Posted by BE on August 15th, 2010
I’m conflicted about Michael Laws. He’s brilliant – a brilliant writer, a brilliant broadcaster, a brilliant thinker, a brilliant political strategist and, when I first met him at a celebrity debate in Dunedin several decades ago, brilliantly funny.
But I abhor most of what he writes in his columns in the Sunday Star Times. Or rather the way he writes. I have the feeling that the intemperate language, the provocative posturing, the seeming determination to outrage and offend have less to do with the real Michael Laws, whoever that may be, than with the near requirement on tabloid newspaper columnists to shock their readers into penning apoplectic letters of protest to the editor.
None of this sits comfortably with a man who could write so lovingly and movingly about his young daughter or confess in his column today that the prospect of her death from cancer brought him to thoughts of suicide.
‘I could see no point to my existence if she were not a part of my life.’
And now we learn that Laws had a sexual relationship with a former prostitute and P addict. Laws has told us so himself, on his radio show, and now extensively in the press. He did it because he expected to be outed.
Wearing my media consultant’s hat, I can say that he did exactly the right thing. I have been in a similar situation myself, though the circumstances were different and had no sexual context. But the principle was the same: getting things out in the open pulls the teeth of an intended media exposé and ensures that your version of events appears first and is accurately reported.
So, can the revelation of a brief affair with someone who describes herself as an ‘ex crack ho’ ever be a good look? You would have thought not. But somehow the story of Michael Laws and Jacqueline Sperling which has emerged over the past couple of days has a quality which sets it apart from the usual celebrity exposé or mea culpa. It is a fascinating story, well told, and with a happy ending.
It begins with Laws’ description of what drew him to Sperling.
‘In June of this year I met someone in Auckland and, quite unexpectedly, entered a physical relationship. This lady had life experiences that were completely different to my own. I was intoxicated by such an unusual background and flattered by her attentions.
‘We met only twice. We have shared texts and messages of an intimate nature connected to the physical attraction that seemed to exist between us.
‘I was not involved in any other relationship during this time.’
Sterling, it transpires, had run a private escort business in Auckland until 15 months ago and was charged in June of last year with possession of P for supply. She was sentenced to seven months home detention. She was wearing an electronically monitored anklet during Laws’ visits – a detail which, for the life of me, I can only find utterly charming and romantic. The Sunday Star Times reports that Laws was not fazed by the anklet:
‘Why would I be? Here was somebody who had plunged into the depths of a P addiction and enormous depravation, who had got absolutely on the wrong side of the law.
‘I’m very supportive of the idea of people making amends for things they have done wrong in their lives.
‘I was more interested in her story [than sex]. I had no intention of starting a relationship. I told her if I was ever in Auckland I would pop in and talk about a book she was writing [about drug abuse]. She is a great writer.’
And the happy ending? Well, Sperling was understandably annoyed that Laws had chosen to make their relationship public, but the two have since met and Sperling has expressed an interest in renewing the relationship:
‘I am very fond of him. I think he is a good man. Through all of this we are now friends again, and that is more than we were a few days ago. He is a man I am so very fond of.’
Sperling, whose home detention ends on September 1, says she will use her ‘15 minutes of fame’ to teach the public about the evils of drug addiction.
Several things distinguish this narrative from the traditional celebrity sex exposé:
First, the patent truthfulness of the parties. There is nothing self-serving in anything they say and I believe them utterly.
Second, their courage, particularly that of Sperling who has allowed her life to become public property. As she herself says: ‘There is nobody in this country who sticks their hand up and says, “Look, I am an ex crack ho and look at where I am now.” I have nothing to be ashamed of with the life I left, because I left it behind forever. I am proud of that. I have done nothing wrong. I make no secret of my past.’
And, finally, the lack of bitterness and the mutual respect and affection that so patently suffuse this story.
The romantic in me says that we may not have heard the end of the Laws/Sterling narrative. It is, it seems to me, first and foremost a story about a meeting of minds and the sometimes comforting, sometimes passionate relationships that can develop from such meetings.
There is a novel here, and a movie.
I don’t normally have much affinity with your ideaology or attitude(s), Brian, but in this case I agree with all that you have said here.Your perception of the invisible dynamics involved in this “tryst” is right on the money..in a strange way Laws and Sperling even look a tad alike in their photos.
