La Toya Jackson's latest book, Starting Over, was recently released in paperback. It began as a vehicle to tell the story of breaking free of her abusive husband and getting a second chance at life. But in the middle of writing it, her brother Michael Jackson passed away unexpectedly, and the story took a turn.
The book still contains a detailed account of La Toya's adult life, including the years she spent under the tight control of ex-husband and manager Jack Gordon, how he tore her away from her family, manipulated her and allegedly nearly killed her, until she finally escaped him. But it also details Michael's role in that tumultuous relationship, as well as struggles he encountered late in life, and the events surrounding his eventual death. La Toya claims Michael was murdered, a fact she discusses with us below, in somewhat cryptic detail.
So much has been said about your family, so much has been written about your family…. What does it mean to you to speak for yourself?
I think that when you do it yourself, you write the book, people look at it and know your story. Know your truth. Everybody has their own truth. This is my own story, my own truth, and I wanted to share it with the world. I didn't wish to see anyone else go through anything like what I've gone through. I think if I can help save a life and explain what I had gone through, it's well worth it.
You mention you had a special relationship with Michael. Back when you were little, what was that special connection like?
That was a gold bond. It really was. We dressed alike, we did everything together. My brothers, they would say, 'Why do you guys always have to be together? Why do you always have to dress alike?' And we'd come down the stairs together. Whenever guests would come over Michael would say, 'Let's put on these sweaters!' and we would match and the whole bit.
But it was a natural close bond because we had so many things in common. And I think that's something that you can never break. That's something I cherish. I look back at it now and it means more to me today than it did then, because it was just us.
But now that he's no longer here, for me to share those moments with him, I have to share them mentally, in reminiscing.
You're known to be a pretty spiritual person, and from the book, you say that Michael predicted a lot of things that ended up coming true. Do you think he had psychic abilities?
Well, we were spiritual in the sense of God Jehovah Witness. [Laughs.] It was something we were just religiously so devoted to, Michael and I, growing up. Nothing could really break us from that. It's something people just couldn't understand. They'd say, 'Why are you guys so religious? But yet you're in show business. Don't you want to go out and do this and that?'
But we remained steadfast. We just loved reading the Bible and things of that nature. When we were in school we'd sit out on the lawn, and everybody would play basketball, and Michael and I would read the Bible. [Laughs.] We'd put a blanket down and sit down and read the Bible. We're spiritual in that sense, but anything else as far as psychic abilities, no.
Children were very important to Michael, which perhaps stemmed from abuses he suffered as a child. Do you think that was the case?
No, I don't think so, because it's funny — when we're children we see things so differently than when we're adults. And as an adult, when you have children especially, you begin to see, and Michael began to see, that discipline is necessary, and it wasn't as bad as you look at it when you're a child.
He had a loving heart, and he really cared about people in general. He was a humanitarian. What people don't know is that Michael donated, from his personal pocket, $400 million that he gave to charity around the world. That's something that people don't know about, and that's something he did. He went around and tried to help people, and that was the heart that he had.
Do you think that the abuses in your childhood have been overblown in the media?
I think that it is exaggerated when you see it because that's what you do with a story. They exaggerate it and sensationalize it, in a sense, but yes, of course it is.
Don't get me wrong, we got spankings. Well, I got one in my entire life, but my brothers and sisters got spankings. Back then it was more prevalent. People did that. But it wasn't anything bad. It was a form of discipline, but today we don't do that. And now you realize it wasn't that bad, now that you're an adult. I just looked at it that way because I was afraid.
It seems like Michael was really there for you when it came to issues in your marriage. How did he play a role in helping you 'start over'?
Well, to be quite frank with you, the first cover [of the book] was with Michael and myself. That's what the company wanted. The reason we went with it was because I thought, 'OK, I have the opportunity to start over, but Michael didn't have that opportunity.' I wish he could have.
What I went through, it was just horrific, it was just awful. And just to know that I was free — he was very happy to know I was eventually free. He had warned me by saying, 'If you don't get out of there, [Gordon] is going to kill you.' He knew so much about this individual that I tried my hardest to get away, but I wasn't able to because there was so much turbulence in my relationship that I wasn't privy to or allowed to say, and couldn't do anything about it at that time.
When people are abusing you and they have control over you, they control your thoughts. They control you verbally, physically, and this is what took place — the beatings and things of that nature. He would tell me, 'Do what I tell you to do, and say what I tell you to say, or I'm going to kill your brother, and I'm going to kill you.'
And I couldn't come and say to [Michael], 'He said that he's going to kill you. I wouldn't do that because he had so much concern about me, I didn't wish to hurt him in that way.
Can you give some detail on what happened upon Michael's death? You say in the book that you noticed some very strange details when you go to the scene. What did you see there, and what seemed strange about it to you?
Well, I know my brother, and it's just something he wouldn't do to himself. So I knew that there was negligence, and that it wasn't proper. It wasn't right. Michael loved life too much. He loved his children too much.
Once I was there I just paid attention to every little detail. I kind of learned that not just from my situation but from being caught, that you pay attention to every little detail. Where things are laid out and how it's done. Is there a drip going this way or footprints going this way. What's on the counter. Does it look like somebody tried to clean it up first. My eyes gravitated immediately towards those things, and I thought, 'OK, this is interesting. Someone did this to him.'
Was there anything in particular you remember looking strange to you?
Well, first of all, he couldn't have done it to himself. That's number one, because it's impossible. If you know anything about propofol, it's just something that you cannot inject yourself. It's just such a burning sensation. And the minute you take the needle out, you wake up immediately because that's the strength of that drug. It acts at the moment. His hands were tied, how could he possibly have done it?
Just overall, you have to remember his body was removed at that particular time. We didn't get there until almost 12 or 13 hours later. But I noticed that things weren't intact. You have to remember that during that time, the cops were in there the entire time. But I paid attention to the little things. Going from his room to the other part of the house just trying to figure out what really happened here. What took place. Putting the little pieces together that were left.
Do you feel satisfied with the outcome of the case against Michael's doctor?
No, no, not at all. I'm not satisfied with that at all. It's an ongoing process. Of course, he got four years, which he'll serve probably two or a little less. We've lost a life. A brother. A loss that's forever. It's just not fair. It's not proper.
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