Sunday, June 03, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

I Had Something to Say


The first stop on Mike Jones' book tour will be a Barnes & Noble in New York City on June 13. Five days

But that is the explanation given by one of the chains.

"Although the (Colorado Springs) stores will be selling the book, they did not feel that there was enough community interest to support holding a book signing," said Carolyn Brown, director of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble.

A Borders spokeswoman said bringing Jones to Colorado Springs "would have opened up a wound just healing. This would have not created a comfortable environment for the author, our customers who live in this community or our staff who also live in the community."

Richard Skorman, owner of Poor Richard's Bookstore downtown, said he wants to read the book before making a decision on a signing. As of Friday, he said, he was waiting to get a copy from the publisher, Seven Stories Press.

Haggard was fired as head pastor of New Life Church and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after Jones, a bodybuilder and escort, sent shockwaves across the nation by announcing that Haggard regularly paid to have sex with him, often while the pastor was high on methamphetamines.

It was a story many had trouble believing until Haggard admitted he was guilty of "sexual immorality." At the same time, it sparked debate across the country about homosexuality and religion — just before the November elections, which included a measure about domestic partnerships in Colorado.

As the story unfolded, Jones was labeled both a hero and a whore.

In outing Haggard, he had also outed himself, exposing details of his life to friends and family who hadn’t known he advertised as a paid escort.

His legitimate massage clients disappeared, and jobs modeling at an art school dried up. Aside from reporters, his phone went dead.

With no work, Jones spent three months on his book, which is expected to be in stores in mid-June.

He spares no details but says the memoir is about much more than sex. He also says money was a secondary motivation in his decision to write it.

In an interview last week with The Gazette, his first in Colorado prior to publication of the book, Jones said he hoped readers would see him in a different light.

"It's not much fun being called a whore and a scumbag. I’d like people to see the real Mike Jones,” he said. “I wanted people to know what I’m really like.

"I wanted people to see what I was going through — what aggravation, what I was physically going through and mentally going through to reach my decision to 'out' Ted Haggard, which is that chapter called 'My Agony.' That's truly how I felt.

"But the biggest thing in this book is that this is much more than Ted Haggard. This is about the evangelical church in America."

He dedicated the book to his mom, who died of cancer in early 2006, just months before Jones says he learned that the man he knew as 'Art from Kansas City" was one of the most influential figures in the evangelical world.

Jones said he took four months to decide whether to expose Haggard. A self-described loner, he said he consulted no one, only once telling a friend that an issue involving someone in the clergy was weighing heavily on him.

"It just isn't my nature to go seek help," he said.

He said he wrote a list of his options: Do I go to the church? Do I call his wife? Do I call police? Do I blackmail him?

"The last thing I wrote is 'Do I say nothing?'

"I threw up. It was a horrendous four months of my life. You have to understand, I was dealing with the death of my mom. I was in a very emotional, depressed state as it was, and to have the Ted Haggard thing come up, it was a double whammy for me.

"I knew he was married, and that was one of the issues that really made me sick to my stomach. It weighed heavily on me — my decision to come forward — because of his family.”"

But as much as he liked Haggard — Jones describes him as kind, polite and generous — one word kept nagging him: "hypocrisy."

"How can I let this man, who is one of the leading antigay-marriage advocates in the country . . . and he can't even abide by their own marriage vows and is telling other people they don’t deserve or can’t be married?" Jones said. "It's just wrong. That's why I had to say something."

Jones said that had Haggard apologized, there wouldn't be a book.

"Let me tell you two reasons I would not have written this book," he said. "If Ted Haggard would have called me and said, 'Mike, I am so sorry I put you in this very difficult position.' And the second thing is if he would have apologized to the gay community and said, 'I am a hypocrite, how dare I actually campaign against you guys when I can't even abide by my own marriage vows. If he would have done those two things, I wouldn't have written the book."

Jones' book will come out just as New Life Church seemed to get a breather from the scandal. Although church leaders say attendance — which boasted 14,000 members before the story broke — is down 20 to 25 percent, they say New Life remains strong.
The Haggards, meanwhile, recently moved to the Phoenix area.

"He and his family are leveling out. They have found a local church that they love that has embraced them and where their kids are getting plugged in," said New Life associate pastor Rob Brendle. "They’re starting to make friends, and though it remains a profoundly difficult time, I get the sense talking with him that they have hope again."

Jones, who turned 50 last month, is uncertain where the future will take him. He recently moved out of his apartment and in with a friend, saying he could no longer afford his own place.

"I'm just getting by. My life is very much up in the air right now. I don't know where I'm headed. I'm a fourth-generation Coloradan. I never had any desire to move away, but I’m so open to the possibility now. I don't feel that comfortable here."