The road to salvation is as difficult to walk as the razor’s edge and cynics are only frustrated romantics ?!
You know what Brian,
There is a lot more to me, as a person, than what you have just written, or what any of the media have written.
Every day, i live with the guilt of setting such a terrible example for my teenage daughters, because of the terrible choices that i made, when already at a very low point in my life, due to a marriage failure.
I had never in my life, touched an illegal substance before. Not even pot as a teenager. I had a good upbringing. I am educated. I have always been employed. The whole person that i am seems to be made up of a period of 2 years of my life where i made dreadful choices.
I made some terrible, awful choices, that cause me guilt every single day. The only priority that i focus on now, is living a life that i am proud of and setting a good example for my children. That is how i manage that guilt. I am doing my best to make it up to them.
Now, through no fault of my own. My face and my mistakes are everywhere. I have never made a secret of anything in my past. I do not do shame. I am proud of the changes that i have made to my life to become the happy and healthy person that i am today…but now i am dealing with the guilt of knowing that my teenage daughters have to face their friends at school tomorrow.
Did two consenting and single adults that attempted to embark on a relationship that then got destroyed by nasty rumours …really deserve this? Do my children?
Where did i go wrong in this situation? Because i am struggling with finding an answer to that, as much as i am struggling with helping my daughters through this.
You know what Brian, There is a lot more to me, as a person, than what you have just written, or what any of the media have written.
Thank you, Jackie. I’m sure if you re-read my post about your relationship with Michael, you will realise that it is entirely sympathetic and that I wish you well. Your point about the children is well made. Publicity of this nature is never pleasant. If it helps at all, my own experience of such publicity many years ago taught me one thing, that today’s newspapers really are tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. Everything goes away eventually. Kind regards, Brian.
All good Brian. I would like to point out that there are lots of incorrect things being reported…and also a lot of quotes being taking out of context.
For example…He is a man that i admire turns into He is THE man that i admire? I was hoping that was just a mistake due to them writing that up rather late last night.
There is also a serious lie – they call it a mistake in that article, that i was subsequently arrested last December for allowing my vehicle to be used for drugs and possessing a pipe.
This is absolutely false. There is no truth in this whatsoever. I was arrested ONCE. On June 17th 2009. On July 12th 2009 i disappeared from my apartment, and that life. I have never had any contact with anyone from my past since that day.
I have never, and would never associate with people who do that drug again. I would never put myself in a position where it was even around me. Because of the addictive nature of methamphetamine, i question whether i would be strong enough to decline it, if it was ever offered to me again. I will never put myself in a situation, where i have to make that choice. In December, i plead guilty to my charges, relating to my arrest in June, and the police commented on a presentence report that i was “a very low risk of re-offending.” They would not have said that had i just been re-arrested for the charges stated above. EVERYTHING about that is a LIE.
I knew that life was leading me to one of two places. Death or prison. Neither of those places were where i wanted to be. I knew i was better than that life, and the choices that i had made. I am very proud of the fact that i was able to walk away from that life, and not once look back. For this paper to insinuate otherwise…and that i was later arrested on more charges, is despicable, and absolutely false. They WILL be publicly apologising to me for this statement.
Finally. I used the term “crackho” because i have a sense of humour, and can laugh at myself, and sometimes even my mistakes. If i can’t laugh about it, i would spend my life crying.
I really do hope this dies out quickly. I have two more weeks with my bracelet, and then i am going to be forced back out into the real world to face normal every day life. After 7 months here at home, i have been getting anxious about job hunting, do i have the confidance to handle that kind of thing? This certainly has not helped, and i almost wish i had a longer sentence so that i could hybernate for longer, now.
That is pretty sad. Enjoy your evening
There is also a serious lie – they call it a mistake in that article, that i was subsequently arrested last December for allowing my vehicle to be used for drugs and possessing a pipe. This is absolutely false.
Hi Jackie. This is a serious error, and must be corrected at once. You need to put in a formal complaint to the newspaper, and to the Press Council if you don’t get satisfaction. You can do that from home. Follow this link: http://www.presscouncil.org.nz/complain.php to the NZ Press Council and the website will walk you through the procedure.
