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I woke up in the psych ward at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan strapped to my bed, confused, disoriented, scared, and thinking, “How did I get here? What have I done?” What went down in the previous hours started coming back to me piecemeal, but to this day the night remains one big, blurred, fucked-up nightmare. My brain filled in the missing parts of the night with hallucinations; I have visions of being bundled into a straightjacket and taken away in an ambulance. But according to people who were there, it didn’t happen that way. That was all in my warped mind. What actually happened might be even worse. The man who loved me and who I loved the most had to duct tape my hands behind my back to stop me from further hurting myself and him. He had to have me committed to a mental ward of a hospital to save my life.
As I scratched and clawed my way through Evan’s Brooklyn loft just hours earlier, the only thought in my mind was to end this. I wanted to end my misery and I wanted to end my life. I couldn’t handle any of it anymore. But Evan stayed strong because he knew I was worth saving. Evan took my punches, dodged the heavy objects I hurled at him, suffered through my relentless scratching, and he did the one thing he knew to do: stop the madness and get me help.
I don’t remember the ride in his Suburban over to the hospital. I don’t remember Dr. Lugo talking Evan through what to do. I don’t remember entering the hospital or being checked into the psychiatric ward. I don’t remember being strapped to a gurney and the cops questioning Evan about the night’s events. I just remember waking up the next morning in lockdown in the place where they keep the most dangerous mental patients. Was I mental? I didn’t believe it. My emotions had taken over my thought process, and I was reduced to questioning everything around me and not being able to make sense of any of it.
The psych ward frightened me. I was just a porn chick going through a rough time trying to get out of my contract. Why was I in a room behind locked doors that doctors had to be buzzed in and out of? Why was I in a room with four beds with a variety of women whom I did not relate to, who were not like me? The girl in the bed next to me was a black girl younger than me who had tried to kill herself. She was obsessed with shrimp parmesan and her sister would bring it to her daily, and every day she’d offer me some and each time I’d say no. To this day, the sight of shrimp parmesan sends chills up my spine. I wasn’t there to make friends. At first, I wanted nothing to do with the place or anyone in it.
In the bed next to her was a Middle Eastern girl with black curly hair and a flashlight she’d shine around the room after the lights went out. She didn’t talk much, but she did mumble her prayers a lot. I would pretend not to hear her. She scared me. I overheard the nurses say that she had delusions about becoming a suicide bomber and that’s why she was in the ward. The bed at the end was host to a revolving array of patients whom I don’t really remember.
The reality of the night before started coming back to me, and bits and pieces were told to me. I realized that I’d had a major meltdown. A psychotic break. A suicide attempt. I was inconsolable. I was out of my mind. There was no talking me off the ledge this time, as Evan had done before.
I was in St. Vincent’s psych ward for fourteen long days, and it was not what you could call time well spent. I just lay there in my hospital bed like a statue. I wanted nothing but out. But I did everything you shouldn’t do if you want to be released from the psych ward. In full denial for the first few days, I acted out in every way imaginable. I figured if they think I’m crazy, I might as well play the part. I talked to myself out loud. I refused medication. I wouldn’t eat anything. I picked fights with other patients. I took it all out on Evan, calling him daily and cursing him out for the entire ward to hear.
I pulled the diva act and tried to own that pay phone. My cell phone had been confiscated, so the pay phone was my only connection to the outside world. So, when anyone else tried to use the phone, I unleashed a shit-storm of anger, screaming, “I’m on the fucking phone! You wait your fucking turn! I’m on the phone! I’ll be done when I’m done! I’ll fucking kill you!”
Making death threats in the psych ward is not exactly the way to prove that you’re not crazy and get released. One day, I even tried to escape. When those buzz-in, locked doors opened, I made a run for it, forcing the orderly to wrestle me to the ground.
When I realized there was no way out unless I played by the rules, I threw the rules in their face. They had been asking me to shower for days and I refused. I was defiant and angry and anti- authority. After days of nagging me to shower, I finally said, “Fuck it. You want me to shower? OK, I’ll shower.” So I stripped off all of my clothes, walked out of my room into the hallway completely naked, and looked at the first nurse who came my way and said, “OK. You want me to shower? Here I am. Where’s the fucking shower?”
