Sure, Blame the Caveman
There was, however, another beautiful creature in J.Z.'s life. His name was Ramtha, and he was no mere cowboy. She had first encountered him four years earlier, in her kitchen back in Tacoma. Ramtha, she wrote, was the spirit of a warrior from the lost continent of Atlantis, "this thing...made all of light, like golden glitter dropped through a ray of sunlight." As new age religions began sweeping the country in the 1980s, J.Z. channeled Ramtha's spirit for a growing crowd of the faithful, including such celebrities as Richard Chamberlain, Shirley MacLaine and Linda Evans.
Whatever Ramtha's other attributes, however, he was not an attentive guardian of her relationship with her man on horseback. For the last four weeks, in fact, J.Z., now 46, Jeffrey, 36, and Ramtha, 35,000, have been in Tacoma's Pierce County Superior Court, trying to sort out past lives, previous marriages and, perhaps, future alimony payments. Jeffrey and J.Z., it turned out, were not fated for each other after all. They divorced in 1989, and Jeffrey is contesting as inadequate the $120,000 settlement he agreed to accept from her then. He contends that J.Z. preyed on his belief in Ramtha to sucker him into taking less than his due. Jeffrey, who needs the money partly to pay for medical care (he tested positive for HIV in 1985), no longer believes in Ramtha or in J.Z.'s powers, which he says are merely mind-control tricks. "It is all a sham," he says.
Jeffrey says he fell under the spell of J.Z. and Ramtha during their first meeting at Chamberlain's house. "J.Z. and Ramtha seemed to be giving me a great deal of individual attention," he says.
J.Z. persuaded Jeffrey to join her in Washington State, where they bought a 50-acre ranch in Yelm, 55 miles south of Seattle. Their relationship—prompted by Ramtha's gentle urging—deepened. "I had a lot of questions about my sexuality," says Jeffrey. "Ramtha gave me answers to all questions."
The two took Ramtha to paying audiences throughout the U.S. At one time, in the mid-'80s, Knight estimates, J.Z. was earning $4 million a year from her various Ramtha enterprises. The estate in Yelm evolved into a new age mecca, with a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot house and a giant maze where Ramtha initiates developed their relationship with the tutelary spirit. "I grew to love J.Z. very much," says Jeffrey.
In 1988, though, Jeffrey discovered that, while J.Z.'s preferred consort on the astral plane was an ancient Atlantean, in the physical world she preferred someone younger—specifically, 19-year-old Joe Alt, a Ramtha novice. "One day," says Jeffrey, "her two sons [now 26 and 24] caught the two of them in an extremely compromising situation in the back of the property."
After the breakup, Jeffrey too took up with a younger man, 25-year-old Geoff Corbin, a social worker. "I consider myself gay now," he says. "I had been hiding it for years." He says he thinks he contracted HIV from homosexual relationships before he met J.Z. "I was always faithful to her," he says. (Since learning of her husband's infection, J.Z. has tested HIV negative.)
J.Z., who has refused to be interviewed, is fighting back with a vengeance, disputing her ex-husband's contentions that he was unduly under her influence. "During our marriage I did not purport to exert mind control over Jeffrey or any other person," she said in a court document. "Jeffrey consistently maintained his independence and displayed no difficulty in doing things that I preferred not to, such as consorting with male prostitutes."
The trial is expected to run for another two weeks, during which time J.Z.'s attorneys will present their case.
Ramtha has yet to be heard from.
CLAY HATHORN in Tacoma