The Real Tori
I’m supposed to say, Sure, my family had lots of money, but I had a normal childhood. I could say that, but I’d be lying. My childhood was really weird. Not better or worse than anyone else’s, but definitely different.
When I was five, my father wanted me to have a white Christmas. On Christmas Day a truck from Barrington Ice in Brentwood pulled up to our house. They spread snow in the back yard and added a styrofoam snowman. Five years later my dad hired a snow machine to blow out so much powder that it created a sledding hill. I was ten and my brother, Randy, was five. They dressed us in snowsuits (for the photos—it was eighty-five degrees out). Everyone came to see the snow in Beverly Hills: Robert Wagner, Mel Brooks … not that I noticed. Randy and I spent Christmas zooming down the hill in saucer sleds. It was a pretty spectacular day.
But for all the effort and fanfare my parents put into my childhood, I’m most sentimental about some of the lower-key indulgences. I asked my parents for an allowance. My father wanted to give me five dollars, but I wanted twenty-five cents because that’s what the other kids got. Dad told me that to earn my allowance I’d have to help out, and he’d do it with me. Every weekend we’d scoop up dog poo and rake leaves. We hadn’t yet moved to the Manor—that enormous house the press can’t get over—but we still had a large yard and four dogs. And we had gardeners to take care of all that. I suspect he told them to leave it be. What I wish my father had understood before he died is that of all those large-scale memories he and my mother spent so much money and energy creating, picking up poo is what stayed with me my whole life.
Encouraged by her media-mogul dad (among Aaron Spelling’s hits: Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty), Tori began acting lessons at 8. At 16, she landed the role of Donna in his Beverly Hills, 90210.
I had an insta-crush on Brian Austin Green. Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth and I became friends. Ian Ziering and Jason Priestley seemed much older; we became friends years later. As for Luke Perry, he called me “Camel” because I had long eyelashes. Trust me, Luke Perry can call you “Camel” and make it sexy.
90210 wasn’t an instant hit. But during the second season it started to take off. It kind of sucked that I didn’t get to go to college. In fact, sometimes it felt as if I was reliving high school.
The center of this high school clique was Shannen and Jennie. Shannen had everything, but she could be arrogant and carefree. Jennie was outspoken when she thought Shannen was out of line. Sometimes they got along, but there were explosions. Once, they got into a fistfight. Shannen took me under her wing. A night with her meant going to the hottest club and drinking until the early hours. I knew she was a “bad influence,” but I liked her anyway. Still, I saw her treating people in a way that made me uncomfortable.
Finally one day I took a stand. I took her aside and said she shouldn’t be acting that way. She shot me a terrible How dare you? look. It was pretty scary. [By the fourth season] everyone wanted Shannen gone. The rest of the cast told me they had decided to call my father and say that she had to go, but they needed a consensus. I didn’t want to betray her. Finally I said I agreed. When Shannen left, I felt the same as everyone, like I could breathe again.
For the most part, [even before Shannen left], the cast and crew functioned as a close family. And in the course of the ten years the show was on the air, everyone in the cast pretty much slept with everyone else. We all would laugh about it years later.
I cheated on [my first boyfriend] by hooking up with my costar Brian. Brian was the only guy on the show my age. We had something going (or not going) over the years we worked together. We were always fighting, making up, having fun, and hating each other. We were just young.
She found fame a mixed blessing—tabloid reports that she’d had multiple plastic surgeries made her cry. (For the record, she says she had one nose job, at 16, and breast implants. “If I knew the styles were going to be the way they are now, I wouldn’t have gotten my boobs done in the ’90s. The clothes now wear so much better when you’re smaller. In the ’90s it was all about big boobs in halter tops.”) She met first husband Charlie Shanian in 2002, while starring opposite him in a play he wrote, Maybe Baby, It’s You.
Charlie was different from anyone I’d dated. He cared about me the way a man should. His family was a major part of the attraction. He took me to his mother’s house in Peabody, Mass. It was total suburbia, something I’d only experienced on TV, and I loved it. His mother had knickknacks that said things like “Gardens Grow With Love.” (My mother’s version would say “Gardens Grow With a Large, Full-Time Staff of Horticulturalists.”) I wanted Charlie’s family. I was in love with the idea of him.
Suzanne, one of his best friends, said, “You sure about this? You know he’s very Christian and doesn’t believe in divorce.” I joked, “But momma does.” Though I believed in marriage, part of me knew divorce was an escape hatch if I needed it. Charlie wanted the sweet, perfect-wife part of me. Sweet, perfect wife is about 10 percent of the package.
While planning the wedding, arguments over the cost and details strained Tori’s relationship with her mother, Candy, 62. It didn’t bode well for the marriage. A year after the wedding, while filming the TV movie Mind Over Murder in Ottawa, Tori met Dean McDermott, her costar.
I’d been instantly attracted to men before, but this was different. It was love at first sight. I fell so hard.
Usually when I first meet a boy, I can’t eat in front of him. I’m too worried about having something green in my teeth or talking with food in my mouth. But that night I ate every morsel. Dean said he was impressed that a tiny girl like me ate so much.
I was, I realized, completely myself around him. He told me I was “tragically cute.” I thought that was adorable. Then I noticed he had a wedding ring. When someone asked, he pulled out photos of his children. And—oh, yeah—I had a husband too. It was fun to flirt, but I knew nothing would happen.
But: Dean and I went to a bar after dinner. And we spent the night at the Cartier Place.
The following day when I woke up next to Dean, I had no regrets. Something was really wrong with my marriage. Not only because I slept with this guy—though that certainly wasn’t a positive sign—but because I didn’t regret it.