As much as this experience was the lowest point of my life, I’m grateful for it. Sometimes you need to go off the rails of the crazy train to get on the right track of your life. And that’s exactly what I did.
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How bad do you want what you want? I wanted to be famous and adored so bad it nearly killed me. Well, in all honestly, I nearly killed me.
But before we get to that, let me start at the beginning… In 1986 I was ten years old and my mother had already left us. It was just me, Linda Ann Hopkins, and my dad, David Hopkins, a carefree hippie of English, Dutch, and Irish descent. I was born in Great Falls, Montana, but was living with my dad in Fresno. On a rare father-daughter day out, he took me to a thrift store in town to do some shopping. We were on a budget. As we made our way though the tiny, cramped shop, I saw her hanging on the dusty wall behind some cracked vases and rusty candelabras. It was a beautiful black-and-white photograph of Marilyn Monroe from the Korean USO tour she did in 1954. She was beaming as she posed for hundreds of handsome men in uniform, who in turn were ogling her in all her blond-haired, blue-eyed glory.
Something lit up inside me when I saw that photograph. I thought, "Someday, men are going to look at me that way." I couldn't stop staring at this photo, thinking how much I wanted to be that girl. The girl everyone adores. The girl whom fame made so happy (little did I know what a sad wreck she really was). All I knew about Marilyn at the time was how much I wanted to exude the power that she did. I wanted to be famous like that. I just didn't know what for yet. I never thought it would be for porn.
Around the same time the Marilyn Monroe photo was burned into my brain, I stumbled across another piece of inspiration. I was home alone one day after school. Dad was still at work. I was usually a good girl; I learned manners and respect for others very early on from both of my parents. Although I had never looked through my father's things, on this one day my curiosity got the best of me. I had seen my dad hide a stack of Playboy magazines once and was anxious to take a peek inside. I wanted to know what a woman's body looked like. I was just a young girl—an awkward one at that— and I wanted to compare myself to a full-grown woman. It was a natural fascination. The curiosity to see a naked woman left me searching through my dad's teak, tapestry-covered dresser, one of his finds from Thailand when he was there during the Vietnam War. I opened the drawer and there was a Playboy with supermodel Paulina Porizkova on the cover. The supermodel and actress was holding back her long, beachy, golden brown hair with a lean, elegant arm and gazing at the camera with her ice blue eyes emanating a fierce self-confidence.
I thought Paulina was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I couldn't stop staring at her photos in Playboy. I was even more impressed when I learned she'd married Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the rock band the Cars. She was a rock wife and a beautiful supermodel, and I just idolized her for that. I wanted what she had. It was that Paulina cover that made me want to be in Playboy. From the moment I saw this cover in the summer of 1987, I had a simple quest: be a Playboy model, be married to a rock star, and be rich, famous, and adored.
Looking up to stars like Marilyn and Paulina was my escape.
My parents separated when I was ten. I didn't have my mom or dad to talk to, because they fought a lot and were so wrapped up in themselves. So instead I escaped into a fantasy world of supermodels, celebrity, pin-up girls, Playboy Playmates, and rock stars as I flipped through the pages of my dad's issues of Playboy, Rolling Stone, LIFE, and whatever music or teen magazine I could get my hands on. I thought about what these gorgeous celebrities would be like in person, what it would be like to live their lives and to be as cool and happy as they seemed to be in the pictures. I would daydream about these models, rock stars, and actresses instead of doing my schoolwork. My grades suffered and I got a lot of notes from the teacher that read "Linda doesn't apply herself enough." Fair enough. I would also rummage through my father's cassette tapes—he was a rocker—and lust after Jim Morrison. To this day, if I could go back in time and fuck a famous rock star it, would be Jim Morrison. I idolized the Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd—the older bands that my dad was into.
