Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Michael, Janet And LaToya: Mother Of Jackson Family Tells All – Excerpt From Katherine Jackson’s “My Family, The Jacksons” – Ebony Cover Story October 1991

By Katherine Jackson

LATOYA nude in Playboy?

I was shocked when I heard the rumor. My daughter may have been different from her eight brothers and sisters in some ways – she was the moodiest of my kids, for example – but in terms of her dress and manners, she’d been so conservative that she’d once dropped a friend who had begun wearing low-cut tops and skirts with slits in them. “She looks disgusting, like a hooker,” LaToya remarked at the time. “I don’t want any part of her.”

But the longer I thought about the Playboy rumor, the more I feared that it was true. The LaToya I saw in early 1989 was not the LaToya I thought I knew.

I couldn’t help but recall her 1988 engagement at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, when she danced for the first time ever in a sexy, suggestive way. Watching her from the audience, I was surprised and, I admit, a little taken aback.

“Jack told me that I had to change my image if I want to make it in the business,” LaToya said when I questioned her about her new show.

“Jack” was Jack Gordon, her smooth-talking manager. Her transformation had begun at the same time that he entered her life in 1987 with an offer for her to host a music video show that he had in the works. At the time LaToya was a confirmed homebody and mama’s girl…

She was the kind of little girl who a grandmother would love… When you’d clean her up, LaToya would sit on the couch like a little lady…

Janet by contrast, was a tomboy. By the age of 2 she had the nickname “squirrel” because she loved to climb on the furniture and on the boys’ bunkbeds…

Janet had been on the plump side for years. Michael, who can be a merciless teaser, had nicknamed her “Dunk” – for donkey.

I had a hard time getting Janet to wear dresses to kindergarten; she always wanted to wear jeans. To this day, she dresses like a tomboy. She’ll show up at the house in army boots, blue jeans with patches in them, an oversized T-shirt and her hair stuffed in a cap.

“Janet,” I’ll say, “wear some earrings or put on some lipstick. People are going to mistake you for a guy…”

[Jack] Gordon’s music video show never materialized, but he remained on the scene, showering LaToya with flowers and gifts.

Gordon begged my husband, Joe, LaToya’s manager, to allow him to co-manage her; he claimed that he had ideas for how to revitalize her stalled recording career. He kept pestering Joe until Joe finally asked LaToya, “Is this what you want?” She said it was, so her father agreed to share management responsibilities with Gordon.

The next thing I knew, Gordon had my homebody of a daughter traveling the world. No sooner would they return from business in Japan than she’d announce, “Oh, I have a photo shoot to do in Austria,” and she and Gordon would be on the next flight out of Los Angeles. While a part of me was happy that she was getting out into the world at long last and meeting new people, her turnabout was so sudden and dramatic that it left me confused.

It wasn’t until later, when I saw Jack Gordon for what he was … that I understood his strategy in booking LaToya in far-flung corners of the globe. He was attempting to distance my naive, trusting daughter from her family, literally and figuratively, so that he could become the dominating influence in her life.

The public learned just how successful Gordon had been in tearing LaToya away from the family when, in March of 1988, People magazine reported that LaToya had moved to New York City with Gordon and cut her professional ties with Joe. “Jack’s a salesman,” LaToya was quoted as saying. “He throws a good pitch and he delivers. Anyway he’s doing better than my father.” Adding a sensational touch was Jack Gordon’s own parting “pitch” to Joe: “I love Joe like poison.”

Even though LaToya continued to talk to me almost daily on the telephone, our relationship deteriorated also. It seemed like LaToya had been taking lessons in the Big Lie from Gordon.

I had raised my children to always tell the truth, so I was disappointed in her for indignantly denying to me that she had decided to write a competing, “tell-all” book about the Jackson family, even after I heard that Gordon had taken her around from publisher to publisher in New York.

“No, mother, I’m not doing a book; I don’t know how these rumors get started,” she said again a few weeks later, after I learned that she had signed a book deal for more money that my son Michael had received for his autobiography, Moonwalk

This exchange was repeated several more times after I was informed of “ugly family secrets” that Jack Gordon had circulated, including the Biggest Lie of them all: that LaToya had been molested by Joe when she was 8 years old. When I confronted Gordon about this outrageous charge he claimed that Rebbie, not LaToya, had told him.

“That’s not true!” Rebbie gasped when I checked with her. Michael was furious. “Mother,” he exclaimed, “how can he lie like that!” The obvious answer: so Jack Gordon could create interest in LaToya’s book, and make more money for himself.

LaToya never did admit to me that she was writing a book. I had to read about it in a newspaper in early 1989. “Michael’s book is nice but very light,” she was quoted as saying. “There will be a lot of things in my book that weren’t in his.”

LaToya denied to me that she had disrobed for a Playboy photographer as emphatically as she had denied that she was writing a book. I’m sad to say that, once again, I learned the truth from the media. In her interviews promoting her nude spread, LaToya defended her actions: “I have to live my life for LaToya and not for my family.”

I was personally so embarrassed that there were moments when I said to myself, “I wish I was on another planet.” I felt like cringing when I went out in public, afraid that someone would recognize me and ask me about LaToya.

Shortly after the Playboy issue with her face on the cover hit the newstands, LaToya appeared on “Donahue.”

