Saturday, October 24, 2009

'Reliving the horror.' Or, 'For every James Ray...'

I thought this might be a particularly apt time to reprise one of our long-ago "horror stories," as I bracketed them. We had tons of people visiting SHAMblog for the first time yesterday on the heels of the Journal piece, and I figure some of them might be interested in seeing how this Gurudom stuff works at its lesser, unpublicized levels. For every established guru collecting $9600 from marks, ah, customers for what turns out to be a final retreat, there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of wannabes out there doing their thing, or trying.

Below is Part 1 of a story that I ran back in mid-2007 under the title "For Love or Money." It provides an intimate look at how real lives are affected by this crap, even when people aren't keeling over in sweat lodges. There are three parts, all linked. Read 'em and weep.


"Gerry and I were married 20 years, almost to the day he left," says Ginny. "His growth"—she speaks the word with sarcasm, then pauses to correct herself—"his descent into self-help was a long-term process. I could keep you on the phone till midnight."

Gerry* worked in the family business but, to Ginny's mind, was never that happy there. His brother, Rob, agrees: "He's always been a dreamer. He's usually worked for my father or my mother, or for me briefly. But he'd make little comments about being 'oppressed by the fluorescence' and so forth."

Still, says Ginny, "I don't doubt for a moment that he loved me. We had the marriage everybody wanted. It was sexy; it was fun. Now, did he love me the way I loved him? I'd have to say no. For one thing, he was always the fair-haired boy who put his mother first. I called it a Norman Bates relationship. And in the last 10 years or so, she was the one who got him involved in the whole Alan Cohen thing.”** Ginny refers to the well-known Chicken Soup contributor and driving force behind the Insights for Richer Living mentorship seminars. Like Tony Robbins' Life Mastery courses, these pricey shindigs often take place in lush, exotic locales. This year's menu, for example, includes an Alaskan "cruise to self-discovery" and a "journey to the heart of Bali."

Ginny continues, "I think it started to get really weird a year ago May [2006]. He just got so entrenched in this feel-good mentality that I couldn't even have the news on, I couldn't have Law & Order on. He said he 'couldn't have that kind of destruction' in his life." She also noticed that her husband was spending a lot of time online. It was the kind of sign that's curious but not yet ominous (though later, in hindsight, is recognizable as part of a pattern that seems clear as a bell). By this point, Gerry and his mother had already gone to Cohen seminars in St. John's and Hawaii. Then, says Ginny, "They decided to go to the one in Fiji."

Gerry returned from Fiji to Long Island with big news. "He tells me he's met a woman and has a tremendous emotional connection with. Her name is Catherina Rodrigues,* and she lives in Australia. She's married and has a daughter, just like us. And she's trying to launch a company, Think Love, which is designed to spread love and happiness and tranquility around the world. So I ask, 'Gerry, Is there anything I need to know?' And he says, 'Absolutely not. I still love you, et cetera.' So I thought a minute and said, 'Does she know about the money?' "

Ahhh yes, the money. Gerry recently had learned that he'd be receiving a very large inheritance—well into six figures. Ginny wondered how a woman seeking to finance a chancy new business venture might regard a sweet-natured, like-minded man who was about to come into serious cash. She also wondered about her husband's vulnerability to such a woman. Already, Ginny felt that the inheritance had affected Gerry's judgment and ability to think rationally. "I think he knew that it was his ticket to move away from his job, to travel the world, to sail the high seas," she says. "But we had a kid, for one thing, a teenager in high school. I was not going to sell my house and move onto a sailboat."

She soon began to get the idea that her husband's newfound spiritual ally had no such qualms. Though Gerry shrugged off Ginny's concerns about the money and Catherina's possible designs on same, Ginny was deeply troubled by what she saw happening in front of her: "They began to do a lot of talking on the phone. The calls just never stopped. Or Gerry's phone would ring every 20 minutes with text messages. He would never go to bed." To this day, she says, she still doesn't know whether the fateful meeting in Fiji happened just by chance, or was an arranged rendezvous. "But in my heart of hearts," she says, "I know that she fell in love with him there. She was willing to go with him to sail the 7 Seas, she was willing to leave her husband and her 7-year-old daughter. But back then, he would deny, deny, deny."

By the fall, plans had been made for Catherina to visit Long Island—a visit that would end up lasting six full weeks. "She comes with her husband and daughter," says Ginny. "I insisted that they can't be in this house—they were supposed to be staying at a hotel—but I was fighting a force and I was never going to win. It was ridiculous. [She and Gerry] would be singing spiritual songs in the living room. They'd be online together, or doing yoga together." Despite the original plans, Rodrigues and family seemed to be spending almost all of their time either at Ginny and Gerry's residence or, more often, at a vacation property Gerry and Rob then shared in Sag Harbor, deep in the lotus-land of Eastern Long Island. Gerry would accompany them there.

