the true-crime author Tuesday morning, January 23, 2007.
All eight of her books have been bestsellers.
Aphrodite lives in Fort Lauderdale.
She has the flu.
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Aphrodite: "An actress and an activist. Jane Fonda was a role model to me."
Taking her name from her maternal grandmother, Aphrodite grew up in New York. Her dad (of Greek heritage) was a rear-Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Her mom was a homemaker and devoted her life to charity.
Jones has a younger sister who is now a working mom.
Luke: "As a child, were you interested in true crime?"
Aphrodite: "Not at all."
Raised in the Greek Orthodox church, Aphrodite went to a public elementary school and then to Long Island Lutheran High School. "The school was wealthy. I spent a lot of time in big houses on Long Island's North Shore. The Great Gatsby territory. My friends from that time are still in my life to this day."
"When I was in second grade at public school, I had a teacher who was insane. She did things like give me a half a zero as my grade. She gave me crazy assignments as punishment. Things like, 'Write an essay on the sex life of an ameba.' 'Write an essay on watching grass grow.' I can remember my mother ranting and raving to a friend on the phone, 'How can she do this?' I remember thinking it was not a problem. I wrote the essays. I've always had creative energy.
"When I was young, I used to lock myself in my room and write poetry and plays and diaries until my mother found my diary and read it.
After getting a degree in English from UCLA (circa 1982), Aphrodite studied acting under Lee Strassberg. "I went on a lot of auditions. In Los Angeles, I found out about a thing called the casting couch. That was not for me. I realized I could write and prevent the casting couch.
"At the time (circa 1979 when Aphrodite was 20), I was writing a nationally syndicated column on cable TV for United Media Syndicate. All the territories were covered and I suggested, 'What about cable TV?' I pushed and pushed until they let me cover it. This was before MTV and VH1. I was writing about HBO and Showtime. Then CNN, then ABC News and CBS tried to get into cable, A@E, Bravo. I was at the Playboy mansion for the beginning of the Playboy Channel. I was there for the inauguration of the Disney channel."
The column ran until 1984.
Aphrodite has lived in Los Angeles on and off since 1979. "I love the lifestyle." She's lived in Marina Del Rey, Brentwood, Melrose, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
"I used to interview celebrities for my column. I'm very star-struck. I was around celebrities and parties and Las Vegas and going to the big cable shows. All the hoopla around town enticed me. I loved being around talented people and learning about their lives."
"I fell intro true crime. It wasn't anything I chose as a calling.
"I was living in Pikeville, Kentucky [around 1990 and then Williamsburg]. I taught English at Cumberland College in Appalachia. I had said good-bye to show business and all that forever. I thought I would never see L.A. again. I had sworn I wouldn't. I had gotten to a place where it seemed like it was only about what you could offer people... The friendships there didn't seem to be as real as the friendships I had in other places. I got tired of the narcissism and the sense of 'What have you done lately?' It was never enough. Everybody was grasping. It made me tired. Like I could never do enough. You present a jewel and people say, 'That's great. Where's the next jewel?'
"There's always a new crop of people landing with their hopes and dreams and you watch them fade. It's not a fun place for people who are older. Of course, I wasn't older at the time. LA isn't kind to people over twenty. Over the years, it focuses more and more on the young generation. The new, the new, the new. There's all this competitiveness about keeping up with the new and the best. I just didn't want it anymore.
"I left and went to the third world of America -- Appalachia. The roads are made out of dirt. There was little social life.
"[In the mid to late eighties] I got two masters degrees (one in arts from Long Island University and one in philosophy from NYU). I was finishing my Ph.D. at NYU. I was writing my dissertation, which they kept not liking. I'd worked on it for a year-and-a-half.
"I had written my first book chronicling a celebrity and cable television. It has yet to be published.
"I had an agent who wanted me to pose in Playboy naked to get it published. I said no.
"I was the news director at a public radio station because I'm a workaholic. This FBI agent had killed a woman and copped a manslaughter plea. There was nobody covering it.
"I went up to New York. The agent arranged a meeting for me with Penthouse. I brought clips from this crime story. My agent said write it ala In Cold Blood.
