Joanne Perkins was born into the chaos of the Korean War and later adopted by an American serviceman who had spotted her mother filling sandbags in Inchon. Joanne maintains that her "full-blooded Japanese" mother went to Korea from Kyoto as a refugee during World War II, though this would make her a historical anomaly. There were few, if any, refugees from Kyoto, since it was never bombed, and those who left for Korea at the war’s end were invariably ethnic Koreans who were repatriating.
Joanne Perkins worked as an administrator for Social Security and has retired to a house in East Hampton that Kimora bought for her. Perkins now calls herself by her mother’s name, Kyoko, baffling longtime acquaintances.
Vernon Whitlock Jr. distinguished himself early: Graduating at the top of his police-academy class in St. Louis, he was recruited by the marshals in 1962. He told people he marched with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. "My grandmother's first cousin was Frederick Douglass," he would say.
After ten years, Whitlock quit to be an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigator; the money was better, and it got even better when he became a bail bondsman in the late seventies. But he was such a superfly, with his flashy cars and clothes and diamond-chip rings, and such a braggart—trading bonds for jewelry or sex with inmates' girlfriends, court papers alleged, and dealing cocaine and synthetic heroin—that in 1985, he was targeted by several law-enforcement agencies.
"Vernon was the kind of guy that women waggled for if they saw him—flamboyant, outspoken, fun, and funny," remembers Guinn Kelly, the undercover cop who brought him down. The arrest at a Steak n Shake made the local news.
Sentenced to 24 years when Kimora was in grade school, Whitlock was sprung after just 3: He swaggered into the local marshal's office and told ex-co-workers he'd turned state's evidence against his supplier. Now a barber, Whitlock was a guest at Kimora's St. Barts wedding and captured the ceremony on video, which he screens for customers at his shop.