"I heard about a great Italian restaurant-let's hit it, Otis." Mickey jumped behind the wheel of the rental car, ready to drive. I laughed. It was rare to see him in the driver's seat. Sliding in next to him, I grabbed his hand, holding it close, tracing the thick veins that ran up his arm. He smiled and nodded at me.
"What's up?" he asked, sensing that I had something to say.
"Nothing. It's just... Something weird happened this morning." I was going to try to explain the oddity in the house with the gun, but I could not put it into words. Mickey waited for me to say more, then began to drive. I looked out the window, trying to collect my thoughts.
We were almost at the restaurant when I looked down and saw the .357 Magnum on the floor near my feet.
"Damn it, Mickey!" I moaned, pointing to it. "What the hell?" I was furious. "Can not you guys practice some safety with these things?"
Mickey parked the car and leaned toward me, his voice soft but firm. "Otis, remember, it's for our protection. I am sorry, though. I'll talk to the guys about putting these things away."
"Good idea," I responded curtly. I stepped out of the car and turned around to grab my purse.
"Go ahead, I got it. I'll bring it in," Mick said. What I did not know was that he thought it would be a good idea to stash the gun inside my bag.
Dinner was uneventful. My large purse sat next to Mickey's chair while we ate. When we were through, we decided to drive the bike home and let Franco drive the car. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder, climbed onto the back of Mick's bike, and held on tight. The air was just starting to cool, the sun just beginning to set.
"Meet ya out the house," Mick instructed Franco. Then we sped off into the dusk, heading up Canyon Road.
"Brrr... It's cold, Mick!" I shivered as we got off the bike in front of the house. The boys were already there; I could smell a fire in the fireplace. A beautiful glow emanated from within, so I knew that candles were lit.
"Come on, Otis. Let's get into a bath!" Mickey laughed and chased me into the house. I screeched with delight and ran as fast as I could through the front door and toward the kitchen. "Grab some wine! Let's go soak!" I giggled, skidding to a halt as my black cowboy boots hit the tiled floor. Mickey ran to the fridge, searching for a bottle of white, while I slung my bag off my shoulder and tossed it onto the counter.
Boom! A tremendous noise reverberated through the kitchen. And then silence. I looked around curiously. Franco ran into the room. Bruce was just behind him.
"What the fuck was that?" the boys yelled.
"Gunshot!" Mickey screamed in a panic. "A bullet-it just whizzed past me!"
"What the fuck are you guys doing firing guns in the fucking house?" I yelled, stunned. And just then I noticed that everyone was staring at me, their eyes widening.
I stood there, suspended in time. My head reeled. I began to sway slowly from side to side. "Whoa," I said numbly as I crumpled to the floor. "What the fu-"
I looked down at my blue jeans, my white shirt, and my black leather jacket. What was this strange red puddle flowing out around me in an eerily perfect circle? I looked back up at the guys, confused and bewildered. An instant later the message from the gunpowder reached my brain. I felt as if I were on fire, head to toe. I gasped, and then a wild scream erupted from me. I could not speak, I could not move. I'd been shot. The gun in my purse, the one without a safety, had discharged the second I'd slung my bag onto the counter.
"Otis! Holy shit! Bruce, help! Franco... Do something!" Mickey ran toward me. "Where is the gun? Where did that come from?" No one was sure what was going on. The kitchen erupted in a frenzy as the guys scurried around looking for the gun.
"Wait! Help me!" I finally cried out, forcing the words to come. "You gotta help me... I'm bleeding. I'm bleeding really bad." I held my hand in front of me, watching as the blood dripped down from it. It poured out from my chest, my arm, and my shoulder. A wave of wooziness came over me. I started to gag. And then realized I still was not being helped. Okay, I thought. I have to get their attention. They're looking for the gun. But I need to get to a hospital. Now. "Call an ambulance," I could hear my voice say. I sounded very far away.
Franco came to my side. His eyes were wide with fear. "Carre, we do not have time to wait. I need to help you into the car." And a moment later he swept me in his big arms. "Ow! Franco! No! Do not touch me!" I wailed. It hurt so much to move.
For the first time, I heard Franco shout orders at his boss. "Mickey, get the keys! Now!"