"I'd never read In Cold Blood. To the people at NYU, it was considered light reading.
"I loved the movie Capote. I saw it several times. It showed the journey of the writer and how the subject can destroy the writer."
Aphrodite lived in Appalachia from 1986-1992.
Luke: "How did it affect your life writing all these true crime books?"
Aphrodite: "Somebody else interviewed me today and asked me that.
"It was never something I wanted to do.
"When I begin to research a book, it's like a scavenger hunt. I remember as a kid loving scavenger hunts."
I found this definition of a scavenger hunt from hud.gov: "Never heard of a scavenger hunt? Well, here’s how it works. Get a bunch of your friends together and divide into teams. Set a time to find as many things as possible on the list below. The team with the most items from the list at the end of that time wins."
Aphrodite, who has never been sued for libel: "Psychologically and emotionally you get drawn in. There's the fear factor especially in the days before cell phones. You're out on the road alone. I've been threatened.
"I researched All She Wanted for a year and a half out in Nebraska. Spooky. That triple homicide was not considered a hate crime when it happened and they wanted to keep it that way. Then I and others converged on them... Even then, Teena Brandon didn't get the attention that Matthew Shepherd got.
"It was such a tortured ending... There was so much horror... If there's some positive message that can come out of it that we can relate to... That's the only reason I do it. I couldn't live with doing it if I didn't have that behind every step I take. You have to have a purpose. The purpose for me is to make a difference, for us to all see ourselves in these stories... I know that my work affects people because I get a lot of fan mail.
"I like putting out things that are controversial...
"I connect with the spirits of these people that I write about who are killed. I get haunted by them."
Luke: "Do you believe in the supernatural?"
Aphrodite: "Yeah, I do."
Luke: "So you do think it is possible for their spirits to communicate with you?"
Aphrodite: "Yeah, I do. I do communicate with people's spirits."
Luke: "Did you have these experiences before you started on these true crime books?"
Aphrodite: "Yeah. My parents died when I was young. I was 17 when my mom died and I was 21 when my dad died."
Luke: "Did you feel their spirit after their death?"
Aphrodite: "I've had many different instances of spirits all my life. I get messages in my dreams."
Luke: "How do people react to this? Do they try to shame you?"
Aphrodite: "I don't really talk about it."
"I used to belong to a salon in LA Once we brought in a channeler and did automatic writing. What came out was the Teena Brandon story [after Aphrodite had researched and published it]. Then the movie Boys Don't Cry came out. I had my own movie deal. Drew Berrymore was supposed to play the lead. Diane Keaton had signed on. I had to sue Fox. I got a settlement."
"If I get a dream about somebody, I'll call immediately. I've dreamt things and predicted the future."
"I got a call from friends in Iowa who sent me the original clip about the Teena Brandon [triple murder]. That it wasn't a hate crime. I didn't want to go but my agent in New York said I had to go. My previous book, The Embrace: A True Vampire Story, was a lesbian vampire story. People tried to pin the gay label on my work. I didn't want to be pinned on to anything but I got a sense I needed to go. I don't know if Teena Brandon was calling me, I just needed to get on the plane."
After our telephone interview, I emailed Jones: "Do you think it is important to label certain crimes as hate crimes? Why?"
Aphrodite wrote back:
Luke: "What steps have you taken to prevent your subject from destroying you?"
Aphrodite: "I take breaks. I got into television. TV is soundbytes. It is fun compared to writing. People in television have no idea how difficult it is for writers. Television is so easy. Everything is already done for you. You come in and get your soundbytes and you're gone."
Luke: "Did you read Janet Malcolm's book, The Journalist and the Murderer?"
Aphrodite: "No. I try not to read books about murderers. I'm too involved in that world anyway."
Luke: "Have you heard its first sentence? ' "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows what he does is morally indefensible.'"
Aphrodite: "I haven't heard that but I have heard of a cartoon of me as a vulture when I was writing the vampire story in Orlando. I know that mentality. My answer to that is: In 1993, I was on the Today Show with Bryant Gumbel. A movie was being made based on my book The FBI Killer. Bryant asked the sister [of the victim], are you being paid for the movie? She said yes. Bryant asked me if I was being paid. I felt like saying, are you being paid to help sell soap suds that are going to be aired after this interview?
