Prologue: A Rude Awakening
I felt the cold, steel blade of a knife pressed against my throat. In the blackness of the night I could barely make out a shadowy figure leaning over me. I jumped up and opened my mouth to scream, but it was like one of those nightmares in which you try to scream but nothing comes out.
The intruder hit me so hard with his fist that I flew backward across the room, slamming the back of my head onto the chest of drawers as I fell to the floor. He pounced on me, holding me down, the knife tight against my throat.
“Don’t make another move or I’ll kill you,” he threatened.
He mounted me and forced himself inside me. “Please, God,” I prayed to myself, “Don’t let him kill me.” I kept praying silently, over and over, trying to astral-project myself away from what was happening to my body. When he was done, he held the knife against my throat again.
“Don’t move.” He ripped the sheet off the bed and tore it into pieces. He blindfolded me, put a gag in my mouth, and tied my hands and feet together. I could feel him standing over me in the dark. Then he did a strange thing—he turned on the light.
“Oh my God,” I heard him gasp, and he quickly turned it off again.
Then there was only silence.
I lay there, afraid to move, afraid he might still be in my small apartment and make good on his threat. I waited another minute or two, maybe more, as I listened for any sign of his presence. It was dead quiet. I managed to turn myself over and inch my way toward the bathroom. I struggled to free my hands and pulled myself up on the sink, my feet still bound by the torn sheet.
As I removed my blindfold and gag, I too gasped at what I saw in the mirror. My face was swollen and bloody; my hair was caked with blood. I untied my feet and shakily walked back to the bedroom. A three-foot radius of the carpet was soaked with blood. I reached for the back of my head and felt the sticky, gaping gash that was still bleeding profusely.
None of this seemed real. I guess I was in shock. I called Billy, a friend of mine who lived in the next apartment building. “We have to call the police,” he told me.
“No, please!” I protested. I felt horrified and disgusted that I’d been raped. It was such a stigma in those days in Texas. He insisted, however, and two policemen arrived within half an hour.
“Did you know the man? Did you let him in?” the first officer asked.
“I don’t think it was anyone I know,” I said, “but I can’t be completely sure. It was so dark . . . ”
I told them I had chain-locked the door when my date had left earlier, and I showed them the open window over the sink where the screen had been pulled off and was still lying outside on the ground. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where the guy had broken in.
They continued to question me, but there was a suspicious, almost accusatory element to their questioning. I started to feel like I was the one who had committed the crime.
Finally, they took me to the emergency room. The doctor examined my head and said I needed a number of stitches. It hurt like hell. Then he did a vaginal examination and took a specimen of the semen. That disgusted me more than anything, to think I had this creepy rapist’s sperm inside me—what if I got pregnant?
When the doctor left the examining room, the two policemen returned to grill me.
“What did you do tonight?” one of the officers asked, a suspicious tone still in his voice.
I told them I had been on a date with a pilot from Trans Texas Airlines, for whom I was working as a stewardess. He was probably about thirty, which to me, eighteen at the time, was an “older man.”
Over dinner we had shared one of those giant Scorpions in a bowl with two straws, and I was pretty smashed by the time we got back to my apartment. We were kissing passionately on my sofa when his hands started wandering down my body. Drunk or not, I knew I wasn’t about to go any further. “I think maybe you should go now,” I told him. He protested but I was insistent. He left in a huff, slamming the door behind him. I chain-locked the door and went to bed. I fell into a deep sleep, and the next thing I knew I felt the knife at my throat.
The police asked if I’d take a lie detector test. Thinking back, I’m not even sure why it would have mattered if I’d let him in, which I didn’t. He still beat me up, raped me, and left me tied up and gagged, lying in a pool of blood.
“Yes, of course!” I tried to act confident, but I was so nervous I was shaking badly.
Later the policemen smugly informed me that the test showed I had lied about letting him in. I felt like I was being gaslighted. I clearly remember chain-locking the door after my date, and I knew without a doubt that I hadn’t let anyone in. I didn’t hear from the police again, and my rapist was never caught.
Afterward I felt terrible shame about being raped and I never told a soul. I knew I needed to get as far away from Texas as possible—away from the unhappy memories of my childhood, my drug-addicted mother, and this humiliating experience. What I didn’t know is that you can’t run forever . . .
This is not a story of rape, of surviving and coping with rape. I chose to open my memoir with this story because in many ways it marked a beginning for me. Because of it, I made the decision to leave Texas and start over again in New York, and that’s when my life really began to change.
For me, leaving home not only meant creating distance between myself and this event but also creating distance between myself and a painful childhood—a young girl struggling with abandonment, neglect, and parental alcoholism and addiction. A girl who grew into a young woman poised to become a model, actress, and wife and mother.
They say into every life a little rain must fall. Some of us get a trickle, others a deluge. In the end it’s the shelter we build within that keeps us safe and dry. It’s the way we put together what we’ve experienced and learned from our experiences that decides if we weather the storm or we crumble into rubble.
I spent roughly the first forty years of my life hiding the pain, pretending it didn’t exist, running as far away from it as I could get. After my second marriage failed, I fell to pieces. It was only after I discovered how to rebuild myself, my soul, through a deep sense of spirituality that I have been able to stand strong. Through divorces, the torment of my children’s addictions, the painful death of my closest friend—I owe the peace I have in my life to the structure I have built within.
