Canatara Christopher—who runs the small book imprint that published a book of poems by Stephen Gyllenhaal, dad of Jake and Maggie—no longer seems to worship her famous friend. She sent an email around, revealing family secrets.
In an email titled "The Secret History of the Gyllenhaals" that was sent out to friends and colleagues, Christopher, who before she turned to a life of letters was a performer in 70s skin-flicks like The Insatiable Sadie the Whore, reveals anecdotes about the famous dad that, if not exactly scandalous, certainly hint at some strange behavior on both parties' parts.
It begins bizarrely:
Through all that's been happening with Michael and me since last December (the crooked lawsuit that resulted in the freezing of every penny of our personal assets, the threat to our income, the botched operation that threatened my life, the loss of our home, our new temporary digs in the mountains with the widow of Philip K. Dick) there's been one subject that has simply refused to quit my mind. And that, of course, is: What the Fuck Is Up with the Gyllenhaals Anyway?
What the fuck indeed. Also, what the fuck is up with Cantara? Her tiny imprint Cantarabooks published Gyllenhaal's 2006 collection of poems Claptrap: Notes from Hollywood, and she seems to have become close with him during their work together. Her Facebook page lists some of her favorite films as "anything directed by my beloved Stephen Gyllenhaal." But those lovely sentiments seem to have soured, and now she's contemplating putting together this tell-all. Anyway, she presses on:
A Google check of the phrases "my beloved Stephen Gyllenhaal" and "my beloved manchild Stephen Gyllenhaal" will also alert even the most casual onlooker to just how deeply Stephen got under my skin. Also, of all my postings on my blog, the ones labeled "Stephen Gyllenhaal" are the most numerous (although the Susan Boyle postings get the most hits).
As I said, the subject of the Gyllenhaals, despite our pressing troubles, has never been far from my mind. It's seeping into my writing and isn't giving me a lot of breathing room. I'm even unable to write about them fictionally because even fictional treatment can barely disguise them — a mysterious contemporary Hollywood family consisting of a manque director father, manipulative screenwriter mother and two emotionally confused movie-star children might be the stuff of Harold Robbins, except it's all real, it's happening now, and four years ago this July it got dumped in my lap. I have to deal with this material some way or another, or I will go nuts.
So this is what I'm gonna do. I started what's going to be a longish essay called "A Poet from Hollywood: The Secret History of the Gyllenhaals" and I'm going to privately circulate it, in parts, by email. While this multi-part essay should not at this time be considered ready for general publication, please feel free to share this and the other upcoming emails with anyone you think might be interested.
So, OK! Maybe you're interested? Here are some of her tales of Gyllenhaal:
Item: October 2006. Stephen's granddaughter Ramona Sarsgaard is born, several days later he gives a reading at the Zinc Bar in Soho, and what is now known in Jake Gyllenhaal fan circles as "Babygate" transpires.
[The blog linked to above is an obsessive Gyllenhaal stalking blog, which might suggest that Christopher is nothing more than a crazed, jilted fan...]
Item: December 2006. A freak fire in Northern California completely wipes out the luxury guest lodge where the entire Gyllenhaal family are staying for the holidays, resulting in Stephen running out of the lodge at three in the morning barefoot and sans underwear, but carrying out the single most important item to him in the room — not the twenty thousand dollar Rolex watch given to him by his wife for their anniversary, but his laptop containing the only copy of his first novel.
Item: February 2007. Stephen is scheduled to host a viewing of one of his films and read his poetry for a long-standing reading series at Colorado U, Boulder. A reception is organized for him in the Paleontology Department of the university. All the guests are already there but Stephen is nowhere to be found. I ask the coordinator where he is. She points to a closed door. "He's in the cloak room on his cell phone, talking to his analyst."
Item: March 2007. Huntington Beach, California. Stephen, tired from a day of shooting a TV show, reads his poetry for a local reading series. At this time he reveals his secret desire to stab Naomi to death with a kitchen knife, not only to the stunned crowd of seniors but to Naomi's father, who is in the audience.
Item: August 2007. Stephen begins his research into the problems of the homeless by neglecting to shave for two days and sleeping on the streets of LA's Skid Row.
Sigh. We were sorta hoping for gossip like "Oh yeah, and Jake's totally gay," but alas, no such luck yet.
So whose side are we to fall on here? The odd, idiosyncratic Gyllenhaal, now being curiously maligned? Or the crazy-seeming Cantara Christopher, a former performer in a "Swedish Erotica series" who does seem to have some credible access to the Gyllenhaal clan, even if it was gained by creepy stalkerish behavior?
Well, until we know just what supposedly caused this apparent falling out (from beloved to be-gossiped), we're going to hold off judgment on both camps.
Let's just hope no one gets stabbed with a kitchen knife before that happens.
Gyllenhaal image via Getty