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Grabbing a bottle of beer from the night table, I counted out the small white pills: One, two, three, four. . . swallow. Five, six, seven, eight. . . swallow. I cried as I counted. I cried as I swallowed. I just wanted it all to be gone. I wanted to be home. I wanted to call Aileen. But instead I swallowed every pill in the bottle, finished the beer, and lay down on the bed.

I guess I'm taking the highway, Mick,I thought. And with that, I closed my eyes.

ON THE PSYCH WARD

I awoke at the Cedars-Sinai emergency room in Beverly Hills as a tube was being pulled out of my throat. In the distance I could hear nurses whispering in excited tones. As I strained to regain consciousness, I still could not hear exactly what they were saying. I lifted my hand to wipe my face but was stopped by the IV that was in my arm. Panic set in as I looked around, realizing that I was not at home, I was not alone, and I was not dead either. My head pounded, my body ached. I was terrified.

"That's Carre Otis," one nurse said behind the thin curtain that had been drawn for privacy. "Mickey Rourke's wife."

"Why the hell would she be so stupid?" another voice chimed in. "These young models... Christ, they've got no idea what they have!"

Even as sedated as I was, I could feel my blood begin to boil.

"I know! Can you imagine? Married to an actor..." the first voice continued. "She has it all. Stupid, stupid girl."

I was fuming. How could these bitches possibly know what I had? What I felt? What my life was like? I stood up, planted my bare feet on the cold linoleum floor, and staggered toward the curtain, steadying myself on the metal pole from which a bag of fluid hung. Throwing the curtain open, I shrieked, "Fuck you! Say it to my face if you think I'm a stupid bitch!"

I knew I was going too far, but I could not stop myself. I was at my most desperate point, I was totally vulnerable, and complete strangers were judging me. I'd been silenced for too long. A primal scream was building in my diaphragm.

"Get the doctors!" one of them yelled. "We need to sedate her! Another crazy..."

The nurse's look made it clear how pathetic she thought I was. If I'd had the strength, I would have lunged at her. But I was weak beyond words. And defeated in more ways than one. I did not have any fight left in me.

As a fresh syringe of medication was pushed into my IV, I collapsed back onto the hospital bed. I was cold, so very cold.

Just then Mickey and his manager walked in. I thought I would never see him again. Mickey pulled up a chair and sat next to me, gingerly picking up my hand, curling his fingers around mine. "Otis, what have you done?" He was as confused as I was. It was a fucked-up situation. We were both living in our own dark movies. And we were both in total despair.

The nurses hovered. The monitors beeped. We waited under the harsh fluorescent lights, both of us wanting to say so much but neither of us finding the words.

A gray-haired woman with a clipboard entered and in a nasal voice began to ask me questions: "For purposes of last rites in case of possible death, what is your religion, ma'am?"

Mickey, a devout Catholic, quickly responded, "Catholic."

Enraged, I challenged him. "Buddhist," I replied.

He swallowed hard, shaking his head at me. But I had had it. Since we met, I'd been separated from everything that made me me.The very essence of me, what had attracted Mickey to me in the first place-my strength and spirituality-had all been torn away. He was forever in competition with that power: It felt as if I was like a bird to him. A free bird that needed to be caught and tamed. But as it was turning out, I would rather be dead than tamed.

"The doctor will be with you in a moment," the woman said, nodding sympathetically toward Mickey. Then, after scribbling some notes, she pushed her pen behind her ear and left the partitioned room we were in.

Mickey's disappointment in me was palpable. I realized that he was ashamed. He wanted to keep this out of the papers for several reasons, not the least of which was that he had a movie opening. This would certainly put a damper on things.

A young doctor arrived. Clearly smitten with Mickey, he stumbled for a moment before regaining his composure and sense of protocol. "Well, Ms. Otis. We're concerned about you." He spoke in a grave tone.

I nodded, beginning to sense the seriousness of my actions. "I know. Umm... It's just been a really hard time. But I'm sure... Sure I'll be fine. I just need to rest." Tears started to roll down my cheeks. I was scared. And I actually was notso sure I was going to be okay.