I wanted to write this book for a few reasons. On the surface my life seems as if it was out of a story book. A Texas girl who grew up in terrible poverty, I ended up leading a pretty glamorous life. I have rubbed elbows with luminaries. I was married to two very famous men. But I have endured plenty of pain under that sheen of glamour that people generally see when they look at me. Darkness, fear, and deep, horrible pain.
Just because you “live a fairytale” doesn’t mean “happily ever after” is a given; “happy” is something you have to make.
Which leads me to the most important reason I’m writing this book.
As I explained earlier, I used to deal with pain by running away, ignoring it, or burying it deep within. Those tendencies of mine nearly caused me to self-destruct. Only when I was able to actually stand and face the pain, to really deal with my demons, was I able to find some degree of peace.
Finding peace and a sense of well-being from the strength that comes from within is my hope for anyone who reads this book.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
My very first memory was one of fear. I was only fourteen months old, but I remember it vividly. It was 1947, and my mother and I were on a train traveling from California back to her home in Nacogdoches, Texas.
She had just left my father, and they would never speak again nor would I ever see him. My mother held me up to the window so I could look out. We were crossing a trestle over a river far below, and to me it seemed as if we were suspended in air. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and that I would fall into the vast open space and never stop falling. It’s a feeling of fear and panic that has been a familiar thread throughout my life.
When Mother graduated from high school, she got a job as a waitress in a small local cafe. Restless, she went to Los Angeles to visit my uncle and ended up getting a job as a cocktail waitress. There she met my father, a handsome, charming ladies’ man who was a sergeant in the Army.
She fell madly in love with him and soon found out she was pregnant with me. They married, and Mother went to live with his parents, Hestro and Gladys Collins, in Santa Ana while Dad was stationed at an Army base in Washington State.
I never got the full story of what happened between my parents from my mother, but my grandmother later told me there had been a bitter breakup. Mother had told me often that it was plain to see he didn’t care about me, as he’d never sent me so much as a Christmas or birthday card. I never asked questions. I just accepted that I didn’t have a father like other kids did.
I have learned now, through reading and years of therapy, that for a woman, never knowing her father is more difficult than losing him through death because women who never know their fathers tend to search for that fantasy figure their whole lives. Consequently, they desperately seek men who they think will fill that void in their lives, yet rarely are these men able to do that because they’re generally workaholics, alcoholics, philanderers, or unavailable in some way. It’s certainly been my pattern in my life; looking for that “powerful daddy” that would love me and make me feel safe yet choosing men who couldn’t possibly fill those shoes.
Upon our return to Texas Mother left me with my grandmother to work as a cocktail waitress in Houston. I lived with my grandmother, whom I called “Mama,” and my uncle in a tiny house with a couple rooms and outdoor plumbing. When I was almost three, Mother remarried and brought me to Houston to live with her and her new husband, Al Welch, a butcher, in a one-room garage apartment. He drank a lot, had a terrible temper, and didn’t care for me.
One night Al came home drunk and went into a rage because I had left my doll carriage on the steps. He threw it down the stairs and threatened to throw me down after it. My mother told him if he touched me, she’d kill him. They had a terrible fight and she took me out into the night to walk for what seemed like hours, my small hand clutching onto hers. When she felt it was safe to return, we quietly snuck into the kitchen and she made me some white rice with milk, sugar, and cinnamon in it. It was my favorite thing to eat—poor man’s rice pudding. I remember lots of nights like that—walking in the dark with Mother holding my hand, waiting for Al to calm down or pass out. I couldn’t understand what I did wrong, why he didn’t like me. I desperately wanted him to love me and be my daddy.
When I was four, my mother divorced Al Welch and I was sent back to live with Mama. There were no children my age to play with. I used to take my doll and have tea parties and long conversations with the neighbor’s cows at the top of the hill, until my grandmother heard a rabid fox had been spotted in the woods so I was no longer allowed to play there.
I also amused myself by playing in the chicken coop. My best friends were two big black hens, which I named Lulu and Tulu. I loved those hens with all my heart, and they would come running to see me every morning when I went out to the chicken yard (or, more likely, to get the chicken feed I was bringing to them). One day, they disappeared and I was heartbroken. My grandmother told me that the fox had gotten them. I was devastated when I was older and learned that she had made chicken and dumplings out of them.
The highlight of my life was my mother’s occasional visits. Every Friday night I’d sneak out of my bed and wait hopefully by the window for the sound of a car approaching down the lonely dirt road. When she did come, it was always late at night. She’d take the bus from Houston and a taxi would bring her out to our house. When that taxi pulled into our driveway, it was the happiest moment of my life. I’d fly out the door into her arms.
Life was fun and exciting when Mother was around. She always seemed so full of life, and I thought she was the most exciting, glamorous woman in the world. She was movie-star beautiful, with long, auburn hair, large green eyes, and a beauty mark above her lips. She always wore high-heeled ankle strap shoes and dresses with shoulder pads and nipped-in waists. Mother said people told her all the time that she looked like Hedy Lamar or Gene Tierney.