Rob, too, was growing uneasy, in part because, from the moment Catherina stepped off the plane, he says, "Gerry never went back to work." But Rob and his wife Jayne became even more uneasy as they learned new details about the nature of the financial dealings between Gerry and Catherina. "My brother has never really lied to me," Rob recalls. "But after [Fiji] he was deceitful, and it became more and more apparent that he was using his [self-help] learnings to manipulate the situation. First he invites Catherina, telling me she's just coming here 'with her family.' He tells me they have a spiritual bond and he'd like to be involved with her project. Then it turns out she's going to stay in our house out east. Then it turns out he hired her as a life coach—for almost five grand. Then it turns out he paid for her airplane tickets!”

Rob and Jayne's first face-to-face meeting with Catherina was a revelation in its own right. "My mother and brother are born a week apart in October," says Rob, "so I take the family out to dinner at a place here on Long Island—the whole group of them, including Catherina, her husband, everybody. They'd arrived October 8, and this was like October 20. We sit down at the restaurant, and Gerry and Catherina only interacted with themselves the whole time. They were knee to knee, turned towards each. I mean, I've seen horny 15-year-olds act with more respect for others! They completely ignored everyone else. They sat about as far from the rest of us as was possible."

Though others in attendance immediately sized things up and felt that Gerry and Catherina were rubbing Ginny's nose in it—Catherina's husband, for one, looked dazed—Ginny, it appears, remained loyal and, quite likely, in denial. "She's old-school Italian," explains Jayne. "You just couldn't say anything bad about her husband."

Rob, on the other hand, had no problems confronting his brother after dinner. "I said to him, 'What the hell is wrong with you? What the hell are you doing?' I couldn't get a straight answer. It's like later, when I'd ask about his business plan and I'd get the buzzwords, the cliched answer. He'd say something like, 'You're only asking that out of fear.' No, Gerry, I'm asking that out of common sense and concern for you." According to Rob and Jayne, their concerns were of such magnitude that they had a background check run on Catherina. Though such matters must be treated with a certain delicacy here, they say that the results did not allay their fears.

Even so, Ginny says that she could read Catherina's growing frustration with Gerry's remaining commitment to his existing family: "I made only one stipulation, and that was that he come home and spend every night in our house. And he did. He'd come home at 1 or 1:30 a.m., but he did come home. I think she knew she could get him—if she could just get him away from me long enough."

NEXT TIME: Catherina prevails...the intervention that didn't happen...and, once again, the innocents left holding the bag.


* Neither Gerry nor Catherina Rodrigues responded to my attempts to reach them for comment.
** My emails seeking a comment from Alan Cohen went unanswered. Ginny wants to make clear that she generally respects Cohen's "good work" and does not hold him or his personal beliefs responsible for what took place here. As for me, I'll have more to say on this, later.


Cosmic Connie said...

I'm glad you reprised this story, Steve. It's a good example of how relationships can be utterly destroyed by selfish-help.

And apparently Catherina and Gerry are still together. (Scroll down to the PS):

verification word: obsceno

Steve Salerno said...

Connie: I checked with Ginny first, just as a courtesy and to find out if there had been any developments that rendered the story outdated or would cause unnecessary (new) hurt to those involved. She gave me her blessing, and added that she's "pretty sure [Gerry and Catherina] were married recently." Gerry continues to have little or no relationship with his daughter.

Jayne said...

Steve, I am glad to see you reprised this story as well! This was, and continues to be, a painful part of our lives and reared it's ugly head again.

As you know, I am the "Jayne" referred to in this happy tale - Gerry is my brother-in-law. I recently became aware that there is a which is essentially a blog about the day-to-day happenings during the "tour" which took place this summer. It ended in August I think, with the marriage of Gerry and Catherina (fittingly) in Fiji - where she first brainwashed, er, met him.

Here, in all its glory, is a lovely passage - complete FICTION I may add - that Gerry posted on the site dated July 4, 2009:

"July 4th My Mom had a Think Love launch party at her house…people showed up who I never expected…miracles happened…I had a falling out with my brother years ago and being urged by my niece Sydney he called my Mom and asked if they could come…it was so great to see my brother Bob his wife Jane my niece and nephew Sydney and Travis…people at the party got Think Love wrist bands…the fire works were awesome…what a great sendoff for the Think Love Tour…when love is at the helm any all things are possible…"

Strangely, this is a one-way blog. They are only interested in hearing themselves speak. You cannot comment (even via moderation) on their entries. It looks like comments have been made in the past, but they can no longer be accessed. Hmmm...interesting.
(see next comment to continue...)