I wouldn't know until years later, after some therapy, that what I was doing was filling the void left by parents who weren't there for me. Some kids in tough situations cope with absent parents by overeating, others with being sexually inappropriate (more on this later), others with drugs and alcohol or getting into trouble at school. For me, at age ten, I disappeared into daydreaming about what it would be like to live the lives of those models, rock stars, and celebrities I read about in magazines or saw on television.
I was a big dreamer; it's all I had at the time. Well, that and my younger sister, Debra, but once my parents split, my sister chose to live with my mother full-time and I chose to live with my father. But Dad wasn't around much. He did the best he could, but he was working all the time and never home. I was home alone a lot and up until about age twelve, I was a very introverted, insecure, and lonely young girl.
I was not popular with the boys, but that was OK because I wasn't into boys then. My sister, the cheerleader and volleyball player, was the popular one in school. I was the dorky jock— running cross-country, reading, and hiking were my loves. I got high marks in physical education, but low to below-average marks in other classes at Fresno's Lincoln Elementary School. My teachers were right—I just didn't apply myself. I'd rather hole up in my bedroom or the library and read a Nancy Drew novel instead of doing my math homework.
On My Bookshelf as a Kid:
Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Sleuths!, by Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon
Days with Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Forever, by Judy Blume
Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love, by Francine Pascal
Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
On My Bookshelf Today:
The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers: A Study of the Chilling Criminal Phenomenon, from the "Angels of Death" to the "Zodiac" Killer, by Michael Newton
Marilyn: A Biography, by Norman Mailer
The Sexual Life of Catherine M., by Catherine Millet
The Secret Language of Relationships: Your Complete Personology Guide to Any Relationship with Anyone, by Gary Gold Schneider and Joost Elffers
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism, by Philip Miller and Molly Devon
A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, by Chronicle Books
Some of my favorite books were considered inappropriate reading for a young girl my age. I would read any book on serial killers that I could get my hands on. I was fascinated with the psychology of murderers. I spent a lot of time during recess in the library reading about John Wayne Gacy and Charles Manson. I was fascinated with Gacy because he would dress up as a clown, and I was really terrified of clowns, so I wanted to know more. I wasn't into the gory details; I was into the "why" of it all. I wanted to know what motivated them. When I would read that their moms were prostitutes or that their parents beat them or that they came from broken homes or were sexually abused, I would look around me and look at the other kids and think, "Are they going to be serial killers?"
Am I going to be a serial killer? I'm from a broken home and, as you will soon read, my mother abused me. I would think, "Can this happen to me?" I was captivated by the thought. I was convinced, and I still am today, that anyone can be a serial killer. I think I could kill somebody if I had to. Well, I did almost kill myself, but we'll get to that later.
Some of my friends knew I was fascinated by murder. They'd say, "There's Linda talking about Helter Skelter again." But I didn't mind. It made me feel smarter. I might have only gotten C's and some D's in school, but if they tested me on serial killers, I would've been a straight-A student.
I was also an awkward-looking child and stood out from the rest of my classmates. I was a lot, I mean a lot, taller and thinner than most of the boys and girls at Lincoln. I was naturally thin and extremely fit because I ran cross-country. "Gangly" would be the best word to describe it, but my classmates had other nicknames for me: Spider and Olive Oyl. Oddly, they never made fun of my unibrow or the crooked part in my hair. (Mom wasn't there to straighten it for me, and Dad wasn't exactly putting bows and ribbons in my hair.)
"Oooh, here comes Linda, the spider," boys and girls would taunt every day after school during cross-country practice out on the track. "Look at Linda, the spider. She's got spider arms. She has spider legs. She's a Spiderwoman!"
The thing was, I did kind of look like a spider. I was tall and thin, and my limbs stuck out of the awful mustard-and-red uniforms they made us wear for gym class. The knee socks barely touched my knees, despite me constantly pulling them up as high as they would go.
I don't remember who started the teasing, but everyone certainly joined in, especially Tiffany and Kelly Parisi, twin sisters and head cheerleaders. They were straight out of central casting for pretty, bitchy classmate rivals. They were shorter, with an athletic build; kind of stocky with those thick thigh muscles that dancers or cheerleaders have; and they had short wavy brown hair, making them the complete opposite of lanky me with my long dark straight hair. But they were considered the prettiest girls in school, and we had a mutual hatred for one another.