My mother decided she was going to bring me to Houston to live with her. Mama was hurt and angry that Mother was taking me away from her—after all, she’d taken me all that time. She’d grown very attached to me and thought of me as “her little girl.” I felt torn because of my loyalty and love for my Mama, but I wanted to be with Mother more than anything in the world.
Excerpt from Chapter 3
Mother and I moved into a small, one-bedroom apartment. I slept on the sofa in the tiny living room; Mother stayed in the small bedroom with the curtains drawn shut and seldom came out. When she did, she was completely loaded on the numerous pills she kept by her bedside.
My friends were all going away to college, but because I couldn’t afford to go, I got a job as a receptionist at Home Savings and Loan Company in downtown Houston. My mother was in really bad shape now, taking more pills than ever, and had started hallucinating. One day, I found her huddled in a corner of her bedroom, a butcher knife in her hand. “Come any closer and I’ll kill you,” she slurred.
I called my stepfather for help, and later that day two men in white uniforms came into the house and forced her into a strait jacket and into the waiting ambulance. She was heavily drugged and barely coherent, but she was struggling against them as they dragged her out. When she saw me she hissed, “I’m going to kill you for this!”
I didn’t cry. I just watched numbly as they took my mother away, screaming and cursing. As I had learned to do earlier, I just stuffed my feelings deep down inside and tried not to think about it.
Mother was sent to the State Psychiatric Hospital in Austin, Texas, and spent three months there. I went to visit her several times, and seeing my once-beautiful mother locked away with seriously deranged patients was frightening and excruciatingly painful.
Many years later a therapist who specialized in drug addiction told me that the doctors never diagnosed her real problem: drug-induced psychosis. What she really needed was a drug rehabilitation program, but the many drug and alcohol treatment centers that we have today didn’t exist then. The doctors there treated her with more drugs and even gave her electric shock treatments.
By the time Mother was ready to come home, my stepdad moved us into yet another tiny, one-bedroom apartment. It was a matter of weeks before Mother was back in her dark bedroom, drugged out on pills— worse than ever. I had hoped and prayed for years that our family situation would change, but it only got worse. I wanted to get away in the worst way.
The Glamourous Life
Excerpt from Chapter 4
I arrived in New York City, nervous and excited, leaving behind me the memory of the rape, my broken engagement, and, most of all, my untenable family situation. My mother had gone to stay with my grandmother in Nacogdoches. I could only hope that somehow she would get better there.
I had saved a small amount of money, but I needed a job right away.
I found work as a factory model. My job was to have the sample pieces of clothes fitted on me. It was anything but glamorous, but the people were nice and it paid enough money for me to feel a little more secure in the big city while I pursued my dream.
The day of my interview with Ford Models, I took the subway uptown then walked over to the brownstone that housed the prestigious agency. I walked up to the second floor and nervously entered the reception area. It must have been so obvious that I was a hick from out of town: I was wearing a pink wool dress, tan high heels, and a coat with a little mink collar that I had bought on layaway in Houston. My hair was carefully curled in a flip, held in place by a ton of Aqua Net. I sat nervously clutching my “Most Beautiful Senior” yearbook photo.
I had been waiting for what seemed an eternity when suddenly a woman came out from the back and looked me up and down through glasses perched on her nose. “Why are you keeping this pretty girl waiting?” she asked the receptionist. It was Eileen Ford herself ! “Come with me,” she said, and I followed her into a small office where an older blonde woman was sitting. She introduced me to Sonny Harnet, who handled all the new models, and left the room.
Sonny looked at my photo, asked me where I was from, and told me to go down to the Bonwit Teller’s cosmetic counter, where the makeup artist there would show me how to do my makeup. She took my phone number and sent me on my way. Oh, and she also told me I should lose five pounds! I wasn’t sure what had just happened. Did this mean I was now a Ford model? Just like that? Or would I never hear from her again? As instructed, I went to Bonwit’s, where I watched attentively as my makeup was done.
Sonny called me just as I got home with a list of photographers whom I was to go see, along with their addresses. I learned that these appointments were called “go sees.” For a new model starting out, the first prerequisite was to build a portfolio of pictures obtained by “going to see” various photographers who would decide if they wanted to photograph you or not. Like the models sent to them, the photographers were also mostly young and starting out. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t very good, and Sonny rejected a great number of the photos they took of me.
My childhood had not exactly equipped me with strong self- esteem, and at the time these photos were being rejected, I didn’t consider that it might have been because of the lighting or the inexperience of the photographer; I thought something was wrong with me. I was ugly, not photogenic. I started to feel like I was under a microscope and that every flaw on my face and body were now magnified. My face was too long, my jaw was too prominent, my forehead was too high. And I still needed to lose five pounds.
I had never tried to lose weight before. I’d been trying to gain weight all my life! Also, I’d never realized before how food was such a big part of my life, especially when I moved to New York and was so lonely. The main thing I looked forward to was eating, and boy, could I eat. I could put away a whole pizza easily, followed by a pint of ice cream. When I was told I had to take off those pounds, all I could think about was eating.
Everywhere I looked there was food.
Food was definitely becoming a destructive element in my life. The more I tried not to eat, the more I obsessed about eating. I’d starve myself all day, then I’d eat way too much and feel horribly guilty.
