Writer Piper Weiss finds herself looking back at a chilling story from her teenage years in her true crime meets coming-of-age memoir, You All Grow Up and Leave Me.
Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, killed himself after a failed attempt to kidnap one of his teenage students. In the aftermath, authorities discovered that this well-known figure among the Upper East Side tennis crowd was actually a frightening child predator who had built a secret torture chamber—a “Cabin of Horrors”—in his secluded rental in the Adirondacks.
Before the shocking scandal broke, Piper had been thrilled to be one of “Gary’s Girls.” “Grandpa Gary,” as he was known among his students, was different from other adults—he treated Piper like a grown-up, taking her to dinners, engaging in long intimate conversations with her, and sending her special valentines. As reporters swarmed her private community in the wake of Wilensky’s death, Piper learned that her mentor was a predator with a sordid history of child stalking and sexual fetish. But why did she still feel protective of Gary, and why was she disappointed that he hadn’t chosen her?
Now, twenty years later, Piper examines the event as both a teenage eyewitness and a dispassionate investigative reporter, hoping to understand and exorcise the childhood memories that haunt her to this day. Combining research, interviews, and personal records, You All Grow Up and Leave Me explores the psychological manipulation by child predators—their ability to charm their way into seemingly protected worlds—and the far-reaching effects their actions have on those who trust them most.
Piper Weiss is a freelance editor and writer. She wrote the memoir, You All Grow Up and Leave Me, published in 2018 by William Morrow/HarperCollins. Her first book, My Mom, Style Icon, was published by Chronicle Books in 2011. She has served as a senior editor at Yahoo and the New York Daily News, Editorial Director at HelloGiggles and Editor-In-Chief at Levo. Her essays have appeared in Lenny Letter, Hazlitt, Elle.com, and Prosen People, as part of the Jewish Book Council’s Visiting Scribe Series. In 2011, she consulted on and appeared in the Independent Spirit Award-winning film, Without by Mark Jackson. Her work has been profiled by Nightline, NPR’s Weekend Edition, CBC’s Out in the Open, Salon, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.
Piper will join in conversation with arts writer and critic, Lauren Smart. She teaches journalism at Southern Methodist University.
Cover image by Weegee.