Starting Over (Gallery Books/Ja Tail Publishing, $26), a slick case of bait-and-switch marketing, is billed as a biography of Michael Jackson by La Toya Jackson with Jeffré Phillips. In truth, it’s an autobiographical account of the abuse La Toya Jackson suffered at the hands of her ex-husband and manager Jack Gordon with hero-worshipping of Michael tacked on at the end to help sell the book.
While the ploy undoubtedly worked, it’s still a crass maneuver with remembrances of her brother not coming in until almost page 200 of 336 pages. The first two-thirds of Starting Overwould have, in fact, stood quite well on its own. Jeffré Phillips is a capable writer and La Toya Jackson’s harrowing saga of being savagely brutalized and literally imprisoned by the monster she married is heartbreaking beyond belief.
La Toya Jackson cashes in on her closeness with Michael as a platform on which to advance a crackpot theory that Sony Music Entertainment was behind his death in order to get their hands on his lucrative song licensing.
Jack Gordon beat the living hell of out Jackson on weekly basis, stole her money, forced her to do the famous Playboy magazine spread and, in general, was a world-class bastard who, of course, hid his abuse in cowardly fashion, ingratiating himself to her family and what few friends he let her have. At last, fearing for her life, she turned to her brother Randy Jackson and he and Jermaine smuggled her to freedom.
La Toya Jackson has always been less talented than the three most famous Jacksons: Jermaine, Janet and Michael — she’s especially eclipsed by hypnotic performers Janet and Michael. Her singing voice is weak, thin as tissue paper, and her dancing is a watered-down knockoff of Janet’s and Michael’s patented, highly skilled moves. Basically, La Toya got famous just for being a Jackson.
Here, she cashes in on her closeness with Michael (no word, oddly enough, about her younger sister) as a platform on which to advance a crackpot theory that Sony Music Entertainment was behind his death in order to get their hands on his lucrative song licensing. By the time she’s done, she sounds like a dingbat who has flown off her belfry.
The value, such as it is, of Starting Over is that it stands as proof positive that domestic abuse can plague anyone’s life no matter how rich, famous or otherwise possessed of an enviable lifestyle. Perhaps it will move others to realize the only way out of an abusive relationship is, plain and simple, to leave it and refuse to look back. That it isn’t easy but, nonetheless has to be done.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.