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Austin Chronicle Sidebar: LaToya Jackson Psychic Network

SEPTEMBER 8, 1997:  LaToya Jackson. The very name conjures up images of ornately gilded crap. If you've followed The Other Jackson's career much -- the psychosexual snake photospreads, the insane marriage to her obese, whiteboy manager, the tantrums, the plastic surgery that has slowly, steadily turned a once pretty girl into a walking Roswell refugee, the godawful career moves -- it's no surprise that she'd lend her Play-Doh credibility to a 1-900 Psychic Line.

I had to check it out. Could I actually reach the Unhinged One on the phone? Doubtful, but worth a shot. I had to know. I had to try. So I did.

Boy, was I shocked to find out that the original 1-800 number was just a come-on, and that all I'd hear from LaToya would be this prerecorded message cheerfully offering to rip me off at a later date, should I decide to participate in the sham (and all in that particularly fluting, alien voice of hers). It goes a little like this:

"Discover what world leaders and famous celebrities have known for years: Psychics can answer your questions about love, career, finances, hidden fears, and deepest desires. They can help guide you through life's uncertainties. Hello. I'm LaToya, and I have brought together some of the world's most talented psychics to help answer your most personal questions. Now with just a phone call, you can have your very own personal psychic, just like I do. Whether you seek guidance or just a person to talk to, my real, authentic psychics are here 24 hours a day. My psychics tell it like it is. Just like I do. $3.99 a minute. Must be 18 or older. For entertainment purposes only."

Okay, I'm a sap. Let's get this over with. The
1-900 dialup connects me to a "real, live psychic" (As opposed to what? A fake, dead sportscaster?) by the name of Lauren. Managing to sound simultaneously tired, grumpy, and inarticulate, Lauren takes my name, birthdate, and where I'm calling from and proceeds to fulfill all my worst fears about 1-900 psychic lines:

Lauren: Okay. What I'm gonna do is start by giving you a general reading using Tarot cards, and if you have any questions, we'll get to them after.

Me: Swell. How long will this take?

Lauren: The general reading will take two minutes.

Me: Oh. That's pretty quick.

Lauren: I'm quick.

Me: Ha! Boy, are you ever.

Lauren: What I want you to do is to see the reading as a shield that you carry in front of you in life. You have some stresses and some weaknesses that you need to be aware of. Alright, here we go: You're in an atmosphere in which there is the possibility of a change. This is crossed by a card that indicates that, uh, you are moving towards a completion where you achieve physical as well as emotional well-being. A lot of change is going on... You are moving away from problems and things are going to start to go better... You're going to feel better... Your hopes are for good family relationships, good friendships, and true friendship.

Me: How long have you been a psychic and how long have you been working for the 1-900 line?

Lauren: [long pause] With the 1-900 line, I've been affiliated with them almost from their inception. I've been a psychic for about 20 years.

Me: Have you ever met LaToya?

Lauren: No.

Me: No? She's cutting your paycheck, isn't she? You might want to meet her sometime, just to be safe... So you never saw that creepy Playboy spread, huh?

Lauren: No. She's mostly a... front.

Me: A "front?"

Lauren: Yeah. For the organization.

Me: Oh, I see. That figures, huh?

Lauren: Yeah.

Me: Okay. Well, um, thanks, I guess.

Lauren: Thank you.

-- M.S.

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