In her autobiography, legendary songstress Gladys I Knight candidly talks about her devastating addiction .to gambling, details her break-up with Les Brown and explains why she left The Pips to pursue a solo career.
In Between the Lines of Pain and Glory, (a line taken from her mega-hit The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me), Ms. Knight makes public for the first time the depth of her addiction to gambling in Las Vegas casinos. She started playing blackjack in the early 1970s and moved over to baccarat. Initially, she said she made a lot of money. But, she also lost large sums. One night she lost $45 000.
“The pit bosses and dealers became my family. I felt protected,” she recently told JET. “I lost my way for a while. I had gotten to the point where I would spend things that I shouldn’t have been spending. I was in debt to a degree. It hurt me to hurt my family. I know people were talking about it, saying, “She’s got a problem.’ I’ve always been a private person, but it was getting to be a very public thing. In a way, I was ruining a good name. I’d get out of my bed and go to the casino at 2:00 a.m. I was out of control.”
To regain control, she joined Gamblers Anonymous and prayed a lot. “I asked God to take away this desire and give me strength. I finally gave it up. And I gave up smoking.”
In the book, she talks about growing up in a close-knit Atlanta family and how her God-given talent for singing took her from Georgia to winning a nationally-televised competition on “The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour.” She talks about getting pregnant and getting married right after high school and having a horrifying miscarriage all alone.
She details how her first marriage fell apart when her husband, the late Jimmy Newman, sought solace in drugs while she toured the country making a living for her family, which now included two children (Jimmy and Kenya).
Strong faith helped her and The Pips keep going when they were victimized by racists in small Southern towns and cheated out of earnings by unscrupulous business and record officials.
When she began the autobiography project almost 13 years ago, she recalls that publishers only wanted books with sensationalism. “My publisher discouraged me because they were dealing with sensationalism,” she said. “The books they were doing were like people making these testimonies — ‘Well, I was a drug addict and I’ve just come out of rehab.’ And I did not have that kind of story to tell. I’m not saying my life was perfect. They even asked me, ‘I know you’ve got friends in show business. Who are they sleeping with? Don’t you have stories about them?’ I said, ‘If I did, I would never share it with you. I’m not that kind of person.’ It was a reputable publishing company.”
She said she made certain she cleared the air with people before discussing them in her book. In the book, she gave her take on the Patti LaBelle/Dionne Warwick encounter when the trio taped a cable special. Ms. LaBelle mentioned in her book and on Oprah Winfrey’s show that she was hurt by some remarks made by Dionne Warwick. Ms. Knight recalled Dionne being very professional in her treatment of Patti LaBelle. “Dionne was really hurt. She was watching ‘Oprah.’ She called me and asked if I was watching ‘Oprah.’ She said, @ it on. Your girl is on there. She is ripping me apart.’ I called Patti directly and told her that what she did wasn’t right.’ The three have been able to work through their problems and maintain their friendship. “We really are like sisters.”
Ms. Knight hasn’t been as lucky in maintaining strong emotional ties with her last husband, motivational speaker Les Brown. The two met in 1992 and married in 1995. “I thought he was on the same spiritual plane that I was. But, it turns out he was on a different plane. We grew apart rather than grow together. I was looking to my faith and my spiritual background to create an environment for us to make it through this.”
Brown surprised her by having divorce papers served on her with no discussion about it. “He felt he needed to be divorced from me and without letting me know about it. So, that’s what he did. Everybody doesn’t walk the walk that they talk. He would like to purport that we’re friends. But, at this time I cannot say that because we don’t communicate. I think I’ve talked to Les three times since he left that particular night, leaving me a note. It wouldn’t be true for me to say we’re friends. It would be good image-wise.”
Still, she said she learned so much from her relationship with him. With his prodding, she said she has learned to get over her shyness about speaking and has gone on the road talking to groups of people.
Besides splitting with Brown, Ms. Knight has gone solo and left The Pips. In 1989, she made her premiere as a solo artist. She said The Pips had other business interests and were distracted while she was focused on the group’s business.
She discussed with Jet (but did not detail in her book) her trouble relationship with talk show ho,, Oprah Winfrey. “I didn’t talk about her in my book, but there’s just something from the very beginning where our spirits have clashed. I don’t know what it is I’ve done to her. She gets very cool with me. I’ve been on her show a couple of times. But, from the very first show, I was just devastated. I just want to get close enough to her to ask her what I have done.” She said she is a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey and would like to have her as a friend some day.
Ultimately, she said her life is still full and very rich. And just like, the time when she was a child in Atlanta, family remains the most important element of her life.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning