"But, Mickey, that is so ridiculous," I argued. "Why should I do that? I'm about to sign a million-dollar contract!" I was frustrated and angry. I did not entirely understand what Mickey meant when he said I now had "wifely duties." Yet in his mind it was perfectly clear. I was to give up everything else-my modeling career especially-because my new occupation was to be utterly devoted to him.
"Otis, baby, that's the way it goes. Now more than ever. I will always take care of you." It was a line in keeping with the fantasy we were both trying to create. And sustaining that fantasy required certain rules. Unknown until created, then law once Mickey spoke them.
"I can not. I do not want to," I protested. "Marie-Christine worked so hard to put this together." I was shaking, but I could not find the courage to tell him I was going to do otherwise.
He picked up the phone, dialed my agent's number, and placed the receiver in my hand. I was filled with dread and shame. This was not my wish. But it was now the law of the land, the one I was to abide by.
"M.C.?" I whispered into the phone.
"Oui. Yes? Carre? "
She knew me well. She knew that something was up.
"Oh, no. Merde,"She said quietly in her thick French accent." You are back together with him, yes? "I did not have to say much. She already knew.
"Yes, M.C.," I replied quickly. I looked toward Mickey, who was pacing and waiting, smoking a cigarette. He wanted her to know I was his. Not hers.
"I'm married, M.C. We just got married," I said, trying to sound happy, but I knew she could hear the concern in my voice.
A big sigh on the other end. "Well, my dear... I had to know this was coming. Are congratulations in order?" she asked, a bit coolly. Mickey pointed at his watch and mouthed, Wrap it up, Otis. I looked down at my Converse sneakers, crossed and uncrossed my legs.
"I'm turning down Helena Rubinstein, M.C.," I said flatly.
"Why on earth would you do that, Carre? There is no need. You can have both. Do not be foolish! Do not throw it all away...." Her voice trailed off. I could hear her disappointment, sense her desperation.
"I... I... I can not, M.C. It's done. It's over." I was near weeping, and Mickey was not liking the tone I was taking. He came over and silently placed his hand on the phone, indicating to me that I needed to end my call. We stood for a moment eye to eye.
"Now call your family. At least they should be happy for you, "he said, trying to sound bold as well as reassuring.
But that call was even worse. There was sadness when I announced my news. A disappointment all around. Looking back, I realize that everyone was concerned, gravely worried that I had just signed away my life. It would be a while before I fully acknowledged the truth in that.
Our honeymoon was to be a road trip. We packed into the car and drove through the night, heading north up toward Eureka. We did not know where or how far we were going. We just knew that our life together depended on the speed of our escape. It was actually the first time since I'd met Mickey that it was just the two of us, adventuring and exploring together. For a short while, it was heaven. To have him all to myself, with the top down and the early-summer sun shining on us, was bliss. We had entered into the realm of make-believe. Mickey left behind his agents, his entourage, his movies, and the paparazzi. For that brief time, we were like the two people we'd been when we met and fell in mad, crazy love.
We laughed and took turns at the wheel. We listened to U2's "One" over and over again, tearing up, holding hands, our hair whipping in the wind. We confessed our desires, our concerns, our love and respect for each other. It felt like the first time we'd met, at Zalman King's house. I thought the moment would last forever. I was more and more convinced that Mickey was a changed man and able to leave it all behind.
From California we headed toward Montana. We drove until the sun set and stayed in whatever place we found along the way. We laughed and shared bottles of beer in cheap hotel-room beds. One night near Bozeman, we were almost out of gas, clearly at the end of the line. The only place available to spend the night was above a bar in a dilapidated old house. The walls were paper thin. Our neighbor vomited endlessly till morning. Reality was starting to seep into our fantasy. But we pressed on anyway. Our lives depended on it. It was as if we were on the run from something. And in a sense we were. Ourselves. The truth. The world that, sooner or later, we'd have to return to.
After Montana and Wyoming, we veered toward Utah. Just before Salt Lake City, our car broke down.
"Shit!" Mickey screamed. "What now?" He acted like a kid whose ice-cream cone had just hit the ground.
