I am Copy Bergs’ sister and many of your ‘facts’ are not facts at all — some are fiction.
Valerie Rice
1

Hi Valerie,
Well, you aren’t mentioned in the book but I knew from the New York Times obit that he had a sibling named Valerie. Nice to meet you. I’m surprised not to have heard from you sooner as this isn’t the first time I’ve talked openly of my hope to adapt Get Off My Ship. Please see my previous blog posts at http://brain-on-fire.com/jefeblog/tag/copy-berg (sadly I never got to talk about it on Coast to Coast AM as I had hoped to do). I trust we’re on the same team in wanting Gibson and Berg’s Navy story told, remembered, and restored to its rightful place in history. I consider them civil rights heroes.

I recently also received an email from someone at the Brooklyn Historical Society asking if I knew Copy’s exact address on Dean Street. They really just wanted to know if he lived on the Brooklyn Heights section of Dean for an upcoming exhibit about gay rights activists in Brooklyn Heights. I’ve told them that as far as I know he lived a few blocks away from Lawrence in Boerum Hill, not the Heights. Steve is also looking through Lawrence’s stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to see if he can find anything but so far has had no luck on a specific Dean Street address for Copy. Is this something you might know? If so I’m happy to put you in touch with them.

As for your posting here and your three terse emails via my personal blog, I’ll work my way through them in the order received…

  1. “Known by his family and friends by the nickname ‘Copy’ — having a name identical to his father’s and grandfather’s — Ensign Berg was…” — Get Off My Ship, p. 4
  2. “He was called Copy because he was so like his father, Commander Vernon E. Berg, Jr., a Navy chaplain.” David W. Dunlap, New York Times obituary
  3. My final source on this point is the Gibson estate’s recollections of conversations with Lawrence regarding Copy’s nickname, as well as Lawrence’s personal writings which hopefully will be made part of the public Copy Berg Papers archive at the New York Public Library. These might shed further light someday on the origins of my sentence, which is, “As a child, his mother nicknamed him Copy because he was a carbon copy of his father, a Navy chaplain and Vietnam-era combat veteran.”

This hardly seems far removed from the first two sources above. Frankly your apparent rage and fixation over this small point seems like hair-splitting and is completely missing what’s important about my personal essay. Berg and Gibson’s story is public information that is well-documented and has been for decades. This article is my own personal narrative of my encounter with Gibson and Berg’s Navy story, and about my sincere hope to bring Lawrence’s book into pop culture again where I think it belongs. It goes without saying that there is nothing to stop you or anyone else from telling Berg and Gibson’s story in a million different ways. Have you or your family ever considered writing and publishing your own personal recollections of Copy and Lawrence? If you ever decided to do so I’d love to read it. Your accusation that I have falsified, fictionalized or made up information is bordering on libelous and is, frankly, ridiculous.

Lawrence always spoke extremely highly of your family both publicly and privately. In fact, I think he was envious of the Berg family when compared to his own. If you need a reminder of his high regard for your parents I urge you to listen to their WBAI interview, especially the latter half. An audiocassette of the interview was found in Lawrence’s belongings. In my efforts to make their Navy case known to all I have placed it online. You can click the link to it at the bottom of my article and go to youtube and give it a listen. As Lawrence makes clear there, he provided the Berg family a copy of the manuscript before it went to publication. He also speaks with effusive praise about your parents.

As for the more intimate details of their relationship and who was the so-called bad one and who was cheating on whom, there is much material from Gibson’s estate that isn’t public yet, coming directly from Copy’s mouth, including a confessional, extremely explicit audiotape letter sent from Copy to Lawrence from Italy, about his infidelities. Lawrence was well aware of this streak within Copy’s demeanor. If Lawrence was paranoid about Copy’s sleeping around it was with good reason based on Copy’s own stated history. They were brutally honest with one another; way more than most couples ever allow themselves to be. My article also makes mention of their short confessional biographies that each wrote and passed to the other. I’m guessing you haven’t seen them and maybe aren’t aware of Copy’s admissions included therein.

In fairness, my article also mentions Lawrence’s struggles with depression and alcoholism. I doubt these were new problems for him that only sprang up late in his life. Surely Copy was well aware of Lawrence’s alcoholism and depression from an early stage in their relationship. They seemed determined, at least at first, to accept each other as they were, warts and all. You mentioned that you knew Lawrence well. Did you ever get a chance to meet him in person and get a sense of his physical stature? I’m sorry but your suggestion that he could beat up Copy and that Copy, a trained warrior, feared for his life, is as hard to swallow as Crofwell’s claim during the hearing that Copy tried to rape him.

Before receiving your messages I had no desire to make any of these extremely intimate, personal details of their interpersonal shortcomings a part of any adapted entertainment because it’s not in the book and it’s not what’s important to me about their Navy story. I won’t be saying anything further about it after this response. Neither of them were angels. They were human beings. Why not leave it at that?

If you want to correspond with me further you’ll have to drop the adversarial tone as it’s not necessary.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving,

Jeff