One night, alone in my apartment, I ended up finishing off a pint of ice cream after dinner. I couldn’t stop myself. Afterward I felt stuffed and sick, and the ice cream felt like it was almost up to my throat. I leaned over the toilet, sort of belched, and out it all came—the ice cream and the rest of the dinner.
And now I had another problem.
Bulimia wasn’t something anyone was really aware of in those days.
I’d never heard of it. I just knew I’d found a solution to my overeating and inability to lose weight. I could eat whatever I wanted and then get rid of it afterward.
I became a binge-and-purge eater. I could no longer eat two cookies; I had to finish the package, and then I had to get them out of my body so I didn’t gain weight. I began to feel like I couldn’t stop. Binging and purging was all I thought about. I always felt horrible afterward, sick and guilty and ashamed of what I was doing, but I couldn’t seem to stop, and I certainly couldn’t ask anyone else for help or advice.
At this point I began suffering from periodic depression, especially when nothing seemed to be moving forward in my modeling career. I started to feel strangely disassociated from myself, and I needed something to hold on to. I needed to feel some sense of a foundation beneath my feet. It was like when I was a baby and felt panicked on the train, that there was nothing that could stop me from falling.
But I was determined to be a success. That was one thing that saved me and kept me going—my relentless determination to be somebody.
The other was a blind faith that God or someone or something up there was watching over me. Thank God for all those years of going to church and reading the Bible with my grandmother—it gave me something to hold on to.
Excerpt from Chapter 6
David Gilmour, a friend I occasionally had dinner with, invited me to Le Club, a very exclusive private dinner club on East 54th Street. David and I were dancing and he stopped to say hello to the man dancing next to us with his date, and this man just happened to be George Hamilton.
“George,” David said, introducing me, “this is Alana Collins.”
“Yes, of course. We met in Acapulco. So nice to see you again,” he said, oozing charm.
“You too,” I replied, smiling politely.
The next night I was out again with David at Le Club, and again we ran into George. We stopped and said hello, and he and David chatted briefly. I thought it was quite a coincidence we would run into him two nights in a row. I also thought he was just as handsome as when I had seen him in Acapulco.
The next day I flew out to Los Angeles for a modeling job. My first night there a few of us went to the Candy Store. I was dancing with a friend when someone pinched my rear. I whirled around to find George standing there, with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye.
It had to be more than coincidence that we would run into each other three nights in a row—on different coasts! He got my number before I left, and I wondered if I’d actually hear from him.
He did call the next day and invited me out for that evening. I carefully selected my wardrobe. I wore hip-hugger pants, a silk shirt tied at the waist, and my favorite gold-chain belt I’d bought in St. Tropez the past summer. I followed the directions he gave me and drove through large iron gates and up a long driveway to an imposing stone Tudor mansion in my beat-up rented Corvair. The house was enormous and impeccably decorated in priceless French antiques. It even had a ballroom!
I couldn’t believe people actually lived like this, though I tried not to act too impressed as he showed me around.
We headed to the Candy Store with a couple of George’s friends.
While we danced, George leaned in and said, “I’m going to Europe next week. Would you like to come?”
As tempting as his offer was, I knew there was no way I could. “It sounds great,” I said, “but I’m sorry. I just don’t know you well enough to go on a trip with you.”
He seemed to accept my reply, and after a few more dances, we headed back to his house. “Would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?” he asked, as he walked me to my car.
“Sure,” I replied, and I bid my polite goodnight. I could hardly wait to see him again.
The following evening George came to pick me up in a white Cadillac convertible. He was wearing a purple-and-white checked cowboy shirt—right out of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” If that wasn’t the way to a Texas gal’s heart, I don’t know what was!
George was not only handsome and charming; he was also smart, well read, and had a great sense of humor. I was definitely smitten but trying not to show it.
After dinner and a movie, we went back to his house and shared a joint in the ballroom. He kissed me for a while then took my hand and led me upstairs to a huge bedroom suite, all decorated in red silk and beautiful antiques. There was a large canopied bed on a platform with steps. It looked like a bed a king would sleep in!
I was incredibly nervous because I was so inexperienced sexually, but the grass had certainly helped. We made love and eventually fell asleep. I didn’t hear from him the next day and soon started to worry that I wasn’t going to hear from him again.
I got a call from Eileen Ford asking me if I wanted to go to London and I accepted. Later that day George called and I told him I had to fly back to New York on the red-eye. “That’s great!” he said. “Let’s fly together.
Come to dinner at my house tomorrow night and we’ll go to the airport afterward.”
After dinner, we flew together to New York. Just before we landed at JFK, George headed to the restroom and changed his complete wardrobe!
He then flew on to South America, and we made plans to meet in Saint Tropez.
Two days later I left for London and a week of shooting there. I hadn’t heard a word from George and was starting to worry. I had dinner with some friends in London who also knew George, and they told me he was notoriously unreliable. Now I was really concerned and anxious.
In London I also had dinner with Peter Sellers, who wasn’t like the funny characters he played. He was actually sort of morose. He picked me up in his Rolls Royce and we went to dinner at Mr. Chow. Afterward he took me to Kensington Palace to meet his friend, Princess Margaret, and her husband, Lord Tony Snowden.
