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I Can Do ThisThe Bloody Mary Story
By Bobbie Weiner Stephanie Allmon
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Bobbie Weiner
All right reserved.
Chapter One'Just Like Hollywood'
Sitting on the edge of our bed as he dressed for work one morning, my husband of nine years looked me in the face and delivered the news that would shake my otherwise perfect life to the core in ways so profound, I would feel the aftershocks for years to come.
"You are my best friend and I love you, but I want my life to be just like Hollywood — like the soap operas," he said matter-of-factly. "I want a divorce."
I was so dumbstruck, I couldn't force out words — not even an argument.
The man of my dreams was telling me he had a new dream for himself. And, as he approached his 50th birthday on this day in 1992, his new happily-ever-after didn't include me. The magical, fairy-tale existence I'd been living with my plastic surgeon-husband in Los Angeles was over in the millisecond it took him to say the four words, "I want a divorce."
He left for work as usual — sure, his day would go along just as he'd planned.
I, on the other hand, could hardly get my brain to switch on. I stumbled to a phone and forced my fingers to dial the first person I could think of — my husband's mother. She and I had always been close — surely she could convince him to change his mind and come back, right? She was just as shocked as I was when I broke the news, but ultimately she was his mother, and she felt like she had to support him.
I thought about my own parents, Sol and Betty, married for decades, living a happy life together and growing old together in Florida. I couldn't bring myself to call them on this unspeakably hurtful morning; not yet. They would be too disappointed in the daughter they doted on. The daughter who, after some rough years, had a seemingly perfect life as The Doctor's Wife now.
"A perfect life as The Doctor's Wife." That's sure what it looked like from the outside in.
Just two days earlier, we'd returned from a glorious week on the ski slopes of Colorado. We owned a great house in Bel Air, kept a gorgeous boat at Marina Del Ray and had a garage filled with sports cars. Our neighbors were movie stars; our friends were movers and shakers. I got to spend my days playing tennis at the country club, and my nights at glitzy fundraisers for the children's hospital.
But more important than all those material riches was the fact that I had become a dutiful stepmom to my husband's little boy — a boy who was now a teenager and a handful, but who I loved as though he were my own flesh and blood.
I had adored my husband and had been his biggest fan for nine years. He was a marvelous, funny guy who'd provided so much for me, and for whom I'd sacrificed so much.
Just a few years earlier, I'd rearranged my whole life to help him through his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I'd been his rock. I'd been there for him when he was drinking three bottles of vodka a day. I'd been there for him when he was stealing Xanax from the hospital and downing liquid cocaine like it was Diet Coke. I'd been there for him when he fell down during surgery and the hospital called me to come get him.
Every day during his recovery, I would get up and go to the hospital and eat breakfast with him for 15 minutes at 6:30 in the morning. And when he went back to work, I'd sit in the parking garage underneath the hospital and wait for him all day — he said he just needed to know I was there.
And now, this. THIS! A divorce? How dare he?
I'd never doubted my husband's feelings for me. Had I been delusional, or had he been a great actor?
This was the marriage that was going to stick, I had decided. I was no stranger to divorce. I had been married before. Three times, in fact — short-lived marriages that never really "launched" in the first place. But this was the one that was going to go the distance. This was the fairytale ending my mother dreamed for me since I was a little girl, the product of two deliriously happy, married parents.
This man was THE ONE.
Except now, he wasn't.
THE ONE had taken a gun to my life and shot my heart, and I was quite sure that if anyone came looking, they would find pieces of it all over Los Angeles.
The "soap opera" my husband had crafted for himself, I soon discovered, included a 19-year-old girlfriend, a heroin addict in Venice Beach. He and his son — now almost a grown man himself — packed up and left me. My stepson sold all the furniture so he, too, could fund a drug habit.
I'd been cut from this family's script a long time ago, but I was the last to know.
My husband literally rode off on his Harley into the California sunset.
He got his wish: a scene straight out of Hollywood.
* * *
The emptiness of having lost my two best friends, my husband and my stepson, felt utterly agonizing. My husband quickly erased me from his world without a second thought, as if I had become a burden that cramped his hot new lifestyle.
Confronted with a decade of memories, I saw only one choice: I left the house of my dreams, disposed of whatever I had left and faced the fact that, at age 46, I was now a living, breathing Hollywood cliché: a middle-age woman abandoned by her rich husband, without her own money, career or backup plan.
