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Surprising No One, Steve Jobs Was a Jerk to His Girlfriend

Aaron Pressman
The Exchange
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, famously cruel and temperamental as the CEO of Apple (AAPL), was equally humiliating to waiters, friends and even one of his 1970s hacker heroes, John Draper.

Jobs insisted he and an early girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan, sleep in separate rooms when they lived together in 1977, Brennan writes in a new book about their relationship. Jobs let Brenann have the master bedroom – for a month. Then, out of the blue, he changed his mind and moved Brennan out so he could have the bigger room.

“He was so graceless that I felt humiliated and outraged,” Brennan says in an excerpt of the book, The Bite in the Apple, which ran in the New York Post.

The couple first met in 1972 while they were high school students in Cupertino, Calif. Jobs and Brennan had a daughter, Lisa, born in 1978. But for several years Jobs repeatedly denied he was the father, despite a positive paternity test. He paid child support, however, and later expressed regret for his denials.

Known for his early experimentation with mind-altering drugs, Jobs and Brenann took LSD together, according to the book. Jobs tried to get Brennan to shout “Mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy” as a form of primal scream therapy when they used the drug, she says.

Jobs also bragged that he was the “laziest man in the world” to Brennan despite working long hours at Apple.

As Apple became more successful, Jobs sought to remove himself from doing mundane tasks at home. Confronted with a sink full of dirty dishes the morning after a house party, Jobs wondered aloud what should be done with “it.”

“He had entered into an elite world where others took care of the lower-level functions so that he could operate with more efficiency, on his presumably higher plane,” Brennan writes. “I not too happily cleaned them up by myself.”

He was also cruel to staff at restaurants when the two went out on dates. If the host asked “two for dinner?,” Jobs would snap “No, fifteen.” And though he would frequently order the same dish at the same restaurant, he complained bitterly about the poor quality and service.

“Steve was uncontrollably critical,” Brenann writes. “His reactions had a Tourette’s quality — as if he couldn’t stop himself.”

Jobs made Draper a laughing stock at Apple, putting the famed hacker on speakerphone at the office as he pleaded for a favor, Brennan recalls.

Years before, Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had lionized Draper, who built a device known as the blue box to hack the telephone network and make free calls. In their first real business collaboration, Jobs and Woz built and sold blue boxes.

“If it hadn’t been for the blue boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple,” Jobs later told his biographer, Walter Isaacson.

Jobs wasn’t without charm, Brennan recalls. A huge fan of big band music from Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Count Basie, Jobs loved to dance like he was living in the 1940s.

“I could see the fit,” Brennan writes. “Steve as a young man with all that American ingenuity from a less encumbered time, with that simple sense of right and wrong.”