Mickey looked around in shock. And in slow motion he grabbed the car keys, fumbling with them in his hands.
"Bruce. You need to... You need to find the gun. This is a nightmare. Clean this up!" Mickey was agitated. I could tell he had grave concerns that the press would get wind of the incident. I panicked, wondering which was more important: my life or covering up the fact that I'd been shot with Mickey Rourke's gun? But Franco was with me, holding me firmly, carrying me out the door and into the night.
"Mickey, front seat! You must drive this car. Fast!" Franco was in complete control, and somehow I knew he knew what he was doing. Thank God someone did.
As Mickey slid behind the wheel, I could see that his hands were shaking. Franco's were not. He held me as if I were a baby, first sitting down in the backseat, then pulling my body onto his lap.
"Please do not squeeze me so tight, Franco!" I cried.
He looked at me levelly and said, "I must, Carre. I must try to stop the blood flow."
I vaguely remember the drive, Mickey stopping at a red light and me begging him to run the damn thing, "Just go! "It felt as though the three of us were in some surrealist film. Instinctively, just as I had seen in the movies, I knew that despite the tremendous drowsiness coming over me, I could not let myself sleep. I fought to keep my eyes open. If I close them, I thought, I might not wake up.
Someone had called ahead to alert the hospital, and medics were waiting as soon as we pulled up. Under intensely bright lights, Franco lifted me out of the car and laid me gently on a stretcher. I was bleary-eyed, dopey from adrenaline and the loss of so much blood. I was rushed into the ER.
Later I learned that gunshot wounds must heal from the inside out, so no stitches could be used. A large drain was placed into my left armpit. I was told it would have to stay there for several weeks. I was also told repeatedly how lucky I was. "A .357 Magnum is a hefty gun," the doctor remarked, shaking his head in disbelief at my luck.
I had been hit with a hollow-point bullet. It was a miracle I was alive-never mind alive with my arm still attached to my body! The bullet had entered just two inches from my heart. The police questioned me, but no charges were filed. Despite our best efforts to keep things quiet, the story did make the news worldwide.
My mother came to see me in Santa Fe as I recuperated. I was having terrible nightmares, typical post-traumatic-stress stuff.
"Carre, oh, Carre." She sat by my bedside and cried. She was confused. And suspicious about what had really happened.
"Do you know... Do you know you can come home, Carre?" she said, looking me in the eyes. I turned away from her. My hands shook, and tears streamed down my face.
"No, Mom, I can not," I said quietly. "It's too late for that."
And it was. Way too late.
BOXING AND A BIG SUR PROPOSAL
A tremendous amount of unspoken guilt settled over Mickey and me for some time after the gun incident. In some ways we bonded, in others we fell apart. I was wounded physically. And the incident was emotionally devastating for me as well. It blew me away on levels I could not yet articulate. The shooting brought about a greater understanding of impermanence. It also raised my awareness of the tremendously violent vortex I was living in while I shared Mickey's life. My ability to speak up, already so compromised, was more damaged than my shoulder. People who've been shot often take longer to recover emotionally than physically. That was certainly true in my case.
The silence between us hung heavy in the air. So, too, did the reality of Mickey's decline as an actor. He was not the box-office hit he'd once been. Rather than reflect on his own responsibility for his diminishing film prospects, Mickey began to scorn acting, dubbing it a "career for sissies." He was blackballing himself and could not be talked out of doing so. His mind had shifted elsewhere. Mickey wanted to box.
I remember the day that he sat down with me and Jane Kachmer, his manager at the time, to tell us of his decision to get back into the ring. It was early 1991 ðîêó, just as Mickey was wrapping Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, a buddy movie that would be another commercial flop. Mickey may have sensed that the film would not do well, and that played a part in his need to find something else to do outside the movie business.
He had toyed with boxing as a kid growing up in a violent household in Miami. Whether or not his stories were true-he said that he had briefly met and trained with Muhammad Ali-I never knew. He definitely had had some amateur fights when he was a teenager. I saw it all as a death wish. His new obsession with fighting struck me as both egotistical and a cop-out, something easier than working through the system to resurrect his acting career. But Mickey saw it differently, and again I was faced with an ultimatum. It was his way or the highway. And, as he told Jane and me, his way now meant fighting.