"We want to keep you for observation. I'm going to place a mandatory seventy-two-hour hold on you."

"What? No. I mean I amfine. I just want to go home. I'm going to be fine, "I declared, doing my best to gather my wits and try to convince him. Mickey looked on quietly. I had the distinct feeling it would be a relief for him if they did not let me go .

The doctor switched to my first name. "Carre, excuse me, but you just swallowed an entire prescription of sleeping pills. You have had your stomach pumped. You are in an emergency room. And right now I believe that the best place for you to recover is in our mental ward. It will give you the time you need to quiet down and rest and us the time we need to monitor you while your body tries to rid itself of the excess of drugs in your system. "

The decision was final. It would be useless to try to talk him out of it.

I looked at Mickey, staring into his eyes, pleading with him to help, but he also recognized that the deal was done. I was devastated. Terrified. Washed up and unsure of what would come next.

Mickey gave me a look, a tear welling in his eye, but just like that it was gone. He would not, could not, let himself feel this one. It was too fucked up. Too big. Too off the charts for him to even attempt to deal with. It felt a lot like the dismissal I'd received from my parents every time I tried to get their attention. My actions were not appropriate. Iwas not appropriate. And again I was left.

Mickey excused himself to go have a smoke, and I was wheeled upstairs to Thalians Mental Health Center.

The elevator doors parted on the third floor, and it was as if I had entered another world. I was mesmerized by the patients and awed by the sheer fact that I was now one of them. Is this where I really belong?I wondered. And for that moment in time, I knew the answer. Yes. It is.

All I could do was lie in that small bed, curled up in a fetal position under the covers. Shivering and weeping, in and out of sweats and nausea, I relived those last moments at home when the despair was so heavy and I thought all I wanted was to die. Or did I? Perhaps I just did not have the tools to live ordie. I was sad for myself. Sad for the little girl in me who was still so fucking wounded. I wanted my mom. I wanted my dad. I wanted to call someone, but there was no one I could call. I moved in and out of dreams and nightmares during that long, restless sleep.

Around 2:00 A.M. my hospital roommate, Grace, was delivered back into the room. She was the sweetest little old lady. She had not said much before they wheeled her away. I was not sure where they were taking her. Everything was kept covert on the ward. But when she returned, she was left on the bed in a slump. She did not move. She just cried softly for the daughter who she said had passed away. She, too, was utterly alone.

Together Grace and I wept through the night, strangers in the dark, back to back, just feet from one another, hearing each other's cries. Sadness and sorrow all around. When I asked the nurse what had happened, she quietly answered that Grace had had another round of shock treatments.

By day two I was beginning to emerge from my fog. My eyes were seeing again. My nose smelling. My hands working. My heart feeling. It was clear to me that I did not belong in the mental ward. I knew I needed to do whatever it took to get through the seventy-two-hour hold so I could move on. I did not want to live my life like this.

As I looked around from my perch on a couch in the sunroom, I saw a woman about forty years old who called herself Butch. She walked back and forth talking to herself, farting loudly and frequently into the diaper she wore. Butch was a stone lesbian and had an eye for me. I kept my distance.

Just like Grace and Butch, every patient had a story, a fascinating and disturbing story. To be part of their reality, if only for a moment, was a profound and painful lesson. There was no special treatment for me. Diva behavior was not allowed. I had to be part of the group's activities: the random story times, the meals, the mandatory arts-and-crafts hour. Deviating from the rules was seen as a sign of disobedience. I did my best to check my attitude at the door and behave. I had incentive. And I was lucid enough to have a plan.

I came to know the stiff, shambling movement of the patients on the ward as the "Thorazine shuffle." Thorazine was the standard medication administered to patients in an effort to keep the unit quiet and tame.