When we arrived, Warren Beatty was playing piano, with Princess Margaret sitting beside him. At this point in time Bonnie and Clyde was a monster hit and he was a huge star. He and Princess Margaret were playing the piano.
I was wearing a bracelet made out of elephant hair and gold, which was the new hot “must have” from Paris, and Tony Snowden admired it. Peter took me aside and suggested I give it to him, and I did, though I wasn’t really happy about it.
When it was time to leave, Warren asked if we could give him a ride back to the Dorchester Hotel and we did. I was pretty impressed with this life I seemed to be living, but as always, I acted as if I was totally used to meeting royalty and movie stars.
When we dropped Warren off, Peter suggested we stop by his house to smoke a joint.
“Oh, God,” I thought. “Is he going to try to kiss me?” I had no romantic interest in him at all. I was much too crazy about George. I took a couple of puffs and we chatted a few minutes. When I told him, “I have to work early in the morning. I really should leave now,” he was a perfect gentleman and drove me back to the hotel.
Finally, the day I was supposed to leave for Saint Tropez I received a telegram from George telling me to meet him at the Byblos Hotel. I was overjoyed and nervously looking forward to seeing him.
Excerpt from Chapter 13
Noted Hollywood agent Irving Lazaar and his wife, Mary, invited me to one of their parties, and Tina Sinatra and I made plans to attend together.
We also asked George to escort us. Even with our divorce finalized,
George and I had remained close.
George, Tina, and I were seated at a table with the Countess Marina Cicogna, her amore, Florinda Balkin, the beautiful Brazilian actress, and Rod Stewart with his assistant Tony Toon. I noticed Rod staring at me over dinner, though I pretended I didn’t.
After dinner a group of us headed to the Daisy where everyone was drinking champagne, dancing, and having a great time. Rod asked me to dance. I was surprised but I accepted, and he was a great dancer. For the first time I started to think of him as kind of sexy.
The next day Tony called. “Rod would really like to go out with you,” he told me.
“Really?” I replied. “Well doesn’t he know how to use the phone?”
I still hadn’t heard from Rod personally yet when Maggie Abbot invited me to a small dinner at music producer Robert Stigwood’s house.
She told me Rod and Tony would also be there and mentioned that he would like us to come by his house first for a drink. Was she now trying to fix me up with Rod?
I agreed anyway and we had a drink with Rod and Tony before heading to dinner. When we were getting ready to leave, Tony steered me toward Rod’s red Lamborghini. I had totally forgotten the psychic’s warning about not getting into a red or maroon sports car.
I didn’t talk to Rod that much over dinner, but afterward we headed back to his house, with Maggie and Tony, for more drinks. Rod brought out some cocaine and offered it to me; I took a tiny bit. We danced, drank champagne, and talked until all hours. Rod had a “boyish” quality, and I was definitely feeling an attraction between us. At 6:00 the sun started coming up and I jumped up to leave. I never stayed out that late!
“You’ve had a lot to drink,” Rod said. “Maybe you should sleep here.”
I laughed. “Yeah, right!” I said. Did he think I was going to sleep with him on out first “sort of ” date?
“No,” he said. “I mean you could just sleep here. No funny business,” he said, and added, sincerely, “I promise.”
The offer was tempting. I was exhausted and had definitely had a lot to drink. Ashley was at George’s house for the weekend, so there wasn’t anything to rush home for—or so I justified it in my mind.
I followed Rod upstairs and crawled into his bed with everything on but my shoes. He slid into bed next to me and we talked some more.
Then he asked if I wanted him to massage my neck. “Okay, but just my neck,” I warned. The rest, as they say, is history.
When we woke up, around noon, we looked at each other and started to giggle. He jumped up and left the room, and came back with a tray of toast and tea. He couldn’t have been sweeter. I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable, although I was a little annoyed at myself. I didn’t want to be like all the other girls who probably just jumped into bed with him. But it was too late for that now.
He asked me to dinner that night, but I already had plans.
“The old brush off, huh?” he said jokingly.
“I’m free tomorrow night.” I said, smiling sweetly.
So the next night we went out with a group of Rod’s band and football friends—Rod’s only friends in Los Angeles. He wanted me to spend the night, but the following day I had to meet with George and the writers and producers of a show ABC had offered us, and I also wanted to get home for Ashley. Rod asked me out for the weekend, but I also already had plans to go to Puerto Vallarta with Jim Randall, Alan Carr, and possibly
George, if he finished shooting in time. (George got caught up with work and didn’t make it.)
The night I came home Rod took me to a dinner party and was aloof and cool the whole night. When I pressed him, he told me he was pissed that I had run off with another man. I explained to him that Jim and I were just friends but added that I was a free woman and didn’t have to answer to anyone.
I thought this might be our last date, but things worked themselves out by the end of the night. He wanted me to stay with him, but I had a screen test early the next morning for the female lead in Love at First Bite, a movie George was doing with our friend Stan Dragoti.
He finally convinced me to let him come back to my house. As I was following Rod in my car, I watched in horror as his Lamborghini slid out on a curve, spun out of control, and careened right through a hedge and tennis court. Thankfully, he was unhurt, but the side of the car where I would have been sitting had I rode with him was completely demolished. It was only then that I remembered the psychic’s warning to stay out of a red or maroon sports car.
