Janice Dickinson's autobiography offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of modeling and its occasional downfalls — superficial relationships and drug addiction. Dickinson also touches the surface of domestic abuse and other family issues. Read chapter one of her book below.
Chapter One: Meet the Parents
My father was a tall, slim, handsome man with a thick head of silver hair, buzzed flat, and gunmetal gray eyes. People liked Ray. He had an easy smile. A pleasant laugh. He was a good storyteller, a good listener, popular with the neighbors.
But I didn't often see that easy smile. Or hear that pleasant laugh. I saw, instead, the way his eyes changed color when he got angry, the whites glowing red. Or the way he balled up his big, freckled fists when he came after me, like a bull in heat. I hated him. I hated his eyes; his hair; that acrid breath; the wife-beater, Fruit of the Loom T-shirts. I hated him with every fiber of my being.
I hated my mother, too; hated her because she was numbed into oblivion with the pills she'd been prescribed for an old back injury. She would come home at the end of the day, floating, and she stayed aloft with the help of those lovely pills. She would glide through the house on a cushion of air, in slow motion, unaware, unseeing, her voice soft, her mind elsewhere, always smiling this benign Hare Krishna smile — like she was At One With God or something; which she was, I guess, at least chemically.
Those were my parents. So I ask you — my two sisters and I — what f------ chance did we have?
They met, appropriately enough, in a bar. My mother, Jennie Marie Pietrzykoski, was the eldest of nine children. Her Polish-born father owned a little pub in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, right next to the railroad tracks, and I guess she felt comfortable around booze. She went to nursing school in Manhattan, and at night she'd hit the elegant nightclubs with her fellow nurses.
One night, at a Midtown watering hole, some ass---- came by to harass Mom and her fellow nurses. Ray Dickinson intervened, decking the guy and tossing him into the street. My mother and her friends were so grateful they asked him to join them. He looked good in his Navy uniform. He was a radioman. Mom couldn't stop staring at those gray eyes. Three days later they went down to City Hall and got married.
The following week they ran into the "ass----" from the bar. Turns out he was a friend of Ray's; they'd set the whole thing up to make my father look like a regular hero. My mother thought it was funny. I would have had the marriage annulled.
They got an apartment in Brooklyn, and I guess those first few months were pretty hot. My mother was a looker. She wore stylish pumps and blood-red lipstick — not particularly original, true, but it worked. She loved the camera and the camera loved her back.
Alexis came along a year later. She didn't love the camera. There's a picture of her I'll never forget: She's about five years old and sitting stiffly on my father's lap, and she has a look in her eyes that's a caught-on-film cry for help. He was already into her. I guess five was old enough. I don't know where that picture is today, but I've got it imbedded in my brain. I wish I could erase it.
I came along five years later. My mother was working as a nurse in Manhattan, already dabbling with prescription drugs, and my father was grumbling about his nowhere career with the Navy.
Now there was more bad news: another daughter. Ray was devastated. He'd been hoping for a boy and made no secret about it. I swear to God, I remember him hating me when I was barely a few weeks old. I know that seems unbelievable — I was way too young to be forming memories — but his hatred was the air I breathed from birth.
When I was just eighteen months old, in 1957, the family moved from Brooklyn to Florida. "Ray dear" — as my mother called him — had been tossed out of the Navy for assaulting an officer. He was going to start again, in sunny South Florida. Become Captain of his Own Goddamn Ship.
Only it never quite happened for him. He got a gig with the Coast Guard, but he didn't think much of those "pussies," so he ended up with the U.S. Merchant Marine. He hated taking orders, but he loved the sea. And he loved the long trips he got to take. So did we. Life was different when he wasn't around. At night I'd kneel next to my bed and pray that the Seaman's Union would call in the morning and drag him off to some remote hellhole, where he'd fall overboard in a storm and get eaten by a shark. Alas, all my prayers went unanswered. Ray always returned to the family. He couldn't get enough of his family. Ray dear had a problem, see. He liked to be serviced. And with four women in the house, he felt entitled.
I was nine years old when he came to my room one night and told me we were going to play the lollipop game, a special game for a father and a favorite daughter. And -- We have a winner! — I was that favorite daughter …
The foregoing is excerpted from No Lifeguard on Duty by Janice Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022