Monday, March 12, 2007

The Truth Is Out There Somewhere, Part II

As I stated in a previous post, Valliant uses as one of his sources Jeff Walker’s book The Ayn Rand Cult (“TARC”). TARC is an explicitly anti-Rand book which is, as Valliant notes, is something of a repository for all anti-Rand stories. Curiously, Valliant uses TARC at times to supplement PAR, implying that it contains a better or more complete account of some events. He does this notwithanding that he accuses it of “extensive reliance” on the Brandens’ books. (PARC, p. 373.) One example concerns the production by Phillip and Kay Smith of Rand’s play Penthouse Legend (Night of January 16th), which precipitated the split between Rand and the Smiths. Valliant notes that while Branden reports that Rand split with Phillip and Kay Smith, she does not give the details of the split or connect it with the play.

In 1973, an off-Broadway performance of Penthouse Legend (Night of January 16th) was staged. Phillip Smith directed and co-produced the play; his wife, Kay Nolte Smith co-produced the play and acted as well. (PAR, pp. 369-372.) Walker says that Kay Smith made “unauthorized changes to a few lines of dialogue for a public performance” and for that reason was expelled from Rand’s inner circle. (TARC, p. 35.) Valliant’s only source is TARC. (PARC, p. 400.) Valliant’s version of the events is different. He says the Smiths, “changed the dialogue in their production of Penthouse Legend without authorization from Rand.” He describes the Smiths’ conduct as “systematic and personal betrayal.” (PARC, pp. 75-76.) However, TARC doesn’t describe the changes as concerning the “production” of the play but limits it to lines in one performance. Valliant doesn’t acknowledge the fact that TARC not only doesn’t support his description of this event, but contradicts it. Valliant also mentions that he asked Kay Smith for an interview in 1983, which she declined. Of course this could not be in connection with PARC since PAR wasn’t published until 1986.

As Michael Stuart Kelley notes, Phillip Smith supports TARC’s contention that the change was limited. Dr. George Reisman recounts the incident as follows in his weblog in 2006:

"Many years ago, there was a young actress to whom Ayn Rand gave the responsibility of directing a production of her play 'The Night of January 16th.' Toward the close of the play’s run, an actor prevailed upon this young woman to allow him to alter one of Ayn Rand’s lines in one of the play’s last performances. When Ayn Rand learned of this, she was furious and completely ended her relationship with this young woman, who had been in her inner circle for several years."

So while I think that, in retrospect, Branden should have included the details of this split, reporting it probably wouldn’t have changed the typical reader’s opinion of Rand.

Incidentally, when confronted with the obvious problems in his description of the split with the Smiths by Chris Sciabarra, Valliant responded that he had “anonymous sources” for his version of the split (and also anonymous sources for other events). Yet no such sources are mentioned or even hinted at in PARC with respect to the break with the Smiths or any other event. Valliant even goes so far as to claim that “[u]nlike Ms. Branden, I do not rely on anonymous sources as my only source for something . . . .” Valliant is relying on his anonymous sources exclusively for the Smith break given that Walker contradicts his version (or, perhaps, he is just misquoting TARC). And finally, one can’t notice the double standard employed by Valliant: when Branden said post-PARC that she heard the Remington-Rand story from Rand, Valliant accuses her of dishonestly attempting to bolster her case.

1 comment:

ObjectiBlog said...

I would note that Barbara Branden calls him "PhiLLip" Smith but his name is given as "PhiLip" here --