By David Futrelle
In his memoir, Then It Fell Apart, published earlier this month, former rave superstar Moby tells the story of what he says was a brief and bittersweet relationship he had with actress Natalie Portman in 1999 when he “was thirty-three and she was twenty.”
But his story is, well, falling apart. Portman, in a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar, points out that Moby is either misremembering or flat-out lying about her age at the time. She wasn’t twenty; she was eighteen — something that a quick Google search will confirm.
And she says there was no relationship. As she told Harper’s Bazaar:
I was surprised to hear that he characterised the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school.
Her memory of their “relationship?”
“I was a fan and went to one of his shows when I had just graduated,” she said. “When we met after the show, he said, ‘let’s be friends’. He was on tour and I was working, shooting a film, so we only hung out a handful of times before I realised that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate.
Portman is understandably annoyed by Moby’s, er, mistake about her age and his publisher’s failure to check this basic fact:
He said I was 20; I definitely wasn’t. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18. There was no fact checking from him or his publisher – it almost feels deliberate. That he used this story to sell his book was very disturbing to me. It wasn’t the case. There are many factual errors and inventions. I would have liked him or his publisher to reach out to fact check.
My own cursory fact-checking of Moby’s account reveals it to be full of holes.
According to Moby, the two met backstage after he played a show for an audience of several hundred in Austin in 1999; as he tells the tale, he was starstruck to meet a real movie star, and even more surprised when she gushed over his music like, well, a recent graduate from high school.
“I loved it!” she said. She was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt; her dark-brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. “The songs from Play were so great.” Natalie sat on the black leather couch and smiled at me. My heart stuttered.
I would bet ten billion dollars that this is not how it went down.
He was, he says, stunned again when, according to him, she proposed meeting up again in New York a few days later.
This was confusing. I was a bald binge drinker who lived in an apartment that smelled like mildew and old bricks, and Natalie Portman was a beautiful movie star. But here she was in my dressing room, flirting with me.
Several days later, he recounts, she met up with him after MTV’s Music Video Awards, where once again she took charge, ushering the somewhat befuddled DJ/musician into her limo like a seasoned Hollywood pro.
I was thirty-three and she was twenty, but this was her world. I was comfortable in dive bars and strip clubs and vegan restaurants, but I knew nothing about award shows and red carpets.
I’m going to stop right now because there are several big problems with his story so far. A Google search shows that the only show Moby played in Austin in 1999 was on August 20. The Video Music Awards didn’t take place a few days later; they took place three weeks later, on September 9th, two days before Moby turned 34.
In a later chapter of his memoir, Moby tells another story about Portman that suggests a slightly more intimate relationship. As he recounts, he met up with Portman again after an outdoor show in Boston.
I took a taxi to Cambridge to meet Natalie. We held hands and wandered around Harvard, kissing under the centuries-old oak trees. At midnight she brought me to her dorm room and we lay down next to each other on her small bed. After she fell asleep I carefully extracted myself from her arms and took a taxi back to my hotel.
The story’s placement in the book suggests that it happened sometime after the VMAs — which took place, you recall, in September — but as best as I can tell, the only outdoor show Moby played in Boston that year was on August 26. And while I wan’t able to find Harvard’s academic calendar for 1999-2000, Harvard currently doesn’t start the Fall semester until September. Maybe Harvard’s schedule has changed since 1999, or maybe he’s misremembering again.
In any case, if the dorms were open on August 26 1999, and Moby did pay Portman a visit that night, the 33-year-old would have been canoodling with a brand-new college Freshman at the very start of her college career. Which is, I need hardly add, creepy as fuck.
That’s pretty much the extent of the “relationship” Moby had with Portman, at least according to his account. “For a few weeks I had tried to be Natalie’s boyfriend, but it hadn’t worked out,” he declares, several chapters later, informing his readers that she had broken up with him over the phone, saying she’d met someone else.
I should point out that while there are many points of confusion in Moby’s story — particularly it’s unstuck-in-time quality — there’s nothing in his account that really contradicts Portman’s version of events — that they “only hung out a handful of times before I realised that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate.”
The romantic, late-night makeout session he remembers so fondly? She seems to have experienced it as a “much older man being creepy with me.” They both may be accurately remembering what the experience was to them; he may just have been oblivious to how not into it she was. Or maybe he knew, and just didn’t care.
What’s really astonishing to me about Moby’s stories of the two together — and you can read more of them in the extended excerpts from his memoir published by Entertainment Weekly — is his attempt to portray the then-18-year-old Portman as the smooth, sophisticated Hollywood veteran who instigated the alleged affair, with him as a naive and innocent outsider virtually hypnotized by her fame and beauty. Never mind that he was nearly twice her age, a professional musician who at that point had been DJing and performing music live for more than a decade; by the end of the 1990s he was headlining tours and getting massive exposure on MTV.
I’m not buying his aw-shucks act, and the effort he makes to push this particular narrative suggest to me that he was well aware he was the creepy older dude in his interactions with Portman.
And Moby still seems to be lying to himself, and to the rest of us, about what happened in those days. After Portman’s interview came out, he posted a statement on Instagram defending his version of events — without correcting or even admitting to any of his errors.
I recently read a gossip piece wherein Natalie Portman said that we’d never dated. This confused me, as we did, in fact, date. And after briefly dating in 1999 we remained friends for years.
She may have been polite to you, dude, but I’m not sure you were ever really friends.
I like Natalie, and I respect her intelligence and activism. But, to be honest, I can’t figure out why she would actively misrepresent the truth about our(albeit brief)involvement. The story as laid out in my book Then It Fell Apart is accurate, with lots of corroborating photo evidence, etc. …
Ps I completely respect Natalie’s possible regret in dating me(to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn’t alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history
To back up his recollections, he posted one piece of “corroborating photo evidence” to his Instagram post that doesn’t really corroborate his account at all — the picture I used at the top of the post.
Take a look at it again. It doesn’t look like a picture of a happy couple in the first flush of a romance. It looks like a creepy old dude with his hand on the shoulder of a much younger woman, her face frozen in the sort of uncomfortable smile women learn to put on when faced with a man overstepping his boundaries.
It reminds me a little of this famous picture of Bob Packwood — who resigned from the Senate in 1995 after a string of accusations of sexual harassment and assault — and a similarly smiling similarly uncomfortable younger woman.
Moby is not someone with a good understanding of boundaries, to put it mildly. Elsewhere in his memoir he boasts about rubbing his flaccid penis against an oblivious (and fully clothed) Donald Trump — long before he was president — at a party, as part of a game he and his pals called “knob touch.”
I can’t help but wonder if there are more gross stories about Moby waiting to come out.
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