Jayne said...

There are so many things wrong with that passage. Clearly Catherina is at the helm here as evidenced by the misspellings, including my name, and my husband's - NO ONE in his family circle calls him Bob. EVER. He is Rob or Robby. In fact, they have a step-brother whose name is "Bob" so this is was always an important distinction!

To begin, my mother-in-law has a 4th of July party EVERY year for the past 20-plus years and we had no reason to think this was any different. We had been invited MONTHS earlier and had been informed that Gerry and Catherina were going to be there - and declined. When July 4th arrived, I had waited too long to confirm plans with my family and Rob called his mom and was told SPECIFICALLY that my sister-in-law (Gerry and Rob's sister) and her son, who is also Rob's Godson, would be at my mother-in-law's party. My daughter was anxious to get together with family and was willing to go IN SPITE of Gerry and Catherina's presence - but IN NO WAY BECAUSE of it. Also, as it was an annual event it was not billed as a "launch party" to us - we never would have gone.

When we arrived we saw the RV replete with "Think Love" banners. Once inside, we said our hellos - including a brief greeting to Gerry by all of us. Remember, he had been a big part of our lives (note the past tense). When Catherina approached, Rob raised his hand to give her the indication that her advances were NOT welcomed. She promptly walked away.

As the party progressed we discovered that my sister-in-law and Godson would NOT be attending and we gathered our belongings and LEFT. These are the facts: We did not stay for the annual 4th of July neighborhood fireworks.
At NO TIME was there a hint of reconciliation. We didn't wear wrist bands. We spoke to no one about "Think Love" - nor would we ever support their movement. Gerry is WELL AWARE, as we have expressed to him many times in the past, that we will never be affiliated with his ridiculous sham of a movement.

My husband is FURIOUS that Gerry would even mention our family on his blog, never mind allude to our support! It's disturbing how delusional they are and how they twisted the reality to match their collective fantasy.

By the way, I believe the only person in the family that attended their wedding was my mother-in-law.
Ironically, Gerry states that my daughter was the impetus to the "reunion" on July 4th. I can't stress enough that my daughter feels mostly sadness and anger towards her uncle Gerry. She even wrote a poem about his "journey" and its negative impact on the family - and it was chosen to be published in her school journal. Recently she made her confirmation and chose, of her own accord, her Aunt Ginny to stand with her before the Bishop and be her sponsor.

To be clear, we do mourn the loss of "Uncle Gertie" as we called him - he is now but a shell of a man we once loved. He looks similar, but we don't even vaguely recognize what he has become. We don't talk about "Think Love", or "Hurricane Catherina" at any family events any more. We have all tried to move on.
Unfortuntely this is the stuff you WON'T see on Oprah - the physical, mental, financial, and emotional harm caused by these people i.e James Ray - and how they are blindly supported by others. Keep up the good work Steve.

Your message is so important - and obviously a matter of life and death.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this update, Steve. We have been scammed by these people and may soon tell our story on your blog as well. It really helps to hear these updates because they tried to tell us about your blog (before this update) and we had heard everything was resolved. Now we are seeing them for who they really are.

Peter G said...


I am Ginny's brother, Gerry's former brother in law. I'd like to commend you on the impact your blog is having on this never ending scenario.

For the three and a half years since this sordid story began we have had very little direct contact with Gerry and even less with Catherina. In recent weeks myself , Ginny and Gerry's brother and sister in law have had sudden and frequent unsolicited direct contact with Catherina. She has been threatening exposure of us all (of what we don't know) and demanding that we remove the 'blog full of lies'. She has taken to defending herself and trying to dispel the narrative in 'the blog'.

We were confused as to what she was referring to, initially thinking her reference was to a blog I had written shortly after events happen, but was deleted over two years ago. Our sister in law did a Google search of 'Catherina Rodrigues' and ther was the issue.....the third entry under her search was this post!

Apparently 'Think Love' is trying to publicize itself, ( we know they have been attempting to get exposure via Oprah Winfrey) and the presence of this narrative is causing some problems for them (our guess).

You seem to have had a great impact in squelching their attempts to publicize themselves and hopefully have protected innumerable people from getting involved with this movement. We congratulate you and are thankful for your efforts.