"I didn't say that, but the audacity of Bryant Gumbel asking me if I am being paid for a movie based on my book as though I am feeding off the blood of the dead.
"He's bringing me, the sister, and the prosecutor on to have a fight on television at 8 a.m. for his ratings, but that's OK?
"The big deal made of the Natalie Holloway story. Everybody running to Aruba.
"I spoke to Natalie's mother this past summer. By that time, nobody cared about her anymore. It made me sad. I could feel her desperation. And the worst of it is that the whole thing was media driven to begin with."
Luke: "Why do you think the media cares more about lost murdered white women as opposed to lost murdered black women?"
Aphrodite: "The answer is obvious -- there is still racism in this society. It is not about white and black, though. It is about beautiful people. The runaway bride. How many other runaway brides have there been? But she was from the right kind of family. She had the preppy look.
"People like it when bad things happen to good people. There's an inherent satisfaction that people get when they see that.
"A lot of my books are about people from the heartland and trailer parks of America. I've never once thought that the subject must be high end for me to write about it. To me, the perils of the rich and famous are not as interesting as that of the everyday man. I don't want to be like Dominick Dunne."
Luke: "Your books are very explicit. How do you decide how explicit you are going to be?"
Aphrodite: "I do hold things back. I draw a line. If it really hurts someone, I don't reveal it. Anything that is ancillary, I leave it out when I know it is going to hurt somebody if I put it in. I have left that out in every book, perhaps with the exception of my first one.
"I do tremendous research. I find things like wife battering and domestic violence and other elements that are not part of the main story and that I will deliberately leave out rather than create such a problem for that person by having it in writing forever."
Luke: "Do you think there's a unique thrill in reading a true crime book?"
Aphrodite: "I don't know. I've read one Ann Rule book and The Woodchipper Murders (A Connecticut man tried to make his wife disappear by turning her into pulp with a woodchipper -- He was convicted on circumstantial evidence) and Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss, which I loved. That's about the entirety of my true crime reading.
"I loved Ann Rule's book. It's fascinating to read about real people. In a way, true crime is a precursor to what we see in the news today and reality television. People are more interested in real people in trailer parks... I used to be frowned upon by the likes of Dominick Dunne because I write about the lower end of society. I met him many years ago in Palm Beach. I didn't appreciate it. Those people are as interesting as the rich and famous.
"What's more important is the message. I've written two books about teen violence. In 1993, I wrote about the need to take care of teenagers in America, long before Columbine. Teen violence keeps getting worse and nobody's doing anything about it. It's crazy. Society hasn't done anything about it. These are issues I grapple with.
"I lived in the Appalachia mountains and these people were considered hillbillies and they were the laughingstock of America. I took it to heart. I felt for this people. I felt that it wasn't right that the government and media ignore them and ignore the FBI murder because it happened in Appalachia.
"My last book, A Perfect Husband, was to me about wealthy women who hide domestic violence."
Luke: "How do you know that Dominick Dunne was sneering at you for writing about white trash?"
Aphrodite: "I experienced it."
Luke: "Did he say something?"
Aphrodite: "No. But I had another writer who did, Ann Rule. I was told that through a fan.
"I know Dominick's [late] brother John Gregory Dunne. Dominick knew who I was yet acted like I didn't count. I write about the same things he write about. That says it all. I filled in the blanks. You write about wealthy people who commit murders and I write about poor people who commit murders. What's so horrible about what I do because apparently you don't have any respect for it.
"Dominick Dunne is very uppity. So was his brother. John Gregory Dunne's wife, Joan Didion, was one of my mentors.
"John Gregory Dunne and Dominick Dunne always had an air of entitlement. I'm remember Dominick sitting in the Robert Blake courtroom. He gave off, 'I've arrived. Everybody has to shut down.'
"To be fair, they've earned their stripes. I read his book on the O.J. Simpson trial. He writes that he was run out of Los Angeles and it wasn't until he wrote the novel The Two Mrs. Grenvilles and it was made into a film that he got respect there again."
Luke: "How much good do you think you have been able to do with your true crime books?"