When they weren't picking on me during cross-country practice, they would nail me in the hallway at school for what I was wearing. Kelly would say, "Oh God, Linda. You're too skinny. Who are those jeans by?"
Esprit and Guess were the big brands of the day, but I wasn't exactly a fashionista in grade school like the Parisis, so I wore button-fly dark Levi's from the boys' section of the affordable department store Mervyns. I was more of the hippie girl who didn't care what she looked like or what she wore. I loved Levi's because Dad wore Levi's and Dad was cool, but I also wore them because unlike Guess or Esprit, you could buy Levi's in different lengths, and I needed a few extra inches than most girls and boys.
The twin twits never understood my comebacks because my wit was informed by my fascination with serial killers. "Oh yeah, well your father is a serial killer. Ever wonder why you have that van with no windows? Serial killer van!" I'd say to the Parisi twins.
"Huh?" was their usual response.
I never cried or backed down at the teasing. Most of the time I would just let my keychain do the talking for me. I got this keychain from a gumball machine that was in the shape of a hand, and I bent the fingers down so the middle finger was the only one sticking up. It was attached to my cardinal red JanSport backpack, so when I turned my back on them they were sure to see it. It was the most direct way I could find to let them know that I didn't give a fuck.
But I did wonder why I got picked on so much. I didn't realize until many years later when I was all grown up that the bitchy Parisi twins must have been jealous of my height and figure. At the time, I didn't consider my looks at all and I certainly didn't know if I was pretty or ugly. I just knew I was different.
That's why I wanted to look at those nude photos of other women; because I wanted to see how I compared to them. I wanted to see what a beautiful woman was supposed to look like or simply to know what other women looked like.
So when I saw that Paulina Porizkova Playboy cover that day in my father's dresser drawer with her long, lean arm framing her face, I thought, Well she's thin and has skinny arms and legs and she's in fucking Playboy. I felt more OK with myself after seeing that photo.
Needless to say, I didn't have many friends. But when I did bring friends home, I was embarrassed about how we lived. We had a nice two-bedroom apartment in Fresno, but it was filled with treasures from my father's travels when he was a cook in the Air Force as well as lots of strange things from my mother's homeland of Thailand. When my dad came back to America after being stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War, he brought back all of these audacious pieces of furniture and accessories. We had green jade elephants and colorful tapestries everywhere and a hideous ceramic rooster that served no purpose but to embarrass me. I was so self-conscious of what my schoolmates thought. And Dad was always cooking up some traditional Thai dish, which filled the small apartment with exotic and pungent smells.
"Oooh, your house smells like fish and you have weird green elephants," is what I figured everyone thought who came into our house. Deep down, I thought my parents' exotic style was cool, but I was also embarrassed by it. Being half Thai, though, didn't embarrass me because so many people in my area of California are of Asian descent. I fit right in on that front.
I think the problem with my parents' relationship was simply that they were too young to be married. My mother—her name is Preeya—was fourteen and only spoke a little bit of English when she met my twenty-year-old father. She was a busgirl on the base in Thailand where Dad was stationed. She was almost eighteen when they got married in Thailand and left for America together. In Thai culture, a girl who moved out of her house without being married was considered a whore. So she was anxious to get married to move out from under her parents' control. Dad and she were good friends, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
But the marriage wasn't all it was cracked up to be and she became angrier and unhappier, and this increased greatly as I turned eight, nine, and ten years old. My dad was gone a lot because he was working and going to college. He's had many occupations over the years. He was a U.S. Forest Ranger, a truck driver, a pot grower, a teacher, and a winemaker. (He's had a steady job since I was twenty-five, though, as head winemaker for Bridlewood Winery in San Ynez, California.) My mom had a tough time assimilating to American culture. She took ESL classes at night and took care of my sister and me by herself during the day, and she soon started working as a nurse. I try to put myself in my parents' shoes. Here's my dad just wanting the perfect little Asian wife, and there's my mom, trapped in a house with two kids, barely speaking English, and her husband is never around. I think she resented having kids at such a young age. And my dad wasn't coming home some nights, so that wasn't helping their relationship. Then Mom started to not come home at night. She was rebelling against him. So I had neither parent around. When they were home together, the arguing was intense. I'd sit up in bed at night and hear them scream at each other and think, "Why don't you get divorced already?"