By the time we got back to my house it was after 3 a.m.; I had to be at the studio at 8:00 a.m., and I arrived hungover and underslept. The screen test, for a role that was perfect for me, was a disaster. George was not happy at all—about me blowing the film or dating Rod. It was a catastrophe.
The next night I took Rod to a party at Polly Bergen’s house. I was having a great time—talking to everyone, laughing, flirting—but again, when we get into the car to go home, Rod got quiet. I pulled up at his house and he got out of the car, said goodnight, and walked right into the house.
Driving away, I had no idea what I had done except maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to him at the party? I decide just to let it go. I was definitely attracted to him, but he seemed moody and possessive. Luckily I was about to get very busy and wouldn’t have the time to focus too much on it; it was almost time for me to leave for shooting in Alabama. I should have been happy and excited, but strangely enough, I felt kind of sad.
Two days later Tony called and suggested I call Rod in the studio. I didn’t; then Rod called me.
“I’m depressed,” he said.
“Me too,” I answered.
“Let’s have dinner at Ma Maison,” he said.
It was the turning point of our relationship. After a couple drinks,
Rod looked in my eyes and said, “You know, I’ve really missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” I replied, realizing that I really had.
We finished dinner and went back to his house, and something had definitely shifted. Though our love-making had been okay before, now it was electric. Suddenly we were both completely free—it was unbelievably hot and sexy. He told me he loved me and I told him I loved him too. From that moment on we were so madly in love and obsessed with each other; we couldn’t bear to be apart.
In May Rod wanted me to go to Europe with him. I could only manage to get away for ten days because I had to be back to start the show with George and I didn’t want to leave Ashley for too long, even though he would be with his dad.
We had a wonderful time in Paris. There’s nothing more exciting and romantic than being in Paris when you’re in the beginning throes of love and passion. Rod loved shopping for clothes for me. He thought I dressed too conservatively, so he picked out leopard-skin stretch pants and miniskirts for me to wear.
We got along great, though Rod could be moody. When we were in Paris, for example, I had gone to the salon in the hotel one afternoon to have a manicure. When I came up to the room, he was sulking and barely speaking to me. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. His dark mood continued until later at dinner that night when, after a few drinks, I finally got him to tell me what was wrong. He was angry that I had elected to go downstairs for a manicure instead of staying with him and spending the afternoon making love. I wasn’t used to a man being so possessive; it never occurred to me that leaving him for an hour would bother him.
Rod got tremendous attention everywhere we went, and I started to realize just how famous he was. I wasn’t that familiar with his music; I was country girl at heart and loved Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. But he had just had three huge hit albums in a row; “You’re in My Heart” was his latest hit. I had to admit that all the attention was kind of exciting.
One night after a romantic dinner at Mirabelle, a trendy restaurant in London, Rod, who had had a lot to drink, joked, “I bet you wouldn’t marry me if I asked you.”
“You’re much too young to think about marriage,” I teased him.
Then Rod slipped into one of his sullen moods. “A relationship has to go somewhere. It doesn’t work if it has nowhere to go.”
He then told me how much he wanted me to have his baby.
“We have plenty of time to think about it,” I told him.
I realized later that Rod wanted something all the more if he wasn’t sure he could have it. If I’d thrown myself into his arms and said, “Oh darling, I want desperately to marry you,” he probably would have backed off immediately.
When it was time to go home, I couldn’t bear to leave Rod, and I pretended to lose my passport so I could have two more days with him.
Looking back now, I can’t believe I was so unprofessional.
Rod was extremely jealous of George, who he called “the old man,” and he resented that I worked with him. For the next few weeks it was a delicate balancing act of keeping Rod happy and showing up for the show as well as being there for my son, Ashley.
Around this time Rod wrote a song for me called, “The Best Days of
My Life.” I sometimes felt like this was some kind of a fairy tale I had fallen into—how had this all happened? And so quickly?
After a party one night, a few friends came up to my house on Loma Vista for drinks—Wendy, James Caan, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, and a few others. The phone rang, and as a joke, Mick picked it up: “Hello, Alana’s house.”
Mick and Rod exchanged pleasantries, and Mick handed me the phone. Rod was furious that Mick had answered my phone. I excused myself and went into my bedroom to talk to him. I felt sick to my stomach and guilty, as if I’d done something wrong.
“What is he doing there?” Rod demanded. Although Rod was always cordial, even friendly to Mick when they saw each other, Rod didn’t like Mick.
“They came by for a drink after Wendy’s party with a couple of other friends,” I told him. “That’s all.”
“Well, tell them to leave now. I don’t want him at your house,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it. “How can I tell them to leave? They just got here!”
“Just tell them you have to go to bed!” he ordered. “And call me back when they’re gone!”
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to fight with Rod, and yet I couldn’t be rude and tell my friends to leave. In the end, I was in the bedroom on the phone for so long that they all were leaving anyway when I came back into the bar. I apologized and said good night. I called Rod back, who was still sulking, and tried my best to appease him.
A pattern was emerging, one I didn’t see at the time. I had always been outgoing and friendly, and it was my nature to flirt, but Rod was so jealous and possessive that I started to be quieter and more subdued when we went out. I had a lot of male friends who were just platonic buddies—nothing else—but if I talked to another man at a party, Rod would demand to know if I’d ever slept with him.
