Read an Excerpt
The Vixen Diaries
By Karrine Steffans
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2007 Karrine Steffans
All right reserved.
Chapter One A Man Named Norwood
Early in March 2006, Norwood Young invited me to dinner. At first glance, Norwood could be a long-lost brother of Michael Jackson: he must have visited the same plastic surgeon who has sculpted the Jackson kids' imminently recognizable noses and cleft chins. The skin around Norwood's eyes is tight, leading me to believe he's also been nipped and tucked, not just sculpted and dimpled. He also dresses very flamboyantly, with multicolored outfits of exotic materials. His hair is short, black, and wavy, and both ears are adorned with diamond earrings of about six carats. In fact, the earring in his right ear was so heavy, his lobe couldn't bear the weight, and it fell out on several occasions.
Dinner was set for seven at Los Angeles's uber-trendy sushi restaurant Katana, which boasts a full sushi bar, ample, cozy seating in its dimly lit dining room, and a spacious patio overlooking the infamous, fabulous Sunset Strip. A place for the nouveau riche and the celebrity, the eatery shares a building with Miramax Films and boasts a dual staircase leading from the sidewalk onto its outdoor patio and entrance. Inside, Katana is authentically Asian, with a tasteful veneer of Hollywood on top. It's a great place to see famous faces. KISS front man Gene Simmons passed by our table on the way to the men's room as the server brought my second order of hot sake. The sushi bar was packed and became even more alive each time another patron entered the dining room, as the sushi chefs greeted each with a yell. What they were saying is far beyond me, but I could only guess it's Japanese for "Welcome!"
As I said, Norwood is flamboyant; nothing about him is understated. From his fur coat to his designer denim and expensive shoes, it's obvious he has a story to tell. From the second I first saw him, I knew he was different. It takes an unusual man to alter his face to the degree that he has and to dress as outrageously as he does. When Norwood walks into a room, all eyes are on him. Everyone knows he's somebody, but who? He was once the lead singer of an R & B group named Pieces of a Dream, but now no one can pinpoint what he does to support his lavish lifestyle.
Norwood's amazing house is an eyesore to some, and a work of art to others. For those of us who know him, it's a direct reflection of his personality and his own personal, internal revolution. The house, recently featured on the E! series High Maintenance 90210, is on one of the busiest corners in Hollywood and is a gaudy display of art and defiance, making it an instant Los Angeles landmark. It is protected by a white decorative gate, and in the driveway is Norwood's late-model Bentley Continental, next to his Lincoln Navigator SUV, painted in an iridescent burnt orange, which changes hues as you walk around it.
But the true attraction of this once average home are the many white replicas of Michelangelo's David, historically and infamously naked. The chalk-white forms litter the front yard and even the roof of the home. Though I have not counted them all, there must be at least fifteen statues in the front of the property alone. Not surprisingly, offended neighbors complained and lawsuits were filed, but the statues remain.
I walked up the cobblestone driveway, careful not to ruin the heels of my new stilettos. Norwood met me at the door, but my eyes were not on him as I said hello. They were focused on the painting behind him, an enormous black-and-white self-portrait. The inside of his home is decorated in the same vein as the outside, and to tie it all together, there were two tiny dogs nipping at my heels-one pink, one purple, and aptly named Diva and Divo. There is a strange collection of oversized furniture and artifacts; white lacquer and African masks, neon lights and mirrors all around. Even while standing still, I was spinning, unable to keep my balance. From the curb to the living room, I was already overwhelmed. The closet in his bedroom holds hundreds of outfits on one of those carousel racks that you see at a dry cleaner's!
Norwood and I met on February 22, 2006 on the red carpet for the premier of a little-known film called Seat Filler, starring Kelly Rowland, of Destiny's Child fame, and Duane Martin, known from the CW series All of Us. I guess we didn't actually meet, but we exchanged glances, as if to say, I see you, you see me, and we're both hot! Three days later I ran into him again at the GM brunch the morning of the NAACP Image Awards, then later that evening on the red carpet of the Awards. During the brunch we made our first formal introduction with the help of our mutual friends, columnist Jawn Murray and comedian Kim Whitley.
"Karrine, have you met Norwood?" Jawn asked.
"You guys don't know each other?" Kim added.
