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Did James Frey Really Cry on Oprah?

July 31, 2019

Oprah chose this “memoir” for her Book of the Month Club, and then the author cried on her show… I think… when she accused him of writing lies… I think.

I’m not sure if James Frey really cried on Oprah Winfrey’s show 15 years ago.  Just so you know, I don’t care that much if he did or didn’t; I’m more worried about my potentially bad memory.  I have a vivid memory of James Frey crying, but now I can’t find proof.

I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to not trust my memory.  I still have a pretty good recollection of stuff that’s happened in my life, but now my brain inserts my family into these memories.  I remember hanging out with my wife in college, even though we didn’t meet until six years after I’d graduated.  I remember seeing my wife and daughter at a couple family get-togethers back when I was a kid, before my daughter was even born.

Here’s how my memory could cause problems for my blog.  A few days ago, I made a video (you can find it here) about the line between embellishing and outright lying when you’re writing.  I used James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces as an example of an author lying.  When I recorded the video, I mocked James Frey for crying on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show maybe 15 years ago when she busted him for lying.  Before I put the video up, I thought, you know, I’d better verify that James Frey actually cried on Oprah before I put up a video of me mocking him for it.

The thing is, I remember watching that episode on the day it was on.  My wife used to watch Oprah and she suggested that I might be interested that day because of the guest James Frey and the topic.  I remember James Frey crying because I called him a derogatory name (one that rhymes with wussy) and told him that that fake crying doesn’t work anymore (evidently he didn’t hear me and I was wrong).

My wife kind of remembers him crying.  She says he started crying after Oprah pointed out to him that he wasn’t reacting at all to her accusations.  From my perspective, that’s still crying.  If that’s why I mocked him over a decade ago, I stand by it.  If my memory is faulty and he didn’t cry, then I have to take back my mockery, which also wouldn’t have happened.

I think it’s weird that I can’t find a clip of the full interview, but I’m not making any crazy accusations about it.  I’m sure Oprah owns the footage and controls what clips from her shows get played and which get buried.  If James Frey indeed cried on her show, I wonder why she would hold onto that part of the clip in her vault, but I’m not even sure he actually cried, so I can’t accuse her of hiding footage.  At least, I couldn’t accuse her without looking crazy.

This reminds me of the Mandela Effect, which is when a bunch of people misremember an event in such a way that their memory can be proven false.  For example, a lot of people believe that Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned when died a few years ago.  Oddly enough, I remember Nelson Mandela being freed and then even thriving politically before his death.

Here are some other popular examples of the Mandela Effect:

The Berenstein Bears vs. The Berenstain Bears

Shazaam the movie starring Sinbad vs. Kazaam the movie starring Shaquille O’Neil

“Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back vs. “No, I am your father.”

“If you build it, they will come” from Field of Dreams vs. “If you build it, he will come.”

Some theorists say that powerful forces (government, financial, magical,) are messing with the populations for whatever reason (confusion,  mind control, fun).  Some think that this is proof of parallel universes occasionally merging.  Others just think it is weird.

I admit that I don’t pay attention to details enough to have strong opinions on most of these.  I rarely even notice when my wife changes her hair, so I’m not going to commit to an opinion about a childhood memory.  I know when Kevin Costner built it, a lot of people showed up.  I thought Darth Vader being Luke’s father was a cop-out twist.  Whether Kazaam was a movie or not, it doesn’t matter; it would have been stupid either way.  An old copy of a Barenstain Bears book that I own says Berenstain Bears; if some force is strong enough to change a copy that old (and every other copy that old), I don’t want to mess with it.

My memory about James Frey crying on Oprah might not be the best example of the Mandela Effect because I don’t think there’s any mass memory involved.  I don’t think anybody else cares if James Frey cried on Oprah.  If my memory says James Frey cried on Oprah and a video shows up with the entire interview and no weeping, nobody else is going to care.  I might not even care.  I’d just say, “Aw, dang it, I misremembered that.”

And I’d go on to misremembering something else.

What do you think?  In what ways has your memory tricked you?  Did James Frey really cry on Oprah?

  1. A great deal of work has been done on false memories, most notably by Elizabeth Loftus. The thing is, false memories tend to be remarkably clear and vivid. The reason for that is simple, they are the newest.

  2. You Asked — “What do you think? ”

    My Response — The effect is real but the cause is unknown.

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