The Voyeur’s Motel

“I’m thoroughly disgusted that I alone must bear the burden of my observations.”

“The Voyeur’s Motel” is a brilliant and disturbing “New Yorker” article from 84-year-old journalist Gay Talese:

I know a married man and father of two who bought a twenty-one-room motel near Denver many years ago in order to become its resident voyeur. With the assistance of his wife, he cut rectangular holes measuring six by fourteen inches in the ceilings of more than a dozen rooms. Then he covered the openings with louvred aluminum screens that looked like ventilation grilles but were actually observation vents that allowed him, while he knelt in the attic, to see his guests in the rooms below. He watched them for decades, while keeping an exhaustive written record of what he saw and heard. Never once, during all those years, was he caught.

The voyeur, Gerald Foos, says in his 30 years as a peeping Tom, he witnessed a murder that he unwittingly instigated. He never reported it to police.

30 years of voyeurism made Foos a cynic.

… basically you can’t trust people. Most of them lie and cheat and are deceptive. What they reveal about themselves in private they try to hide in public. What they try to show you in public is not what they really are.”

Foos considers himself a scientist.

“I hope I’m not described as just some pervert or Peeping Tom,” he said. “I think of myself as a pioneering sex researcher.”

Talese also did a little peeping while visiting Foos to verify the story, although he does not describe himself as being aroused by it. Like Foos, Talese no doubt considers himself a dispassionate observer working for a greater cause. The difference between the two is that Foos worked in secret, while Talese has as worldwide audience, respect, and acclaim.

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