Some of my friends (George was the most vocal about it) told me that I had lost my personality around Rod. I felt that perhaps they were right, but as I’ve said, I was so in love with him that I didn’t want to argue or, worse, have him be cold and angry and not talk to me, so I just went along with it. In some way I was even flattered by his possessiveness because, although I covered it well, deep inside I was so insecure that it made me feel more loved. This was before I understood codependency.
Excerpt from Chapter 17
I met Rod in Rome, excited we’d be there together for the first time.
We stayed at my favorite hotel, The Grand, but what was meant to be a romantic time turned out to be miserable. Rod was cold and distant most of the time. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.
After Rome we flew to London to pick up the kids and headed to Tel Aviv. I’d been to Israel before with George and was excited to see it again with Rod, who had never been there. That night we went to dinner, just the two of us. He seemed to warm up to me again, but later, back in the room, when we tried to make love, it was clear I was just going through the motions.
“I don’t think you’re as attracted to me as you used to be,” he said plaintively, clearly wanting me to reassure him otherwise. I suddenly I knew I couldn’t continue on like this.
As hard as it was, I had to tell him the truth. “I’m not,” I said, “but it’s because things aren’t right between us.” I went on to explain that all the coldness and all the fighting had made me feel cut off sexually. I told him I still loved him very much and that I felt we needed to go home after the tour and work on our marriage. I said I knew my physical attraction for him would come back, but for that to happen, we needed to communicate honestly and try to sort out our differences.
He didn’t say much. I could tell he was hurt. As I said earlier, sex was the glue that had held our marriage together, no matter what we went through. It was very connected to Rod’s self-esteem. I’ll always believe that my honesty that night was a fatal mistake—the nail in the coffin of our marriage. He remained cold and aloof toward me the rest of the trip.
The kids and I left to go back to London while Rod went on with the band to South Africa. Elton and his personal assistant, Bob Halley, were going to fly down to see Rod in South Africa and wanted me to come with them and surprise him. I thought seriously about it, but the fourteen-hour trip and leaving the children finally made me decide to stay in London. It’s just as well I did. Later I would find out that Rod had a girl with him. He’d flown her to several cities since he’d been on tour, and they’d pretended that she was there to see his guitar player, Jim Creegan.
“We need to talk,” I said tersely. We went into the bar, where I had opened a bottle of red wine, and I poured us both a glass. He continued with the angry attitude, as if it was me that had done something wrong.
“There was some reporter on the plane who made up this story that I was with this young, blonde woman who was also on the plane. It’s all a lie,” he defiantly protested his innocence. It didn’t seem reasonable to me that this intricate lie had just been fabricated, but he was so outraged that I doubted his faithfulness that I started to believe him. Or rather I wanted to believe him.
The next day I pleaded with Rod, “Please let’s try to work this out. I don’t want to lose you.”
“That’s because you still love me,” he said flatly.
“Are you saying you don’t love me anymore?” I asked in disbelief.
He looked at me so coldly that my heart froze. “Yes,” he said.
At that moment my world turned upside down. I ran out of the room sobbing. The one thing I’d never doubted was that Rod loved me.
I literally sobbed hysterically the rest of the day. Hours later Rod finally came in and tenderly took me into his arms. “I didn’t mean it,” he said.
“I don’t know what’s going on with me.”
He suggested we go out to dinner, so we went to a Japanese restaurant where we sat in a back booth and drank sake. He talked more about his childhood and his father than we had ever done in all the time I’d known him, and it brought us closer than we had been in a long time.
After dinner we went back home and made love.
I felt like we’d turned a corner and now maybe everything would be alright. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The next day he told me he was going to Dallas, Texas, for a couple days to a car show. I’d never known Rod to go to a car show in his life.
I felt once again like my world was exploding out of my control. I tried to hold myself together and be there for the kids, but it was difficult.
My every waking moment was spent on obsessing about Rod— where he was, what he was doing. None of it made sense to me.
Then, I spoke to my astrologer in Florida, a woman named Dee Price, who was exceptional in her field. She looked at both our astrological charts and said this was a very disruptive period, that some planet was hitting his chart and creating chaos and confusion, but she said she felt we’d end up back together when it was all said and done.
“Who is this other woman in his chart?” she asked me.
“What other woman?”
“A woman is showing up in his chart and it’s part of the disruption and confusion he’s going through.” As much in shock as I was at actually hearing this, there was a part of me that had already known it. That would certainly explain all this odd behavior.
I called Rod’s hotel, but the desk clerk informed me that he’d just checked out. I told the clerk I was his assistant and I was trying to get an important message to the young lady in their group. “Oh,” he said.
“They’ve all checked out. I believe they’re on the way to the airport.”
I confronted Rod the minute he arrived. He not only denied that there was a woman with him, but he did it so convincingly that he managed to make me feel like I was being gaslighted. Then he told me he had rented a house nearby and was going to move into it for a month.
We were going to be officially separated.
Excerpt from Chapter 19
Unraveling the web of lies my husband had woven was beyond devastating to me. I was heartbroken at his betrayal. I’d believed in him and I’d believed that our love and our marriage would last forever. Now it was over. My husband had left me for someone else, a model fifteen years younger than me. And he had done it all in such a blatant public way—in front of his band, our friends, and the entire world. That was the part that put the icing on the cake, so to speak.