"It's okay, Mickey. We can just call AAA." But in that moment the reality we'd been dodging caught up with us. He had lost control. We had lost momentum. We'd come to a screeching halt. Mind you, a delay in Salt Lake City might put anyone over the edge, but it was here that the gears really shifted.
We sat together in the cab of the tow truck. There were few places with the resources to fix the Road Runner we'd been driving. It was an old hot rod that needed special parts. Mickey was not used to handling details or dealing with mishaps. That was someone else's job. Usually one of the boys.
"I can deal with it, Mickey," I tried to convince him. "It's going to be fine." But Mickey wanted to call the boys. And just like that, the world, the entourage, and the whole scene crowded in on us again.
Five days later the car was fixed, but during those five days we had begun to doubt the course we'd taken. Metaphorically, this road trip represented our life and the choices that were to come. Mick had already called his agents in a fit of insecurity. I could hear him arguing and could see the old Mickey resurfacing.
"What did that motherfucker have to say?" he yelled into the phone. "They do not wanna work with me? Well, fuck them!" He slammed the phone down. Another job shelved. Another producer who would not touch him. I wondered secretly about calling M.C. back to see if it was too late to take the makeup job. When I even hinted at the prospect, he seethed, "No way, Otis. Not my wife. You will not be working with that fucking bitch again."
"Why? What did she ever do to you?" I asked. He was looking ugly in his anger.
"Let's just say I sent her a farewell present," he replied sinisterly.
"What the fuck does that mean, Mickey?"
"A funeral wreath. She got it a few days ago. Now she knows not to fuck with me. That's over, Otis. Over."
"Why would you do such a thing?" I cried. I was mortified. Horribly embarrassed. His behavior shamed me. I could not stand all the ways he found to be violent and cruel.
Just then there was a knock at the door. It was Bruce. I flung the door open, gave Bruce a look, and left, slamming it behind me. This was going badly. Really badly.
We never spoke about M.C. again. Somehow I knew if I were to stay with Mickey, I would have to surrender hope, make sacrifices, and just move on. It was defeat on my part. But I had chosen my path, so I had to be a big girl and deal with it, as gracefully as possible.
We got back on the road with only a week left of our honeymoon. "Let's head to New Orleans," Mickey suggested. So off we tore into the desert heat. But things continued to go awry. By this point it was mostly me at the wheel. Mickey's anxiety attacks had increased to such a point that he could no longer drive. We kept paper bags in the glove compartment and frequently had to pull over. He would leap out of the car, pace back and forth crying, "Otis, I can not breathe! I'm dying!" It was heartbreaking. I learned to help him through these horribly debilitating attacks by calling upon all the grounding measures that had been taught to me in my Buddhist practices. We would find a patch of grass, and I would make him sit down. "Mickey, feel the earth beneath you," I'd say. "Ground yourself into it. Inhale and exhale... Slowly.... That's it. You're okay." Sometimes it would take ten minutes, sometimes an hour. I would have to convince Mickey he was not dying. Eventually it was only his meds that helped when these anxiety attacks hit, though I wished for his peace of mind that he'd find more sustainable measures of self-soothing.
Back on the road once more, we would drive as far as we could manage each day between anxiety attacks and the oppressive heat. Summer was at its peak, and it did not help that the Road Runner had no A / C. We would stop at convenience stores and get packs of cigarettes and blocks of ice. We'd drive down the highway with those blocks of ice melting in Mickey's lap, hoping they would alleviate some of the suffocation he felt from the heat.
New Orleans was just one stop on the way back to hell. As we got closer, I began to notice the direction we were traveling in-we were headed toward Miami.
"Mick... You're not thinking of going to Miami, are you?" I asked quietly. He had promised me we would not return there.
"Come on, Otis. Things have changed," he replied defensively.
"No. Not about Miami. Nothing's changed. You promised." I was furious. He was beginning to slip on his word again. Promises meant nothing to him, I was beginning to see that.
"Let's not talk about it, Carre. We'll end up wherever I say. If it's Miami, it's fucking Miami." He slammed his fist onto the dashboard. I fell silent.
