Unknown White Male is an extraordinary film that allegedly follows a man in the hours and months of his amnesia as he turns his back on attempts to piece his shattered life together. However, as the remarkable story gained pace, it was quickly accompanied by doubt.
Following the film’s release various statements were made regarding why medical treatment ceased. In a website posting the film’s executive producer claimed... “…Doug himself decided to stop seeing doctors as they couldn't offer him anything except contradictory speculation.”
GQ Magazine asked why he was not still seeing doctors - apparently he had seen six – Bruce, who owns a Panamanian plantation, responded: ‘Mainly because I was (a student) under school insurance before. And now I’m not.’ (A statement that itself contradicts the ‘contradictory speculation’ claim above.)
The filmmakers also claim that Coney Island Hospital was filling up - it was the 4th July holiday. Doctors we talking about sending Bruce "upstate to a mental institution… he knew he didn’t want to end up there, so he tried the telephone number for the last time…”
A statement at variance with that which Brian Palmer, of Coney Island Hospital, told me, he claims Doug Bruce was treated first in the medical ER and was later moved to the Psych ER where, significantly, all medical laboratory tests proved negative. CT scan uncovered a pituitary tumour, ‘but this was not felt to be (and I believe still is not felt to be) the cause of his memory loss.’ There was no suggestion of transferral to an upstate mental institution. .
But why did Bruce leave the Manhattan apartment that day (fugue state or not) with the phone number of the one person who could identify him inside a book? [In psychology, a fugue state, also known as a 'psychogenic fugue' or 'dissociative fugue', is a state of mind where a person experiences a dissociative break in identity and attempts to run away from some perceived threat, usually himself.]
Brian Palmer unwittingly provides one potential motivating factor: “…he would not have been discharged had someone not come forward, (and) identified him, etc....”
In other words with no number in the book - and presumably no girlfriend to identify him - the “unknown white male” would have been kept in the hospital.
HBO network is said to have pulled out of co-funding a film on the grounds that the story was "less than credible". The Daily Mail labelled the film a hoax. In New York, Michel Gondry, director of the memory-loss movie Eternal Sunshine, said that he had doubts. (Reports that the central character was on the NY party scene hamming up his forgetfulness did not help. Apparently Bruce would hand attractive women a card with his domain name "unknownwhitemale" printed on it.)
Rumours escalated… was it Memorex?
In fact amnesia and Manhattan had always been neighbours. A play premiered at the Manahattan Theatre Club in October 2000. “Fuddy Meers starts off just as just another normal (special) day for Claire. She wakes up and greets the morning. Her husband brings her a cup of coffee, and patiently explains that she suffers from a form of psychogenic amnesia that erases her memory every night when she goes to sleep.” The author’s first play, it is also known as autobiographical amnesia. It is related to trauma or general psychological disorientation. The rarity of cases leaves some doubt as to whether or not it is a real phenomenon.
Sound familiar? The play’s genesis started with a news report that the author saw about a book on neurological disorders, one of the most interesting being a specific form of amnesia where everything is erased during sleep. He speculated: "what is it like to wake up and not recognize the bed you're in, the clothes you're wearing, the people around you?"
But the subject of memory loss does not end there for Manhattan-based Doug Bruce...
”The nightmare begins in a hotel room in midtown Manhattan. As you take stock of the situation you realize that you have no clothes and no money, and worse still, your memory seems to have been replaced with an unyielding dense fog.” [Amnesia”, by Thomas M Disch, is an interactive electronic detective mystery.]
Among those found missing after the September 11th attacks in NY was a sidewalk vendor who turned up six days later in a Manhattan hospital suffering from amnesia. Amnesia was also a play by the Surveillance Camera Players in NY.
Amnesia and Manhattan, a heady mix… also darkly glamorous and contagiously hip as any cocktail bar… Amnesia is one of Manhatten's coolest nightspots.
To be sure, Manhattan was soaked in memory-loss… But there is further compelling evidence that challenges Doug Bruce’s version of events – the F Train did not run into Coney Island that day.
Coney Island (Stillwell Avenue) Terminal underwent a complete rebuilding programme in 2001 that did not officially complete until May 29, 2005. [The BMT Culver Line (F) was cut back in September 2002. The D, Q, N or F trains usually ran into Stillwell Avenue (the last stop). But the day Bruce claims he awoke on the F train it stopped 40 blocks from Coney Island, at Avenue X. See WIKIPEDIA.]
In the postings of just two commuters who were affected by the Coney Island works:
“After what seemed like hours, but was really about 45 minutes, I got to the final stop on the F train's line. From there I had to take a shuttle bus, because the track work in that area prevents the F from going all the way to Coney Island." [July 13, 2003 Posted by justin.]
[Garratt Murray blog on the Fourth of July celebrations at Coney Island.]
"...grabbed the F train all the way to Avenue X... Then we skipped the shuttle-bus and instead walked the seemingly 40 blocks to Coney Island." Canarsie Courier reported on July 3, 2003. “DIRECTIONS: Due to reconstruction of the Stillwell Avenue Terminal, the W train is the only subway line operating into Coney Island. F trains terminate at Avenue X...”