Aphrodite: "I have no idea.
"I have somebody almost every day write to me with a crime story they want me to do. There are a few missing girls in California. I tried to help the moms. They'd been through so much trying to get resolution. Once the media drops the story, that's the end of it. Then their only hope is to have someone like you or me or somebody who will write about it.
"I try to help people come to terms with whatever they are dealing with, whether it is leading them to the right writer, right newspaper, right authorities. I've had people ask me to come to trials, to say things against the police if they are corrupt in an area... I've stuck my neck out for people.
"Right now I'm focused on my Michael Jackson book (called Conspiracy, it is due out in three months). It's 95% done. I'm presenting this other side to Michael Jackson which no one has seen. Part of me does not want to release the book because I don't want to be attacked. I have so many years of being attacked on various fronts."
Luke: "Why is it important to present this other side to Michael Jackson?"
Aphrodite: "There is another side to him and the press is like a consortium that no one knows about. Once they make a decision, that's it. In his case, they've made their decision. It's like they've made a business of making fun of him and they don't want to do anything else but that.
"I went to a bookstore looking for books on Michael Jackson and I only found two."
Luke: "Could you give me an insight into the other Michael Jackson?"
Aphrodite: "The other Michael Jackson doesn't even know what is going on with his own finances. The other Michael Jackson is really a twelve year old living in a 43-year old's body. That's why he's hanging around with twelve year olds.
"I have studied this guy. I have tapes that nobody has seen. I can't release them because they belong to him.
"He's sitting on a pillow. From the waist up, it's a nice shirt. From the waist down, it's pajama pants. He's sitting with his make-up artist who's doing his hair and he's talking for hours on end. He lives in his own little dreamworld. He's still this tormented soul. It's like he lived and died at the age of twelve and he's still alive."
Luke: "Is he a threat to children?"
Aphrodite: "No. He spent so many years trying to do good for children and to make it OK for him to spend time with children."
"He's a case of arrested development. He's like an elf."
Luke: "What's with his sleepovers with boys? Are they sleeping in the same bed as him?"
Aphrodite: "Yes. That's weird."
Luke: "Is that entirely non-sexual?"
Aphrodite: "So he claims."
Luke: "What's your sense?"
Aphrodite: "In the Santa Maria case brought by Gavin Arvizo, the prosecution brought up every piece of dirty laundry they had, the end result was that this did not happen. He was set up to be taken down.
"He was helping that kid. He let the kid stay in his room from day one but the kid had cancer. He wasn't sexually interested in that kid."
"The media is not going to want my Michael Jackson book because they get exposed. They didn't tell the whole story when they reported the Jordy Chandler trial. None of us did. I was part of it. We only told the prosecution's story. So that's all the public knows."
"I don't know what happened with Jordy Chandler."
Luke: "Why do you think the media so often acts as a pack? I think they are afraid to go out on their own and look ridiculous to their peers."
Aphrodite: "Let me give you an example. I was covering the BTK killer's sentencing for Fox News. This man tormented people in Wichita for 30 years. I had an interview scheduled with the prosecutor. That morning one of the news trucks was leaving. I asked where they were going and I was told that a girl was eaten by a tiger. She was posing for a picture with a tiger and the tiger ate her.
"Next thing you know, the next news truck leaves. And so on. The next thing I know, I get the call from Fox New York that our truck is leaving. You don't need to stay for the interview."
Luke: "Do you think true crime books feed an unhealthy appetite?"
Aphrodite: "I hope not but I know that some of them do."
Luke: "I know people who say that they love to read books on serial killers."
Aphrodite: "I hope not. I don't write about serial killers. I had that opportunity when I covered BTK and I chose not to because it was too disturbing to me. I find it dark and detrimental to the human spirit. But when it's a case of a crime of passion or of domestic violence, when there's a societal issue behind it that we can learn from, a hate crime, things that I've delved into, a societal issue that is more important than the crime. Always. That's where I'm coming from and that's what I hope to reveal to the reader. What they take from it is out of my control. I hope that I'm not fueling anything demonic out there."
