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The reunion, from both sides now
Life hasn't been easy since Joni Mitchell found the daughter she gave up 32 years ago
National Post, March 3, 2001
Barely four years ago, legendary folk singer Joni Mitchell had a tearful reunion with her only daughter, Kilauren Gibb, whom she had given up for adoption 32 years earlier. Pictures of a smiling birth mother and natural daughter, holding hands and hugging, were seen in magazines and newspapers around the world.
Ms. Mitchell, winner of five Grammys and widely regarded as one of the finest singer-songwriters of her generation, gave up Ms. Gibb when she was a 20-year-old struggling arts student.
"I've had pain and joy in my life but nothing like this," Ms. Mitchell said at the time of the reunion. "It's an unparalleled emotional feeling."
Added Kilauren: "It was wonderful. It was a great relief to me in every way. It made me feel whole. It made me feel complete. I don't have any expectations. I didn't come into this thing with expectations. I just wanted to find my mom."
But life since then hasn't been easy.
In January, 2000, Ms. Mitchell allegedly slapped Ms. Gibb during a quarrel in which police were called to the singer's US$9-million Bel Air villa in Los Angeles. Ms. Gibb, who called for help, refused to press charges but wanted the alleged assault reported. A Los Angeles Police Department report states officers were there to investigate a "battery."
The never-reported incident is part of records filed in a custody dispute involving Ms. Gibb and her former boyfriend, Edward Barrington. Ms. Mitchell is referred to in several documents but only as a "well known" birth mother.
According to court documents, Ms. Gibb had allegedly become "increasingly hostile" to her birth mother over time. Mr. Barrington is accused of apparently selling photos of the reunion to the tabloids and only seeking custody of his 20-month-old daughter to remain connected to Ms. Mitchell.
It is not known whether Ms. Mitchell will be in Toronto this weekend to attend the Juno awards, where she is nominated for best vocal jazz album, or whether she will see her 36-year-old daughter, who resides in a downtown condominium and is unemployed.
Little has been known about Ms. Gibb since the reunion. But documents filed in court portray her as part of a tumultuous, relationship with Mr. Barrington that has crumbled into a nasty custody battle over her only daughter.
Joni Mitchell was born as Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort MacLeod, Alta., and raised in Saskatoon. While studying art at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, she met her daughter's father, photographer Brad MacMath. She became pregnant in 1964 and moved to Toronto.
Kilauren Gibb was born as Kelly Dale in February, 1965. Ms. Mitchell married folk singer Chuck Mitchell for a time, but when it did not work out she put her daughter up for adoption.
The baby girl was adopted by David and Ida Gibb, and renamed Kilauren. Residing in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills, Kilauren grew up attending private schools and dining in country clubs.
Ms. Gibb began a career in modelling as a teenager and was featured on the cover of Chatelaine magazine in November, 1983. She also modelled in Paris and New York. Between gigs, she took courses at Harvard University in Boston as well as at the University of Toronto.
Her friendship with Edward Barrington dates back to 1979, when they were both teenagers. They met because their parents held memberships at the Donalda Club, a private golf and tennis club.
However, Ms. Gibb married Paul Kohler, a Toronto-based talent agent, in 1992 after a two-year courtship. The couple had a boy a year later but separated in mid-1995. It was then that Mr. Barrington re-entered her life.
Mr. Barrington claims they were together more than four years, while Ms. Gibb suggests the pairing was shorter and "on and off."
In 1996, Ms. Mitchell made a public plea to find her daughter. By then, Ms. Gibb had been searching for her mother as well.
It was Ms. Gibb's Internet skills that led her to believe the Canadian music icon might be her mother. Finally, she called Ms. Mitchell's manager. The singer called back and left a message on Ms. Gibb's answering machine.
"Hi, it's Joni," the message said. "Please call me. I'm here. I'm overwhelmed."
The pair met in March, 1997, in Los Angeles. Mr. Barrington was also there.
During her stay at Ms. Mitchell's home, located in one of L.A.'s most exclusive neighbourhoods, she met many celebrities, including singer Etta James, and musicians Herbie Hancock and B.B. King. Friends noted obvious comparisons: their high cheekbones, long blond hair and blue eyes.
Ms. Gibb and Mr. Barrington returned to Canada and months later he proposed marriage. Soon they moved to Vancouver.