Rupert Murray, director of Unknown White Male. “I didn’t need to push him to reconstruct anything after his amnesia as he could recall virtually everything from that day in July 2003 onwards, in terrifying, photographic detail.”
So if an unknown white male woke out of his amnesia on the F Train headed to Coney Island - recalling 'virtually everything from that day...in terrifying, photographic detail' - he was either wrong, or lying.
There are other oddities...
Doug Bruce claims that he was born in Nigeria to a Scottish father. My own findings reveal that Douglas Ivan Bruce was born on 2nd November 1967 on the banks of the Seine. The birth was actually registered at the British Consul-General to Paris the day after Douglas was born.
[Home of French actor Gerard Depardieu, Neuilly-Sur-Seine is a North West suburb of Paris near Bois de Bologne. Neuilly is now the Ternes neighbourhood in the Paris 17th arrondisment. Paris was enlarged in 1860 by annexing part of the neighbouring communes. His mother is recorded as Marguerite Loraine Du Bouzet. His (Scottish?) father Andrew Ivan Bruce worked at the time as a tyre sales manager for Dunlop and Hertz in Ikega, Nigeria from 1975-1980. It was here that his son attended school for ex-pats for one year only. The family home was recorded at 21 Avenue du Parc St James 92200 Neuilly Paris. Currently the address of a Gérant de Bouzet, whose activity is ‘service forestier’ and a likely family member. The family actually descends from the French aristocracy. Coincidentally 'Scottish' father “Ivan” was himself born abroad in Budapest in 1937. This birth is also a British Embassy Consular registration but was not recorded in registers at the Family Records Centre until 1950, thirteen years after Ivan's birth. Ivan's father too was born at Bratislava in 1913. The family's paternal Scottish ancestry seems to date back another generation to Ivan's grandfather who was born at Neilston in Scotland in 1874.]
On or shortly after his eighth birthday Douglas was sent to board at St Edmunds in Canterbury, England. His father Ivan had been there before him. He was a bright ‘if not exceptional’ student, but at the senior school he is said to have become ‘a bit of a tearaway’. He passed his A-levels and went on to London University, but left after just one year. (Possibly the reason why his father had no recollection of what his son studied. The University, due to a narrow interpretation of the Data Protections Act, refuses to 'confirm or deny' that he attended.)
It seems fair to say that the majority of Douglas Bruce's academic qualifications ended at the gates of St Edmunds where his father had also attended from 1953-56. Jock Asbury-Bailey, former teacher and historian, had heard of the story but did not immediately recollect ‘Douglas’ with Unknown White Male. (Douglas attended the school from 1976-1985, however, the school heard nothing more from him after he left. (It still retains an address in Marbella for his father.)
Douglas was thought ‘bright enough’ and achieved 11 O Levels, and three A levels, though the latter were ‘less better than the school had hoped’. Apparently he later applied to Universities in Edinburgh and at Asten (Birmingham) though it is questionable if he would have been accepted at either due to his grades. He had hoped to do business studies with French. However, apparently whilst he received an A for his oral French, his written French brought him only a C.
Jock described Douglas as a pleasant young man, ‘rarely at a loss for words.’ He played squash, and was in the Second 11 hockey team. ‘But did not stretch much further than that in sports.’
Boy Douglas was also involved in a young enterprise scheme with the help of local businesses and became a school under monitor responsible for discipline and routine things, looking after more junior boys. He attended the school for 9 years, four of them spent in the juniors and the rest in seniors.
By the age of 17, in his final year, he was secretary of the Forum (debating) Society. He was, Jock claims fondly, ‘A very chatty, easy to get along with person.’ In his early days not only was he number 7 at squash but ‘drama’ was noted amongst his interests. (He played a shepherd in one production but 'did not stretch much further'.)
It was following the short stint at London University that Douglas, possibly in his late teens, headed across the Channel. It was in Paris that he claimed he worked as stockbroker. (It is difficult understand how he did so without the requisite qualifications. He refuses to say where he worked. The Du Bouzet name may have opened doors left shut to many... There is a brokerage firm Patrick Du Bouzet, SA in Paris, a subsidiary of the Banque National Paris Group. Are these 'connections'? The address on his birth certificate matches the home of the Comte du Bouzet, which suggests the Unknown White Male is a known aristocrat.)
He had been very close to his French mother ‘Loraine’ (Du Bouzet) who died of cancer when he was aged 23. At the time his sisters did not remember seeing him cry or hearing him discuss his feelings and this was felt to be a possible motivating factor to his later retrograde amnesia, though doctors do not concur. By the time he was 30, in 1997, he had we are told ‘made a considerable sum of money’ and two years later decided to move to New York. In August 2001, he enrolled in a 4-year course at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. The play Fuddy Meers performed nearby ten months earlier in October 2000. Despite the memory loss, he obtained a BFA in 2005 on graduation. Douglas Bruce is now a commercial photographer working in NY.
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