You might also want to have a word with your lawyer. This may call for more than an apology.
Thank you, Jackie. Judy has offered you some good advice on correcting any incorrect statements in the press. In the meantime, I have changed the wording of one quotation in the post to reflect what you claim you actually said.
Good on you Brian.
Line up for yet another classic example of bullying (a social epidemic in NZ), the snide back stabbing, treachery, derision …
There’s nothing like a major life crisis to precipitate abandonment by so-called ‘friends’ and animate the brain dead media dregs.
All the best to Jackie Sperling and Michael Laws in rebuilding their lives.
Is that the Rob Pharazyn who once insinuated ‘Time Warp’ (Chris Spedding) into the middle of another song one fine Christchurch afternoon? Wow, what a DJ he was … the best… a tad cynical too, if my memory serves me well.
Thank you for that advice Judy. Michael has assured me that he is dealing with it. Hopefully he is…but if not then i shall take your advice.
I do know that Jonathon Marshal, who wrote the article will be going through court records all day tomorrow, in order to find some kind of proof of that allegation.
He advised me that he had to do that before altering anything, or making an apology. One would think he would have needed to do that before printing such a hideous lie.
Hopefully, it is a miserable task, that will teach him a lesson.
Little Toot posting above
I cannot tell a lie..’Twas I on 3ZM in those halcyon days!
You are a courageous woman Jackie. your story, your honesty ,I feel will touch lives.I wish you all the best ,and hope you have privacy again very soon.
I’m sorry, but no matter how hard I try I simply have no sympathy for Michael Laws and absolutely no respect. Of course I find it hard to believe that there are actually people totally into him, but good for them. I feel incredibly sorry for Jackie though when she is trying so hard to rebuild her life she fell victim to Michael’s desire to once again make the news. Who cares if he was or is in a relationship, who cares about any of that? But he made such a big almost desperate paranoid thing about it. But I would not expect anything less of this man.
I’ve been scratching my head over the whole ‘story’ since it first broke. If Mr Laws is a single and consenting adult, where’s the issue in his having a new relationship? And if racy texts are sent, is this something we need to know about, let alone read the contents of?
Laws’ public apology to his family struck me as a perhaps panicked, knee-jerk reaction to the media ambush – after all, if his ladyfriend happens to have a colourful past, does that really necessitate an apology? To anyone?
I also agree with you Brian that Laws’ sensitive articles on the possibly imminent death of his young daughter seem miles away from the ‘shock jock’ content of his regular Sunday columns, which do seem to be foremost designed to provoke a reaction from the paper’s readership.
Jackie – presumably all that can be done about your daughters’ potential distress at school this week is to have a heart to heart with them about it (which no doubt you’ve already done), and consider the possibility of taking them out of school for a week, to allow the story some time to fade. (But then there’s always the hassle of getting their schoolwork back on track; if they have a staunch circle of school friends to support them, quite possibly they will weather this thing just fine.) As Brian says, it will soon be old news. Also – I bet there are few people who could stand close scrutiny on their own personal lives. Most of us, at one time or other, have done things we’re ashamed of.
The media is all too happy to make peoples’ private lives public, often unnecessarily – after all, did political journalist Barry Soper’s drink-driving conviction really merit a significant page 3 article a few weeks ago? At the time I thought, Hmm, Sunday Star-Times, in the interests of transparency and balance, I’d love to know how many of your staffers have got any drink-drive history. It seems the days when the media kept schtum on juicy info about a public figure – unless it was relevant in some key way to their role (eg proving that they were some sort of cheat or hypocrite) – are long gone: nowadays if you’re a public figure, almost any aspect of your life is fair game to sell a few papers. Even if that’s unfair.
I suppose it is Michael Laws constant self-righteousness, and they way he puts down those he believes are off-track, that he finds embarrassing now that the tables are turned.
His whole track record – the Napier City Council debacle, chameleon act in Parliamentary representation, his whole Whanganui saga, his on-off-on-off relationship with the mother of 3(?) of his kids.
All too complicated for me! Maybe getting too complicated for him as well.
I don’t agree with much that he says at all. His talkback show is dumbed down shock jock if ever I heard it. Come back Brian.
