Debut memoir about art forgery, Lithium, Bloomingdale’s, and electroshock therapy, among other things.
Behrman was born in 1962 and raised in an upper-middle-class New Jersey suburb. He noticed early signs of psychological instability in himself and made some preliminary attempts to get help. After graduating from college in the early 1980s, he settled in Manhattan and tried his hand at various jobs, from independent film producer to men’s-wear flack to p.r. rep. Off-hours, he wandered the Times Square area, indulging in hard drugs and hardcore sex of all kinds. In 1988, he was hired as a publicist by the artist Mark Kostabi, whose MO was a variant on the notion of name-brand apparel: Kostabi’s paintings were produced by minimally paid lackeys; he then signed each work as his own and sold it at a high price. Behrman helped pull together Kostabi’s production and publicity, then became involved in a forgery scheme within the company. Kostabi eventually found him out, and criminal prosecution ensued. Behrman was sentenced to a five-month term in a community corrections center with work-release restrictions. Meanwhile, he continued to fight his psychological compulsions—one of his many doctors diagnosed bipolar personality disorder—making numerous attempts to find the right balance of psychiatry and medication. (He was one of the original Prozac prescribees.) Out on probation, he had a manic episode that resulted in several months of electroconvulsive therapy; his battle with mania continues to this day. The first half of this reads like Brighter Lights, Bigger City without a dash of insight. Even more disappointingly, Behrman has no enlightenment to offer on the subject of manic disorders. The section on the Kostabi forgery case, however, is fascinating and worthwhile.