During those seventy-two hours, I had time to think about the mentors and teachers who had so far touched my life. For all my misfortune, I had also been very lucky. There were several women who stood out as powerhouses, great archetypal mothers. Nan was one. Tsultrim was another. They had imparted their teachings to me, and they had shared lessons I'd needed to learn.

The passion to live was in my heart. To thrive-not to die, here, now, like this. I consciously breathed that in and out, trying to fill myself with that intention. I had come this far, I thought. I can do this,I repeated to myself. And somewhere inside me a conviction ripened. I knew with certainty I would survive.

That night I sat by my window looking down onto the traffic below. I knew that Mickey's premiere party was being held just across the street at Chaya Brasserie on Alden Drive. As luck would have it, I could see the photographers and the snaps of light exploding as Mickey entered his party. It was both devastating and telling to be a prisoner by my own hand, unable to be part of that unfolding scene. And in that stark contrast between the grimness of the locked ward and the celebration going on just a few stories down, I gained a profound perspective on my life. It is a moment I will never forget, a feeling I will hold with me always.

As bad as things would get in the future, I would never be back in a place like this. Somewhere in that hospital ward, the warrior woman in me began her resurrection. I would never attempt suicide again. But having the courage to live did not necessarily mean that I had the courage to leave my husband. I still had years to go with Mickey.

THE SIMPSON SUMMER, CASES OF SPOUSAL ABUSE

On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson was brutally murdered. The news shocked the world. A few days later, millions of us stayed glued to the TV, watching her ex-husband, O. J. Simpson, flee down the 405 freeway with what seemed like every cop in L.A. trailing behind. As the truth came out about O.J.'s long history of violence toward his ex-wife, the extraordinary events of that week marked a moment when we learned that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere. Often where we least expected it.

By this time my world was upside down. Not even I could keep up with the twists and turns in our on-again, off-again relationship. It had all become such a chore. Every time I thought it was over, there would be another round to endure. I was exhausted. Our marriage was fueled by fire and lies, passion and dependence. We were both acting out, alone with each other as well as publicly. As the days and months passed, our addictive behavior grew even worse. I was not suicidal. But I was not really living either.

Just weeks after the Simpson murders, we reached another moment we thought would surely be our final breaking point. At least I did.

Mickey and I were "off." Again. I was living in a little place of my own on Orlando Avenue, but we were still in contact. Even in those moments of separation, I was not free from him. I was addicted to him, obsessed with reports of who he was with and where he was going. It was painful to be married yet estranged. Painful to try putting my career back together again while teetering on the brink of obscurity. I had become, in my illness, as unreliable as my husband had forced me to be.

One night in the summer, after I'd returned from dinner and a few margaritas at a local Tex-Mex place, I received a call from him.

"Otis... Let's talk. We gotta try and work this out... We gotta figure this out. You're my wife," he pleaded into the phone.

I agreed. We were both in trouble-heartbroken and unable to repair ourselves. We were under the influence and not yet willing to take a look at that huge piece of our puzzle. Most troublesome of all was that we were unable to see the repeat pattern we'd fallen into. We would meet to talk; passion would take over; we'd give in to our hope; then we would reawaken to all that was wrong in the first place and the fights would ensue. It was how it always went. As regular as clockwork.

It was bewildering that we had not gotten over each other sooner.

That July evening was no different. The arguments began. And then things turned physical. How it would start, and how bad things would become, varied. Either the fights were instigated by myrelentless questions as to whom he'd been seeing or sleeping with-or the reverse. The only problem was, Mickey was stronger than me physically. I could never win a fight. That night Mickey chased me through the loft. He slapped me. And when I fell, he kicked me in the back.

Again I ran. I headed back to my Orlando house, back to my dogs, and back to hiding in my "other" world. That's when I finally admitted to myself that this was abuse-especially the physical stuff-and that it was not okay. Whether it was because of the fear aroused by Nicole's Simpson's death or just my time to see it all in a new way, I did something I'd never done before. With the coaxing of a friend, two days later I went to the police department and asked to speak in private with an officer.