In trying to see things from Rod’s point of view, he’d met this funloving girl who, because of babies and health problems, had turned into a totally different woman and was angry at him a lot of the time for not being who she wanted him to be. I know that we’re both different people today, and as I’ve said, I did plenty of things I’m not proud of.
But at that point I wasn’t ready or able to look at my part.
I tried to be with the children as much as possible, but when I put them to bed at night and they would ask for Daddy and cry, I’d start crying too. By the time I got into Ash’s room to put him to bed, I was spent. I felt terrible that Rod didn’t spend more time with him. I tried to make it up to him, but I was such an emotional wreck that I feel like he didn’t get as much of me as he needed.
I would have liked to have had better closure with Rod. I was left with all these feelings, and yet having a heart-to-heart talk with Rod about the breakup of our marriage was impossible. He was so closed off and avoided any kind of emotional confrontation with me. If he didn’t like what I was saying, he’d walk away, or if it was on the telephone, he’d hang up. He never came to me and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I hurt you so badly. I’m sorry I broke up our marriage and our family.” I think if we could have really talked it out, it would have helped me understand what happened and why, and I would have been able to let it go sooner and move on.
Starting to Heal
Excerpt from Chapter 21
From the time I was little I had learned to disassociate from my feelings because they were too painful and scary to acknowledge. As a teenager I stayed away from home as much as possible to avoid the chaos there. I escaped to New York, where I started using food to suppress the anxiety of being in a new, uncertain situation, insecure if I could even make it as a model. But it wasn’t until the double whammy of the breakup with Rod and the disastrous affair with Sam that I finally hit my bottom.
Here I was, on my own, trying to parent three young children, uncertain of my future, struggling with health issues, and feeling lost, helpless, and overwhelmed. I’d always kept it together on the outside. I was still able to present a picture of an independent, confident, funloving woman, but on the inside I was a terrified child. My deepest fear was that I would end up like my mother—sick, broke, and alone. Even my closest friends had no idea of the depth of my emotional pain.
I needed to learn how to re-parent myself, to change my old beliefs, to grow up and become whole. I started going to new therapist, Dr. Vera Dunn, who practiced Gestalt, a kind of psychotherapy that originated in Germany. Its purpose is to separate the child’s feelings from those of the adult, the theory being that our “inner child” tends to run our actions and behaviors as an adult unless we deal with our past.
Vera said the reason I had so little sense of self was because I hadn’t had enough bonding with my mother—in fact, hardly any. She explained to me that when people don’t have that initial parental bonding, they develop ways of coping, mechanisms that protect them from feeling their pain and anxiety. They turn to alcohol, drugs, work, relationships, shopping, and so forth to distract them from dealing with their inner feelings. I’d had no parental validation, so I looked to get it from men, using relationships to keep from feeling the emptiness and pain.
I’d certainly shed a lot of tears when my marriages ended, but I had never really grieved over my childhood. I could talk about the worst event in my life, and it was as if I was telling someone about a movie I’d seen without showing any emotion. One day in an ACA meeting I was sharing something about my childhood and I started to cry. It was as if the floodgates had opened. It felt like I continued to cry for the next three years! It was very healing and cathartic, on one hand, but on the other it sometimes seemed I was just getting in deeper and deeper and there was no end in sight.
Eventually, I was able to open up more to people in the meetings as well. As I began to share more of my story, I started to let down my barriers and let people see whom I really was. I slowly started to see that a lot of my life had been based on very superficial values.
Another thing that the program taught me was gratitude— something you don’t learn in therapy. I learned a valuable lesson that I will never forget: gratitude is an attitude; it’s an energy that attracts more of itself. The more you’re grateful for, the more good you bring into your life.
But the healing process seemed endless. Sometimes I felt resentful: Why didn’t other people have to go through this? Why can some people just continue to live their superficial lives in a fool’s paradise? In any case, I was on the path, and I had no choice but to continue on.
Excerpt from Chapter 30
I went back to Mexico, where I had last been with Farrah. I was lying by the pool on one of the chaises. I looked over at the empty chaise next to me where Farrah had laid in the sun every day when we were there. I could still see us sipping our fresh watermelon juices, feasting on guacamole and quesadillas, just two girlfriends hanging out in the gorgeous Mexican sunshine. Suddenly I felt a giant wave of sadness wash over me. I had never missed her more than I did in that moment.
The entire back of the house was completely open to the pool area and the beach and ocean beyond. All of a sudden something small and white came fluttering up to the house from across the pool. At first I thought it was a bird, but as it flew into the house I realized it was a very large white butterfly—the largest butterfly I had ever seen. I was mesmerized as it fluttered closer and closer to me and finally landed on the edge of the plate of watermelon sitting on my lap. It perched there for about ten seconds and looked at me intently with its large black eyes. Then it flew away, into the garden and out of sight.
I had chills all over my body and tears streamed down my face. I knew it was Farrah. She had come to me in the form of that beautiful white butterfly to let me know she was still there in spirit and not to be sad. I know that Farrah still watches over the people she loves. She will always be my angel.
Rearview Mirror: A Memoir