Luke: "We'll never be able to know the appetite that drives people to buy true crime books. I can only speak for myself. The thrill I get from reading a true crime book such as your own or Joe McGinniss or anything I've read in that genre is a similar thrill to what I once got from pornography. It's like I get a fever reading these books. A fever takes over me. If, despite the best of your intentions, the majority of true crime readers do it for the same reason they purchase pornography, how would that make you feel?"
Aphrodite: "I wouldn't write them."
Luke: "Do you have many doubts on this score?"
Aphrodite: "No. Not from the people who write to me.
"There are different levels of true crime. Some true crime books are written like the National Enquirer and some are written like In Cold Blood. You can't lump them all together."
"I have never received a perverse email. I will forward you the latest emails to give you examples of the requests I get."
Here's one email:
Aphrodite: "I think the only thing I can think of as perverse (if you can call it that) have been men who write to see if I'm available to date - - or even to get married -- which happens every now and then.)"
Luke: "Has the writing of true crime books brought a lot of dangerous people into your life?"
"What time is it? I am so out of it with the flu."
Luke: "How much of your writing on true crime has been dictated by economic considerations?"
Luke: "How has running around the country affected your personal life? It seems super-disruptive?"
Aphrodite: "It is. It's sacrifice. I made a choice to do that rather than have a family. I've always wanted to make a contribution."
"I may morph out of true crime. I'd like to do something with health and exercise and preventative medicine. I've wanted to do that since I was 19. Now another decade has gone by..."
Luke: "Do you like moving around?"
Aphrodite: "I'm a restless spirit."
Luke: "Would you live in a home where there had been a murder?"
Aphrodite: "I would prefer not."
Luke: What about ghosts?
Aphrodite: "I think there's a possibility that spirits can vibrate in the physical world. I haven't experienced it."
Luke: "Do you support the death penalty for murder?"
Aphrodite: "I do."
December 21, 2007
For months MJ fans have been asking me to respond to the biased reporting of Nancy Grace and Diane Dimond during the Jackson trial (which seems to continue to this day). Fans want to know why these biased reporters have not been called to task for being irresponible with the facts -- for allegedly having agendas to try to destroy Michael Jackson.
I ask Aphrodite, "Why did you write this book?"
Aphrodite: "I've gotten into a space where I question the whole validity of media reportage. Showing the other side of the coin on a high-profile case that was completely misrepresented by the media, including myself, would be good. A launching off point for me to get into how the media makes a case that has nothing to do with the facts of a case.
"A lot of what's out there is just people following each other like sheep. There are few people who will go against the grain."
We discuss Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba. "This girl is shark bait," says Aphrodite. "We all believe she has to have been lost at sea and devourced by sea creatures."
"My Jackson book gives facts that were presented in the court room that are exculpatory that most people do not even know."
"It's difficult to step out and decide to criticize the media. Having been a commentator for 15 years, you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you."
Luke: "Now that the book's out, were your reservations [about writing it] justified?"
Aphrodite: "Not at all. I went on O'Reilly with it. Geraldo with it. I did Air America. I've had a number of people ask me to speak about it at lectures to universities. I did a signing in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago that went well. There's a video on youtube about it. I won an award for "Outstanding Journalist of the Year" from the Brookins Community A.M.E. Church."
As AphroditeJones.com puts it: "Aphrodite Jones received The Outstanding Journalist Of The Year Award at an AME event attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarnegger, L.A. Police Chief William Bratton, and many other luminaries. The event celebrated 10 years of services by the Brookins Community A.M.E. Church, and during the VIP hour, Jones signed copies of Michael Jackson Conspiracy. In her award acceptance speech, Jones addressed a crowd of 2,000 people to tell them about her new journalistic effort, about the media conspiracy that exists, and asked them to "give Michael a chance." Jones was later approached by numerous attendees, who were touched by her efforts to restore Michael Jackson's image. "
Aphrodite: "With this book, I have reached another level. I went on Al Sharpton's radio show and got involved with the whole issue of race and bias in the courtroom."
Luke: "How do you decide that race is playing a part?"
