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ALLEGED literary hoodwinker J.T. Leroy has been banned by the New York Times in the wake of reports that the supposed 24-year-old former truck stop prostitute-turned-novelist may not actually exist. The Gray Lady - still reeling from the damage to its crediblity caused by ex-employees Jayson Blair and Judy Miller - decided to scrap a piece by Leroy for the Times magazine. Women's Wear Daily reports the Times agreed to pay Leroy $2,700, plus expenses, for a story about the cultural influence of the HBO series "Deadwood" - specifically the fact that Vera Wang's spring collection was inspired by the series, as well as the increased tourism travel to Deadwood, S.D. But then came stories in New York magazine and the Washington Post suggesting Leroy may actually be a fictional persona created by a woman named Laura Albert. The Post piece went so far as to tweak the Times for employing such a character, given its recent problems. Times editors then decided to launch their own probe. "They asked for my passport, my Social Security card," Leroy tells WWD. He declined to hand them over. "I've always played with identity and gender. I understand what [the Times] is saying, but they entered into working with me knowing that . . . just because the Washington Post came after them, why should I be forced to prove who I am? They knew exactly what they were getting when the dealt with me."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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