I fully support Jackie and her induction and recovery from habitual drug use.For me the story isnt her domestic relationship with Michael Laws but the evils of drug use.If they chose to be in a consenting relationship this has little effect on me.The use of P has a perepheral effect on us all.I also find the term “Crack Ho” unnessesarily demeaning.
Mr Laws is a Troll…an internet phenomenon that has been usurped by a struggling print media to hopefully draw in readers. Modern media is littered with them.
Troll: Defintion from Urban Dictionary
People who post empty and meaningless messages, purely to provoke.
Some people just can’t grow out of the period in their life when scribbling on the walls and dropping spiders on the girls they liked was acceptable.
Trolls don’t care about proving a point or championing a cause. They just want to annoy, for the sake of annoyance and personal enjoyment, like a baby is entertained by a rattle or colorful lights.
They may tack on a “point” to draw out specific types of people but, it really doesn’t matter. They’re all the same. They all say the same s***. They all have the same excuses.
The troll is easily amused.
They celebrate getting a reaction, that’s it. Generally, they are so desperate for human interaction and, they are usually so vile, that negative attention is the best they can get. The saddest thing is, anyone can get a reaction by acting like an idiot. Anyone. They honestly take pride in the “art” like they’ve actually accomplished something.
Mr Laws is a Troll…an internet phenomenon that has been usurped by a struggling print media to hopefully draw in readers… They celebrate getting a reaction
Hmmm… He seems to have got a reaction from you, though, ‘The Real Tony’.
I truly appreciate every single message of support that i have received. Thank you to all of you who have posted on here, for your encouraging words.
It has been an eye opener for me, to be shown how relentless the media are in their quest for a story. Any story, and who they hurt in order to get that story is of no concern to them. They were not concerned about the affect that this will have had on my daughters, or how this attention could have potentially, set me back.
They had no story, so they made me their story, with no regard for my children or my mental or physical well being. Fortunately, my determination to live a good life, and set a good example for my daughters for the rest of my life, is something that i will never lose sight of. They were not aware of that though, and in my opinion this past weekend has been a repulsive display of the gutter level mentality of the media.
It was a huge eye opener for me.
God works in mysterious ways though, and over the past 48 hours, the message that methamphetamine addiction is not hopeless has been spread to more people, than 15 months of blogging on my part had reached.
No one is ever hopeless. There is no such thing as too far gone down a dark road get be able to get back to good. There is always a U turn option. There is always hope. If just one person who is currently addicted to that drug, has heard that message this weekend, or if just one person who is stuck in that hideous lifestyle, realises that they can change their life…then it was all worth it.
It not only turns this past weekend into something positive. It turns my terrible choices into something positive.
That, and my children, are all i care about.
and PJR – that lifestyle is demeaning, so the term crackho is nothing more than being realistic. That is what i was. No point sugar coating it.
From the moment I listened to ML’s statement on Radio Live, I turned off the issue. Not because of a lack of sympathy for those directly involved, but because it was simply another example of the junk tabloid garbage that has infected the media. This is a private matter for ML and JS. None of my business. None of that gutter snipe Marshall’s business either. I certainly hope someone sues him and his rag. It would do everyone a favour. Maybe someone should start stalking him and writing up his exploits?
@ Tom: “..simply another example of the junk tabloid garbage that has infected the media. This is a private matter for ML and JS. None of my business.
Seriously? This became an actual news story? There’s not even any scandal to justify such an obviously sensationalized story. I thought Britain was the champion of Yellow Journalism, but now I can see New Zealand may be close in the running for that title.
Looks like this story (which never should have been a “news story” to begin with) has wound down a bit. I am glad… I knew Jackie as a young teenager in America. She comes from a good family, good home and a good community. I’m glad that her fellow New Zealanders’ are seemingly wise to the damage of irresponsible journalism. Thanks to all of her well-wishers!
Now, Jackie, I’m sure it was an off the cuff remark, but I would hardly call you a “crack-ho”. I do admire your honesty and bravery. I can’t believe my little grammar school mate had to grow up and endure such a cruel media frenzy!
Urrrh Yuk. I’m reminded almost of the blub fest for Princess Dianna. Public faces shouldn’t be seen in private places. A poisoned chalice, the kiss of death I would think. Cut and run from it all Jackie.
