Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tom Jones and Charlotte Laws - Question and Answer about the relationship and book

Charlotte Laws and Sir Tom Jones
Charlotte Laws and Sir Tom Jones in 2010

My new memoir, Rebel in High Heels, chronicles my life, including my battle against revenge porn, my party crashing escapades and my three-year relationship with singer Tom Jones. The revenge porn story has been covered in the media, but other aspects of the book have not. Because I regularly receive questions about the writing process and my relationship with Tom, I will try to offer some insights in this brief Q and A.

Q: Tell me about the process for writing this book.
A: I spent three years writing Rebel in High Heels. It required tremendous research because accuracy is important in an autobiography. Luckily, I am one of those people who never throw anything away. With respect to Tom, I had mementos from our time together: backstage passes, photos and a handwritten diary. Two weeks after our first date in March 1979, I returned to the hotel suite and discotheque where Tom and I had been. I took pictures. This enabled me (some 35 years later) to be accurate in the book about colors and furnishings and bring the experience to life for the reader.

The manuscript was originally 800 pages--too long for one book. I knew it had to be made into two or three volumes. About this time, I was fighting a very public battle against the kingpin of revenge porn. He was hacking into victims' emails, stealing their nude pictures and posting them online. His devotees were bombarding me with computer viruses and death threats. A stalker even appeared at my home. I worked with the FBI to nab this guy (he pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing). I also helped legislators pass anti-revenge porn bills. Twenty-four states currently have laws in place, and a federal bill will be introduced soon. I eventually wrote an article about my revenge porn fight. It went viral, and I was named one of "the 30 fiercest women in the world." This frenzy of activity led to phone calls from publishing houses and literary agents; they were interested in a book about my life. It was good timing since I already had those 800 pages.

Rebel in High Heels is about my experience as the Erin Brockovich of revenge porn, but it also details the first 22 years of my life, including my relationship with Tom. It is 300 pages long.

Charlotte Laws dated Tom Jones: Road Jacket
Charlotte Laws with a road jacket
from the 1980s
Q: How did you become interested in the music of Tom Jones?
A: This may be surprising, but I have never been a "music person." I don't listen to CDs. I don't go to concerts. I don't listen to music, ever. I prefer talk radio if I am in the car and cable news if I am passing time in front of the TV. It is ironic that I fell for a singer. Tom has an amazing voice, and I consider him to be the most talented entertainer in the world, but I was attracted to him due to what he said, not what he sung. I became interested him at age nine when I saw him interviewed on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and when I watched him converse with guests on his ABC show, "This is Tom Jones." He seemed like such a sweet guy. He had a terrific sense of humor, and I liked his rhythm or timing (the way he moved his hands and head, and the way he walked and spoke). I have come to realize that this "timing factor" is what attracts me to someone. For example, I saw a video interview of my husband at a dating organization, and (just like with Tom) I fell for him before we met. I loved his movements, the way he talked and the things he said. I asked him out and was ready to get married two weeks later. We have been together for 21 years.

Q: Why do you think you have been able to remain a part of Mr. Jones' life for so long?
A: I think I was lucky, in part, because I was his "type." He might say he has a wide range of taste when it comes to women, and no doubt this is somewhat true. However, I believe he has a preference for short, blonde women. Men often go for women who are of the same physical type as their mom. Tom's mother was short, blonde and feisty--just like me. I had the honor of meeting her several times; she was a very special lady.
Also, Tom knew I was in love with him and cared about him as a person. My affection had nothing to do with his fame, money or singing talent. I came from a wealthy "old money" family in Atlanta, so riches were unimportant to me. Plus, I was friendly with tons of sex symbols and entertainers by the time I was dating Tom. I had no romantic interest in them. Tom knew he was special.

Q: How is your life better because of Mr. Jones and the relationship?
A. He helped me become the strong woman I am today. I was not always confident. I felt inferior as a child and teenager.

When I was young, the whole "being in love with Tom" thing was embarrassing. Everyone knew. I was taunted by family and friends. Fourth grade classmates wrote mushy love notes signed "Tom Jones." They stuck them in my desk at school and laughed at me when I found them. Bullying and public humiliation exacerbated my already low self-esteem. I viewed myself as not all that pretty and as overweight. (I was probably ten pounds more than I should have been). I never thought I could date Tom.

Everything changed when I went to my first concert at age 16. I did not attend for the music. In fact, I knew nothing about the artist, Jerry Lee Lewis. I only went because I had read an article which revealed Tom's favorite performer was Jerry Lee. When the show ended, a man named JD asked if I wanted to go backstage. I figured there was no harm and replied, "Sure." It turned out Jerry Lee wanted to go on a date with me. I declined.

JD grilled me afterward. He wanted to know who I found attractive, throwing out the names of popular sex symbols of the time, such as John Travolta, Robert Redford, and Sylvester Stallone. I said I had no interest in them. JD was baffled and asked, "Isn't there anyone?" Although hesitant, I revealed my interest in Tom. JD boosted my self-esteem. He said, "You could go out with him, young lady. You are beautiful, sweet and smart. Of course, he'd be interested. After all, Jerry Lee is interested, isn't he?" This made sense. I bolted from the building with new-found confidence and a desire to somehow meet Tom.

