Now, four and a half years later, the bad days are behind me but not forgotten. They made me who I am today -- a far better, healthier, smarter, more open and loving person than I ever thought was possible. I'm someone who lived her dream against the odds of any of it happening, and yet I never doubted it.
Who knows, maybe it was the spells I cast back when I was a little girl. Whatever it was, it's been a pretty remarkable ride. I'm writing this book at age fifty, a milestone that seems like the right time to look back, hopefully with some perspective, insight, and wisdom at my career, marriage, sobriety, and efforts to connect with a higher power.
I don't know that people make complete albums anymore. But when I was growing up, and early in my career with the Go-Go's, artists tried to put together a collection of songs that made sense as a whole. You listened to a record cut by cut, hoping every song was great but generally discovering that some songs were better than others, some were great, and some were so bad they should have been left in the studio. At the end, there was some sort of aha moment when you "got" the work in its entirety.
If it was any good, it stayed with you, made you think, and in the best of all worlds it offered inspiration and hope. I feel that way about my life thus far. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but most of the cuts have been pretty good, and some even great. They worked for me -- a little girl who thought she cast a spell that created the rest of her life, and then turned into a woman who realized the real magic had been there the whole time.
I Think It's Me
At eighteen, I worked at the Hilton Hotels Corporation, photocopying papers for eight hours a day. When I wasn't doing that, I was ordering toilet paper for hundreds of hotels. I was bored out of my mind. Making matters worse, I had the world's most hideous boss. He looked for reasons to call me into his office and chew me out. Most people would've quit, but I didn't care. Besides needing the money, I knew I wasn't going to be there long. I was going to be a rock star.
I was absolutely certain of it.
I had always been like that: someone who dreamed big and believed those dreams could come true if I kept at them.
I probably inherited that from my mom. Raised in Hollywood, Joanne Thompson was the eldest of two children of Roy, a plant manager at the General Motors facility in Van Nuys, and Ruth, a homemaker whose head-turning beauty and dramatic flair had inspired her as a younger woman to pursue movie stardom. When those dreams didn't pan out, she turned into an obsessive fan who read all the gossip magazines and took her daughter to movie premieres where they ogled the stars walking the red carpet.
Like my grandmother, my mother was drop-dead gorgeous. Photos of her as a senior at Hollywood High show a redhead with a great figure and big, lively eyes. She was a knockout. I think she could have had a shot at a career in front of the camera if she'd had ambition in that direction. By her own admission, though, she was too naïve and shortsighted. She didn't have a plan.
"I didn't think about what I wanted to do," my mother once told me when I asked how she had envisioned her life going after high school, adding that she saw herself as Debbie Reynolds and "thought everything would be, or should be, happy, happy, happy.
"Then I got married," she continued, "and I found reality."