Some people call me the “Erin Brockovich of revenge
porn” because I fought a misogynistic website and help victims remove their
humiliating, nude photos from the Internet. But prior to my clash with
cyber-crime, I was a rebel in romance.
I’ve never embraced pop culture’s philosophy about traditional
dating roles and the need for game-playing. I don’t believe women are designed to
be passive and weak—essentially prey—while male suitors boldly select the
gazelles of their choice. I support gender equality and encourage women to
persevere, be fierce and actively pursue their romantic dreams, even when those
dreams seem outlandish.
I had my own outlandish dream at the age of nine. I hoped
to date—when I was older, of course—Welsh superstar and sex symbol, Tom Jones. Naturally,
I did not believe this could happen.
Although Tom was twenty years my senior and lived
nowhere near my home state of Georgia, I foolishly announced to family and
friends that I was in love with him. Mockery, teasing and insults followed. My
fourth grade classmates called my crush, “stupid.” They stuck gushy poems
(which they signed, “Love, Tom Jones”) into my desk at school and erupted in
laughter when I found them.
Home meant more embarrassment. My brother caught me kissing
the TV set during Tom’s weekly variety show in 1969 and taunted me, “You’ve got
a boyfriend. His name is Sony. Don’t you think he’s a little square?” and “You
got mononucleosis from the boob tube. Eww, gross. That’s obscene.”
At sixteen, my romantic feelings for Tom had not
vanished and neither had the criticism. My father—who had always described show
business folks as “low class and inferior”—seemed to think his own daughter was
more inferior. He stared at me and
asked, “Why would he [Tom Jones] want
to go out with you?”
I did not condemn family and friends for this abject
pessimism because I thought they were right. Self-esteem was like the unicorn
in my bathtub. It did not exist. My bedroom mirror convinced me that I was ten pounds
overweight and not-so-pretty. I was an inferiority complex embedded within an
imperfect body, trapped within a community of naysayers.
My life changed drastically that summer.
It was the night of my first concert. This was not a
Tom Jones show; the entertainer was Jerry Lee Lewis, known for the songs, “Great
Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.” Following the performance, I
was plucked from the audience, invited backstage and asked to join Jerry Lee
for dinner. I declined. However, what ensued was a heart-to-heart chat with Jerry
Lee’s friend, JD. This white-haired man infused me with much-needed confidence.
He was the Santa Claus of compliments; and I found myself embracing the “I
think I can” mindset. JD treated me like his pupil, convincing me that I could land a date with Tom.
“You could go out with him, young lady,” JD said and
added a sprinkle of logic. “Of course he’d be interested. After all, Jerry Lee
is interested, isn’t he?”
It made perfect sense. If Jerry Lee was interested,
maybe Tom would be as well. For the first time, I felt pretty. I was able to
embrace my inner peacock. I thanked JD and scurried from the concert hall, ready
for my new adventure.
Strategizing seemed integral to success. A person
cannot normally approach a celebrity, brush aside gigantic security guards,
casually say, “Hey, how about a date?” and expect a favorable response. So, I
plotted. And I schemed. And I plotted some more. I even took Welsh lessons, unaware
that Tom did not know the language. Months later, when I was seventeen, I flew
to Las Vegas where Tom was headlining at Caesars Palace.
I spent a full week in tenacity mode. I was like a
heat-seeking missile. I sat ringside at Tom’s show. I bribed a bellman to give me
Tom’s suite number. I met Tom’s mother. I gave flowers to his parents. I crept
through secret passageways in an effort to finagle myself backstage. I sat on
the floor outside Tom’s suite, waiting for him. I phoned the dressing room to ask
if I could drop by. I even donned a provocative showgirl costume with a feather
headdress and “coincidentally” ran into Tom in the hallway. We chatted for five
minutes. Unfortunately, all of my carefully contrived schemes crashed to the
ground like broken kites, and I returned to Atlanta.
|Charlotte Laws and Tom Jones in 2010|
Although I had failed, I was not discouraged because
the most important component for success—persistence—was wholly intact. I
believed—or at least hoped—I was the “little Atlanta girl who could” go out
with my dream man... eventually. I restarted the shenanigans a year and a half
later when I was eighteen. Tom was scheduled to perform in Fort Lauderdale. So,
like before, I strategized ferociously. I fasted for seventeen days on nothing
but water in order to lose weight. I snagged a ringside seat at his show, pretending
to be the winner of a beauty pageant. I secured a hotel room adjacent to Tom’s
suite. I procured backstage invitations from the theater manager and two
musicians. But, this time my plans did not fail. Instead, they were unnecessary
because Tom, in fact, had his own plan.
He saw me sitting ringside at his show, remembered
me from Vegas and asked his publicist to invite me backstage. I fidgeted on a
velvet couch in his dressing room while I waited for him to emerge from the
back room. I had waited almost ten years for this very moment. Insecurity
pulsed through my veins. Would I blow it? Would he like me? Maybe I was ugly. Or
fat. Perhaps I should have fasted for eighteen days or nineteen. I felt like
that nine year old child who had been told, “stop dreaming,” more times than
there are days in a year.
Tom eventually joined me on the couch, and he recalled
what I’d told him in Vegas. I was astonished. He remembered my name, my hobbies
and details about my parents. He had truly
noticed me at Caesars Palace, and I suddenly realized that my perceived
“failures” were not failures at all. They were stepping stones to my fantasy
date. They were pivotal moments, lifting me closer to love.
I was in love with Tom at age nine, but I knew
I was in love with him that evening. There was never one second of
disappointment. Tom was exactly as I’d always imagined. We had dinner in the
dressing room, and then a limousine took us to the discothèque, Studio 51.
At Studio 51, Tom snuggled up beside me. His arm
caressed my shoulder, and his fingers played with my long curls. He sipped Dom
Perignon, and we chatted. I was euphoric, and I felt like a princess until…
panic hit me. I suddenly realized I would have to make a decision that night
about whether or not to stay with Tom. I had never had sex and had no idea what
I would do when he made a pass at me. It was not a question of “if.” I was
certain it was “when.” This was a big step in my life. Would I say yes? Or no? I
wondered how “maybe” would play. I wished I could phone a friend, but that was
impossible. I glanced at the shadowy ceiling of the nightclub, longing for guidance
from the universe. My brain was in shambles. It was experiencing ecstasy,
followed by “freak out,” followed by more ecstasy, followed by another round of
Tom and I left Studio 51 and ended up in his hotel suite.
I still had no clue what to do. Tom nibbled on grapes in the dining room, while
I retreated to a couch in the darkened living room, staring at a blank wall and
hoping for a miracle. Finally, I stood and walked slowly towards Tom, repeating
in my head, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?”
When I reached him, he asked, “Are you going to stay
tonight?” I suddenly knew the answer.
Charlotte Laws, Ph.D.
is the author of the tell-all memoir Rebel
in High Heels, which details Laws’ romance with Sir Tom Jones, her dangerous
battle against “the most hated man on the Internet,” and her other outrageous adventures.
Laws—known throughout the world as the Erin Brockovich of revenge porn—has been
an NBC commentator, California politician, private investigator, FBI lecturer,
and magazine covergirl. You can follow her on Twitter @CharlotteLaws
Labels: book, caesars palace, charlotte laws, dating, las vegas, memoir, missy laws, perseverance, rebel in high heels, relationship, romance, sir tom jones, tell-all, tom jones