Carly Simon is fuming mad, and I don’t blame her. The legendary pop star is the subject of a new unauthorized biography by a former childhood friend named Stephen Davis. Davis, I can tell you personally, lifted quite a few interviews and quotations for his book from other sources without credit. This reporter is one of the people he stole material from. There are others.
In “More Room for a Broken Heart,” to be published officially in January by Penguin/Gotham, Davis makes some serious mistakes and I’d say possibly commits plagiarism. Some mistakes I’ve checked with Simon and her staff. Others I have first hand knowledge of. Davis, for example, liberally quotes from lots of interviews Simon has given over the years without ever giving proper credit or citation. Penguin Books should be ashamed of itself for not asking Davis for research attribution.
More seriously: Davis asserts that Simon had an abortion at the end of a relationship with actor Jeremy Irons in 1984. Simon insists to me this is not true. Davis also says that the affair with Irons broke up his marriage to actress Sinead Cusack. Again, untrue, and they’re still together to this day.
She’s also extremely unhappy that Davis made up a story in which Simon purportedly called one of her best friends, Dick Ebersol, a “jerk” for allegedly giving away the “secret” subject of the song “You’re So Vain.” None of that ever happened.
A story in Davis’s book about Simon having an affair with Mick Jagger right before her marriage to James Taylor–also untrue. Davis claims that Bianca Jagger called Taylor and told him they must be sleeping together. That is why Taylor and Simon married quickly, Davis asserts. Again: untrue.
As well, Simon–as a matter of courtesy–tells me she gave Davis a few autobiographical pieces she’d written for him to read, with no rights to publish them. He ignored that and published them anyway. He’s reprinted them or paraphrased them without her approval or authority. Simon’s lawyers believe he may have violated her copyright. Since 1986, no one had ever read a short piece of memoir that Simon had written but yours truly, some of her family, and the late Jacqueline Onassis. I’ve held it in my files; I didn’t have the right to reproduce it. Davis didn’t either, but that didn’t stop him. The way he’s woven it into his book makes it seem like he wrote it himself. This is a major transgression.
Davis takes great pleasure in taking mean whacks at both of Simon’s ex husbands, James Taylor and Jim Hart. He gets most of it wrong, especially about Hart, one of the nicest guys ever. He makes it seem like Hart was an interloper who resented Simon’s fame and friends. This is an utter lie. And Hart was a poet with friends in the literary world, like “Ironweed” author William Kennedy. He was a man of substance before he met Simon.
But Jim was also a recovering alcoholic. In 2002, he fell into a serious problem with crack cocaine. He went into rehab and pulled himself together in a year’s time. Davis says this all happened in 1992. It did not.
The sad part of Davis’s book is that it’s a clip job. There is no interview with Carly Simon. She doesn’t exist as a person in the story, just as a bold faced name. There are no insights because no primary interviews exist. Davis did get Penguin to pay Simon’s brother Peter for personal family photographs. That gives the book a sense of authenticity. Penguin also uses a quote about Davis from Simon on the back cover which makes the book sound authorized. Simon says it’s out of context and should not have been used.
I found at least three instances of my work from pieces I’ve written about Simon in Davis’s book, without credit or attribution. I can tell you that anecdotes — about Marvin Gaye trying to stick his tongue down Simon’s throat, and another quote about her son Ben’s kidney surgery, and another about James Taylor’s heroin addiction– were lifted directly from an article I wrote in 1989 for Fame magazine. Davis has simply taken the quotes either verbatim or interpolated them. There are no citations.
I am told that Davis also liberally lifted from Sheila Weller‘s “Girls Like Us.” Weller has recently posted about this on her Facebook wall. She writes: “To my many journalist/author FB friends: What do we do with these unabashed clip-jobbers? Just roll our eyes and shake our heads, I guess. This anecdote was lifted whole (quote, verbatim) from exclusive (though, dare I say, far more nuanced ) material in my book. Davis has no source notes, no bibliography, not one single author/journo acknowledgement in his whole book. Disdainful bemusement for a Sunday morning…”
Shame on Davis and Penguin. There may be other instances like this. Davis should be made to produce all of his research material. He also spells the “Carlisle” Hotel name wrong (anyone knows it’s Carlyle). That should tell us something right there.
Penguin/Gotham is already starting to release publicity items on “More Room.” They planted one in the NY Post and another in the Boston Herald. My advice to them is stop doing that and verify what’s in that book.