Ms. Gibb became pregnant in September, 1998.
During the pregnancy "her behaviour became even more unmanageable," Mr. Barrington alleges in a questionnaire provided to the Office of the Children's Lawyer, an Ontario agency which protects the legal rights of children. "Frequent emotional outbursts and her alienating manner were now the norm ... I knew she was troubled, and I too felt trapped," he writes.
The girl was born in June, 1999.
By Christmas the relationship was strained and Mr. Barrington was not invited to Ms. Mitchell's L.A. home for the holidays with the rest of the family.
It was during Ms. Gibb's visit that the LAPD were called to Ms. Mitchell's home at 1 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2000.
"Officers completed a battery report, although Ms. Gibb refused any police action," said Jason Lee, an LAPD spokesman. "Gibb stated she was visiting her biological mother, Joni Mitchell, from Canada, but was involved in an argument when Mitchell hit her on the face. Gibb did not receive any injuries and there was no witness," he adds.
Detectives closed the case after interviewing Ms. Gibb, who did not wish to "file charges for prosecution."
Mr. Barrington said in his questionnaire to the Office of the Children's Lawyer that he "became extremely anxious when I learned about the physical violence that occurred while they were away."
"The months following the Christmas trip, as I had expected, Kilauren took no responsibility for this horrendous incident and she was increasingly hostile towards her biological mother, the children and me," he writes in the questionnaire, part of a court-ordered investigation. "She began to drink heavily ..."
The pair reconciled for a three-week period in July, 2000. In late August, Ms. Gibb complained to police she was being harassed.
On Sept. 8, Ms. Gibb applied for sole custody of the couple's girl to the Ontario Court of Justice (Family Court) in Toronto. In seven handwritten pages filed in court, she alleges Mr. Barrington is mentally unstable, an alcoholic, a drug user and an addict obsessed with pornography. She alleges his best friends are criminals and female escorts. And, she alleges, he abused their daughter.
She also claims he exploits people, charging he secretly sold photos of her reunion for $6,000 (cash he claims was given back to Ms. Gibb). He wants custody to be "connected financially" with Ms. Mitchell, she further alleges.
None of the alleged incidents was reported to police.
In an affidavit filed in court, Mr. Barrington denounces the allegations as "lies."
The Children's Aid Society of Toronto was asked by the presiding judge to investigate the matter. In a report filed in court, it concluded "there is no evidence to suggest any immediate child protection concerns."
Soon after, Mr. Barrington was awarded limited supervised access to his daughter.
In November, 2000, Mr. Barrington travelled to L.A. and met with Ms. Mitchell to discuss the dispute. He asked her to intervene but she apparently has not.
Mr. Barrington also states in the Children's Lawyer questionnaire that Ms. Gibb "has painted me, to my complete disgust as an intravenous drug user, a potential pedophile and she even endeavoured to question my paternity."
In an affidavit filed in court, he added he has been clinically treated by a psychiatrist, occasionally suffers from depression and has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
The 35-year-old salesman says his life is stable since finishing university in 1990. He has had four jobs since, he says, while claiming Ms. Gibb lives in a condominium owned by her adoptive parents and "has never worked other than in a video store ..."
In his affidavit he also alleges Ms. Gibb exhibits "angry and violent behaviours" and she is "using my daughter as a way of manipulating and controlling me."
He claims she "is incapable of being a responsible parent," noting the child was dropped by her pediatrician after four appointments were missed.
Louise Malenfant, a family advocate with Edmonton-based Parents Helping Parents, has recently taken on Mr. Barrington's case.
Ms. Malenfant, who specializes in cases of false allegations of child abuse, has asked the Ontario Judicial Council to consider removing Madame Justice Penny Jones, who is overseeing the custody case, alleging judicial misconduct and incompetence.
The group also wants the Children's Lawyer office to recommend a full clinical assessment of the case.
"Allegations of this nature that do not raise the concerns of either the child welfare system or the police, brings serious question to the credibility of the accuser, and raises the spectre of deliberate false allegations being made to eliminate the paternal family of a child," Ms. Malenfant states in a letter to the office.
The group also intends to present Ms. Gibb's Sept. 8 handwritten custody application to police and ask for an investigation into possible perjury and obstruction of justice.
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