It would be years before I'd realize that his obsession with boxing, with guns, and with the Mafia was less about an attraction to violence than it was about his fear. It seemed to me that at his core Mickey was a very fearful person. By surrounding himself with tough guys, by acting like a tough guy and carrying a gun, he imagined he could keep himself safe. As I'd found out in New Mexico, the things that made Mickey feel safe had a way of hurting the people who loved him most.
Mickey wanted to have his first professional fight in his hometown. But I did not want to be there. Miami had always been hellish for me. Whenever we were in South Florida, Mickey's demons came forth. Every unresolved issue from his childhood bubbled to the surface in a dark and menacing way. There, in particular, he was all about "the boys." I was never included. When he was out at night, it was with Miami girls. And there were plenty of them from all over the world. It was the modeling mecca of its day. The white sand beaches, art deco structures and blue skies lent themselves perfectly to the hundreds of catalog jobs shot there every year. Having been told by Mickey that my career should be put on hold if I loved him, I felt unbelievably alienated in that city-on the outs not just with him but with the entire world.
I was usually left behind in a hotel room when Mickey and his posse would hit the town. Why it was so hard for me to walk away, one can only guess. I was under his sway, seemingly unable to let go of the hope that our love would rise out of the wreckage we'd created together instead of die there on the beaches and in the late-night clubs.
Through a boxing promoter, Mickey arranged for his return to the sport. He began an intensive training schedule. He went so far as to turn our Los Angeles loft into a workout space, complete with a ring and punching bags. On any given day, there were several trainers and boxers in the place, wrapping their fists, spitting in buckets, and jump-roping endlessly to INXS. It was insane. There was not a single room with a door in the entire loft. I had no privacy. Our lives, especially mine, took another surreal turn.
I somehow managed to beg off of going to Mickey's first fight, in Fort Lauderdale in May 1991. I was not up to watching my lover's ass get kicked six ways till Sunday. Mickey did not fight again for nearly a year, thanks to a hectic shooting schedule that included White Sands. But in the spring of 1992 ðîêó, another fight was arranged. This one would be at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Right in the heart of Mickey's hometown. And it was made very clear to me that he expected me to be there for him. After all we'd been through, I felt obligated to go. Enduring the predictable madness and fanfare, we traveled to Miami Beach for Mickey's big night.
It was every bit the hell I thought it would be.
Boxing, for me, is actually a weak man's sport. Who the fuck needs to get into the ring to prove his machismo? I had little respect for it, and even less for the men who were the stars of that profession. Yet on that April night, I found myself playing the role Mickey wanted me to play, sitting quietly ringside, listening to the savage sounds of gloves meeting flesh, the grunts and groans and unbridled Neanderthal behavior of the man I lived with. The fight, against Francisco Harris, ended in a draw.
After the big event, we were supposed to head out to the clubs. But something had come over me. I'd had enough. I needed a break. Mickey was on a tear, on a high that could not be brought down. He wanted to go out celebrating. With the training and the fight finally over, I just wanted to be with him. I begged him to come back to the hotel with me, to have a moment alone, just the two of us.
"Come on, Mickey, please..." I pleaded.
"Fuck you, Otis. I is not goin 'back to the room with you. I'm going out!"
I knew what "out" meant, what was included in "out." And I was sick of it. The partying. The girls. The flirtations. The nights he never even came back to our room. I was sick of hiding the blow I was doing just to keep myself busy while I waited endlessly for his return. I felt a desperation that I was ashamed of. I felt pathetic.
"Then I'm leaving," I said matter-of-factly. I was scared shitless as I said it. I knew I would have to stick to my guns. I knew that for any change to occur, for there to be any real hope for us, I would have to leave him.
"Then get the fuck out, you cunt." He looked at me with testosterone and fury in his eyes. I was stung. I was shocked. But I tried one more time.
"Mickey, please do not do this... Please. You're going to regret it." A tear tumbled down my cheek.
He did not budge. My temper rose.