"No, but I think it's about time we do. I have seen you everywhere!" I replied, offering him my hand.
"Yes, I keep bumping into you. I'm Norwood."
"I'm Karrine. It's a pleasure to meet you finally and officially." By the end of the brunch, he and I had exchanged numbers, which led us to that first night out together at Katana.
It wasn't long before Norwood's story began pouring out of him, and his truths began to sound strangely familiar. There were many things said at that Katana dinner that I just cannot repeat. As Norwood said, the things he could write a book about would kill his mother, and I don't want to be the one to send Miss Betty over the edge.
What I will say is this: I learned that my story is the story of many women and men alike. Sexual abuse is the hidden secret of many people. Those who were abused as children often grow up with greatly damaged self-esteem coupled with a warped view of sexuality-and many of them get the idea that becoming rich and famous will make all that childhood pain disappear. Perhaps it is not surprising that promiscuity, homosexuality, and just plain sexual confusion runs rampant in Hollywood. Young girls come here hoping to "make it"-and so do young gay men. Who Norwood has slept with and what he has done with them does not amaze me, because we are male and female mirrors, two sides of the same coin. From our lists of liaisons and indecent proposals to the secrets and lies we keep hidden on behalf of those we love, this man and I are twins. However, his stories would not only kill his mother, they would send shock waves through the entire entertainment industry.
Hollywood is a place both of dreams and of scandal. I have lived in this town for over seven years now, and the longer I stay, the more jaded I become-and the more I cannot leave. When I moved here, a friend warned me about the deceptive power of Hollywood. The city seems to be slow paced compared to meccas such as New York, London, Paris, and even Miami, but it is all an illusion. It will lull you to sleep with its palm trees and warm breezes, its beautiful people and casual opulence. And at the exact moment that you relax, the vortex that is Hollywood will suck you in, and your former self will never be seen again.
Hollywood transforms you and makes you into one of them. If you're not careful, it's easy to become one of the self-absorbed Beautiful Ones, whose only thrill in life is collecting people and things, as if living in a virtual board game. It becomes impossible for you to fit in anywhere else. Your life revolves around pleasure and beauty-you live your life shopping, exercising, and preserving your youth. Where else is it normal to have your face stretched and your lips puffed up? Where else is having the fat sucked out of your butt and relocated into the crevices of your face a typical lunch-hour appointment? Hollywood is the only place I know where having real breasts is strange and frowned upon, where being an eighty-year-old, wrinkle-free, surgeon-assisted voluptuous former playmate in a new Mercedes Benz SL is a life goal. Hearing the stories of others who live here lets me know that it's not just me; I am not the only one who has changed out of necessity. I am not the only one who has seen and done horrific things in this cesspool of sin.
It is so difficult for people who don't live here to know whatHollywood is like, or to believe the truth about it. And when I say Hollywood, I don't mean the city so much as the lifestyle and frame of mind. When Confessions of a Video Vixen was released, I received a lot of initial backlash from people who just couldn't fathom a lifestyle like this: fast money, drugs, and sex-the stuff of which movies are made. But you have to understand that people who know what goes on in this town write the movies we love so much. From Pretty Woman all the way to Boogie Nights, it's rarely fiction.
As I sat and listened to Norwood, I was reminded of where I was and that this was indeed the land of lost angels. I wondered how much deeper I would sink into this bizarre, materialistic lifestyle. It has already changed me so much. I've gone from bargain-bin shopping to Rodeo Drive, from appreciative to entitled. I have spoiled myself rotten, and I only wonder what I am overcompensating for. Am I still making up for my past and using it as a crutch and an excuse? Or am I just living the good life with "champagne wishes and caviar dreams?"
I felt a connection to Norwood that night as I listened to him tell me about his life, especially the horrible experiences that changed him as a little boy and shaped his manhood. He told me almost unbelievable stories about the double lives of powerful men at the top of the entertainment business in this town, their secrets and lies-things that, if made public, would change their existences and ruin their careers. We spent several hours at Katana that night, letting each other know that we were not alone and, in many ways, not that different. And at the end of it all, it made me think about what my father had said to me long ago about being born a girl. Here before me was a man who had it no better that I had, a man who also lived his life as a vixen and felt the need to do some confessing.
Excerpted from The Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans Copyright © 2007 by Karrine Steffans. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.