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Moby’s story of his 1999 “relationship” with then-18-year-old Natalie Portman isn’t just creepy; it’s full of holes

The “happy” “couple”

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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Fenton
Fenton
1 year ago

@ Kupo Okay, Kupo, give me a number.

Statutory rape has specific age ranges for what is considered an illegal sexual relationship.

I think we can all agree that any relationship which is over those bounds, even if there is no sexual contact involved can be considered creepy by most people.

But after that is it a grey area or do you have a specific creepy/noncreepy threshold?

What is the maximum age difference that to people could have before it’s considered “creepy”?

Are there different numbers for different stuff, like holding hands is one age difference range, but mouth kissing is another?

Me, I see a situation that A: totally legal and B: utterly devoid of any sexuality. There’s almost nothing there. If it’s creepy it’s creepy in some abstract, intangible tent show evangelist “spiritual level” sort of way.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

Me, I see a situation that A: totally legal and B: utterly devoid of any sexuality.

You do realize that Moby would disagree, right?

And you do realize that “totally legal” isn’t enough to qualify as decent behavior, correct?

Grey
Grey
1 year ago

Damn, just by looking at the picture of them you can see that she’s not smiling truthfully.
Seriously, what’s wrong with these men who are completely unable to understand how relationships work?

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

Okay, Kupo, give me a number.

Dudes always seem so intent on being given strict, objective criteria which delineates any and all behavior into the ‘creepy’ and ‘non-creepy’ camps.

(Often it seems to me to be for the sake of guys who want to go *right up* to the boundary but still have plausible deniability against any suspicions of ill intent.)

Hey, how about this for a criterion? Natalie said that Moby’s behavior made her feel uncomfortable. He creeped her out. Ergo, his behavior was creepy. Isn’t that easy?

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Hey Fenton

She said he was an old man who creeped her out. 18 may be legal and count as an adult relationship. But I at 20 wouldn’t date someone at 18 because they are to young and naïve about actual adult relationships. Don’t fucking act like a fresh out of highschool 18 year old woman is the same thing as a 35 year old.

Big Titty Demon; formerly Lurker LXVII
Big Titty Demon; formerly Lurker LXVII
1 year ago

@Fenton

I believe there was a hard number given, actually, by that most august and beloved internet nerd, Randall Munroe, who created xkcd, a mostly awesome comic. Said number was calculated by the algorithm :

If 2(younger_persons_age)-7 < older_persons_age, then CREEPY!

If we examine the present case, we do find 2×18-7 = 29 < 35, and therefore Moby was creepy. There is your hard number, created by a man for everyone to live by.

Or we could not appeal to men to decide these things with their ever-so-rational hard numbers, we could appeal to the women affected. By this metric, Moby is creepy, since Natalie Portman said he was. This was always good enough for me, why is it not good enough for you?

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@Big titty demon (best name ever)

This was always good enough for me, why is it not good enough for you?

Because it’s a woman! basing her opinion on what’s creepy towards on her feelings! obviously that’s not logical and hard numbers are. That’s why it’s not good enough for Fenton

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

This just in: Moby doubles down.

Go home, Moby, you’re drunk.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
1 year ago

Ewwww. Moby surely seems like a creeper, gotta say.

@Fenton, if you aren’t feeling the super obvious creeper vibe, you def. Need to listen to the people who do. Because it is like, visible from space.

From.

Space.

Look at the difference in the smiles in the picture above. Moby is grinning like a fool, while Natalie portman has (at best) her ‘professional’ smile on, and at worst that ‘oh god what is happening, just smile and get through it and it will stop, don’t make a scene don’t make a scene’ smile.

Neither smile indicates ‘dating’.

Look at the historical pic, can you see what type of smile it is? Honestly evaluate it, you don’t need to tell us, but honestly. What kind of smile does that woman have???

(She’s super creeped out, but can’t do anything to escape this situation, so she’s trying to not cause a scene so she can hopefully get out of it without any bad consequences. Is the answer.)

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

Fenton,

Go back and read my post. About the dangers of treating it as a sacred right to test boundaries and push those boundaries to the limits of legality.

This is how you can be a part of rape culture. By excusing or engaging in boundary testing behavior. It is up to men to stop doing this. Currently, we have an environment in which women are required to always be on guard. Always try to walk that line between enforcing boundaries and not enraging the spurned man. It’s actually really fucking hard to do especially given that we are socialized to be nice and it’s a learned skill. The reason men like Moby routinely go after much younger women is because they do not yet have the skills to spot bullshit, to see red flags and to be firm about boundaries. How is that not creepy to you?

You’re acting like it’s so hard to discern what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Well, it’s not. You have a thread full of women telling you. Try actually listening.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Fenton
JFC. Women shouldn’t have to constantly defend themselves against creepers, abd yet, here we are.

@Rhuu
🤟 (hope this shows up on your device, but if it doesn’t it says ilu 😘)

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
1 year ago

@kupo – <3

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

Reminds me of the observation on people who use the ‘free speech’ defense – if the best justification you can come up with for saying what you said is that it wasn’t actually illegal to say it, you shouldn’t have said it.

I can think of a few decent, responsible responses Moby could have made to this, but apparently he couldn’t.