Aphrodite: "When I was involved in the trial coverage, I didn't see any racism. Looking back, however, I realize that Michael Jackson is the only high-profile person of color in Santa Barbara. [District attorney] Tom Sneddon has had a long-standing vendetta against him. In 1993, he couldn't bring criminal charges. He then spent ten years looking for people who would testify against Jackson, even going out of the country.
"I see Sneddon as a good ol' boy. I see him as being sexist and racist.
"I'm not saying race is a key factor but it is a factor."
Luke: "How hard is it to determine how large a factor race is?"
Aphrodite: "Tom Mesereau has a completely different take. He thinks that what Tom Sneddon wanted was to go after the most famous person in the world. That it had little to do with race."
"There was tremendous satisfaction by Tom Sneddon to see the whole Jackson family there...and to put these people in their place. That's a feeling that I got."
Luke: "Did he say anything that would leave that impression?"
Aphrodite: "It wasn't really anything that he said. It was the way he maneuvered the courtroom. The Jacksons were only provided so many seats, so that on the day of the verdict, Janet Jackson had to sit upstairs in a separate room and hear it on a loudspeaker. Why would you do that? Typically, a family is accommodated in a courtroom."
Luke: "What was your relationship like with Tom Sneddon during the trial?"
Aphrodite: "I didn't have any relationship with him."
"I ran into a prosecution team at a restaurant. I was entertaining people from out of town. I wasn't with the rest of the media. Sneddon came over. That time I was still on the other side of the coin, thinking that Jackson was a monster. I really had the wool pulled over my eyes. I went over and said, 'You guys are doing a great job.' Sneddon got up and hugged me.
"Again, that shows a little bit of the sexism.
"I'm a reporter covering it for Fox News. It's not appropriate."
Luke: "How often does that happen to you as a reporter?"
Luke: "How common is it in these trials for reporters to take sides so that at least they'll get inside information from one side?"
Aphrodite: "Incredibly prevelent. That's why you see why we believe that Diane Diamond had a separate deal with Tom Sneddon. Part of the evidence for that is that she was writing a book in secret during the entire time of the trial, which was an anti-Jackson book. She anticipated a guilty verdict. She reported everything based around a guilty verdict. She got fired by Court TV days after the trial was over."
According to Wikipedia: "In 2005, Court TV, citing financial strains from expanded trial coverage on both the Scott Peterson murder case and the Michael Jackson case, decided not to renew Dimond's contract and her entire investigative unit was disbanded."
Aphrodite: "She was so pro-prosecution and had information that nobody else had... During the raid on Neverland in 2003, Diane Diamond was the only reporter allowed to be on the premises to film it. That's a violation of police procedure. If Sneddon was able to make that loophole for her, it tells you something about the nature of their relationship years before the trial.
"There were allegations that she was promised to have full access to Jackson if he was put behind prison bars. That's hearsay but I've gotten it from a number of valid sources."
Luke: "It's a dirty little secret of journalism that you will get far better information from somebody if you give them the feeling you are their sincere friend rather than if you simply be a professional reporter."
Aphrodite: "There are very few people who don't fall into that trap, especially field reporters."
Luke: "I try to make people feel I am their sincere friend because that's far more effective than simply... I always say the words that I am a disinterested reporter, I will never say that I am their sincere friend, but I will try to make them feel I am their sincere friend because I get far better information that way."
Aphrodite: "Of course. I've written about murderers and that's what I do. Of course I do have a natural empathy for people who murder because I feel their pain. Some of them are just cold-blooded killers. Others of them, particularly the children I've talked to who committed acts of murder, while some of them are monsters, others got pulled into a scheme that was over their heads. I have had during my writing career varying degrees of quote unquote friendship.
"In terms of feigning a friendship, when I'm dealing with a monster like Cary Stayner who killed four people in Yosemite who calls me and tells me, I wonder what made me cut this woman's head off... I have to feign being open to hearing him. It's difficult but it's something that you do to get the story. Every investigator knows that you have to do this."
Luke: "I am amazed at how much empathy I can develop for people whose information I need."
Luke: "When I need someone's information, there's no limit to the amount of empathy I can develop for that person. I want the scoop and I am only going to get it if I make them feel I am their sincere friend. It's not moral but it's a requirement of the job."