Despite all the pain for everyone involved, Jones said he would do it again.
Perhaps a bit differently, with advisers.

"Regrets? God, who doesn't have regrets in life? But I did the best I could at the time, under the circumstances."


BOOK EXCERPTS


- "I would love to tell you that from the day we met in June 2003 I remember him as being unique or odd. He had some quirks, such as incredible shyness, but so did many of my clients. And there was nothing about him physically that made you take notice.
Except for his smile. His grin was big and sincere, almost goofy. You couldn't miss it."

- "He came to every appointment very well groomed and dressed. His nails were always trimmed and his hair perfect. He was always cleanshaven, and he kept his body clean as well. Believe me, that’s a big plus in my business."

- "After two years, I often felt as though Art and I were still on a first date, and it was a blind date to boot. I knew very little about him, and that was a bit unusual. After a few years, I usually know my clients pretty well. . . . Art played his cards pretty close to the vest. I knew he was married and that he rode a motorcycle, but that’s about all I knew for sure."

- "My eyes blinked with disbelief. There was Art on the screen again, less than twelve hours after I last saw him on television. It couldn't be, I thought. I had to stop and think. This was Daystar, not NBC or another big network. This was religious programming, and apparently Art is an expert on something religious."

- "It was all too much for me to process in one sitting. . . . I thought of my last encounter with Art at my apartment, when he wanted to try out some new sex toys he had just purchased — and do meth. It also occurred to me that he knew my mother had just died and he had not offered to minister to me."

- "My heart started pounding faster. All this time, this man had been coming to me every month to get naked and explore his homosexuality, and now I found out that he was one of the most powerful evangelicals in the world and that he wanted to keep people like me — and people like 'Art' — from being treated fairly."

BOOK SIGNING

Where:

Tattered Cover Book Store, 1628 16th St., Denver

When:

7:30 p.m. June 18


Questions and answers

Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Mike Jones:

Q: Tell me what the last seven months have been like.

A: "I think people have the misconception that I'm out there partying and celebrating and boasting and bragging, and it’s just not the case. I sit home on Saturday nights alone still, like I always did."

Q: Did you omit anything from the books — leave out any anecdotes — in consideration of Ted's family?

A: "Listen, I refuse to feel guilty about that. Ted Haggard is the one that called me to begin with. Some people have already kind of commented: ‘Why did you have to write the sex part? Why did you have to be so explicit — because of hurting his family.’ This is my analogy: It would be like me talking about World War II and not talking about the bombs and people dying. I’m sorry, I just can’t say we had sex and leave it at that. People needed to know what kind of sex we were having. It's just part of the story."

Q. You have said you were disappointed the gay community didn’t support you more. Talk about that.

A: "I don't understand the negative reaction or angriness toward me or the personal attacks I've taken, primarily from the gay community. These are the same people who were griping about what was being said from the religious right in Colorado Springs. I take the chance, I take the guts and the courage — I'm like 'what do you people want?' I have a hard time understanding that.

"Some blame me for the failure of Referendum," he said, referring to a measure that would have established domestic partnerships in Colorado.

"I find it ironic that I can get calls from all over the world — literally all over the world — Australia, Sweden, Germany, Ireland — asking me if I'm OK and saying thank you. I can't even get that in my own hometown."

Q: What have been some of the high points of the last seven months?

A: "Just last week," he said, referring to his being awarded the Harry Britt Lifetime Achievement Award in San Francisco, named in honor of the gay political activist and former San Francisco supervisor. "They got it. It isn't just about sex. It's about religion in America and how they react and view and deal with the homosexual issue.

"Also a real big highlight is the fact that actress Judith Light wrote a blurb for my book, and for the New York Times to review the book."

Q: What about the low points?


A: "I don't know where my life is headed. I don't know where all this is going to lead.

"A low point too, for me is my brothers. My brother in Colorado here has not spoken to me since the story broke. My father, of course, tells me he loves me. My younger brother, even though he's never mentioned the issue once, he did call to wish me a happy birthday.

"I really hate the fact there’'s some people who classify me as a drug-dealer. That's really difficult for me to deal with. No. 1, Do I look like a drug dealer? I get up at 4 o'clock every morning six days a week, I'm at the gym by 5. People can just physically see me — I do not look like a drug addict.

"I hooked him (Ted) up with someone. That’'s my guilty part. I never gave Ted any drugs."

Q: What do you think Ted will think if he reads the book?

A: "If he reads the book, he'll be angry. Because I'm explicit. I tell people what went on. When you come down to it, it was him and me in the room. So there was no witness. He can say I’m a liar and I can say he’s a liar, so it's going to be 'he said-he said.' What do people think we did in three years?"

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