Citerior Motive
Citerior Motive
1 year ago

@Knitting Cat Lady: I suspect the only reason I wasn’t was that before I was 18 everyone thought I was a boy.

Owen
Owen
1 year ago

Had to go back and look at the photo ‘cos I’m a middle-aged white bloke and therefore fairly oblivious to this sort of thing. But on a second look, that’s definitely the smile you put on for your school photos, not an actual having a good time with a famous person grin.

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

He’s apparently decided to cut his losses and apologize. I can’t link, unfortunately.

Turan, Emissary of the Fly World
Turan, Emissary of the Fly World
1 year ago

Well, he has apologized for not telling her in advance that he was writing about her. That is pretty much all. He was not withdrawn his claim that they dated, and he still insists that she was 20 years old at the time.

That is truly a bizarre point on which to cling. I mean, I can understand that he may not have been certain of her age at the time, or that the details may have become foggy in his mind after so many years. However, when she publicly states how old she was then, and can prove it by simple application of the calendar and basic math–why, and how, can he dispute that? Does he imagine this is an argument he can win? “Uh uh, babe, I know better than you when you were born!”

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
1 year ago

Right-wing CHUDs have tried to legislate the birthday of the Earth to make it nearly four and a half billion years younger than it really is, have tried to legislate P=NP (by demanding unbreakable crypto be broken), and have tried to legislate pi to equal 3. So it’s no stretch for one of them to try to legislate Natalie Portman’s age up by two …

JenniferAndLightning
JenniferAndLightning
1 year ago

@Fenton

Maybe I can help you understand.

Most men is their 30’s do not consider women in their 70’s to be potential sexual companions. Sure, it’s not illegal, but the 35 year old man would be somewhat taken aback by the idea that his buddy’s grandmother seriously thought he was interested in dating her. Hell, the 35 year old man might humor some light flirting either out of politeness or thinking it was obviously absurd, but if the 75 year old woman suddenly went for his crotch or shoved her tongue down his throat he would feel trapped in an unwanted sexual situation and be somewhat mystified that anyone might think he was interested.

That is how most 18 year old women see men in their 30’s. I know the men refuse to believe it and studies have shown that men have trouble judging whether women are interested and instead assume interest based solely on their own attraction. But 18 year olds are brand new adults and anyone over 25 seems ancient to them. Age differences mean less as we get older so the difference between 20 and 30 is not the same as the difference between 30 and 40. It’s closer to the difference between 30 and 70.

ChunkySpaghettiSauce
ChunkySpaghettiSauce
1 year ago

@Fenton

Let’s be real. Most people turn 18 during their senior year of high school. When they’re still living with their parents. When they’ve probably never worked a full-time job yet or paid their first bill. When legally their brains aren’t considered developed enough to drink alcohol yet. Are you seriously trying to an argue a girl goes from a 17-year-old high schooler living with her parents the eve of her 18th birthday to a fully emotionally mature adult with all the knowledge and experience to navigate the world on her own the moment she turns 18? That it’s not at all creepy for a 35-year-old to sweep in and try to date a girl when she’s fresh out of high school? When she’s just trying to navigate how to be an adult for the first time, and he has 15+ years of life experience living in the real world? That just maybe that 35-year-old isn’t interested in the dating the 18-year-old because he views her as an equal partner that he has a mutual attraction with, but because he knows she’s just barely not a child and thinks he has a better chance with her because she’s still naive and has nothing to compare to?

Let’s not play games. People don’t develop according to hard and fast lines. Children don’t go from children one day to magically being adults the second they turn 18. Laws don’t set lines for moral and immoral behavior. They set the bare minimum for non-legally-punishable human behavior. Laws have to set the age of consent somewhere because if they didn’t, people would just keep pushing the bar lower and lower. Let’s not forget why we have laws for statutory rape in the first place. It’s not about whether the child is ‘willing’ or ‘not willing’, it’s about the fact that children aren’t emotionally and mentally mature enough to understand and give informed consent to sex. That trying to have sex with a child is inherently manipulative, abusive, and controlling.

So you want to know where the creepy/non-creepy age line is? It’s where the younger person is 18+ and has the emotional and mental maturity to give informed consent to the relationship. Does the 18-year-old know how to respond to and decline the unwanted advances of a 35-year-old? No? Then it’s creepy. Does the 18-year-old know how to recognize if the 35-year-old is emotionally/mentally unhealthy or immature for his age? No? Then it’s creepy. Does the 18-year-old know how to recognize if the 35-year-old is manipulating or controlling them? No? Then it’s creepy. Does the 18-year-old rely on the 35-year-old for financial support and guidance as they would a parent because they haven’t figured how to take care of the responsibilities of being an adult yet? Yes? Then it’s creepy.

Oh, and if the 18-year-old is exceptionally mature for their age, but the 35-year-old is interested in them because they’re so young, then it’s creepy. And honestly when someone much older is interested in someone who’s barely an adult, this is usually the case, though they won’t come right out and say it. They’ll usually something along the lines that women their age are so ‘jaded’ and ‘stuck up’, but this girl has such a ‘pure way of looking at the world’ and that she’s so ‘friendly’ and ‘open-minded.’ (Translation: Women my age have enough sense to realize I’m a creep and stay away, but this girl is too young to realize that or she just feels too uncomfortable to turn me down directly.)