“My parents laid down certain rules, and one of those rules, of course, was you were not to leave home unless you were married,” she claimed. She didn’t mention the fact that our “rule” was never enforced, and that Michael Marlon, Randy and Janet had moved out before her as single people.

Needless to say, rescuing my daughter from Gordon had been the family’s aim ever since she had moved to New York with him. But nothing I nor her brothers and sisters could say could persuade her to return home to us.

Mixed in with my rage at Jack Gordon was a feeling of guilt. “Maybe I sheltered my children too much,” I’ve thought many times since, “and not educated them enough about the sharks out there waiting to take advantage of them….”

Even as the media was covering LaToya’s rebellion, it was still feasting on rumors about Michael’s private life, reports of Jackson “sibling jealousy” and tales about how Joe and I are alienated from most of our kids.

“What a sorry family these Jacksons have become,” I imagine people are saying today. “They couldn’t handle their rags-to-riches success.” If I depended on the press for all of my information on my family, I’d come to the same conclusion.

But I’m able to see our story with a perspective that is lacking in an Entertainment Tonight sound bite, or an error-filled article in one of the tabloids.

For the record, Michael doesn’t own and has never slept in a hyperbaric chamber. He lay down in one once, just to see what it felt like, during a visit to the Michael Jackson Burn Center. A photographer took his picture, and the picture got out.

As for the Elephant Man’s bones, I have no idea whether or not [Frank] Dileo [Michael’s former manager] made an attempt on Michael’s behalf to buy them. If he did so, he did so in jest. And if by some miracle the London medical center that owns the bones agreed to sell them, Michael knows I wouldn’t let him in the house with them.

The most tired rumor of all was the rumor that Michael was gay.

All I can say is, Michael is not gay. First of all, the Bible speaks against homosexuality, and he’s very religious. Secondly, he intends to settle down and get married one day. We’ve talked about it. And he will.

I wish he did have that special someone to share his life with right now; his life would be richer. I think that, deep down, he does, too.

When Michael was younger he joked that “when the love bug bites me that’s who I’m going to marry.” By 1989 he was telling me, “When I marry a woman she’s going to have a lot of money herself. That’s the only way I’ll know for sure that she’s not marrying me for my money.”

And yet, Michael seems happy. Even though he knows that he will never be able to live a “normal” life, he seems comfortable with his fame. I believe that when he’s good and ready to get married, he’ll do it, despite the inevitable press uproar.

While I firmly believe that a good marriage promotes happiness, the surest path to inner peace and fulfillment, I believe, is through religion. This is why I also wish that my children will draw closer to Jehovah.

I’m not worried about Rebbie. As she says, “The most important thing in my life is my relationship with the Creator, Jehovah God.”

Dee Dee, Tito’s wife, has also shown a strong interest in studying.

But Randy and Janet attend Kingdom Hall only occasionally, and Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and LaToya not at all, even though LaToya was baptized a Witness several years ago. Marlon and Carol attend a Catholic church.

Then there is Michael’s unique situation: In 1987, he left the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There was strong opposition to his “Thriller” video on the part of some Witnesses. Perhaps the controversy figured into his decision to leave.

But I don’t know that for a fact because I didn’t talk to him about what he’d done. I couldn’t. Witnesses do not discuss spiritual matters with a person who has disassociated himself from the Witnesses, including family members.

But I want to stress that, contrary to published reports, I was not required to “shun” my son. Our relationship is as loving today as it was when he was a Witness. I just can’t ask him, “Why, Michael?”

Two more wishes:

I wish for a reunited Jacksons. I wish that Michael and Marlon would consider rejoining the group, if only on a part-time basis. For old-time’s sake. For my sake.

And I dream of a reunited Jackson family.

As much as LaToya hurt the family … I long for her reconciliation with us. The Jackson family is not whole without her.

PHOTO : At a family reunion in 1989, Katherine Jackson (seated center, yellow jacket) and her husband Joseph are surrounded by seven of their nine children, including Janet and Michael who flank their parents, and 11 of their grandchildren. Of the famous Jackson siblings, only Marlon and LaToya did not attend the reunion. LaToya (at right), whose nude spread in Playboy magazine and threats to write a tell-all book have shocked and disappointed her family, is estranged from her parents and siblings.

PHOTO : Jack Gordon (at left with LaToya) did more than take over LaToya’s career when he became her manager, Katherine Jackson says. He moved LaToya far from her family “so he could become the dominating influence in her life,” Mrs. Jackson says. Yet, she says her relationship with her two superstar children, Janet and Michael (below), is as warm and loving as ever. Still, she gently chides Janet for “dressing like a tomboy,” and she wishes that Michael, a former Jehovah’s Witness, would return to the faith.

PHOTO : In happier times (above), the Jackson sisters (l. to r.) – Janet, Rebbie and LaToya – form a loving portrait with their mother. In the mid 1970s (right), Katherine Jackson began encouraging her daughters (clockwise from top) – LaToya, Rebbie and Janet – to try performing. “I didn’t like the idea of some of my kids making a lot of money while the others weren’t making anything,” she says.

PHOTO : Rebbie and Katherine Jackson (above) ventured back to the family’s former home in Gary, Ind., in 1987 to look over the old neighborhood and reminisce with old friends. At left, Mrs. Jackson and former neighbor, Marie Gunn, share a laugh. “Being treated differently by old friends and neighbors was only one of the adjustments that the boys and Joe and I had to make after the Jackson Five became famous,” she says.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Johnson Publishing Co.

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