The absolute nadir of La Toya's otherwise epic and era-defining career has to be 1995's erotic club tour. While many of Ms Jackson's mid-90s mishaps have innate camp appeal, I don't find anything amusing about this sorry debacle. Toy's abusive ex-husband basically forced her to perform in strip clubs across America to capitalise on her post-Playboy status as the sexiest woman alive. And judging from the footage that has since surfaced, it was every bit as pitiful as it sounds. Michael's favourite sister appears completely disorientated in the long out-of-print VHS and the crowd's reaction was not exactly understanding of her obvious discomfort and terror.
I've always wanted to learn more about the fan reaction to La Toya's erotic club tour but I've never been able to find a first-hand account. That changed a couple of weeks ago when was contacted by a fellow Jackson nut, who attended the show in Ohio. Ric Hunter kindly shared his recollections with me and even attached a happy snap he took with the superstar. It's compelling stuff. First, there's the setlist. Of course Jack Gordon forced her to sing one of Michael's classics but what was with all the ballads? I love "Somewhere" but I can't think of a less appropriate song to sing in a strip club. Then there's the heartbreaking part about Toy asking the crowd of blue collar workers if they were "feeling romantic". Because that's why you rock up to the Gentleman's Club with a roll of $1 bills in your pocket - to find romance! Poor thing.
Thanks again to Ric for sharing his memories of the event and for allowing me to post it. The next time you feel like poking fun at Toy Toy, remember that she's been to hell and back. A weaker spirit would have given up but La Toya persevered and is now coming into her own. At the age of 56 she's more popular and relevant than ever. Her ability to start over is an inspiration to us all.
Erotic Club Tour Review
My partner Joe and I have been Janet Jackson fans since day one of her recording career. We were even able to meet Janet twice, while she was still married to Rene Elizondo. So in 1995, when La Toya Jackson-Gordon came to our town of Columbus, Ohio for a brief "cabaret" tour, seeing the show seemed to be a logical thing to do. Of course, who knew that we would have to go to an exotic dance club to see her? At the time I was in my late 20s and had never been to a Gentleman’s Club before. Since I wasn’t "into girls", I had no desire to go to such a place. They usually weren’t in the best areas of town either — if you can imagine.
Anyway, the Excalibur Club was clean enough on the inside, but still very seedy. Joe and I paid the $30 cover charge and stuck out like two sore thumbs amongst the factory worker crowd. La Toya was late going on, probably because the club wanted the crowd to drink-up and buy $5.00 table dances while they waited. La Toya took the stage and performed 5 songs with 2 back-up dancers. One dancer was a male (he was traveling with her) and the other was a local female. If memory serves, La Toya’s brief set consisted of: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, “Shake Your Body (Down To the Ground)”, “You Can Count on Me”, “Playboy” and “Somewhere”.
Before singing “Somewhere”, La Toya asked the audience if they were feeling romantic. Keep in mind this place was full of big, burly guys who came to see partially-clad women dance for money — romance was probably far from their minds. The short show was ok, but then Joe and I didn’t expect much either. We knew that La Toya was more of a performer and personality than a singer. Still it was a thrill to see her up-close. However, the real show happened after the stage performance. After her brief set, one could pay an additional $25 to meet La Toya and get a photo taken with her.
Joe and I waited in a pitifully short line for our turn to meet La Toya at her meet and greet. By now La Toya had changed from her show costume (sequins, boots and glittery headband) to a big fluffy bathrobe. She seemed small and scared and in a medicated-like stupor. I suddenly felt terribly guilty — like somehow I was this ogre who made La Toya resort to this cheap show. You could see it in La Toya’s face that she seemed to regret the club tour. She quietly posed for photos with us and she signed a couple of our CDs. It was very humbling to see her so frail and frightened. My heart actually ached for her.
Before leaving the club Joe and I got a glimpse of Jack Gordon. I knew he had a bad reputation, but I decided that I would try to talk to him anyway. When would we ever have an opportunity to meet him again? When I approached Jack, he acted like I was serving him with court papers. I said, “Hi, aren’t you Jack Gordon?” and his reply to me was “Yeah, who wants to know?” He looked as slimy close-up as you can imagine. I think given the chance he would have killed me if there were no witnesses around.
La Toya’s club show played for a couple nights at Columbus’ Excalibur Club. According to our local news, on the last night, La Toya supposedly became fed-up, scolded some hecklers in the audience, and departed the stage early. I think folks kept yelling for her to strip. What’s even sadder is that La Toya and Jack had to hitch a ride to their hotel with one of the club patrons. After the Gordons abruptly canceled the show, the owner of the Excalibur Club canceled their limo service.
Despite the scandalous end to La Toya’s show, it was a great memory. In the end, La Toya appeared to be very kind and grateful for the support of the fans that came to the show. My autographed Polaroid is still one of my favorite mementos.