Who is JR Moehringer, Prince Harry’s ghostwriter?
AS JOHN JOSEPH MOEHRINGER he put it himself, “the midwife doesn’t go home with the baby”. There are such ghost writers. Mr. Moehringer might have been expected to stick to his own rule rigidly after delivering Prince Harry’s todger-and-all memoir, “Spare.” But the backlash surrounding the book has prompted Mr. Moehringer to defend his factual errors. On Twitter he has mentioned the prince, who says in “Spare” that his own truth is just as valid as “so-called objective truths”. That sounds like a royal endorsement of “alternative truths”. Mr. Moehringer’s willingness to intervene on behalf of “Spare” may indicate that the job is as big as Prince Harry’s. From chimps to campers to chairs, he seems to find a written voice for anyone, and especially for men with daddy issues (and serious progress). Who is Prince Harry’s ghostwriter?
Mr. Moehringer, who was born in 1964 in New York City, began working as a journalist at the New York Times. In 2000 he won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing at the Los Angeles Times, for a picture of a remote river community in Alabama with descendants of slaves. His job wasn’t all that bad: he once was inhabiting the voice of Cheeta, the chimp star of the 1930s Tarzan films, to write a piece celebrating the character’s 75th birthday.
Mr. Moehringer’s memoir, “The Tender Bar,” published in 2005, established his true authorial theme: how to survive dysfunctional families. He wrote about his absent, “brutally insensitive” and “self-destructive” father, a rock DJ. Raised by his mother with little money in a small apartment, his male role models were Uncle Charlie and his friends, who offered boozy companionship at a local bar. George Clooney made the book into a movie in 2021.
The narrative of a lost boy searching for his true self caught the eye of Andre Agassi, a tennis star in the 1990s known for his monstrous mullet. He asked Mr. Moehringer to help him write his own memoir. Against, at first, Mr. Agassi who was completely “stilted, resistant”, Mr. Moehringer solved his subject with about 250 hours of interviews. He even moved to Las Vegas to be close to the tennis player. His process seems to be very similar to psychoanalysis. Prince Harry calls Mr Moehringer a “confessor” as a tribute to his memory. Like “Spare” Mr. Agassi’s book, “Open”, was very surprising. Turns out the Wimbledon winner hated tennis. Even the mullet was fake (to hide the baldness). And, of course, the father was emotionally distant.
Mr. Moehringer later helped Nike co-founder Phil Knight, now a billionaire, write his memoir “Shoe Dog.” He enlivens the rather pedestrian rags-to-swoosh story with his trademark staccato sentences. There’s plenty of that in “Spare”, too. Prince Harry’s publishers, Penguin Random House, must have realized that Moehringer’s template was ideal for the prince; Mr Clooney, a friend of Prince Harry, is said to have made the introductions. Perhaps it wasn’t what was appropriate for publishers to serve Prince Harry, who appeared with little respect. But in the age of selfies and social media publishing, respect is not going to sell books. ■