New Orleans was a blur. A hot, humid blur. The days were closing in fast. The press was calling. The reports were out that we were married. And Mickey's agents had a movie lined up for him. The world was beckoning us back, and our fantasy was crashing in violently before our eyes.
I knew where we would end up. I was becoming more and more certain that Mickey had always had a plan. Part of that plan was to "get" me, have me, conquer me, and then move on. My instincts were right. I soon found myself driving us to Miami Beach, amid a sea of ??tears and despair. Right back to the Betsy Ross Hotel, right back to where it had all nearly ended before.
I was now a married woman, but the security that marriage once seemed to have promised turned out to be a lie. A lie I was trying to live and uphold. The honeymoon was coming to an end. And with it went the hope that we could escape old patterns and live a new life.
"Baby, do not worry. Please do not worry. When we get back to L.A., we're gonna move into the Benedict house." Mickey was pleading with me. He wanted my smiles, my love, and my approval.
"Is it finished? Finally?" The Benedict Canyon house had been his and his alone. He had not been willing to open it up to me, to us, to a shared life. But now he was. Was this what married life meant? We could finally live in his dream home? His treasure?
"Not finished yet-but finished enough for us to go home to. A home, Otis... Our home."
It sounded good. It was a step in the right direction
But Miami was just as it had always been. Within a day Mickey was back with his boys. His entourage had flown there to be by his side. They had taken their usual places in between us. We were set to be there for five days. "Just five days, Otis. Come on... Let's celebrate. Let's party," Mickey coaxed.
That was the last thing I wanted to do. I was ready to get back to L.A., to make a home, find some routine and figure out what being a married twenty-three-year-old really meant.
Our suite at the Betsy Ross overlooked the Strand-a strip of white-sand beach-and the rolling blue ocean beyond it. We had done nothing but eat and drink and sleep on our road trip, and I felt like hell, overweight and depressed. (I was not really overweight. But after the honeymoon I was heavier than the ruthless standard that was on display on the streets and beaches of Miami. There were lots of models in South Beach, and Mickey's wandering eye did not let me forget that.) I did not want to go to the clubs. I wanted to work out. I wanted to look good and feel better. But that's not what Miami was about.
"I'm going out," Mickey announced as the sun sank into the horizon line.
"What? No way, Mickey." I was appalled. Had not we talked about this? Was not this time going to be different?
"Do not fucking tell me 'no way,'" he said angrily as he proceeded to put on his tank top and gold chains.
"Mickey, you promised."
"Promised what? To marry you? I did. And I'm going out." He spun around, challenging me. "What? You going to fucking leave me this time, Otis? Guess what, bitch? You can not!"
He was raging. I should have backed off. But the betrayal I felt was inciting me to rage back with equal force.
"Fuck you!" I screamed, tears welling up. I was hoping he would hear the hurt in my voice, see the open wounds from before, and stop himself. But he did not. Mickey threw me onto the bed and slapped me across the face. Instinctively, I brought my knees up. My feet caught him in the gut, and I pushed him as hard as I could. Then I scrambled off the bed and tried frantically to make my way to the door. He tackled me, forcing me to the floor, shoving my face down into the carpet. A second later I felt something cold against my cheek. It was his gun.
"No you will not, Otis. Or you're fucking dead."
I froze. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, feel the adrenaline surge through my body. I was stilled, as if some higher force had come down and spread itself over me. I was in complete surrender. I give up, I thought. I give up.
Mickey left me there, in a clump on the floor. I did not move for some time. The numbness that had come over me settled deep down in my bones. He was right. I would not leave him. Not then, not yet. But I would find a way to make it bearable to be with him.
I went to the manager's room and knocked on his door. "Nouvelle...
are you there? "and when he opened it up, I simply extended my hand and asked," Got any blow? "
And that's how I got by. For years that's how I deadened my senses and survived the insanity.
FALLING FOR AILEEN
Any remaining hope I had about our lives changing for the better now that Mickey and I were married ended when we returned to L.A. The Benedict Canyon residence was in an utter state of disrepair. Construction had been under way for years; completion was always delayed. The house had been gutted and the theme of its decor changed countless times depending on Mickey's mood. When I moved in, only the office and the upstairs bedroom were finished; the other rooms were uninhabitable. It was chaos.
