March 6, 2008 -- For almost two decades, press coverage of actress Tori Spelling has told that classic Hollywood tale of the poor little rich girl. Spelling had an almost make-believe childhood, one in which anything and everything was possible, including snow, in California, on Christmas Day.
"It was, you know, probably 80 degrees out in L.A., and my dad took me outside and there was snow," Spelling recalled. "At the time, I thought, 'Every kid doesn't have snow in their backyard on Christmas?'"
Best known for her role as Donna Martin on the hit '90s television show "Beverly Hills 90210," Spelling's personal life has always seemed like it was also scripted for the small screen. Her million-dollar 2005 wedding to Charlie Shanian was featured on the covers of glossy magazines, and her marriage-ending affair was exposed in tabloids around the world.
The actress has now embraced new roles as reality TV star and mother, and she has written a very candid and often funny memoir, "sTori Telling," where she reveals a new version of growing up Spelling — her own.
Spelling's father Aaron Spelling was one of Hollywood's richest and most powerful television producers. Her mother, Candy Spelling, is a beautiful former model whom Spelling felt never gave her the unconditional support she so desperately craved. "Even when I was young, I just knew," Spelling said. "I knew from the beginning … it was complicated."
In her book, Spelling describes a relationship so difficult and contentious that mother and daughter never even spoke on the day Aaron Spelling died. Spelling says she learned of her father's death from a friend, on e-mail.
Asked about the state of her relationship with her mom now, Spelling said, "I love my mom. My mom loves me. We don't have an easy relationship. I don't think we ever will, but I'd rather have a complicated, misunderstood relationship than have no relationship at all."
Riches to Rags?
Spelling had a hugely successful television career, but it always came with criticism that her father had gotten her the roles. Spelling admits she got the "90210" role "from my dad," but says she worked hard to turn what started out as a supporting character into a leading one.
Spelling says she was always her daddy's little girl, and as most "90210" fans may recall, the Donna Martin character remained a virgin until almost the last season. In her memoir, the actress says her father was the one who insisted the character remain a virgin. She adds that what Aaron Spelling didn't know was that everyone in the "90210" cast pretty much slept with everyone else. "It was pretty intense," she said.
Growing up in the spotlight, Spelling says people have always made assumptions "that I'm filthy rich, that I had all this money from my dad, that I live this extravagant lifestyle."
But she says that soon after she got cast on "90210" she was on her own financially.
"I had a hit TV series, so I didn't really need [my parents] for anything," she said. All that changed when "90210" went off the air. Spelling says that at one point she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars on her credit card and that she came close to bankruptcy, all because of her "bad shopping habits."
"Bad shopping habits die hard," she explained. "In all honesty, I grew up a certain way. I never had to worry about money … that was my reality."
She says she was too proud to go to her father for help. "That means, in my mind, [that] I was what everyone thought I was, taking money from my dad, the rich little girl that he paid for everything. And I just refused to be that. [I would] rather be bankrupt."
To get herself out of debt, Spelling went back to work.
"I turned into my dad's daughter and I started thinking of things to do, ways to make money," she said.
In the next few years, Spelling took just about any television job that would help her pay the bills. She also launched her own jewelry line, and in 2007, along with husband Dean McDermott, she launched a reality show called "Tori and Dean Inn Love" that also features the couple's son, Liam. The third season of their show premieres in June on Oxygen.
'You're Gonna Be OK'
Spelling also inherited money from her father, who passed away in 2007. But despite the enormity of the Spelling estate, Tori inherited just under $1 million. Her brother Randy got the same. Many were shocked by the relatively small size of her inheritance — except for Tori Spelling herself. She had talked to her father about it before he died.
"It was a hard conversation to have with him. I didn't want him to think that I was asking him for the money, or even talking about something so morbid as when he would pass. But I thought it was a conversation I needed to have … for myself and for my brother," she said." We had lunch and he said, 'You're gonna be OK. I made sure. You're getting just under a million.'"
"I think part of me, in the back of my head, maybe hoped it would be different? But I hated myself for hoping it would be different, because I didn't want to take advantage, I didn't want to be that girl who needed, or wanted, my dad's money."
The bulk of the estimated half-billion dollar estate went to Candy Spelling. Some of the rift between mother and daughter was mended when Spelling's son Liam was born, but Spelling says she does not believe her mother will support her children financially.
At the end of her book, Spelling writes she always wanted to be normal, and have a family, love and safety. She says she has that now, and with a baby on the way she's looking forward to seeing that family grow.
"We'd both love a girl," she said. "But I have mixed emotions about it because part of me desperately wants a little girl so that I can have the relationship that maybe I felt my mother and I didn't quite have. And then on the other hand, I'm scared that I'll just kind of repeat the past and make similar mistakes that my mother made with me, maybe. But I'd like to give it a try."