I had wanted to understand what it would take to get a restraining order on Mickey. I was scared of the volatility of our life together but also deeply concerned about protecting his anonymity. In addition, I was terrified by the story surrounding the Simpson murders. I did not entirely believe I was in actual danger of being killed, but I wanted to have some sort of plan if I were ever to need it. The officer asked if I was in an abusive relationship, and I answered yes, maybe. I was asked if I had any injury marks on my body, and I responded that I did. I was told that for me to be taken seriously if and when I called for help in the future, they would need to have something on file. After a few Polaroids were taken of my bruises, I was informed that the police would have to intervene.

I was shocked. I had not wanted to press charges. I wanted help and support, but I did not yet know what that meant for me. In my naivete and in light of the new warnings regarding spousal abuse, I was unable to dissuade the police. The situation was out of my hands. The law was stepping in, whether I liked it or not. I was devastated. And of course my husband was as well. Looking back, I see that there was a perfect storm that had manifested. And the LAPD wanted to make a point. They took domestic abuse seriously. They were not going to let another potential O.J. escape.

Mickey was arrested. His mug shot was taken and leaked to every newspaper across the country. The police and the D.A. saw the celebrity aspect as an opportunity. And I could not help but feel as if I, not Mickey, were the one to blame. I regretted going to the police and asking for guidance. I ended up being the one who felt ashamed. I should have known better,I thought; I should never have said a word.I was a wreck.

The press went wild. I was quickly on the defensive. Yes, I was in an abusive marriage, but in my mind that was a private matter. I wanted to find ways to stop the violence, but it certainly was not by publicly lynching my husband. I felt betrayed. When I finally had sought help, it seemed as if everything were wrenched out of my hands. Truth be told, the arrest made matters much worse. It had me in a tailspin, worrying again how I could protect Mickey. Helping him became my obsession. The guilt was overwhelming, as was the fear of what Mickey might do to me. Or to himself.

I hired the same lawyer who was handling the abuse case between fellow model Stephanie Seymour and Mickey's friend, musician Axl Rose. It was explained to me that if I was sure I did not want to press charges, the best course of action was to simply not show up on the trial date. The only challenge was that if I were subpoenaed and was present in the state of California and did not show up to the trial, then I, too, would be arrested. I was baffled by the legal system, furious that the tables were turning on me. So I made a decision. I would leave California and go to New York, staying away for as long as it took.

Not only did I feel let down by the police department, but I was terrified of Mickey's wrath. No doubt that in his mind this was the biggest betrayal he'd ever suffered. I had been disloyal to him. Mickey often said he "lived and died by the sword." I thought about that phrase quite a bit.

Textbook domestic-abuse cases often evidence the victim's tendency to protect the perpetrators. And in many ways this was true in my case. Is there ever an acceptable level of abuse? Now, of course I know that there is not. Did I fuel some of the fires between us? Absolutely. Did I have the power to combat Mickey's iron fist? No, I was no match for it. That was just the reality.

And so I fled. In New York City, I vowed to keep quiet and protect what was left of our marriage. I was determined to remain silent. Later the guilt would have me return to him, to undo what had been done and prove that I was a woman who could protect my husband and change my ways. For the time being, all I knew was that I had disobeyed Mickey. And that was a bad, bad thing. In my mind I was convinced of my own culpability and resolved to somehow make it right.

In the interim I went back to work. I tried to leave California as far behind as I could. I walked the runway at New York Fashion Week in October 1994. Unfortunately, our drama erupted there as well. It was an absolute fucking disaster.

NEW YORK FASHION WEEK, 1994.

New York City was abuzz. It was the great fashion extravaganza, and it occurred only twice a year, for the spring-summer and fall-winter collections. Models, photographers, editors, and fashionistas as well as rock stars and actors flocked to the events, all angling for front-row seats facing the lithe beauties who stomped down the catwalks. Most of us had just flown in from the Milan shows that preceded New York Fashion Week. Although we were utterly exhausted, the electricity of the city and the full-on theatrical productions the designers staged did wonders to lift everyone's energy and spirit.

