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An Answer To Director Steve Hanft

Steve Hanft in ‘Searching for Elliott Smith’


Steve Hanft left a comment after my article on the Echo Park music scene, to correct a mistake. It turns out that the Beck song ‘Steve Threw Up’ is not about him but about Steve Moramarco. Since he had left his email address, I sent him an email, as I wanted to be sure he was the real Steve Hanft and eventually start a more in-depth conversation? This what Steve Hanft sent me:


yes I’m Steve Hanft. I was wondering why did you (Alyson Camus, right?) say in your article about the Echo Park/Silverlake music scene, the song “Steve Threw Up” by Beck was about Steve Hanft, when every single person who was rocking in the Silverlake or Echo Park music community (at that time which would be early 90’s) knows the song is about Steve Moramarco? I stop reading an article as soon as I read a part that’s untrue because I am trying to understand the facts when I read an article. If there is a lie or mistakes in the truth, I might as well stop reading right? I’m looking for truth when I read, aren’t you? Doesn’t seem like a mistake a journalist would make, much less an investigator. You’re awful lazy aren’t you? Why would I want to do an interview with a misinformation spreader? Would you rap with someone who can’t find a fact before they write something? I bet you wouldn’t.

How about this– work on yer fact finding skills and learn to be the best fact finder you know. Takes a little more time but it’s worth it to get every single line in an article right. It will be great for you and everyone who reads your stuff. Then maybe I’d talk with ya. Send me something you wrote in year or three, or however long it takes you. Send an interview you have done after your truth finding missions, something that’s well written, well researched, and I will consider it. I feel for you and I know it’s popular to spread misinformation on the internet, and you can become president by doing it, but I still can’t stand it, and I want you to do well with the truth. Maybe write me in a year or two when you have improved one hundred percent from the Steve Moramarco mistake,  and I will consider it. Send me something then if you want. Study real journalism. Lose all aspects of hype or opinion writing.  It might help you and everyone who reads your stuff if you’re going to write or investigate by learning to be an ace. Deal?

Cheers- Steve’


I could not leave it there, and I want to send him this reply:

Why focusing so much on this detail which honestly is anecdotal, as this represents a small detail in a rather long article. Sure, I made a mistake but I read this somewhere (in a mini-bio of Beck), and I didn’t take the time to check if it was true, because I thought it was of trivial importance. Does this invalidate the entire article and especially the central point of the article, i.e. the fact that there were (and still are) some deep connections between these musicians? I don’t think so.

‘every single person who was rocking in the Silverlake or Echo Park music community (at that time which would be early 90’s) knows the song is about Steve Moramarco’?

Well, excuse me for not having been part of this select community rocking Silverlake in the early ‘90s… I came to the scene later, and even then, I was just a spectator to the scene. I checked with Steve Moramarco, the singer of a great power-pop trio called Suberbean, and he confirmed the song was about him, but he also added ‘I think a lot of people think it’s him.’ So?

Thus, why being so mad at this? Even if it’s a joke-y song about throwing up in a ferry-wheel, a lot of people would not be mad at the idea that Beck wrote a song about them,… I know I wouldn’t! Instead, you are getting on your high horse and say you stopped reading an article as soon there was a part that was untrue. Really? Because I was trying to pointing out that you and Beck had a close relationship, something which is completely true. That was just the point of this detail.

But I know why you got so mad, it’s because you are totally avoiding the real question, that I have partly approached in my email. Knowing whom this song was about has nothing to do with the seriousness of my ‘investigation’ since you want to use that term. If it were relevant to my research, I would have checked and rechecked this trivial detail several times. So I just take his ‘I stop reading when there is something untrue’ as a false excuse. And I will not even comment on the ‘awful lazy’ part, that’s just cheap and so untrue. You don’t know me. Overall, your tone is condescending and taking one detail like this one to discredit my research is just a cheap shot,

But let’s have a talk about this accusation of ‘spreading misinformation.’ In the movie ‘Searching for Elliott Smith,’ you are saying that Elliott was wearing these wristbands ‘to cover something,.. ‘he was suicidal.’ These are your exact words. I interviewed Dr. Scheinin who did his autopsy and I also have the autopsy report: there was absolutely nothing on his wrists, no marks, not even a scar. I even asked specifically this question to Dr. Scheinin, and she was very certain of this. In the documentary, you were implying something that was not there, and I think this is something much more important than making a mistake about the inspiration behind an old song. So you have no lesson to give me about spreading misinformation, as this was terrible misinformation in order to help Jennifer Chiba’s narration.

But I tend to think that you are not talking about the song anymore when you are saying ‘and I know it’s popular to spread misinformation on the internet,’ I tend to believe you want to completely invalidate my research. I was nevertheless told by two renowned investigative journalists that I did a great job, I also talked to many experts about this case, and have regular communication with the investigator, LAPD detective J King. There’s a lot of misinformation regarding Elliott’s death, and the circumstances are still unclear to the police and the coroner. These are facts, not hype, not opinions as you are suggesting, and I do think it matters.

If it was really a suicide, the investigation should be closed, and all suspicions should be removed. But the problem is that this will not happen without interrogating Jennifer Chiba again, and since she has refused to cooperate (not hype, this is coming straight from the police report) this won’t happen.

I just want to understand why Elliott’s old friends are not helping. I just want to understand why his old friends prefer to stay in this nebulous state and either dismiss any discussion, are spreading misinformation about Elliott being ‘suicidal,’ or are talking about ‘reopening a can of worms.’ It is just very weird.

As for my ‘truth-finding mission,’ as you call it, you can find everything here, but you must already be aware of it, as you were able to find my small article.