"Other than feigning friendship, or at least understanding, with someone I feel to be a complete monster, for example Robert Noel, who owned those dogs that killed Diane Whipple in San Francisco... It was the only way I could get the information. Nonetheless, I knew I was going to turn it around on him.
"But for the most part, I rarely will feign something or smooth talk someone and then turnaround and violate them in what I write.
"The people I don't trust, the people I believe to be monsters, I tend to stay away from and just take the public record so I can do what I want with it rather than go through the ordeal of forging a fake friendship to get the information."
Luke: "Do the people you interview often feel burned?"
Aphrodite: "No. I don't do that to people. I won't do it. I keep so many secrets beyond what I write with everybody I work with. I value that. It's part of the reason people come back to me with other stories. I am extremely loyal to people who confide to me other than people who are locked behind bars for heinous acts of murder... I have strict values when it comes to that. I don't cross those lines."
Luke: "I wonder if the reason the media was so anti-Jackson was that there was no up-side to being fair to Jackson. The only up-side was to portray him as a creep. Who's going to advance his career by saying Michael Jackson is a decent guy who's been treated indecently?"
Aphrodite: "Right. Had Jackson been put behind bars, it would've been a billion dollar industry globally. A cottage industry would've developed around what is he eating, what is he not eating, who's writing, who's not writing, who's the jail cellmate, who slipped him something, who didn't slip him something, is he on suicide watch, which Jackson came to visit... It would've been a field day."
Luke: "There's no news story if you say Michael Jackson behaved in an ordinary way today. That's not news. It's only news if he behaves in a freaky way."
Aphrodite: "That's become the standard for every star, however Jackson was the first and is probably the biggest target. They went after him criminally with shabby evidence and shabby witnesses. They did it because they wanted to shame him out of leaving the county."
Luke: "How responsible is Michael Jackson for his own troubles?"
Aphrodite: "He has to take some responsibility. His Peter Pan thing, people can't understand it. He's old enough to seek help, to figure out why he can't trust adults. He's so addicted to attention which is why he came up with the arm bands... He's always able to come up with something. The need for attention is so great perhaps that's why he perpetuates that whole Neverland thing, the thing with kids, because it had people talking about him."
Luke: "How did the news media at the trial feel about Jackson?"
Aphrodite: "Everybody was talking behind his back... There was a consensus among most people. I did take polls about it. That he was guilty. There was consensus. He was convicted by the media before the trial even started."
Luke: "Did they dislike him?"
Aphrodite: "No. There was a lot of pretending to like him to get him to talk every day after trial."
Luke: "Why was Martin Bashir the only journalist you named in the book?"
Aphrodite: "Because he was the only one who testified against Jackson. He was the one who caused this whole thing to begin with with his fake documentary, a documentary filled with trickery and he's built a career out of trying to take Jackson down. The promises he made to Jackson prior to the documentary were so outlandish and his behavior in the outtake footage in which he sucks up to Jackson beyond belief and then turns on Jackson... Bashir has been brought up three times for journalistic unfairness in Britain. On one of those occasions he was sanctioned.
"Jackson opened his home, his heart, everything to this man for months... Then Bashir launched a career on ABC News and became a star. That's the ultimate betrayal and mockery of the whole news system. So now people are getting their news from somebody they think is so trustworthy and he built his career on the opposite of that."
Luke: "But don't most good journalists do exactly that? Suck up to the subject they need to get close to, befriend the subject, get close, and then betray when they write and report?"
Aphrodite: "Depends on the journalist. Any successful journalist is going to have some sense of bringing their own view to the matter.
"If Playboy or Vogue or People do a story on someone, they don't suck a person in and attack them. So you can't say any successful journalist. People magazine is read more than any other magazine in the world."
"Even in the case of 60 Minutes, there's always an angle they stay true to."
Luke: "What percentage of successful journalists practice journalism in a similar suck-up and betray style to Martin Bashir?"
Aphrodite: "I would say that is not the norm. It might be the impression we get of the media but I'd say that people have more scruples than that. I would hope so."
Luke: "How much do journalists talk about that -- seduce and betray?"
Aphrodite: "That's it. They won't talk about it. There's no way to put numbers on that."
