Steve Jobs' Daughter Claims He Once Said She Smelled Like a 'Toilet,' and His Widow Pushes Back
Steve Jobs's daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs recalls her father saying she smelled "like a toilet" while on his deathbed and other shocking claims in her memoir
Steve Jobs’s daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, is set to release a memoir about her childhood, Small Fry, on Sept. 4 — one that is already making headlines, in part because of his bad behavior. And his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, is pushing back.
“The portrayal of Steve is not the husband and father we knew,” Laurene, 54, said per a statement she gave The New York Times for a recent profile on Lisa.
In the article, Lisa reveals she’s worried that readers will only focus only on the bad — she recalls her father saying she smelled “like a toilet” while on his deathbed — and not her love for the complicated man he was.
“Have I failed?” Lisa, 40, asked Nellie Bowles of The Times. “Have I failed in fully representing the dearness and the pleasure? The dearness of my father, and the outrageous pleasure of being with him when he was in good form?”
Laurene and the rest of Steve’s family seem to think so.
In response to the book, Steve’s widow, their three children, and his sister, Mona Simpson, provided a statement to The Times: “Lisa is part of our family, so it was with sadness that we read her book, which differs dramatically from our memories of those times. The portrayal of Steve is not the husband and father we knew. Steve loved Lisa, and he regretted that he was not the father he should have been during her early childhood. It was a great comfort to Steve to have Lisa home with all of us during the last days of his life, and we are all grateful for the years we spent together as a family.”
Steve, who died at the age of 56 in October 2011, is the legendary co-founder of Apple Inc., which became the first-ever U.S. company to reach $1 trillion in value this month. And his personal life has been as tumultuous as his professional life has been successful.
He famously denied paternity of Lisa, whose mother is Chrisann Brennan, for years, even saying in court papers that he was “sterile and infertile, and as result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.” Steve would later marry Laurene Powell in 1991, and have three more children.
Born in 1978 when Steve and Brennan were only 23, Lisa writes in the excerpt published in Vanity Fair that her father arrived a few days late, claiming, “It’s not my kid.” She says her mother was forced to hold several jobs, and relied on welfare payments to make ends meet during the first two years of her life, writing, “My father didn’t help.”
It wasn’t until after 1980 that a DNA test proved Steve’s paternity, with the court requiring minimal child-support payments and medical insurance coverage for Lisa until age 18 — finalized just four days before Apple went public, making the tech giant a millionaire, according to the memoir.
While promoting his authorized biography in 2011, Steve spoke about some of his regrets.
“I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of,” he said in a statement, “such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was 23 and the way I handled that.”
As an adolescent, Lisa lived with Steve and his new family but their relationship remained complicated. The Times cites eyebrow-raising moments in the book and Lisa’s defense of them, even the hurtful comment he made about her smelling like a “toilet.”
“He was telling me the truth,” Lisa told The Times author, and preceded to blame the bad scent on her perfume. “I wasn’t aware of it. Sometimes it’s nice of someone to tell you what you smell like.”
There are numerous shocking revelations in Small Fry, but one of the most unsettling moments occurred when Steve embraced Laurene in front of Lisa. He was “pulling [Laurene] in to a kiss, moving his hand closer to her breasts,” and along her leg, “moaning theatrically,” Lisa writes, according to The Times.
Lisa adds that she tried to leave, but he prevented her, saying, “Stay here. We’re having a family moment. It’s important that you try to be part of this family.”
She told The Times that such scenes were proof that her father was “just awkward.” Her mother, who was also interviewed for the article, remembered seeing a similar moment when Steve joked inappropriately with then 9-year-old Lisa.
“He was so inappropriate because he didn’t know how to do better,” Brennan said, according to The Times.
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During the interview, Lisa expressed her hope that the book won’t “alienate people,” but realized it might (“I hope Thanksgiving’s O.K.,” she said).
In Small Fry, Lisa writes that at the end of Steve’s life he apologized to her for being negligent and absent while she was growing up, according to The Times.
Later, she writes, he cried and repeatedly told her, “I owe you one.”
Small Fry goes on sale on Sept. 4.