  1. Celisa on May 19, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Alyson…I think some things are perhaps lost in translation, and while I’m sure you’ve got a proofreader and/or Editor, I think perhaps having an additional reader before you post might help clean up some of the more easily corrected mistakes he could be referring to. Additionally, if that person could fact check information presented that isn’t anecdotal, making sure you’re properly citing things etc, that would only add to your credibility. Just a thought from an outside perspective! I’m willing to bet there are people out there who are qualified and would be more than happy to lend a hand with your cause! It could only help!

    • Alyson on May 19, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      It was not a case of something lost in translation, he got mad because I had not checked what I consider almost irrelevant to the article : the Beck song was not about him but about another Steve. It was totally anecdotal to the story! I asked Steve Moramarco and he said many people have made this ‘mistake’ before and Hanft has been mad before. Who knows why?

      His reaction was just a pretext to ask him a few other questions, and you get this result. I think he got more mad at me for other obvious reasons.

      But if Hanft was really eager to correct every detail about his life, he would have answered to my second email when I asked him about the details of the meeting between J. Chiba and Elliott printed in ‘Torment Saint.’ But no, he never answered…

  2. the 3rd m on May 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Lost in translation? Because English is her second language? Or, is the question whether or not there is subtext lurking underneath Hanft’s retort?

    There’s a learning curve to every endeavor, but for a French scientist turned rock journalist/writer/poster/blogger and truth table-turner, Alyson is doing a bang-up job. She also takes some great photos and is a huge supporter of the local music scene.

    Syntax and grammatical errors aside, Alyson is asking pertinent questions. And any “reviewers” who dismiss the content of her posts solely on the grounds of occasional lapses of grammatical technicalities are applying the same standards to other media offerings, I suppose; but, do they really appreciate the difference between anecdotal and empirical “fact” when it comes to reading other media sources? Maybe they do; or, maybe they don’t realize just how much misinformation they have taken at face value only because it was included in a well-known publication.

    Alyson’s research is pure DIY ethic alive and kicking. THAT is what is important… and oft times overlooked. The term “lazy” doesn’t apply to her on any front. She jumps right on in without looking both ways for tense, dangling participles — but — when she hits the ground, she gets back up running and keeps going. At least Alyson has the cojones to go straight to the source and ask questions; even about a vomiting incident that was erroneously credited in a bio which, on its own face, was never edited. : { Take note that she even thanked Haft for setting the record straight.

    None of us would be doing what we do if the media had been more open-minded about the equivocal circumstances surrounding Smith’s death rather than having helped (usually unwittingly) to fabricate a biased framework surrounding Elliott’s story.

    Alyson has made inroads we never thought possible. Yes, we. Alyson is the vocal and local one and the face of this pursuit. Extremely diligent would be a better description of her efforts. But, she is not alone. Her corner is more crowded than most realize, and the crowd is getting larger.

    We do this because it’s more than too bad that the OTHER Steve can’t set the record straight for HIMSELF regarding the misinformation that abounds on the internet and in print bios about HIS lyrics and his drug taking and his (cough) penchant for cliff diving. That would be Steve Smith… that guy digging in the dirt in Steve Hanft’s Strange Parallel universe — prescient.

    How many erroneous details about that other Steve (Elliott) and his intentions have been given credence by the rocking silence(d) of “Echo” Park(ed)? Alyson wouldn’t be pursuing this if Smith were among the rocking and walking rather than paraded as a mondegreen on the cover a tormented artist trope. (How can it be that Hanft had no problem with that tone deaf, opportunistic tome? It just goes to show you that perspective is rooted in one’s own biases.)

    No doubt the gravity of E’s legacy weighs a helluva lot heavier than regurgitated product dropped from a carnival ride. The ride being the p(r)ose of that psycho-biographer who chose to distract from fact.

    And, what about the SPIN article so perfunctorily prepared after E’s death? Liam Gowing had carte blanche to shadow the suicide narrative. A journalist, on the other hand (a crime reporter at the time of E’s death), who went on to garner much acclaim, mentioned to us that she got a “lashing” of sorts from her editor (i.e. and I paraphrase, “the woman [Chiba] has suffered enough”), for asking the only witness – point blank – if she had had a hand in E’s death. The reporter (to most readers who accept the investigative process for what it is) was just doing her job. So…

    LA Weekly allowed Gowing to take the story on from there, but it wasn’t an investigation into the circumstances surrounding what happened specifically on October 21, 2003. The investigative offering? A dirge which focused on one “Mr. Misery’s” desperate fall from grace. A conflation of misperceptions, clouded motives and a harbinger of the myth to come. I am not so sure SPIN was a fan of Smith’s anyway. [I am referring to their dust-up with E when he chose to refuse to appear on their cover in a blood spattered T-shirt for a photo shoot at the height of his popularity.] Did SPIN fact check Gowing’s offering? If so, they allowed that fish tail of a swan dive in North Carolina exactly ONE line, but enough to underscore a mischaracterization that set the stage for the only witness to portray E as hellbent on killing himself. But, the media was already pushing that narrative when E was alive, so SPIN didn’t have to spin too hard.

    The truth has no shelf life. But, a can of worms does. DE-CAN’T the worms, please, Echo Park. Aerate the dirt.

    If you have any information to share, but you are not sure that you want to speak with Detective King about it, contact – reach out – write to Alyson. If you want it to be off the record, let her know. She can forward information for you to the LAPD; or whatever you think you might know could be information we can compare to other hearsay/stories we have heard. You guys would be surprised at how much a little detail that seems unimportant could add clarity to this extremely complicated case. NO matter which side of the can you are on, we understand the stories come out distorted at the end of the string of hearsay. BUT, sometimes we DO get to the root of the original thread. THAT is what kind of information is applicable in our pursuit so that we can more readily parse the details. That is why we try to communicate with as many folks as we can.

    Thank you for caring.

    the 3rd m

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