The pool stood cracked and empty in the otherwise extravagant backyard. There was a muralist who had been hired to paint the walls of the grand entrance and the living room in a southwestern theme. An eerie portrait of Chief Joseph appeared on one wall, Geronimo on another. A seven-foot bronze statue of Crazy Horse by the famed sculptor Dave McGary stood guard at the front door. Besides these definitive choices, the house was a shell. Large sums of money had been poured sporadically into the place, but the results were bizarrely incomplete. The kitchen ceiling was made of a gorgeous pounded copper, but there was no oven. There were cracked windows throughout the upstairs, but the finest luxury towels hung in the bathroom. The random and disconnected nature of the renovation mirrored our lives with their inconsistencies and absurdities.
I was the kid, but Mickey acted like one. With his strangely outdated view of marriage, he would repeatedly tell me it was his wife's job to "run the place." I still had not a clue as to what that meant.
If I thought the house on the hill seemed isolated at first glance, the Benedict Canyon mansion was worse. It was cold and damp, since the heat rarely worked. It was a spooky place, especially for a young woman on her own. Mickey was gone most of the time. He'd be away filming for months, and even when he returned, he'd usually hang out down at Caffe Roma or at Giuseppe Franco's hair salon. Little had changed since we got married.
I lived for the moments when Mickey was home. I waited again and again for his return. I longed for his undivided attention. I never got it. When he was in town, our dinners out always included his boys. We were never alone in the house; someone from the entourage was always with us, crashing on the couch, staying in an extra bedroom. They were there to drive Mickey's cars and even to dial the phone for him. It was incredible how little Mickey did for himself.
I got along with the boys because I had to. And when Mickey was away, the boys became an extension of him. Mickey could be anywhere in the world, but at least one of them would be with me. Protecting me. Watching me. As far as I was concerned, none of these stand-ins, these security guards, could fill the void that Mickey's absence left. I pushed to be alone, to be there without the extra help. But that never flew with Mickey. That was against his rules. In his mind I needed a chaperone. From what I could see, though, it was his own behavior that warranted watching-that's what was really making him so neurotic and jealous.
I had a hunch about his infidelities. The papers frequently reported the names of the girls he would escort about. It nearly drove me crazy. Naturally, I fell back on the one thing I could control: my weight. Dieting, my old habit, took on a new and starring role in my life. Obsessing about food numbed the pain and loneliness. Night after night I would order the same meal from the same local Chinese restaurant: soup, soup, soup, and more soup.
I had plenty of time to focus on my body. I was not working. Mickey had insisted I stop modeling and concentrate on acting instead. What I did not see then was that this was just another of his ruses to control me. Another strategy to dominate me. I was a successful model. I was not a trained actress. Once again Mickey had demanded that I fire my modeling agent and hire his manager, who he promised would find me the right jobs. What this effectively did was cut me off from a world I thrived in and from any resource I could rely on. I was in an endless holding pattern, waiting for any sort of work. None came. Or at least none that I was ever told about. I was in my early twenties and, seemingly, unemployable.
Stuck in the Benedict Canyon mansion, alone except for my minders, I was desperate to do something, desperate for community and connection. I had no idea what that entailed, but I was willing to clean carpets if it would get me out of the house. I decided to volunteer at an AIDS center in West Hollywood. There I met Aileen Getty, the firstborn daughter of John Paul Getty.
Aileen was a force to be reckoned with. She was larger than life. And she had AIDS. Her story was riveting. I learned that she had been disinherited when she publicly announced that she had contracted the disease. She was ten years my senior, someone I would really open up with. I saw her as a hero. I put her on a pedestal. And yes, there was a time when I even thought I was falling in love with her.
I'd had feelings for women before. And I certainly had not grown up with prejudices about homosexuality. Quite the contrary-on my wild life journey, anything went. Yet every time I'd come close to being sexual with a woman, a lack of fundamental physical interest would intervene. Basically, I was not into pussy. But I was into exploration. I liked having the freedom that came with that-the chance to feel powerful. It was something I did not feel with men. And even when I took on a submissive role with women, it felt safer than it did with men.