The grain crop in Russia has just gone up in flames, Pakistan is under water, New Zealand troops are assisting in the illegal detention and torture of innocents, food prices have gone up 50 percent in three years, the global economic recession is about to get worse . . .
An (alleged) folk proverb :
“Knock on any door,and say “All has been discovered!” – and they will turn white.”
Mr Warhol’s comment about everybody one day being famous for 15 minutes is now,thanks to the Interweb,a demonstrable truth.
An (alleged) folk proverb : “Knock on any door,and say “All has been discovered!” – and they will turn white.”
I love this saying. Does anyone know where it came from?
@ Ian: “Mr Warhol’s comment about everybody one day being famous for 15 minutes is now,thanks to the Interweb,a demonstrable truth”.
Not quite. Brian, doubled it to 30.
“…and they will turn white.”
That might be quite popular in some parts of the world.
I cannot believe that so much verbiage is being expended on something so trivial. It says something about both the prurient media and the public that the activites of Messrs Laws and Sperling, which are nobody’s damn business apart from their own, can be picked over and analysed ad infinitum. Why Laws felt it necessary to issue that totally over top self exculpation mystifies me and the cynic in me suggests that there were motives that may yet become emerge.
This is precisely why the media are not worthy of either brickbat or bouquet. They are just not worthy of attention.
“I’m conflicted about Michael Laws. He’s brilliant – a brilliant writer, a brilliant broadcaster, a brilliant thinker, a brilliant political strategist and, when I first met him at a celebrity debate in Dunedin several decades ago, brilliantly funny.”
So, says he. Not, “and so say all of us”.
Just a bit of ego stroking from the good doctor Oit. He might be concerned that the patient is going to do some more self harm or self destruct.
“Knock on any door,and say “All has been discovered!” – and they will turn white.”
I adore that quote.
I am very grateful that since the day that i changed my life, i have been very open and honest with every single person in my life. There was nothing that was true, that was reported in the weekend that everyone that loves me, did not already know. I am very grateful that those same people have enough faith in me to not believe anything that was untrue.
Shame, has to be one of the worst feelings in this world. Shame is at the core of every addiction. It is what holds a lot of people back. It keeps people in ruts, and it hinders recovery from addictions. I go to bed every night, knowing that i have no skeletons. It is an amazing feeling.
What people who might be involved in anything that is causing them shame, don’t realise sometimes, is that honesty is rarely judged harshly. Most people in this world, will want to help someone who is willing to say “Shoot, i have royally screwed up, and i need to fix this.”
Letting go of all of the shame that i had lived with for what felt like forever, being open and honest about my mistakes, and allowing the people that love me, and even people who are just in my life because they have to be ( ex in laws etc ) to support me, has been an integral part of my recovery.
There are only a handful of people that know me personally, that have judged me. Do i need those people in my life? Nope.
Most people in this world are good people. The truth is always better than a lie, even if it is dreadful truth.
I would like to say that i have spoken with Jonathon Marshall regarding the error in reporting that i had been arrested again in December. I believe this was a genuine mistake, and was not intended to cause me any undue stress. The Sunday Star Times will be publishing a correction regarding that this Sunday, and i am happy with that outcome. I hold no anger towards him, for that mistake, and won’t be taking the matter any further.
Jonathon is human, and us humans make mistakes. He was just doing his job. I actually believe, that despite my belief that this story never should have been considered newsworthy in the first place, that the three reporters that i did end up having to speak to, treated me pretty ok.
At the end of the day, i got caught in the middle of what was an attempt by local Wanganui nutters to smear Laws’reputation. I want it known that i consider Michael a friend, and i will always offer my support to him, regardless of what is being said about him.
My children came home from school yesterday, their normal, happy, and very noisy selves again. I am grateful for the wonderful group of supportive and loyal friends that they have…not unlike the friends that i had at their age, as Holly, up there has shown.
Life is good. Every day is a blessing.
Jackie – you say the media had no story so they made you the story. Why did you let them interview you?
dare i say- put it to bed.
Amelia – I take it you have never had the media interested in you. If you had then you would not have asked me that question.
They don’t give you much choice, when your front door is a glass ranch slider, that looks into your whole living area and kitchen…and they refuse to leave. It was not only me they were doing that to either. They encroached on the lives of people that i care about all weekend.
