How can this be?
I live in a sleepy beach town hundreds of miles from Los Angeles. I’m not involved with triple XXX rated
films, and I absolutely don’t compete in fancy pants horse shows. (Until about eight weeks ago, Daniels had
managed to seamlessly blend these two disparate lives—the former in California, the latter in Texas—together.)
Also, I’d never heard of Daniels’ uber-confident attorney Michael Avenatti, who’s as comfortable in a television
studio as in a courtroom. And, he does a lot more than represent celebrities: last year, Avenatti was a lead attorney
in a high-profile lawsuit against Kimberly-Clark, and scored a whopping $454 million verdict for his clients.
But I am friends with Lois Gibson.
For those not up on news of the day, Gibson is a seasoned forensic artist whose work is so remarkable that she has been listed for years in Guinness World Records as The World’s Most Successful Forensic Artist. Indeed, Gibson’s drawings have helped catch more than 1,250 perps—and counting.
Unlike cop sketchers of yesteryear, who instructed shell-shocked victims to pick out chins, noses and other facial features from a book, then superimposed those characteristics onto a blank face, Gibson goes deeper.
With her portable easel and a bright light shining above that stand, Gibson takes about an hour to complete one sketch, working with charcoals, pastels and chalk. She also uses the same kind of durable paper that sidewalk artists prefer because it holds a lot of color, and can handle a lot of erasure marks, all without fading.
But Gibson’s methods are mostly different because of her interview style.
Somehow, she is able to gently draw victims out, getting them to relive their horrific experiences in a safe place. Maybe it’s because Gibson, too, has been a crime victim (in her 20s, she was assaulted by a stranger), so understands how to communicate with those she interviews.
“I know how to unblock memories,” Gibson once told me. “You’ve got to be really nice and happy and make the victim laugh. I’m really good at that. I make them feel better. I tell them to relax. It’s hypnosis without labeling it that.” In addition, Gibson is hyper-aware of unspoken boundaries—it’s why she puts her easel between herself and the victim, and also makes sure she sits at least an arm’s distance away.
Last month, Gibson sketched the face of the man whom Stormy Daniels said threatened her in Las Vegas seven years ago. The chilling incident occurred in broad daylight; Daniels’ baby daughter was strapped in her car seat a few feet away. The reward to catch the thug stands at $131,000, and may go up.
I knew nothing about Gibson and Daniels working together until Michael Avenatti posted a photo on Twitter. In the picture, Gibson is at her easel, the light above the drawing, and Daniels (who Gibson calls Stephanie Clifford, Daniels’ legal name) is facing her.
I sat up straight, then did a double-take in front of my laptop.
“Wait, wait, WAIT,” I said out loud. “That’s Lois. I know her. She’s my friend—and she’s with Stormy Daniels.”
We met about 20 years ago, when I had another life in Southern California.
I was a producer for the TV show Unsolved Mysteries, and one of my jobs was finding stories. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist and Google was just a few years old. So I got leads by combing through reams of letters from viewers; nurturing my cop and reporter contacts, and reading true crime stories. One day, I saw an article about Gibson, and cold called her.
We worked for months on a segment, then became friends. We even vacationed together on the Gulf Coast near Galveston, Gibson with her teenage daughter and me with my four-year-old. She did a pencil portrait of my daughter then, and I framed it.
I’m hoping that Gibson’s sketch will be the lynchpin that nabs the man who threatened Daniels.
Numbers don’t lie, and given Gibson’s astonishing record, I predict an arrest sooner than later. For those wondering why Gibson hasn’t publicly talked about the drawing, she recently posted that expressing political views on social media is not conducive to her mental health, and as a forensic artist, “I guard my mental health.”
But Gibson is passionate when it comes to promoting her profession. To this end, she has done many other television interviews about her work, and also teaches a college level course for those interested in embarking on the same career.
Gibson believes, as I do, that she has been given a special gift to catch, and help put away, the monsters of the world.
I am honored to call her my friend.