Dean and I hid our relationship from the cast and crew. Only twelve days had passed when Dean, sitting across a table from me, texted: I’m in big trouble. I didn’t want to pull out my BlackBerry and give us away. Later I asked him, “Why are you in big trouble?” He said, “I’m in love with you.”
I said, “I love you, too.”
Dean told his wife he was leaving her. Terrified to break the news to Charlie, Tori e-mailed him, asking him to meet at her therapist’s office.
My heart was pounding. I was sure I couldn’t do it. And yet, there I was, waiting in the therapist’s office when Charlie came in. He saw me and started to cry. He said, “I’m not going to let you get rid of me. I love you.”
I started talking. I told him that I’d never been in love with him. I loved him and he’d been a friend to me, but I married him because he was a great guy, a guy who took care of me. Charlie didn’t want to hear it. He kept saying, “Where’s all this coming from? We have a perfect relationship.” Then he turned to me. “Did you cheat on me?” I said yes. He said, “It was with Dean, wasn’t it?” I said yes. He said, “I should have known.”
He left angry and hurt, and I felt sorry and sad. I never got to say a real good-bye to Charlie’s family, who I knew must hate me. A relative with whom I’d been close wrote to say, “All those years when people said Tori Spelling‘s a whore, I defended you. At least I don’t have to anymore.”
Tori’s new TV show, So NoTORIous, a fictionalized account of her life, further strained her relationship with her mom. Despite good reviews, the series lasted only 10 episodes. At 33, Spelling was out of work and $200,000 in debt.
How did I find myself in debt? I guess the best answer is that I didn’t think about it. I was born into a millionaire lifestyle, and I had no idea how to live any other way. If my mother liked a shirt in a catalog, she’d order it in six colors. I went from that to working on 90210 and for a while I was able to maintain that lifestyle. My friend Mehran calls those the glory days. He says, “We’d walk into Dolce and Gabbana; they’d close down the store, and bring out the champagne. You’d drop fifty thousand dollars.”
I love clothing, but I had to change where I shopped. I became the girl who looks for the bargain. I still have a serious weakness for Christian Louboutin shoes. But you can wear shoes over and over again!
Adjusting my lifestyle has been, for the most part, a good learning experience. Dean and I lived in six places in two years. If we didn’t have furniture, we slept on a mattress. Love made all the other stuff unimportant.
I came from money. But I didn’t exactly expect to be supported. Eventually people who were pretty high up at my dad’s office started telling me he was starting to fade. They thought I should talk to him about his will before he was any further gone.
It felt gross and wrong. But at one of our lunches I said, “I hate to bring this up, Dad, but I know you love me and Randy, and I know you’d want to protect us and your grandchildren. I’m not asking for anything, but I just want to make sure you know what your will says about me and Randy.” He said, “Let me find out. I’ll talk to my business manager.”
The next time we had lunch, he said, “Babe, I talked to the business manager. You and Randy are totally set up. You’re getting just under a million. You’ll be fine.” He believed it.
I realized in that moment that my father knew nothing about money. He would buy my mother a million-dollar necklace for Mother’s Day without blinking. At the same time I believe he was totally sincere when he thought I was beyond set for life. I thought, God, okay. It is what it is.
In May 2006 Tori and Dean were married. In the coming months, her father died, she learned she was pregnant, and she got word about her father’s will.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that $800,000 (actually, a little more than half that after taxes) was coming my way. Still, to be completely honest, I was let down when I heard that nothing had changed. Come on, if your father had $500 million, wouldn’t you hope for, oh, just a paltry $10 million? I cried a little bit, and then I felt guilty and disappointed in myself for crying. I hadn’t been banking on the money. But part of me (the pregnant, hormonal part) wanted to enjoy being a mom without having to work my butt off. Even if I worked really hard, I’d never earn the type of money that he could have just given me.
Oh, boo hoo. I know.
She and Dean decided to open a bed and breakfast in Fallbrook, Calif. Their reality show, Tori & Dean: Inn Love, began airing last March, a week after their baby was born.
I was looking forward to being the mother I had missed. And it was important for Dean and me to be parents together. My father had always doted on me, often in ways that I later realized were damaging. One of my earliest memories is being at my dad’s bedside when I was about five. He told me that he loved me more than anything in the whole world. I asked, “What about Mommy?” And he replied, “No, I love you the most. I love you more than Mommy.” When he said that, I looked up and saw my mother standing in the doorway.
Now I think that sort of comment set the tone for my relationship with my mother. My whole life I always blamed her. Now I know that he fanned the flame.
Some time after the crazy, grief-laden, anger-filled mess that played out in the tabloids [following her father’s death], my mother sent me a really nice email saying that she knew I was pregnant. She said she would always love me. She wanted to be a part of this time in my life. It was heartfelt, and it filled me with hope.
At Tori’s invitation, her mom came to the hospital for Liam’s birth.
I started to cry when I saw her. I realized in that moment that this was exactly what I needed. Oh, right, and the baby who was struggling to enter this world? His heart rate was dropping. It eventually became clear that a C-section was in order.
It didn’t seem like I’d been in surgery long when the doctor said, “Here he comes!” Then I heard Liam’s first cry. It took my breath away. I was overwhelmed with love. Dean said, “Oh my God, he’s gorgeous.” I looked down at my baby and said, “Oh, he is. And thank God he has a good nose.”
Back home Dean and I settled into our new life as parents. Liam completed us.
My whole life I wanted to be normal. When I think of what I have now, it’s not the biggest or best or most anything. It’s family and love and safety. It’s work and laughter and imperfection. It’s my normal.