Aileen and I became fast friends. We had a lot in common. We were both rebels. Unfortunately, we both also had a fierce appetite for cocaine. That propelled us. And instead of working at the AIDS center, I became deeply involved in Aileen's life. We held hands, we shared, we kissed, and we embraced each other. There was no need to go any further. She met my deep emotional needs in a way that they simply had not been met in my relationship with Mickey.
Aileen and I spent our days and nights together. I met her sons by Chris Wilding, who was Elizabeth Taylor's son. She hid her cocaine use from them all, and in my naivete and need for the closeness we enjoyed, I never really stopped to consider what was so wrong with this picture. Looking back, I realize that in Aileen's mind she had already been served a death sentence, so she could party with abandon. I on the other hand did not have AIDS. I was not dying. To party with equal abandon was not necessarily a wise thing for me to do.
Aileen's home in Los Feliz was cluttered with the eclectic treasures reflective of her impressive past. Priceless original artwork hung from her walls. Pictures of several generations of Gettys stood out on the shelves: her older brother, John Paul III, who had been kidnapped and so famously had had his ear cut off; her parents in their Moroccan home; her legendary grandfather, who had become one of the first American billionaires. I'd never seen another place like it.
We did a lot of partying in that house. But on one particular evening, things really took a turn for the worse.
A group of friends were arriving for a party. Aileen and I had picked out matching black dresses and applied makeup between the lines of cocaine we snorted off the marble vanity in her bathroom. I had a glass of champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other as I descended the winding staircase to meet the guests. Aileen and I were both high and wild that night. We worked the room hand in hand, flaunting our girl-on-girl relationship, shadowed of course by the reality that one of us had AIDS.
I wondered just how obvious the daredevil in me was. Could I really have been the most unbridled one at the party? The truth is that my recklessness was simple foolishness. We all partied the night away, out under the stars. Harry Dean Stanton was there playing guitar. I sat on his lap for a minute and kissed his cheek before I moved on. Timothy Leary was holding court near a giant candelabra, leading a heavy discussion about the relationship between hallucinogens and death.
"Carre, come with me." Aileen smiled and winked. I followed her like a puppy through the courtyard and into the downstairs powder room.
"What's up?" I asked. I knew she had something up her sleeve.
She pulled out a little bag of white powder, a glass pipe, and a lighter.
"You gotta try a hit of this." She nodded, a smile turning the corners of her red lips upward. I placed my mouth on hers with a kiss.
"Yum," I said. "Do me up."
And before I knew it, I'd taken a hit of what I thought was cocaine. I had never smoked it but was willing at that point to try anything. What I did not expect was what came next.
I choked, staggered back, and instantly panicked. At once my heart was pumping furiously. A surge of nausea overwhelmed me.
As I began to sputter, drool started to stream from my mouth. I clutched my chest.
"Hhhh... Hel... Help me...." I could barely choke out the words. I was dying. I was sure I was dying. I could not breathe. The room was going black. "Aileen! Help me!" I could hear my voice cry. It sounded so far away.
Aileen grabbed my arm and held me to her frail body. "Hang on, Carre. You're okay. Just breathe. Breathe. In and out." She started banging on the door with one hand as she held me up. "Hey! Someone out there! Help!"
In rushed Stevie, her nurse. "What the hell is going on, Aileen?" he demanded. His hand quickly grasped my wrist and found my pulse. "Jesus Christ... You must get her to walk, Aileen. Come on, baby," I could hear him say. "Come on. Let's just walk around the block, Carre. Get a breath of fresh air."
One of my arms was slung over Stevie's shoulders and one over the very petite Aileen. Although I was taller than her by almost a foot, we were at that point equally light on our feet. Featherweights-a bit over a hundred pounds each.
Concerned faces turned to look at me as Stevie and Aileen got me out the front door. By this point the drool had turned to foam, and it felt as if my tongue was swelling and obstructing my breathing. Out in the fresh air, painfully slowly, I felt my breath return, my heart quiet, and a welcome exhaustion flow through me.