I would not have believed the lengths that they go to either, before last weekend, so i can understand your curiosity regarding that.
Bed, sounds bloody wonderful.
Come on Brian for goodness sake….! Michael Laws brilliant…
Come on Brian for goodness sake….! Michael Laws brilliant…
I declined to print your comment, Mr O’Connor-Bennett. It is abusive and devoid of thought. I don’t need you on this site.
Fair play to you Jackie, for your openness on this forum. You seem to think, however, that this story was a media beat-up. But the papers had nothing concrete on this until Laws decided to leap back into the limelight again on his radio show.
(And if you ever get beseiged by reporters again – god forfend – simply trespass them from your property then call the cops.)
Don, the HoS was going to press with the story. Many people had calls (even Willie, JT and Mike King) from various papers before Michael’s statement Friday at 3pm. The reason Michael’s statement was read on Willie and JT’s show was that they had been approached and felt Michael’s private business was his own. For Willie and JT to express sympathy at anything to do with Michael Laws is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Thanks for your reply. No the media hasn’t shown any interest in me so I don’t know what it’s like.
You sound like a very articulate, intelligent woman. All the best.
BigJed, according to my information, the HoS had nothing and were simply fishing, following the Facebook postings by Jackie. The story only became concrete following Laws’s statement.
For what it is worth, i am dealing with a lot of guilt regarding this issue at the moment.
Despite the fact that i would never have contacted the media, or shared correspondence that would be considered salacious, or newsworthy with anyone, i was naive enough to not understand why people would tell me outright lies. I believed that those people had my best interest in mind, when they were telling me those lies.
Had i ignored rumours and gossip, none of this would have ever happened. My complete naivety is to blame.
I take full responsibility for the whole situation.
I have spent whole evenings in a brothel full of women, competing against each other for men’s attention and money. Still, i had not experienced the level of nastiness, bitchiness, and craziness, that i have seen directed at Laws, since the beginning of this whole drama.
It truly has been weird. I am still struggling with the fact that people could actually have such hollow lives, that they could be bothered with this kind of carry on.
I have heard today on National Radio’s “The Panel” Brian Edwards commenting on this blog and another concerning a politician. Brian sees New Zealanders as being a vindictive and unforgiving people in general. Well, that in one particular case works both ways. What goes round comes round. Obviously the crassness of the modern media, which is hard to avoid, really gets up peoples noses.
I experienced the same kind of ‘dog eat dog’ mentality when I worked in the UK, and it seems to have permeated history (if you’re game enough to take a peek).
I’m tempted to think that the sort of people that Brian talked about on Nat.Rad. yesterday (21 August) are just the uneducated victims of bullying … venting their rage through some form of indoctrinated belief that a mistake of any kind totally invalidates a person, combined with the belief that if they have ‘thought it’ therefore it must be true.
Then there are the manipulative sociopaths who bait people in order to destroy them, for ‘sport’ and/or personal gain.
I’m sure that higher education teaches people (who lack the training) to formulate a balanced argument and to exercise objectivity over subjectivity (and to know the difference). It has certainly helped me through the mire of emotional overreaction and punitive gesturing … sigh.
Jackie, you have clearly been manipulated through this saga and I don’t see it as constructive to your emotional health to carry responsibility for the whole charade. It is what you do now that counts … maybe accept that the crisis has passed. I think we are all children, all naive, when encountering new experience. Unfortunately, you have been hunted by a sector of our society that appears sociopathic and predatory in their pursuit of gossip and personal glory.
Quite frankly, I believe Michael Laws has broad shoulders for this kind of circus, that paradoxical combination of formidable strength and vulnerability and a lifetime of conflict experience. While I am sure he craves the comfort of nurturing (don’t we all?), that sanctuary of unconditional validation, I believe he would be at his best when constantly challenged by uncompromising honesty while thoroughly grounded fighting at grass roots community level where he can do most good.
Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.
I wish there was an antidote for ego poisoning …
better expand on the politicians’ rule. they can not tattle on their own party, though – or they’re also out.
unless they pick up a “get out of jail free” or “community chest” card.
The thread on this post has become very unpleasant, therefore I have removed all Jim’s comments. In fairness, I have also removed all comments about him and addressed to him.