I had to teach myself how to gate-crash in order to get past security and put myself in Tom's presence. Believe it or not, I am listed as the fourth most notorious party crasher in the world, beating Bill Murray (#6) and Queen Elizabeth (#14) and the Salahis (#15). Celebrities sneak into events more than the average person, and many of my humorous party crashing adventures are revealed in Rebel in High Heels.

I embarked upon a number of "party crashing" shenanigans in an attempt to meet Tom. Many failed. All are detailed in the book. My first real conversation with Tom was in a hallway at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In order to get his attention, I pretended to be a showgirl. I wore outrageous attire: sequins, feathers and silver boots. I "accidentally" came upon him when he was walking from his suite to the dressing room. (In truth, I had bribed a bellhop to give me information about the path he took to the dressing room.) Tom and I chatted in that hallway. He seemed interested, but he did not ask me out. I restarted my shenanigans a year later when Tom was performing in Fort Lauderdale. This time Tom invited me to join him for dinner, and our three-year relationship began. I was 18 years old. It was a Cinderella story. He was my first boyfriend.

Dating Tom increased my self-confidence. After all, he was my "dream guy," and I had been thinking about him for ten years prior to our first date! He and other entertainer friends helped me escape emotionally from the snobby, money-obsessed society in which I'd been raised. Entertainers became my substitute family, so to speak. Plus I had endured a great deal of tragedy in childhood with my mom's suicide, my brother's death, and my father's verbal abuse. Surrounded by the love and support of entertainment friends, I was better able to explore who I was as a person and what I wanted to become. I credit Tom for helping me with that journey.

Charlotte Laws and Tom Jones
Q: Tell me a little more about party crashing. Besides meeting Mr. Jones, what were the benefits?
A: It began as a hobby in my teens, but developed into an excellent way to meet up with elected officials, A-list celebrities and CEOs. I was able to obtain exclusive interviews, push for legislation, get support for nonprofit causes and snag well-to-do clientele for business ventures. I crashed Secret Service four times, once to interview President Ronald Reagan. Many of the escapades are detailed in my book. A few are discussed in my Washington Post article.

Q: How do you hope this book will affect people?
A: Mostly my book is about inspiring readers to live in the bold zone. The bold zone is that area past the comfort zone where fierceness resides. It requires showing up in life, pursuing ones dreams and becoming a relentless force of nature. Perseverance is the key to success. If I had given up after one, two or ten failed attempts, I would never have dated Tom. I would not have defeated the kingpin of revenge porn. I would not have a Ph.D. or have been elected into political office. This book (and my previous books) would never have been published, and I would not be married to my wonderful husband.

I say to my readers, "May the fierce be with you."

Tom Jones and Charlotte Laws' daughter
Sir Tom Jones with Charlotte Laws' daughter,
 Kayla in 1987
Q: What is next for you?
A: It looks like I will have my own television show. It is in development with a network; unfortunately, I am not at liberty to provide details. I can only say that my four years on the NBC show, "The Filter," were unbelievably fulfilling, and I look forward to returning to the airwaves. I strive to educate, entertain and hopefully inspire.

I encourage everyone to be a Rebel in High Heels!

Part II: Charlotte Laws dishes on Sex Bomb Tom Jones and his new autobiography

Charlotte Laws does a brief Q and A about singer Tom Jones, his wife and his new autobiography, Over the Top and Back. Charlotte is an author and TV host, and she dated Tom from 1979–1982.   

Tom Jones and Charlotte Laws in 1979
Sir Tom Jones and Charlotte Laws
in 1979
You dated Tom Jones for three years. What do you think of his autobiography, Over the Top and Back, which hits U.S. bookstores on November 24? And how does it differ from your experiences with Tom, as described in your new memoir, Rebel in High Heels?

Over the Top and Back gives an interesting and comprehensive account of that part of Tom’s life which deals with his singing career, parents and wife. There are delightful stories about his childhood in Wales, interactions with his manager Gordon Mills, and his love-hate relationship with the BBC show, The Voice. It provides details for those readers who yearn for names, dates and conversations related to his career.

But the book is a glass half full because it omits the bulk of his “on the road” experiences. It fails to mention most members of his “traveling” family: his entourage, band and friends (including girlfriends). He performed up to 300 nights per year in cities around America. If his “away from home” adventures were tallied, this would amount to decades of adventures. My memoir, on the other hand, gives readers a glimpse into this hidden side of Tom—for example, what it was like to be with him backstage and in the hotel suite. I describe incidents related to his jealousy, his distaste for racism, his insecurity about his looks and his contempt for gossip. But there are some things I cannot disclose because either I was not present to witness them, or they were told to me in confidence. I hope Tom will someday come forward with the rest of his amazing tale because it is always better to toast one’s life with a full glass. 