Runways were never my forte. I did not have the walk down, and I hated being part of the mob scene backstage, which always felt to me like I was one in a herd of cattle. Although I did not have a practiced turn or pirouette, once I reached the end of the catwalk, I would always pause there for a moment, exuding my best fuck-you attitude while millions of flashbulbs went off. It was usually a blinding journey on the way back. I always felt as if my biggest achievement on the runway was to have just gotten myself up and down the length of it safely, without tripping over anyone or falling into the audience. The F-you stance was my attempt to cover up my nervousness. On occasion the anxiety showed right through anyway.

I'd been on the run since the summer. I had traveled to New York and Europe and now back again. Having made the decision not to testify against Mickey, I risked arrest for contempt of court if I returned to California too soon. I was steadfast in my commitment to keep my husband from being put behind bars. But my inability to go home, and the reasons I could not, had me running on empty. The tabloids were still reporting on Mickey's comings and goings, as well as mine. And Los Angeles was still gripped by the O. J. Simpson case, which was now headed to trial. I was not entirely sure I could continue indefinitely to outrun the law's requests for me to testify.

The stresses of the court case and my relationship just added to the stress of the shows themselves. By 1994 I was no longer the "it" girl. There was a new crop of models that had emerged: the waifs. Kate Moss had entered the picture, defying the previous law that said a top model had to be tall. The other new emerging faces included Amber Valletta, Beri Smither, and Shalom Harlow. All were inhumanly lean creatures. And then there was the new star that really ruled the scene: heroin.

The drug had quite visibly taken the industry by storm. The year before, Calvin Klein's campaign featuring Kate Moss had led to the coining of the new term "heroin chic." It was how a certain waif-like look was described-one that celebrated a wasted, skin-and-bones aesthetic. This term was often an accurate one; a lot of the models were on the drug. But little did most of us know that there was no playing around with it. Heroin was really an all-or-nothing drug. You did not use it recreationally. And if that's what you were proclaiming (as many people in the industry were at the time), you were full of shit.

It dawned on me in Milan that the other girls might be using it, but I had not quite put two and two together. I was still hooked on pills and was not yet on the prowl for my next high. But I do recall a new walk that manifested itself on the runways that season, as well as the grunge makeup and painfully obvious protruding hip bones. Comparatively, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Stephanie Seymour, and I were rounder than this lot. And just like that, I felt as if I did not quite fit in again. At least in my mind. The need to curb my appetite, suppress my individuality, and be like everyone else returned with a vengeance.

It did not help that when I was in Milan, racing through outfit changes backstage at the Versace show, famed fashion editor Polly Mellen had come up to me and said in her deep-voiced, upper-crust manner, "My dear, you simply must do something about your profuse sweating. " She nodded for emphasis as she said the last word, then looked around furtively as if someone might have heard her say it.

"What?" I asked innocently, wiping beads of sweat from my forehead.

"And you must control your face, Carre," she continued. "You need to relax, my dear. If you are not relaxed, then for heaven's sake fake it." And with that, she was gone.

Keeping that note of advice in mind, I arrived in New York and checked into the Lowell hotel. I was to have one day of fittings for the Donna Karan show before Fashion Week began. The tents were already pitched in Bryant Park. Hotel rooms were sold out. There seemed to be models on every corner of the city.

My limo was waiting for me outside, but just as I was leaving my room, the bedside phone rang. "Hello?" I answered.

"Carre, my dear." It was Marie-Christine. I was happily working with her again. She had traveled with me to New York and was also staying at the Lowell. "We may have a small problem," she said.

"Oh, God. What now?" I had an idea of ??what the problem might be.

"It appears that your husband is here, in the city. He wants to get into the shows."

"What?" I shrieked. "Fuck him! That's not fair. That's not cool at all..." My voice trailed off. My heart was pounding out of my chest. "Why can not the man just leave me alone for a minute? This is mywork. This is what Ido! "I was fuming, but also frightened. Mickey had already done so much to derail my modeling career. I was working again, out of his sight and out of his control. I knew how much that bothered him, and I knew what he was capable of doing to reassert that control.