Luke: "As journalists, that is the most sensitive part of our jobs. We don't want to admit to seducing and betraying."
Aphrodite: "When Geraldo went to Neverland and gave a report about Jackson being not guity, didn't turn around after the verdict... He remained faithful... He said during the trial that if Jackson was found guilty, he'd shave his moustache off.
"To say that all journalists suck up and betray, or that there is an element of that to all journalists, I think that is unfair."
Luke: "You don't even think there's an element to it?"
Aphrodite: "There is an element to it. Of course. You're never dealing with one subject matter. If you want to get the other side of the story, you're going to have to seduce the other person into thinking, 'Oh, it's going to be fine for you.' You're going to betray the other person because you have an angle you want to pursue. Yes, everyone is going to do some of that."
I read to Aphrodite the first sentence of Janet Malcolm's book, The Journalist and the Murderer: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."
Aphrodite: "I disagree with that. I'm sorry. I just completely disagree with it. I see myself, right or wrong to the rest of the world, as somebody who wants to shed light on negative situations so they won't occur again. I don't find myself to be morally indefensible. I don't find myself to be someone who has no scruples. I don't double-cross people I work with. I still maintain friendships with many of the people who've been subjects in my books. I mean they're not close friends but I can call them.
"I do have the experience, as with Joe McGinniss about Jeffrey MacDonald, where along the way you see the other side of the coin... I had that with Michael Jackson. For the most part, I go in seeing the picture... I come into stories after the fact. My investigative reporting has to do with more in-depth work. I'm not looking to find out what happened. People already know what happened. I don't have to do that kind of guess work. I can be more pointed about how I want to approach a story.
"In my last book about Michael Peterson, who killed his wife, I knew from the get go that this was a monster and I doubted he would be convicted. I did not bother to approach him or his family. I'd rather not go there and play that game knowing I was going to betray the person in the end."
Luke: "What percentage of people do you guestimate end up regretting talking to you?"
Aphrodite: "I don't know. I'm sure there are plenty but I wouldn't say it is a large percent. I hear from all of them. People constantly reach out to me."
"There are times when I've written things about people and I know I've pissed them off. But you don't realize what the exchange was like in real life. I might have a scene with somebody and walk away thinking, 'You've had your fair shots at me. Wait until you see what happens to you.' Not in a mean way. I just see the person as a monster. I walk away and I just show the monster."
Luke: "You've been interviewed a lot. What percentage of the time do you regret giving someone an interview?"
Aphrodite: "When I do an interview, I always get the tinge of, 'I'd rather not read it,' because I know there's going to be that stab.
"I just did a radio interview with people from Sirus Radio in Santa Barbara. They brought me on so they could sandbag me over the Jackson book. They talked about the top five reasons Jackson's a pedophile. It was a big joke for them.
"During the course of the interview, I turned it around. By the end of the conversation, not only did I feel it was OK, but their producer came back and thanked me for being such a good sport."
Luke: "Why didn't you name more names about the media in your book?"
Aphrodite: "It's something I may do in time... I could name more but some of these people I have personal friendships with. Just because some people misreported things, there's never a black and white. There's always a grey."
"I love your questions. They are very insightful."
Luke: "How was the experience of blogging?"
Aphrodite: "For me blogging is a job. A lot of people look at blogging as entertainment or an obsession or it fills a need. It's a creative outlet. I don't have that response. I've been writing professionally since I was 20. That's 30 years practically. To me, writing is about work. If I'm not getting paid for it... Blogging is just work that I'm not getting paid for. I enjoy writing but if I know that there's no pay at the end of that rainbow, I don't enjoy it as much. The blogging thing has been a mixed bag. It's been interesting seeing people react to the blogs but I'm not Rosie O'Donnell who has nothing else to do but post her new thoughts of the moment. I have to earn a living."
Luke: "You're very vulnerable on your blog."
Aphrodite: "I don't even know that, Luke, because I'm not a blogger."
Luke: "It's like you're talking to me on your blog. It's that same level of candor."
Aphrodite: "For some reason, I'm willing to say more on a blog."
"I've always been the last one to join. I didn't get on the internet until 2000."