AT THE AGE OF 3, TORI SPELLING DEVELoped a fear of insects. "I was at a park, gelling an ice-cream cone," says Spelling, who plays good-natured clotheshorse Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210, "and I saw this anthill, and I became fascinated by it. But as I was standing there, the ice cream began running down my legs, and suddenly the ants were crawling all over me."

It could have been worse. Spelling, now 19, might have developed an ice-cream phobia—and severely hampered a life that seems like pure dessert. She resides in what is believed to be the biggest house (more than 50,000 square feet) in all of California, presided over by her 67-year-old father, legendary TV producer and writer Aaron Spelling (glamo-fests include Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat and Dynasty), whose company created 90210 and who is worth an estimated $295 million. Tori's mom is that Legendary Hollywood wife Candy, 44, whose $1 million diamond ring is known around town as the Star of Malibu.

And there is Tori's second-season hit show on Fox, in which the squeaky-clean Donna has been showcased in revealingly low-cut outfits and a hot story line: She and Brenda (Shannen Doherty) spend a summer as exchange students in (ooh-la-la!) Paris. For Tori Spelling, the chance to spread her acting wings is the sweetest development of all. "I think I've finally stopped being 'Aaron Spelling's daughter.' The greatest thing is when we go out together and the photographers say, 'Uh, Tori, could we get some of you alone?' "

Actually, the world is not quite ready to forget Spelling père. After all, Tori's acting résumé consists almost entirely of appearances in her father's productions. (His company, Torand, combines her name and that of her brother, 13-year-old Randy.) As Tom Shales, the very pointed TV critic of The Washington Post, bluntly puts it, "You assume that nepotism had something to do with her gelling the 90210 part. Seeing her on the show, I don't think there's much to dispel the notion."

Tori would counter that she had to audition for 90210 like anyone else—and even used an alias (Tori Mitchell, from a Heather Locklear TV movie). She also admits that the show's producers didn't fall for this little subterfuge. But if she is a star, Tori insists, it's despite, and not because of, her connections. "I've had to work harder to prove myself," she insists. And you won't hear rumors of Tori throwing temper tantrums. "Ever since I was little," she says, "I've had this fear I would walk on the set and people would think I was going to be a snob or a bitch. So I've always been very careful and very polite." That goes for 90210, too. "Everyone trusts her, everyone likes her," says costar and fictional boyfriend Brian Austin Green (David Silver), 19.

Spelling does, indeed, seem to be completely lacking in the pretensions one might associate with Hollywood's finer zip codes. She is, reports friend Susan Grisanti, 22, an English major at USC, "very low-keyed, very easygoing." At the moment, Spelling, 5'5" and a little more than 100 lbs., has pulled back her long blond hair and wears a black baseball cap, sleeveless checked blouse tied at the midriff, and black shorts. "I prefer casual clothes," she says.

She seems always to have been painfully sensitive about how she was being perceived by people who have no choice but to dress casual. "I wanted to he like die other kids, she says. "I never wanted to be driven around in a limo." But she was. And when that limousine would deliver Tori and family to school events (she attended Westlake, a private girls' school in Beverly Hills), the pomp made her nervous: "I'd say. 'Can we park here and walk?' "

She also decided, in grade school, that she should have an allowance. She initially asked for 25 cents, which her father tactfully suggested was low on the scale. She then upped her request to $5, suggesting that she could do some chores, such as making her bed and feeding the family's four dogs.

"I never wanted anything handed to me," she says. That ethic, of course, is something her father, who grew up dirt-poor in Dallas, understands. "But I didn't realize, as I do now, how proud of my dad and his wealth I should be," says Tori.

Let's just say she should have been extremely proud. In her childhood bedroom, she had a tiny antique table and four 17th-century chairs. One Christmas, Dad carted in truckloads of fake snow to create the appropriate Winter Wonderland effect in their California yard. Then there was the Halloween when Dynasty designer Nolan Miller created 18th-century French court costumes for the entire family. And another time, before little Tori and Randy went for a walk on the beach at Malibu (where the family has a second home), their nanny had been instructed to plant seashells for them to find in the sand.

Tori was also able to have an acting teacher come out to the house twice a week. Tori (born Victoria) has always wanted to be an actress and a screenwriter. She made her first acting appearance, at age 6, on Vega$, followed by stints on Love Boat, Fantasy Island, T.J. Hooker and Hotel. In that sense, Beverly Hills, 90210 was a natural for her. But although she tried out for Kelly—the sexy blonde played by sexy blonde Jennie Garth—she ended up as the not surpassingly bright Donna. "The first season, all Donna did was tag along behind Kelly, who would say something like, 'Let's go to the beach,' and Donna would say, 'Yeah.' Now, I'm up there with the rest." And friends with them, as well, she says, especially Green and Garth ("the one I'll go to if I have a problem").

But her best pals, some from West-lake, live in the unglitzy San Fernando Valley: "I seem to like the Valley kids better, probably because they're not into the money scene, not into trendy clubs, trendy clothes."

But they do shop. Tori's consumption is not all that conspicuous, though, says friend Tammy Morgan, 19: "Let's say Tori sees a pair of pants she likes and they're $500. She'll say, 'That's ridiculous.' "

Her mom is also a co-shopper and a good friend, she says, even if there was the usual mom-daughter friction during Tori's early teens. "Now we're more like sisters," says Tori. "We never fight. We talk."

Conversation must include Spelling's "first serious boyfriend," Ryan Ozar, 19, a business major at the University of Arizona (they met through mutual friends). "He has dark-brown hair and brown eyes," she says. "He was never impressed by the house or who my parents are. He just walked right in. No big deal." Gal pal Morgan says that he occasionally gets annoyed by tabloid reports of a romance between Tori and costar Green. "But she deals with it," Morgan says. "Tori says, 'Oh, Ryan, come on....' "

There's no talk of marriage.

"Right now we're having fun," says Spelling, "and that's what's important." For the indefinite future, she'll be slaying at The Manor. That's what the Spellings call the mansion Aaron built a few years ago—at a price that has been estimated at up to $100 million—on what used to be Bing Crosby's estate. The Manor reportedly has more than 100 rooms (even the Spellings claim they've never gotten around to counting them), as well as two bars, three kitchens, a bowling alley, a slate roof imported from China, an eight-car garage, a pool, a gazebo, a screening room, a gym, a greenhouse, a fish pond and assorted formal gardens. But look, says Spelling, "my dad has worked hard for it, and if that's his dream, he should have it."

And Tori's room? "A normal big bedroom with a normal closet and normal-decorated in powder blue," says Spelling. It also contains a love seat, table, desk, television, armoire, private bath, personal photos and a few stuffed animals. "I'm one of those people who saves everything. I still have a couple of toys from my crib," she reveals. (America sighs: There goes the dream of a Spelling garage sale!)

Would you move out? Besides, "I haven't reached that independent stage where I want to move on," she says. "Also, it would break my dad's heart." So she'll be considerate of her dad, just as she is with her friends and costars: "I never want to hurt anyone's feelings."

Why should Tori Spelling, who could afford not to care, worry so? "I care 'cause I'm a nice person. Thai's the way I was raised. Nice people gel places too, you know."

TOM GLIATTO
JOYCE WAGNER in Hollywood

  • Contributors:
  • Joyce Wagner.