bring it to me. I really appreciate your generosity.”
“No, this is something I have to give you in person,” he said.
I felt obligated to see him after everything he had done for me. I agreed to let him come into the house. It was incredibly painful for me to walk down the grand front stairway to where he waited in the foyer below. But I smiled wide, determined to hide my discomfort. Little did I know that this would become our standard roles in years to come, only Gordon would be the one inflicting the pain.
When I started feeling better, Gordon invited me to lunch. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I couldn’t socialize with men unless a third party was there because we might have sinful thoughts. I declined as politely as possible. That’s when the mental manipulation began, only I was too naïve to see it at the time.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Are you too good to be with a normal person who’s not a Jackson?”
His accusation wounded me deeply. I didn’t want him, or anyone else, to think I was a snob when it wasn’t true. And because he wasn’t someone I wanted to date, I didn’t think it would go against the rules of Jehovah’s Witness.
“Of course I’ll have lunch with you,” I said.
“Great,” he said. “Could you bring some money? I’m not doing very well financially at the moment, and I don’t have any.”
Rather than being put off, or suspicious, I actually felt better about meeting him. Here was someone who needed help. I could provide it and was more than happy to do so. This all made our lunch perfectly acceptable for me as a Jehovah’s Witness.
Since it wasn’t a date, I dressed like any other day, in slacks and a blouse, and I wasn’t nervous about seeing Gordon. As I drove to meet him at Gaylords, an Indian restaurant on La Cienega, I stopped at my bank and withdrew a thousand dollars.
While we ate, Gordon grilled me about my family, career and income. Having only known members of my family and my religion, it didn’t occur to me to be suspicious, and I answered honestly. When the bill came, I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I handed him the money under the table. He paid the bill and pocketed the rest. I was a little shocked by this, but I didn’t say anything. I had never confronted anyone in my life, because Joseph or security always did so for me. Here I was alone, with a man I didn’t know very well, and I didn’t want to be rude.
That was the first of many lunches over the next few weeks. Gordon had found an easy mark, and he knew it. At each lunch he asked me to, I handed him a thousand dollars. Looking back, I can’t believe what a fool I was. But at the time, I was acting with the generosity I had been taught to show others.
After I had given Gordon about $10,000 at these lunches, he called to tell me that if he didn’t have $15,000 by the end of the day, he was going to have to start sleeping in his car. I was startled by his implicit request and hesitated before answering.
“You wealthy people don’t care about people in need,” he said. “There’s no way you would give me $15,000.”
Just as he had intended, his words made me feel bad.
“That’s not true,” I said. “You can come over and pick up a check at the security
“Actually, I need it in cash,” he said.
And just like that, I went to the bank, and took out the money for him. A few days later, he needed another $30,000. This time, he said he wanted me to partner with him in an investment. After that, he was always trying to involve me in some scheme. He wanted to buy several of those arcade games where players attempt to grab a prize with a mechanical arm. And he wished to open a souvenir store on Hollywood Boulevard. He needed $50,000 for this last plan. He even told me where the store would be, and mother drove me by the space. Without thinking to ask him any questions about his plan, I gave him the money. When he later told me his business partner had stolen the money from him, I couldn’t believe that the world was full of such crooks. The world was full of crooks alright; I just didn’t know how to spot them.
I really was an exceptional target. Having grown up a Jackson, I wasn’t just raised wealthy. I could earn a good income for myself from the time of my debut at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas when I was sixteen. As my manager, my father not