"Damn, Carre. That was fucked up. I mean really scary. You okay?" Aileen looked hard into my eyes.
"No. I'm not. What the hell happened?" I asked.
"It was crack. It was not coke. I thought... You'd like it," she whispered apologetically.
"I did not like it, A. I hate it. Why would someone want to get high on that shit?" I demanded. I was frightened. That was way too close a call for me. Our partying was getting out of hand. We both knew it.
I was never entirely sure how Aileen managed to ravish drugs the way she did in light of her diagnosis. When questioned, all she would say was that sometimes that was the only thing that got her through the day, through the fatigue, through the endless medications she had to take to stay alive. It occurred to me at that moment that we were not a good influence on each other.
But Aileen and I were more than partners in crime. We were lovers who guarded each other's secrets. We held each other's lies as tightly as we held each other's hand. Together we were able to soothe the profound abandonment we felt from our families and from the long line of boys and men who had come and gone in our lives. We were both misfits, misfits who held court together and kept each other company.
I had suspected that Mickey might be tapping the phones. Even when he was away, he always seemed to know too much. His questions were pointed and demanding, his interrogations endless. One evening, standing in the kitchen drinking my soup, I was on the phone with my sister.
"Chrisse," I confided, "I think I'm in love."
"Of course you are, silly!" she said, assuming I was talking about Mickey.
"No, I mean I think I'm in love... With a woman."
Silence hung in the air. Her shock was disguised in her desire to be open, but I knew she was concerned.
"With who?" she asked quietly.
"Aileen. Aileen Getty," I answered. And that was that. The damage was done.
The very next day, Mickey arrived at Benedict Canyon. His return home was unexpected, and he was cold and curt. He grabbed my hand and led me into the office, sat me down on the couch, and walked over to the stereo system. I had a hunch there was a problem, but I was still shocked when he pressed "play" and I heard my conversation with my sister repeated. The cat was out of the bag.
Mickey paced back and forth. "How could you, Otis?" he screamed. He was furious. And no doubt confused. How could a woman have won my love? Was I a dyke? Was I stupid? His rant went on and on, and in my humiliation and despair I could only sit and weep.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry!" I wailed. "I do not know how this happened. You're gone! Always gone!" I cried. "I'm alone! Always alone!" I tried to make my case, I pleaded, and I agonized. I was desperate.
"Do you love her? Do you really love her? Did you fuck her? Does she kiss your pussy?" Mickey was seething.
I sat silent for a moment, then tried to gather up all my will and all my strength.
"No. She does none of that. We have never... Fucked," I said simply.
"Then what? What the fuck is it? What does she have that I do not? What does she give you that I do not? "
"Love. Friendship." My answer was that simple, but it was still beyond him, the macho hetero male that he was.
His hand came down across my face. Hard. An open palm, then a backhand. I went flying across the room. Blood trickled from my nose. I must deserve this, I thought.
"Oh, Otis. What have you done? What have you made me do?"He wiped a tear from his face. He was crushed. And so was I.
I made a move to hold him. But he pushed me back again. I could see in that moment he despised me. I was everything he thought I might turn out to be.
"Do not you see? That's why I have to tap the fucking phones. That's why I have to keep my bros with you always."
I could not be trusted. I never could. And never would be again.
"So these are the new rules, you little cunt," he hissed at me. "You are never, ever, ever to see Aileen again. You will obey me. You will be here. You will do as I say."
"But... But," I stammered. I was not sure I wanted this. Any of this, any more of his rules. I was at a breaking point. I could not stay. But I could not go either. I was in hell.
"My way or the highway, Carre. You got it?"
He stood to leave. And as I heard his Harley revving up outside, I realized I was being left again. Alone in that big fucking house. Quietly, I walked up the stairs to our bathroom and retrieved a bottle of sleeping pills. The blood from my nose had dried on my cheeks. My eye was swelling from the force of his fist. "I can not stay, and I can not go," I said out loud. But maybe there was another way.
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