"Then you know what, Mick? Fuck you! Fuck this!" I spit at him. I was furious. In an instant, Mickey pushed me with all his might toward the door of the limo we were in. My head slammed back against the seat. But I was not ready to give in. All of my passivity shifted into defiant fury.
"Oh, no you do not, motherfucker!" I shrieked, lifting a hand to slap him. It was too late; the boxer moved too quickly. One hand hit me upside the head, while his other expertly backhanded me across my cheek.
"No, baby, fuck you."And with that, he swung the limo door open and pushed me out into the darkness of the Miami night. I staggered to get up, crying out as the limo drove off, its red taillights disappearing down Ocean Avenue. I was on my own . It was over.
Numb, I made my way back to the Betsy Ross Hotel and got on the phone, booking my return flight to Los Angeles first thing in the morning. My heart was broken, my face stung, but in another way I was ready: ready to get the fuck out.
I waited up all night, just to see if Mickey would come to his senses, if he'd come back to me. As the sun rose with no sign of him, I knew I had my answer. It was a new day, a new dawning, and it was time for me to leave. For good.
I cried the entire flight from Miami to LAX. Sitting in first class with a pillow over my face, I wept harder than I had in years. So much had happened; there was so much water under the bridge. It was terribly confusing to be so in love yet in such profound pain. This can not be right, can it? I wondered in despair. This can not be love.
Back in Los Angeles, I found a little tree house of a place up in Laurel Canyon. It was well off the beaten path. And it was all mine. I had gathered my belongings from the loft and set up camp. It was the perfect place to get my feet back under me and to heal. One room was dedicated to my Buddhist practice again; that was also something I'd had to give up under Mickey's roof.
Slowly, I began to work again: Blumarine with Albert Watson, Italian Vogue with Herb Ritts. Clients were reassured that Mickey was a thing of the past. And for the moment he was.
One day in late spring 1992 ðîêó, I got a call from Marie-Christine at the Look Model Agency in San Francisco. The makeup company Helena Rubinstein wanted to meet with me. They were interested in having me represent them.
"Do you realize, Carre, that this is what we've worked for? This is the big time!" Marie-Christine whooped over the phone.
Within days we were on a plane bound for Paris to meet with the Rubinstein CEO. It was an exciting trip, in such stark contrast to the struggles I had endured there years before. Now I was at the top of my game, resurrected and ready to work.
When I returned from what had been a successful meeting in Paris, it appeared that summer had arrived in Los Angeles, too. The May gloom had lifted, and the city streets were already sweltering. From my little house in the canyon, I could hear the coyotes howling in the night, reminding me of the wildness and unpredictability of the course I was on. Word had it that Mickey had accepted another boxing match in Tokyo. I read about him in the tabloids, and it seemed everyone I knew had news as to his whereabouts.
Word also had it that he was missing me. Profoundly. It tugged at my heartstrings, yet somehow I knew that he had not changed. He could not change. The man I'd been with was not a man I could be with going forward. Yet the longing remained. And as I began to hear more and more about him, that old homesickness returned. There was still a huge soft spot in my heart for him.
So I was not really surprised to get a call from Bruce in early June.
"Yo, Otis! What's up?" he asked.
I laughed hearing his voice. Bruce was a central part of Mickey's boys 'club. I was happy to hear from him. Like hearing from a long-lost brother.
"Hey there! How are you?" I asked, smiling. I knew who was behind the call, and despite my reservations my heart raced, just as it had done the first time I'd been in close contact with Mickey. The rush of him, the adrenaline our relationship churned-it was unbeatable.
"All's good. But forget about me. What about you?"
I played it cool. Played it happy. "I'm great, Bruce. Really, really good. Working and happy." It was mostly true.
"Yeah? That's fantastic." I could feel him waiting, pausing. He had called for a reason.
"What, Bruce?" I pressed. He was loyal to Mickey, but he also cared. Bruce was a good guy. One of the few in the crowd that Mickey hung with.
"Well, Mickey wants to see you. He wants to meet you-in Big Sur." He waited, but I could hear him nervously drawing on a cigarette.
"Oh, yeah?" I asked coyly. "I thought Mick was fighting in Japan?"
"Yeah, he's there. But, Christ, Otis, he's... He's going nuts. He needs to see you."
