She says James Brown raped her. She also says someone murdered him. And others share Jacque Hollander’s suspicions. Twelve years after Brown’s death, nearly a dozen people who knew him are calling for an autopsy or a criminal investigation.
By Thomas Lake , CNN
Two years ago, I got a phone call from a woman who sang in the circus. She said she could prove that James Brown had been murdered. I met her on a hot day near Chicago, where the big top was rising and the elephants were munching hay. The singer’s name was Jacquelyn Hollander. She was 61 years old. She lived in a motor home with two cats and a Chihuahua named Pickles. She had long blond hair and a pack of Marlboros. She said she was not crazy, nor was she lying, and she hoped I would write her story, because it might save her life.
Or maybe it would get her killed. That was also a possibility, she said. Bad things happened to people who ran afoul of the James Brown organization. “I’m sure you know that Adrienne Brown was my good friend,” she said, referring to James Brown’s third wife. “That’s a very long story, when I tell you about it. There’s no doubt she was murdered.”
We got in my car and drove to Panera for lunch. Jacque’s story widened, deepened, growing ever more strange. New characters appeared and disappeared, suffering one calamity after another. Some were shot to death. Some were maimed or killed in vehicle crashes. Some appeared to die of natural causes, but Jacque thought they’d been poisoned. She had questions about the deaths of at least nine people, all of them somehow connected to the Godfather of Soul.
I wanted to know how a woman in the Carson & Barnes Circus had become such an authority on the secret history of James Brown. She tried to explain. The story had many twists and turns, but it kept returning to one day in 1988, when she got in James Brown’s conversion van and took a ride into the woods.
"Something happened to me that night,” she said. “And the girl that went into those woods never came back out."
Jacque was lost, and so was I. The story meandered through her consciousness, pulling me in ragged circles. “I know this is getting hard for you to understand,” she said. There were spies who posed as federal agents. There were suspicious fires and deceitful books. There was a woman named Peaches who said James Brown’s crypt was empty.
We drove back to the circus encampment. Jacque lit a cigarette and introduced me to a man she called the “finest trapeze catcher in the world.” I met another man who operated a contraption called the Wheel of Death. I met her dear friends Lisa, Becky, and Tracy, all of whom were elephants. We walked to her motor home. She unlocked a storage compartment underneath the vehicle and pulled out a forest-green plastic bin. READ MORE AT CNN.COM