As a die hard, binge-watched-the-second-season-in-13-consecutive-hours Orange Is the New Black fanatic, you can imagine my utter dismay and contrition upon realizing that, unbeknownst to me, the series is actually based on an autobiographical book. How can this be? I’m a fraud, a poseur, (or as Holden Caulfield would say), a phony. But I resolved, right then and there, not to allow for this shameful instance of ignorance to define me, and promptly made efforts at redemption, downloading the novel on my kindle, in addition to reading up on everything I could regarding the real Piper Kerman. It was immediately evident that after the pilot episode, the two stories very much diverged. While sensationalized and dramatized, the screen version seems to have taken a turn for the better, capitalizing on the stories of the other, more dynamic inmates, rather than continuing to be told from more the naïve perspective of a privileged white woman.
But the discrepancies between the two stories didn’t end within the jail cell. In his extensive memoir, “My Life With Piper: From Big House to Small Screen”, the real Larry tells his own version of the story in a probable attempt to counter Jenji Kohan’s unflattering depiction of him in the series.
Larry Smith goes on to wistfully recount exuberant adventures of his youth and the humorous saga between he and his lesbian BFF, Piper Kerman, and their improbable shift from platonic friends to lovers. This immediately differs from their televised story, where Piper’s existence as a lesbian is brief and kept under wraps along with her criminal past. And again, after the pilot episode, which is described by the real Larry to be eerily accurate, the two versions of the story digress. While Larry Bloom develops into a flaky, whiney, self-centered, pompous, overtly irritating character (clearly, I’m not a fan), who parasitically leeches off of Piper’s situation to uplift his own career, and subsequently goes on to have an affair with her married best friend, Larry Smith seems to be quite the opposite. Through Piper's 11 months in prison, the real Larry stood by her, and very much looked forward to his weekly visits- he even carpooled with the husband of another inmate. He speaks about the supporting sense of community he found among the inmate spouses, the impudent treatment even visitors would receive from the guards, and the necessity of always coming armed with quarters so he and Piper could enjoy a romantic vending machine date.
While he may receive a bit of hate due to his unfavorable depiction in the Netflix series, Larry Smith is able to take the characterization of Larry Bloom with a grain of salt, recalling in his memoir, chuckling while scrolling through a website entitled “A Guide To The Internet’s Love of Hating Larry Bloom From ‘Orange Is the New Black.”
Pics via Medium and Uproxx