That wasn't the only problem. There was also my mother's violent temper. I desperately wished I could have told my father what my mother was doing to me on those nights she was home and he wasn't. She was this petite, but strong, karate-chopping type of woman who would take out her frustrations on me with anything she could get her hands on. She'd whack me with a broom, throw a shoe at me, or just backhand me across the face. I think she took it out on me more than my sister because I was closer to my father at the time and she didn't like that.
I was Daddy's little girl for most of grade school. We'd go hiking, camping, fishing, and even hunting together. Well, he hunted; I picked flowers. We were very outdoorsy and earthy. We even had a pet pig when I was younger. But what Dad and I really bonded over was music. We listened to music together and watched music movies like Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same. He was high as a kite, saying to me, "Linda! Linda! Come here. You have to see Jimmy Page play the guitar with a bow." I didn't know who or what he was talking about and I didn't care that he was stoned; all I knew was that Dad was paying attention to me and I loved what he was showing me. I loved the raw energy of rock stars. I loved the shirtless Jimmy Page. I loved it all.
Mom and I were not close. Her unhappiness and anger made a barrier around her. I felt displaced in my own family and alone. From around age seven or eight, I had to rely on myself—cook my own meals, do my own laundry, get myself ready for school, etc. In a way, it was good because I learned to be self-reliant and very independent, which I still am today. But as a child, you want both of your parents to help you with the simple things and participate in your life.
The worst fight I had with my mother was the day she snapped. After my parents finally parted ways in 1986, I was staying with my mother on weekends and with my father during the week. It was a Saturday afternoon at her apartment in Fresno, and I made a comment about wanting to be back at my dad's house. I think I said something like, "Fuck you, I want to live with Dad all the time." Little did I know how tough it was for her at the time to not have custody and how betrayed she felt when I chose my father over her. She was going through a really rough time. She was working two jobs, didn't have family around, lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and didn't even have an emotional support system after the divorce.
So we were arguing. She usually argued in Thai and spoke it really fast so I couldn't understand what she was saying anyway. She grabbed me by the hair and then punched me straight in the face. I held my face in pain and looked at her with such hatred and shock. I felt so confused and devastated by that one blow. This is my mother, the one person who is supposed to protect me and instead she is hurting me. She then wrapped her hands around my throat and began choking me. I was a strong-willed kid, and I was not going down without a fight. That's not me. I did my best to fight back, but she was a lot stronger than me. She was a small Thai woman but the devil inside her gave her this superhuman strength. The fight went on for at least a half hour.
"No! No! Don't hurt her!" my eight-year-old sister, Debby, cried and screamed at my mother from across the room.
Mom hit me again. She was hitting me like she was fighting off some sort of attacker. I was beaten and bruised and my hair was in matted clumps from where she grabbed it. And the fight would've kept going had my dad not walked in to pick me up at the exact moment her fingers were clenching my throat. He had to put his body between my mom and me and reach out his arms to stop the brawling.
"Dad, I swear I never want to see her again!" I screamed with tears running down my swollen face.
"OK. You don't have to," he said.
I lived with Dad full-time after that. And I didn't speak to my mother again until five years later, when my world came crashing down for a second time.
That one fight changed my relationship with my mother and with women in general forever. I wasn't mature enough at the time to realize that my mom was the way she was because she was abused as a child herself. I shut down emotionally and closed myself off, especially to women. But men, that was a different story. This series of events made my Lolita ways kick in a bit. I think that's why from a young age I dreamed of marrying a really great man, a man I could feel secure with. But at the time it led to a pattern where every time I was hurt, I went to a man. Any man.