I swallowed. I could feel the fear come over me. I looked around my sweet little home, the oaks swaying gently in the warm, early-summer breeze. I took a deep breath. "Yeah. I'm sure he does, Bruce. I just do not know if... If I want to see him." I was holding firm. There had to be some reason that would motivate me to go. "I mean, come on, Bruce. Mick is fucked up. I can not see him-be with him-if he has not changed."
Bruce was silent for a moment. "But he has, Otis. He really has. It messed him up, you leaving him." He was pleading.
I interjected angrily, "He did not seem to give a shit in Miami, Bruce. Come on. Be real."
It was a stupid conversation. And why I bought any of it, I'm still not sure.
"Carre, please. Just give him a chance. One chance. He said to tell you if what he has to say, what he has to ask you... If you do not buy it, you can both walk." Bruce was desperate. It was his job to get me to go.
So my trip was planned. I gave in. Just like that. My longing, my loneliness, everything that remained unresolved, had me buying into the hope that we could still set ourselves on the right course.
On June 25, 1992, a limo picked me up in Los Angeles and drove me north up the coast to my old stomping grounds. I had always loved Big Sur. It held the wonderful, magical beginnings of Northern California. For as long as I could remember, I had marveled at the drama of its ocean, its craggy cliffs, and the humpback whales that migrated through its waters. Big Sur was more inviting to me than L.A. had ever been.
I was driven to the then-brand-new Post Ranch Inn and at check-in was handed a note: "Wait for me in the Ocean House." I looked around as if there might be cameras following me. Some sort of covert operation was seemingly under way. Obediently, I followed a silent concierge along the impressive path and down to an amazing suite that looked out over the crashing waves. Stunning views and the deep blue sea extended endlessly into space in front of me. It was breathtaking. The concierge placed my bag on the floor and poured me a glass of champagne.
"Wait?" I asked, a question rather than a command. But she handed my glass to me and winked, then left me alone in the room. I walked to the terrace, opening the sliding glass doors to the ocean breeze. But before I could step outside, the phone rang. Picking it up, I could hear Bruce's voice. "Otis, you there?"
"Yeah, Bruce. What's up? What's going on?" I was confused. Why was not Mickey here?
"Mickey's here. He's waiting for you in the parking lot. Go out and meet him."
"What?" But Bruce had already hung up.
Jesus, the drama! I thought.
I slugged my glass of champagne and wandered back up the path I had come down. Sure enough, there he was, sitting on the hood of a tricked-out '69 Road Runner hot rod. Periwinkle blue with a white stripe up the center. The top was down.
"Hey," Mickey said quietly. He seemed apprehensive, unwilling to look at me, gazing at his boxing shoes, one unlaced.
"Hey, Mickey," I said carefully. I was trying to conceal my own nervousness. We were like two teenagers, tangled in emotion, unable to move or speak.
I stood my ground, waiting. I was holding firm to my insistence that I could not be with him if he had not changed. But in my naive young heart, I truly thought or hoped that change could happen overnight. It's not news that love is often both blind and foolish.
"Otis... I... I do not know what to say. I love you. I miss you. I need you. I... I want you." He was stammering.
"Mickey, you really fucking hurt me. I do not even know why I'm here. Other than that I love you, too. But love... It should not hurt like this." I was emotional. My lip was trembling. I was trying not to cry.
"I've changed. I really have. Being without you, it's like death. I do not want to be alive if I can not be with you." He was putting on an impressive show. Mickey was a genius. He was brilliant. Above all he was an actor. I knew he loved me, but I was wary of all these things.
Before I knew what he was doing, he got down on one knee. "Marry me, Carre," he said.
I was silent. I was shocked. I had not seen that coming. Yet it was the one thing that he had not asked before, or committed to. Hope surged through me. Is this proof of "the change"? I wondered to myself.
I took a deep breath, summoning all my strength. "How do I know, Mick? How do I know you've changed?" I could not answer his question until he could answer mine.
"Marry me or I'll die!" he cried.
"Jesus, Mickey. Wait. I have not seen you in months!" I was starting to feel panicked. "I need time, some time to think about this." A swirl of anxiety wrapped itself around me. That familiar pressure was back: to answer, to do, to say, to obey. . . .
