The Jacksons have been called the first family of pop music and their remarkable success justifies the unofficial designation although, of course, the subject is still open to debate.
In any event, now that nearly all of the media and public frenzy has subsided following the still hard to believe passing of Michael Jackson, a flood of thoughts began to go through my mind.
For example, I recall interviewing Jermaine Jackson in the late summer of 1989. At the time he had a No. 1 hit with “Don’t Take It Personal.” (And even then it appeared that he was using shellac in his hair.)
The interview, which took place at The Whitney restaurant on Woodward Ave., was interesting and Jermaine was very much into it. He was calm and, like all of the Jackson brothers, soft-spoken.
However, he went to another place when the subject of La Toya Jackson and her then-husband, Jack Gordon, came up. In fact, he asked me to turn off the tape recorder so that he could express himself freely and off the record.
CLEARLY, he despised Gordon and used whatever words were necessary to make that dislike clear. He also believed that La Toya, largely at odds with her family at the time, was heavily influenced by Gordon, who was also her manager.
Plus, Jermaine thought it was strange that La Toya would pose nude for Playboy magazine with a boa constrictor used suggestively when, in fact, she had always been afraid of snakes.
And speaking of LaToya Jackson, who can be a real drama queen, when her marriage to Jack Gordon went sour, she publicly claimed that he beat her and left her “in a pool of blood.” (Yeah, right.)
LaToya wrote a successful book titled “Growing Up in the Jackson Family,” in which she came down pretty hard on Michael and much of the rest of the family. However, when Michael got into major trouble, accused of child molestation, there she was at his side, speaking out on his behalf. True, “blood is thicker than conflict,” but to me it still seemed hypocritical.
WHEN THE Jackson 5 first became a sensation in 1969-1970, they were adored by teenaged girls everywhere. They dreamed of being with a Jackson brother, especially Michael or Jermaine, but, of course, they couldn’t get anywhere near them. But girls in the Gordy family could.
Before you could say “A-B-C,” Patrice Gordy was going with Jackie Jackson and Hazel Gordy was going with Jermaine. (Jermaine and Hazel later married.) At the time I was friendly with Patrice, to whom I had became acquainted through a mutual friend.
Patrice invited me to have holiday season dinner with her family in late 1970, at her grandparents’ home on West Outer Drive. (I don’t recall how I got there; I certainly wasn’t driving then.) Hazel proudly showed me Jermaine’s ring, which she was wearing around her neck. I was quite excited to be amongst the Gordys.
Berry Gordy Jr. was there and he kept staring at me, no doubt wondering who I was and why I was there. (Bertha Gordy, his mother, was very nice to me.)