Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned from Horses

Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned from Horses

by Bo Derek, Mark Seal

Bo Derek vaulted into the national spotlight in 1979 as the perfect fantasy woman in 10, Blake Edwards's sophisticated film comedy. Her otherworldly beauty and voluptuous figure captivated men everywhere, while her cornrow hairstyle launched a fashion trend among women. Bo has always remained intensely private about her personal life, especially with regards

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Bo Derek vaulted into the national spotlight in 1979 as the perfect fantasy woman in 10, Blake Edwards's sophisticated film comedy. Her otherworldly beauty and voluptuous figure captivated men everywhere, while her cornrow hairstyle launched a fashion trend among women. Bo has always remained intensely private about her personal life, especially with regards to her May-December marriage to director John Derek, creating an intriguing sense of mystery that has led to much speculation. Here, for the first time, she reveals the truth about the woman behind the glossy image.

Born Mary Cathleen Collins and known as Cathy, she grew up in southern California, the horse-crazy oldest daughter of four. Her father, a public relations executive for the boat manufacturer Hobie Cat, and her mother, a hairstylist and makeup artist for a number of Hollywood figures, separated permanently while Bo was in her teens. During this time her mother was working for Ann-Margret, and it was backstage at one of the entertainer's Las Vegas shows that a theatrical agent approached Bo about pursuing a movie career. At one of her very first auditions the sixteen-year-old Bo met John Derek, a man thirty years her senior, with whom she would spend the next twenty-five years of her life.

Theirs was a love affair of epic proportions, but it was one that was widely misunderstood by the press and public alike. John was dubbed a Svengali, and his influence over the young Bo was thought to be limitless. With great candor and an endearing humor, Bo comes clean on a relationship that has long intrigued provided fodder for American gossip mills, and the result is an account that is far from what we may haveimagined. Bo lays bare the intimate moments and madcap adventures that she and John shared, revealing in the process that she has never, even for a moment, relinquished control of her own destiny.

Given her unusual story, her only-in-Hollywood childhood, her friendships with Ursula Andress and Linda Evans (both of John's ex-wives), her time spent living in a trailer home, her rumored relationship with Ted Turner, and her exhaustive work for the Republican Party, it often seems as if Bo has lived nine lives rather than just one. Whether spurning Life magazine or passing on the opportunity to work with legendary filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis, Bo has gone with her gut regardless of the consequences. And that's only fitting for the woman who has chosen to live life with no safety nets—and no regrets.

But as Bo makes clear in Riding Lessons, it is her passion for John and her love of all things equine that have been the constants in her life. Sharing her hard-won lessons on life and love, she draws on her intuitive understanding of horses to offer surprising insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships.

In this compelling memoir, Bo Derek writes openly of her growing self-awareness and of the coping strategies she has learned, whether faced with sudden stardom, the crazy and competitive world of moviemaking, or the death of her beloved husband. With Riding Lessons, she transcends her legendary physical beauty to reveal an inner wisdom certain to enlighten and enthrall readers of all ages.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(d)

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Chapter One

Show me your horse, and I will tell you who you are.
— old English saying

�Fuck, Chuck, not another infomercial!�

Chuck is my manager, and he's forever phoning with �business opportunities� that always seem to be in regard to one �opportunity� I've always avoided: infomercials. All I have to do to get rich quick is to spend one lousy day pitching the public to buy one more thing that nobody needs. Everything from the latest vitamins, to the �Perfect 10� vacation sweepstakes, to an honest-to-God miracle antiaging cream, to the best ab-flattener you will never use, to a sexual enhancement drug'excuse me, �dietary supplement.� You see, the U.S. government regulates drugs and won't let you make dishonest claims about them.

Today, Chuck's phone call finds me sitting on my mare, Gaiata, in Ramon Becerras's riding arena about ten minutes from my home near Santa Barbara. It's a wonderful, funky place. One side resembles a Western streetfront, the other has a saloon where we often ride right up to the bar for mounted shots of tequila. There's also a pool table so we can play billiards on horseback like Billy the Kid did.

I listen to Chuck's pitch for the infomercial a while longer, and lie to him that I'll think about it, then push End on my cell phone and clip it back to my jeans.

The Spanish music is cranked up loud. For the past hour, I've been trying to persuade Gaiata that we would both look very cute if we would do a pretty pirouette when we reach the center of the arena. She's not buying it. I must be doing something wrong. It's myfault. It's always my fault. It takes all of my concentration to ride her well, and now this phone call from Chuck isn't helping at all. I feel a tequila break coming on.

The phone rings again. �Yes, Chuck,� I say, knowing it's him.

�I forgot to tell you one thing,� he says. �The offer is good only for two more hours. Then they'll offer it to someone else.�

What is it with these infomercial people? Why do they keep coming to me? When will they get the message: I don't want to do it.

I know in my heart I'm going to turn it down even as I pretend that I am considering it. Poor Chuck, I'm wasting his time. And why do I have such a low opinion of infomercials and Home Shopping Network and QVC and Value Vision anyway? As though I will lose a piece of my soul if I do just one.

Last week Chuck called and said, �There's this guy, he's kind of a creep, but he wants to give you $250,000 just to use your picture on the Web to sell his hotel.�

It's not that I don't need the money. Just the opposite. I'm close to broke. Actually, worse than that: I'm about to go into debt again. I just sent in my tax return, but I can't pay my taxes. Well, I could if I cashed out, but there is an impending actor's strike, and I think I'd better hold on to the last of my money. I swore to myself that I would never, ever go into debt again, that debt was part of my past life. And now, I can't believe it: I'm about to owe the Internal Revenue Service one more time!

I did some really shitty films recently in order to earn a respectable amount of money, like Horror 101 (�With Bo Derek as Miss James, the teacher who murders her whole class by locking her students in the freezer!�). But almost as quick as the credits rolled, the money was all gone. I don't spend much. I rent a modest house with my sister and her family. My car is four years old. Expensive clothes mean nothing to me. Neither does jewelry. So where did it all go?

Chuck calls back. �I don't understand, you said that you need the money.�

�I do, but . . .�

�Look, if it hits, it's a million dollars a year for you.�

I look down at my motionless mare and think, It's a good thing I'm not trying to sell an exercise machine to Gaiata today. I wouldn't make a penny.

�Chuck, can't you get me a real job?�

�Yeah, any day now something's going to break,� he says. �You've been getting good press lately. People are talking about you.�

�That's just because I'm a widow,� I say. �They would look really bad if they were mean to me now.� Again I promise Chuck that I'll think about the infomercial.

The common perception about being a widow is true. Ever since my husband, John, died in 1998, I can tell you that our society is really nice to widows. Even People magazine is nice to me now, and they beat me up for twenty years.

Basically, I'm the same person I've always been. Except, of course, that I am no longer controlled by my self-promoting Svengali, Pygmalion, pimp of a husband. That's what the press called him. But they never got it: If John had been a self-promoting Svengali, Pygmalion, pimp of a husband, he would have left me a fortune!

What is wrong with me? I'm way too old to be turning down this kind of money. It's one thing when you are young and have your whole career ahead of you. But now? These are the times when I feel most alone. No one is going to provide for me, and no one is going to make decisions for me.

Riding Lessons. Copyright © by Bo Derek. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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