Nothing was left of my perfect life as The Doctor's Wife. I was broke, and I was broken.
And I had no idea what to do next.
I'd never experienced such fear in my life. I convinced myself that my destiny had become a trailer park and food stamps.
It wasn't as though I'd never had a job or learned to manage money.
I'd been raised an only child in an upper-middle class household; my parents owned a boat and a second home and belonged to a country club, and they'd always been responsible stewards of their money. They instilled that in me early on. When I was a kid, my mother gave me $1 a week for allowance. I rarely spent it, and there was rarely anything I really wanted to buy. I'd save up $12 or $15 at a time and buy myself something I really wanted, or I'd hang onto it longer.
As a child, I was always looking for ways to make money, always selling things. I'd collect shells on the beach, paint them and sell them as ashtrays.
My first real paychecks started when I was 16, when I declared I needed a car and my father declared I needed a job. My dad agreed to help me buy a car if I could come up with the first $350. So I got a job at a thrift store and worked my way up to manager.
After college, I'd started my own resale shop. I worked hard, poured my heart into it, and I always did well; in fact, I'd made more money than my previous husband with that shop. So I was sitting pretty after I sold it.
And a friend who thought I might have an eye for design hired me to decorate the luxury suites at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, home to the Phillies baseball team and the Eagles football team.
I'd had a lot of success early in my life, in fact, but then I packed up and moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles at age 36, met my dreamy doctor-husband and fell madly and deeply in forever-love. Or so I had thought, when I was seeing the stars and rockets 10 years earlier.
* * *
I was painfully aware that I had to create a new life for myself. I had to work because I was desperate — financially and emotionally. The modest settlement I received in the divorce was going fast. I was living off my now ex-husband's pension, and then his 401K, but bleeding it dry at a rate of more than $15,000 a month with just the "basics" — the mortgage payment, car and boat payments, and other expenses from our former life together that he simply couldn't be bothered with anymore. The divorce lawyer alone cost me $65,000.
My husband had knocked me on my ass, and I became fragile and broken and scared to death.
I knew I couldn't go back. I couldn't recreate the success I'd had with my thrift shop in my 20s and 30s. I needed my own identity, my own life, and I was determined to make that happen.
I had lost my legs and it was time to get them back.
Chapter TwoThe Oddest, Smartest Phone Call I Ever Made
One afternoon in 1993, about a year after my husband left, I sat in the hair dresser's chair at the salon, a black nylon cape around my shoulders, pouring my heart out to my stylist, Dean. I was lamenting to him that I didn't know how many more times I was going to be able to afford his high-priced salon services.
"What am I going to do now? I'm no kid," I said as Dean colored my hair. "I have to get a job. I have to work, and I don't know what to do or where to begin."
The hair dresser at the next chair had overheard my cries of desperation.
"Go to makeup school," he said casually. "What?" I asked. "What are you talking about?"
I didn't know the first thing about makeup; wasn't even a fan of it. I'd always bypassed glossy tubes of colorful lipstick for Chap Stick or medicated lip balm.
"Go to makeup school," he said again. "With your personality, you would be great."
I wasn't buying it.
"You want me to learn how to apply makeup on someone like me?" I asked in disbelief, almost humored by the thought of making up customers at the mall. "Work at Saks Fifth Avenue or Macy's and apply makeup to women who live in Beverly Hills?"
He shook his head. "Oh, my God, no!" he said. "Go to learn makeup for the TV and film industry."
"Are you kidding me?" I asked again as I stared at him blankly, still imagining myself spritzing perfume and dabbing blush on the women I'd once played tennis with.
My only real experience with serious makeup application had been much, much earlier in my life. An awkward teenager suffering from very low self-esteem, I'd entered a few Miss America-organized beauty pageants at my mother's unshakably strong urging. I'd gotten my face all made up, put on some pretty clothes, plunked a Barbra Streisand song on the piano, and I'd usually finished as first runner-up, winning a few scholarships here and there. I'd hardly given beauty pageants another thought for 25 years. And now to be a part of the "beauty world?"
"I'm not kidding," the stylist said again.
"Where do you go for this?" I asked, relenting and admittedly curious.
"There are three schools," he explained. "One in Paris, one in Toronto and the Joe Blasco Make-Up School in Hollywood."
I'll never know what made me do it, but I stood up immediately, walked to the pay phone in the back of the salon and called information. I took a breath and dialed the number to the Joe Blasco Makeup School.