"No. You answer me now," he said firmly. Standing up, he went to the back of the car and opened the trunk. "I can not live without you," he said again, pulling out a long sword wrapped in beautiful Japanese cloth.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's a hari-kari knife," he replied, unwrapping it. The long metal sword caught the afternoon light. Mickey stared into my eyes. "Answer me or I will die."
Was he serious? I was not sure. I was terrified. I waited a beat. I wanted to ask, Mickey, why can not I have time to think about this? I recognized his standard my-way-or the-highway ultimatum in all this, but it was tinged with a threat of a different kind this time. Numbness was descending on me quickly, and I could not find the words to tell him as much.
I was under such pressure. I felt as if I were about to implode. And as the dread washed over me, I heard myself say, "Yes, Mickey. I will marry you." I wept, rushing into his arms.
He covered me with kisses, wiping away my tears. But I do not think to this day that he knew why I was crying. I'd been pushed to the brink, been forced to make an impulsive decision. If I'd given him the wrong answer, I would have lost him-and he might have followed through on his threat with the sword. So once again it was his relationship, with his rules and his timing. I did not feel confident enough in my own strength to say no.
As far as I could see, my only option was to stay with him or lose him forever. The caretaker in me really thought he would die if I did not choose him. My paralysis was monumental, but also painfully familiar. It was one of the oldest themes of my life.
I do not know if I would have said yes to Mickey-I do not know if I would even have been with him at that time-if it had not been for what happened with my ninth-grade boyfriend, Scott. I had not been able to save Scott from his demons-the ones that drove him to take his own life-because I'd been too young. Our relationship was too new. Even though he'd come to me for help just an hour before he shot himself, I'd had no idea of ??what he was planning to do. I had felt responsible for his death ever since. Now another man was coming to me in need, making it clear that I could save him. The difference between Mickey and Scott was that Mickey was telling me in no uncertain terms what he would do if I said no. I simply could not lose another lover to suicide. Not when it was so obvious to me that I had the power to prevent it.
Though I was not aware of it at the time, I now see the great paradox in my relationship with Mickey. It's a paradox I see in other women's relationships with abusive and simultaneously self-destructive men. On the one hand, I felt powerless. I was so much less certain than he was. I was afraid of his violence. On the other hand, I felt a responsibility to save him. I can now see that I'd protected men from themselves all my life. I kept Elliott from certain death when I stepped between him and that seriously pissed-off, gun-toting trucker. It was something I knew how to do even then. Something I felt I could do. In this case something I had to do.
Mickey and I were married the next day, June 26, in my hometown of San Francisco. A justice of the peace oversaw our vows as we stood several feet from a Dumpster in Golden Gate Park.
Mickey's anxiety attack that morning should have made it clear to me that he, too, was doing it for the wrong reasons. He also must have thought that if he did not propose to me, he would lose me. Lose me to someone else, lose his chance, lose his family. We were married in the hope that our love would fulfill all that our lives up until that point had not. In the hope that somehow a piece of paper would magically heal the wounds we'd suffered at the hands of others and had inflicted on ourselves and each other.
We were wrong. Sadly and predictably, so very, very wrong.
HONEYMOON TO HELL
So who do you call when you're twenty-three years old and you've just married Mickey Rourke?
I was not entirely sure, but I desperately wanted someone to be happy for me. If I could find just one person, I thought it might convince me to be happy for myself. It might convince me that my decision was the right one. Yet somewhere deep inside me, an anxiety was brewing. Try as I might to push it further and further down during the weeks to come, I simply could not. I really wanted to believe I was on the right path, that all along it had been Mickey's inability to commit that had caused us such problems. I wanted to believe that now, married, it would be just the two of us-no more entourage, no more boys 'club, no more lies and deceit.
We found ourselves trying to catch the tiger's tail of the fantasy we had just bought into. The truth was, neither of us could run hard enough or fast enough to grab it. But damn, we tried.
Before leaving San Francisco on our honeymoon, I made two phone calls at Mickey's insistence. The first was to my sister to share the news; the second was to Marie-Christine to tell her not only that I was married but that I was quitting modeling, too.
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