"Ma chere,there is nothing we can do. "M.C.'s voice was sympathetic but she was still delivering news I did not want to hear." Unless you have a restraining order, he can be at whatever show he likes. "

"I understand that, but... But is not there some alternative?" I persisted. The last thing I want to do is get to the end of a runway and stand face-to-face with him. Why does he have to do this? "Panic was setting in. As was the feeling that a scathing injustice was taking place. I felt like I was being stalked. I just wanted to be left alone so that I could do my job; I did not need any more drama.

"We can do our best to find out what shows he will go to and avoid him. As well, we can make a request that he does not attend the shows you are in." I was not terribly assured by the solution, but I knew that was the best anyone could do.

"Okay. But please, please, M.C., get on the phone and try to sort this out before we go to the tents?" I begged.

I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. It's going to be fine. I'm going to be fine,I soothed myself. So what if I was walking into a fucking circus ?!

My driver circled Bryant Park a few times as we determined which was the most secure way to enter the shows. The press had gathered at the main entrance, and I could already feel them descending like vultures. No doubt the story was out, and all I needed was a public run-in with Mickey.

"Here. Drop me here. I'll walk," I said, hoping that the paparazzi would have their eyes focused solely on the stretch limos that were pulling up in front of the main entrance. I stepped out of the car and into the gray fall afternoon, my Prada boots hitting the ground, my body ready to make a run for it.

"I'll see you after the show," the driver said. I nodded my thanks and hurried off through the gates, escaping the cameras that were still trained on the long line of limos. I wanted to avoid them at all costs.

A young guy with a walkie-talkie grabbed me by the arm and whisked me toward my first scheduled show. "Well, are not you causing a stir!" he exclaimed in an expression of mock surprise, his tone and his eyes showing both amusement and sympathy.

"I know... Can you believe it?" I laughed. "I just want the night to be over with."

He winked at me. "You'll be fine. Let's get you into hair and makeup."

Backstage was a blur of familiar madness. Half-naked models were being frantically swept through a production line, emerging at the other end coiffed and powdered. Wardrobe racks had been used to create temporary "dressing rooms," and each model's name, Polaroid, and list of outfit changes were hanging up. Their dressers were standing by, waiting for the green light that indicated the show had begun. Each show was the same. The same mayhem. The same setup. The same frenzy. And once the show began, the models would all line up and wait for someone to clap his or her hands and say, "Go!" or simply push them forward into the bright lights of the endless catwalk.

Some of the girls were great walkers. Totally confident. Some were not. It was hard for me to keep a straight face and harder still for me to walk a straight line. After all my experience, I simply was not good in heels. But I managed to get through the shows without a hitch. Outside, a media cyclone was brewing.

By now everyone knew that Mickey was at Fashion Week. Apparently I was not the only one to think that was nuts. Although he did not get into the Donna Karan show, he was at many others, engaged in his usual front-row note taking, focusing not on the outfits that were paraded past him but on the girls who wore them. Typical Mickey style.

Just as I was exiting the tents to get back into my limo, I saw him. And he saw me. He stopped in his tracks, and looks of both pain and fury moved across his face. Neither of us wanted a public scene. I turned on my heel and began to walk quickly in another direction. I had no problem backing away. But a photographer spotted the perfect lineup and signaled to the other paparazzi. Through blinding camera flashes, I dashed down the block, frantically looking around to see where my car was parked. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Mickey duck into his long white stretch limo, making his own escape from the madness. As soon as I could, I did the same. My car sped off, returning me to the Lowell in record time.

The next day the photos of our near encounter were all over the papers, eclipsing the coverage of the shows themselves. It was a nightmare. Whatever it did or did not do for Mickey's career, I knew it would not help mine. It was the shows and designers that should have been the stars of the day, not our stormy and scandalous marriage. No one in the industry liked headlines such as these. Least of all me.




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