* * *
The very next day, I sat nervously in front of the director and the head makeup teacher. After I told them my story, they handed me a piece of paper with an outline of a face and a pencil. They asked me to fill in the face and shade it. I did as they asked, and two weeks later, I was a student in makeup school.
The weekend before classes started, I met my friend Mary for lunch. We'd played tennis for years at the Riviera Country Club, back when we both were living picture-perfect, Technicolor-fairy tale existences. The veteran of a bitter divorce herself, Mary was a psychologist who raised her son alone. So when I voiced my second thoughts about going to makeup school, I trusted whatever she might advise.
"Go to school!" Mary exclaimed. "Do it and don't look back! This is a great opportunity. Go for it!"
I respected Mary's level-headed answer, and I needed that extra shove she gave me.
The next morning, I surveyed the room of 14 students in the classroom. I looked like everyone's mother.
It would be OK, I reminded myself. I was there to learn a trade, to get a profession; I needed to make money doing something. It was either this or working at Gap, I thought. I tried to imagine myself folding sweaters for a living and couldn't quite get my brain to go there. I was 46 years old, and it was time to move past what had happened to me, into what could happen next.
My dad often said, "Bobs, you get one ticket when you come into this life and you have choices."
So I was making my choice now, deciding that no matter what it took, I was going to be a makeup artist for TV and film.
* * *
In the beginning, I was a little heavy handed with the makeup. But no other student — not one of those 20- or 30-somethings — tried harder than the "old lady" of the class. I stayed after school for two hours every day watching how-to videos in a small room by myself. I studied the tapes renowned artist Joe Blasco had made of his own work, determined to master this new craft.
The school constantly fielded calls for makeup artists — for fashion shows and charity luncheons and film schools requesting a makeup artist for a student's thesis or music video. As soon as the calls came in, our director would pop into the classroom and ask who wanted work that weekend. I was always the first to raise my hand.
These jobs paid maybe $25 for gas money or a kit fee if you used your own makeup. But I had nothing better to do on weekends; the work filled my hours and provided me with valuable practice. I embraced every opportunity for experience as a makeup artist like a weekend warrior. My glory days on the Riviera tennis court were over.
Truthfully, I could afford to work for almost nothing because I still had some of my husband's 401K money left. I knew I would need these experiences and felt fortunate that my entire livelihood didn't depend on them.
One of my very first jobs, which I did for free, was for a USC film student's thesis project. This kid was the son of a notable Hollywood director who'd given him $100,000 to produce this little film (I never asked which one, and to this day I don't know ... I didn't want to jeopardize the job by asking something nosy like that). It was being shot at some flop-house motel in downtown L.A., and when I pulled up in my Jeep, I became overwhelmed with emotion. With the electrical equipment and the actors and the costumers (who'd run to Nordstrom and buy clothes on the Hollywood-dad's credit card), it looked like a real set.
"I hope you know what you're doing," someone said to me when I walked in. One of the tasks was to make an actor look dirty, and the head makeup artist had sent someone to McDonald's to get mustard and ketchup and other condiments to use as dirty makeup. It smelled like garbage, but I got such a rush from being around it.
* * *
In class, every face I made up looked like Tammy Faye Bakker's: WAY overdone. Everyone says makeup should enhance natural beauty; my heavy hand made the models look anything but natural.
But my tendency to overdo it was actually going to pay off.
"Learn how to do everything," I remembered that hairstylist who'd first encouraged me to go to makeup school saying. "Everyone wants to make actors and models look pretty. You'll be much more valuable if you can make them look ugly, too. If they're going to take you out of the country on location, they'll want you to do more than just beauty makeup."
I found myself — and my heavy hand — gravitating toward special effects makeup. Most people make it through the first few weeks and stop because they've learned how to make people look good. I stayed on — what else did I have to do? They would regularly bring in "old timers" to teach special techniques, such as the makeup artist from Cone Heads, who taught me how to do bald cap and cone head looks.
They really worked with me, and we would laugh and joke at how heavy handed I was. When they were teaching old age, I didn't make my models look like they'd aged; I made them look like disgusting monsters.
I was practicing my bruises, burns and broken bones more than anyone else in the class.
Excerpted from I Can Do This by Bobbie Weiner Stephanie Allmon Copyright © 2011 by Bobbie Weiner. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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