piper and Larry actually met (or almost met) in San Francisco, when Piper was giving an It’s Okay to Be Gay speech to a group of children at a summer camp where Larry was working. As Larry points out, in 1989, this kind of LGBT promotion with kids was pretty radical. Still, Larry didn’t remember Piper. He figures it’s because he was fixated on another counselor, who in turn was probably checking out Piper. As Larry puts it:
I had no idea then that, for whatever reason, I would love a lot of lesbians in the next two decades, and they, oddly enough, would love me back. This and good hair are the gifts the universe has given me.The two met again a few years later through a mutual friend.
-Larry would visit Piper just about every week for a year, and ended up bonding with the other husbands and boyfriends. They even organized a prison carpool of sorts.
-Pornstache’s real nickname with the inmates was “Gay Porn Star.”
-One forced fictionalization that actually sounds like the show still nailed was Piper’s brother. He was the only person who wouldn’t sign his “life release” (a horrifying term) because, as Larry put it, he “always likes to go his own way.”
Larry also gives some great insight into Piper’s intentions with this story, and her role in Orange Is the New Black. While the character of Piper gets a lot of crap thrown her way for being “whiny” or “annoying,” and no one is discounting the validity of the argument that a white middle class woman is not the best central figure for a show about women in prison (where women of color are significantly overrepresented), Piper recognizes all of this. She knows she’s not the main character in her own story. Larry describes her as wanting to tell “an important and infuriating story about prisons and jails in which she’s a minor player, but one with a large speaking role right now.”
Piper is a private person who told her story because she believed she could get a lot of people to pick up a book about prison who probably wouldn’t otherwise. Through this “Trojan horse” protagonist who might remind them of themselves, their daughter, or their niece, readers would get a peek into the diverse and complex world of women in prison: who they are, what happens when they get there, and what kind of world they’re dropped back into when they are released. The reaction to the book Orange Is the New Black gave Piper an opportunity to speak out on criminal justice reform—an opportunity very few prisoners have.It would have been great if The Real Larry had had more to add to what we already knew, if the “other true story” had been more “other” and less “again.” But I’m missing this show something fierce, so at this point I’ll take what I can get.