Steve Jobs told daughter she 'smelled like a toilet' on his deathbed and said 'you're getting nothing'
Steve Jobs told his daughter she “smelled like a toilet” on his deathbed, a new revelatory memoir detailing their troubled relationship has revealed.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who the Apple founder had denied was his daughter, also recalls him telling her “you’re getting nothing” in a disagreement over inheriting his prized Porsche, she writes in her soon-to-be-released memoir Small Fry.
Brennan-Jobs also chronicles in an excerpt of her memoir published Vanity Fair magazine, how her father was sued for child-support payments, claimed he was sterile in a deposition and lied about naming Lisa, one of the first personal computers released by Apple, after her.
“I have a secret. My father is Steve Jobs,” Jobs' daughter also told her school friends, proudly telling them about the Apple Lisa desktop computer.
The 40-year-old also recalls how her mother, Chrisann Brennan, who had a five year on-off relationship with the tech visionary, supplemented her welfare parents until she was aged two by cleaning and waitressing, writing: “My father didn’t help.”
“For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent,” she writes, “as our story did not fit with the narrative of greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence ruined his streak.”
Brennan-Jobs recalls how her father remarked she “smelled like a toilet” during one of their final meetings at his Tudor-style suburban home in Palo Alto, California, three months before his death in October 2011 from complications of pancreatic cancer.
She would visit him for a weekend “every other month or so” in his final 12 months, but admitted: “I’d given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in the movies, but I kept coming anyway.”
The writer adds that “making efforts to see my sick father in his room began to feel like a burden, a nuisance” before one of their last goodbyes.
Before walking into his bedroom she remembers spraying some expensive rose facial mist she had found in one of her father’s bathrooms on herself.
“Before I said good-bye, I went to the bathroom to mist one more time,” she wrote. “The spray was natural, which meant that over the course of a few minutes it no longer smelled sharp like roses, but fetid and stinky like a swamp, although I didn’t realise it at the time.
“As I came into his room, he was getting into a standing position. I watched him gather both his legs in one arm, twist himself 90 degrees by pushing against the headboard with the other arm, and then use both arms to hoist his own legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. When we hugged, I could feel his vertebrae, his ribs. He smelled musty, like medicine sweat.
“‘I’ll be back soon,’ I said. We detached, and I started walking away.
“‘You smell like a toilet.’”
By the age of seven, her father began visiting their house around once a month, with the pair going roller-skating together through the local neighbourhood.
One night, Lisa asked if she could have his Porsche when he was done with it, having overheard her mother tell a friend he bought a new one when it gets a scratch.
“‘Absolutely not,’ he said in such a sour, biting way that I knew I’d made a mistake,” she remembers. “I understood that perhaps it wasn’t true, the myth of the scratch: maybe he didn’t buy new ones. By that time I knew he was not generous with money, or food, or words; the idea of the Porsches had seemed like one glorious exception.
“I wished I could take it back. We pulled up to the house and he turned off the engine. Before I made a move to get out he turned to face me.
“‘You’re not getting anything,’” he said. “‘You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing.’ Did he mean about the car, something else, bigger? I didn’t know. His voice hurt—sharp, in my chest.”
The microcomputer pioneer initially denied Brennan-Jobs, who says he was rarely present in her life when she was young, was his daughter.
Born on a farm in the spring of 1978, she said her father arrived a few days later telling everyone, ‘It’s not my kid’.
Two years later, Jobs was sued by the district attorney of San Mateo County, California, for child-support payments.
“My father responded by denying paternity, swearing in a deposition that he was sterile and naming another man he said was my father,” she writes.
“I was required to take a DNA test. The tests were new then, and when the results came back, they gave the odds that we were related as the highest the instruments could measure at the time: 94.4 percent. The court required my father to cover welfare back payments, child-support payments of $385 per month, which he increased to $500, and medical insurance until I was 18.”
She writes the case was finalised on December 8, 1980, “with my father’s lawyers insistent to close”, adding: “Four days later Apple went public and overnight my father was worth more than $200 million.”
For 27 years, Jobs had denied the Apple Lisa, the commercially unsuccessful desktop computer that only sold 100,000 units, was named after his daughter.
Brennan-Jobs writes how “the idea that he’d named the failed computer after me was woven in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing”.
In high school, she plucked up the courage to ask: ‘Hey, you know that computer, the Lisa? Was it named after me?’
“‘Nope.’ His voice was clipped, dismissive. Like I was fishing for a compliment. ‘Sorry, kid.’”
At the age of 27, she was invited by her father on a yacht trip in the south of France, accompanying him for lunch at U2 frontman Bon’s villa in Èze.
“We had lunch on a large covered balcony overlooking the sea. Bono asked my father about the beginning of Apple. Did the team feel alive? Did they sense it was something big and they were going to change the world? My father said it did feel that way as they were making the Macintosh, and Bono said it was that way for him and the band, too, and wasn’t it incredible that people in such disparate fields could have the same experience? Then Bono asked, ‘So, was the Lisa computer named after her?’”
“There was a pause. I braced myself—prepared for his answer. “My father hesitated, looked down at his plate for a long moment, and then back at Bono. ‘Yeah, it was,’ he said. I sat up in my chair.
“‘I thought so,’ Bono said. “‘Yup,’ my father said.
Jobs’ relationship with his former girlfriend and daughter was previously examined in 2015 biographical film Steve Jobs, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.