Charlotte Laws and Tom Jones in 2004
Charlotte Laws and Sir Tom Jones
in 2004
Some people call you “Tom’s lucky charm.” Are you? Or do you think it is a coincidence that Tom’s career began a decline shortly after he broke up with you in 1982?

I am not Tom’s four leaf clover. Tom claims that he experienced a career setback from 1983 until around 1990, but onlookers saw no downturn. He was selling out stadiums, and he seemed to be as popular as ever. Success is relative, and in my experience, show business folks tend compare themselves with their most successful peers. There is a tangible and often gritty competitiveness. This adds stress to one’s life, a desperation to run faster on the treadmill. But I always found Tom to be different, more easygoing. He is a “go with the flow” guy, not a bulldozer. I would call him a Type B personality. When I asked him about future goals, I never got a goal-oriented, Type A answer. He always said, “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.” Whenever “the lows” started to creep into his psyche, he would remind himself of the financial hardship he knew in Wales as a child and teen. This gave him perspective. It made him feel grateful.

Did he ever talk to you about his desire to explore other areas of show business?

He’s been interested in the movie industry for some time. Once, we were in his Las Vegas dressing room and he asked me to read a book called The Gospel Singer. He wanted my opinion. He and his manager owned the rights to the story, and he was enthusiastic about playing the lead. The next time I saw Tom, I began to talk about the project, but he interrupted me with “It’s off.” He was unhappy about the cancellation.

How did you feel when Tom was dropped abruptly from The Voice? And do you have any insight as to why Tom made so many bizarre comments in the press just after this? As you may recall, he had choice words for the producers of the show and even Engelbert Humperdinck. He made controversial comments about Jimmy Savile, his wife’s appearance and gays.

It was selfish and classless of The Voice producers to tell Tom about program changes at the last minute. He had arranged his concert schedule around the show, so he had a right to be bitter when he learned he wouldn’t be invited back. In his autobiography, he criticizes The Voice, saying that he often wondered whether the show was “run by humans or a machine in a basement.”

As for his controversial statements in the press, some of them were taken out of context. However, I think the others were related to The Voice dustup. Television has always been the measure of success for Tom. When he was tethered to his family home at age 12 with tuberculosis, a television was placed in his room. This made him feel special because sets were rare in those days. Then when he was gaining traction as a singer, television was the medium which spotlighted his success. His mother proudly watched him on TV, announcing, “My son the singing star.” Then he got his own ABC show, This is Tom Jones, which catapulted his career to new heights. Later he appeared on the sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And even though it was just one episode, it gave him great traction and introduced him to a new generation of concert-goers. Tom also believed being a television personality made him more appealing to women. For example, in his book, he says, “Never underestimate the extent to which people want to have sex with people who are on television.”

In Tom’s mind, being on TV is crucial. He was ecstatic when he landed the gig on The Voice and equally disappointed when the gig ended. The loss may have affected him deep down in ways he did not realize. He is not, by nature, a verbally combative person. He may have had a fear that his popularity would diminish. Lashing out, creating controversy or mixing things up (i.e. with comments about Humperdinck, Savile, etc.) was a way to gain attention from the press and public. I think his actions were subconscious. He may have feared being brushed aside, especially as a septuagenarian. People often get kicked to the curb as they age. The Voice essentially kicked him the curb when they replaced him with Boy George, a younger judge. Tom has done an excellent job keeping himself relevant over the decades, maintaining superstar status. He clearly wants to keep the momentum going.

Charlotte Laws and Tom Jones in the 1980s
Charlotte Laws and Sir Tom Jones
in the 1980s
That’s an interesting theory. Fame seems to be important to him. Did he ever talk about this?

Fame is like cocaine. It gives you a high. And yes, this is true for Tom. He told me that he gets his greatest jolt of adrenaline when he performs before a large crowd and just after he comes offstage. Although he enjoys being in the public eye, he has not become jaded. He’s the same person today that he was back in Wales. In his autobiography, he mentions people feeling sorry for him for being unable to go McDonald’s without any fuss. But he likes the fuss. In 1979, he and I were in his Atlanta hotel room watching a wildlife program. I asked, “Don’t you miss going outside?” He quickly answered, “No.” “I guess you don’t need to go outside with shows like this,” I joked, motioning to a cheetah on TV. He laughed. Going outside represented being ordinary, and he preferred to be extraordinary. Who could blame him for that? 

His wife has a prominent role in his book. As an ex-girlfriend, what do you think about this?

His autobiography is a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates meant for only one person: his wife, Linda. It is a gift for her, a tribute. It is a sweet gesture. Although Tom and Linda had what I would call an “open marriage”—or more accurately “a don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship—the book is Tom’s way of asking for forgiveness. It is an apology for the years of difficulty and absence. It is also a public confession, confirming that she’s always been a bright light in his world. He had to pretend she did not exist when he began his career in the 1960s because management felt that he needed to appear single, so it is all the more appropriate that Tom is publicly honoring her now. At the end of the book, Tom says that Linda is the force that kept him sane. Like his parents, she was an anchor, keeping him grounded, maintaining a tie to his roots, reminding him to always be humble.  Although I have never met her, I know she’s a very special lady.