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- June 14, 1993
- Vol. 39
- No. 23
A Life on the Edge
Shannen Doherty's Wild Ways May Be Hazardous to Her—and Her Career
—From a May 25 petition by Dean Jay Factor in the Superior Court of California for a domestic-violence restraining order against Shannen Doherty
The scenario sounds like something from Top Cops, not Beverly Hills, 90210. but then actress Shannen Doherty, 22—who in America's favorite zip code plays prototypical teen Brenda Walsh—has always marched to a dangerous drummer. Partying late into the night at trendy L.A. clubs such as Roxbury and the Gate and piloting her $30,000 black BMW at high speeds through nearby streets, she has defiantly winked at her bad-girl reputation. "Don't believe everything you read," she coyly told fans during a May 26 TV interview. "To paraphrase Mark Twain, half the things you read about me are untrue, and the others are lies.
Now, however, attitude alone may prove a flimsy defense. Last week Doherty was facing not a hyperbolic tabloid headline but the sworn testimony of former fiancé Factor, 28, heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune. And his charges made the tantrum-prone 5'2", 100-lb. Doherty sound violent if not downright homicidal. By midweek, according to Factor's attorney, Edwin Lasman, an understanding had been reached with Doherty in which his client's differences with her were resolved, eliminating the need for further court proceedings. An announcement of the agreement was expected by the week's end.
Still, the allegations in Factor's 15-page declaration remain deeply disturbing. Once, Doherty tried to run him down with a car, Factor claimed. Another time, he said, she threw a log through a window to get into his house. During one argument, he maintained, she "threatened to hire a few guys to beat me up and to sodomize me 'on the front lawn.' " He ended his petition by saying that even though he was taking steps to prevent harassment, "I will live in fear."
Others say they are afraid for Doherty. They believe she is a young woman on the verge of spinning out of control—and that she may be a harmful influence on Tori Spelling, 20, who plays 90210's Donna Martin (and whose father, Hollywood megamogul Aaron Spelling, is the show's executive producer). Tori lately has been engaging in the kind of hard partying and public pugnacity that has given Doherty her bad-girl reputation.
For a time, her rep looked like a stellar career play for Doherty. It meant publicity (even in the form of a nationally circulated I Hate Brenda newsletter, a thinly disguised jab at the actress herself). And Doherty willingly parried the insinuations about her behavior. She denied in interviews that she had an alcohol problem and told one reporter, "I don't hit people. I wasn't hit as a child, and I don't believe in it." Not denying her aggressiveness, she offered in her own defense a favorite line from her preteen days as Jenny Wilder on Little House: A New Beginning. "Michael Landon," she said, "told me you have to stick up for yourself in this business."
What would Landon think now? Since debuting on 90210 in 1990, Doherty has left a trail of bad debts, trashed homes, exhausted friendships and wasted relationships. When challenged, say several people who know her, she is likely to respond with a menacing, "You don't know who you're f—ing with!"
Apparently, Dean Factor learned who and wishes he hadn't. Neither Doherty nor her attorney, Joseph D'Onofrio, responded to PEOPLE's repeated requests for an interview. Speaking in his daughter's defense, Shannen's father, Tom Doherty, 49, an L.A. mortgage adviser, offers a different spin. "He's been doing [the abusing]," says Doherty. "He initialed the charge, but she's the victim."
Indeed, in a confrontation between the 5'10", 175-lb. Factor and Doherty, it is hard to imagine Shannen as anything but a victim. And yet Factor swears that lie was usually on the receiving end. At times, he admits in his petition, he slapped her. Once he threw her into his swimming pool. He says he was acting in self-defense—a claim many who know Doherty are inclined to believe.
"I could have predicted this before it happened," says Doherty's previous ex-fiancé, Chris Foufas, 25, a Chicago-based health-club owner who was engaged to the star in 1991. "Things move along smoothly for a while, and then something snaps and she goes into another drive: rage."
Until March 19, when Doherty moved into Factor's $5,200-a-month rented Tudor-style house in the Hollywood Hills, all seemed relatively smooth. "We did not have more than the occasional loud argument," Factor says. On April 19, with 90210 on hiatus, Doherty began work on the set of a movie, the suspense thriller Blindfold. A senior crew member on the movie calls her behavior "cantankerous, snotty and threatening" and says Doherty told everyone on the set how she and Factor "were constantly fighting, saying how she punched him and he hit her." And then, he adds, "the thing with Nelson began."
In Blindfold, Doherty, who does her first onscreen nude scenes, plays a patient who becomes sexually involved with her psychiatrist—portrayed by Brat Pack graduate Judd Nelson, 33. Shortly after shooting began, Doherty began an offscreen romance with Nelson, even though she was still living with Factor. Right after a read-through of (he Blindfold script in early April, Factor and Doherty began a vacation together in Hawaii on April 12. They were accompanied by Spelling and Nick Savalas, 20, son of actor Telly Savalas, Tori's boyfriend of several months. During the trip, said Factor in his petition, "we took full advantage of the romantic setting." He proposed marriage—and Doherty accepted. But within hours, they were fighting. "Shannen came back with a black eye and said she'd been hit by a surfboard," says her dad. "In reality he'd hit her." Factor's version in his declaration: "After having been kicked and beaten, I pushed her off me. Unfortunately she tripped, fell and cut her eye on the doorstep." What were they arguing about? "Judd Nelson," speculated the senior Doherty. "Dean felt she was fooling around with him."
Over the next few weeks, Factor said he pleaded with Doherty to continue their engagement. But on May 13, some days after Doherty moved out, said Factor, she returned and yet another fight ensued. The next day he filed a complaint with the LAPD. He said in his deposition, "I decided the nonsense had to end."
For Doherty, though, it was just beginning. That same night she checked into Dallas's exclusive Mansion on Turtle Creek—with Judd Nelson. The couple went out for some midnight club-hopping. Gus Hudson, manager of the Greenville Bar & Grill in Dallas, noticed on that evening that Doherty "was drinking heavily" and that "she puked at her table." The next night, back at the Greenville, Nelson was taunted by several young people about his recent lack of good movie parts. When he tried to climb over a railing to argue, he kicked 21-year-old Kim Evans in the nose—unintentionally, he says. Evans left the bar with minor injuries, and Nelson was eventually charged with assault. The case is pending.
As Chris Foufas sees it, his ex-fiancée's bar-and mate-hopping follows a familiar pattern. "Shannen can be a great, wonderful, loving person," he says. "But she wants to be a dictator. Shannen gets people to commit to her and then says, 'See ya!' She is like a kid who wants a toy, gets it and then gets tired of it."
Over the past year she has amassed a lot of toys—at heavy cost. After she broke up with Foufas, for example, she went on a $45,000 shopping spree. Previously the California United Bank, which often tolerates celebrity overdrafts up to $100,000, had filed suit in May last year because Doherty had not repaid $31,628.16 in bad checks written in 1991. The Superior Court of California awarded the bank a 25 percent levy against her $17,500-a-week 90210 paycheck—which will be raised to $22,500 when shooting resumes July 7. Says bank attorney Andy Alper: "We were lucky we were first in line."
Apparently. Still waiting for payment are Doherty's former publicist, Susan Culley, ex-manager Mike Gursey and former landlord Mark Nishimura, who claims Doherty owes $14,000 in unpaid lease fees. Reportedly two of Shannen's leased Mercedeses have been repossessed.
Why the seeming inability to control her spending? "It's a power thing, to prove her worth," says a former friend. But Shannen, who started acting in Pepsi commercials at age 10, has helped the Doherty clan (including her mother, Rosa, who works at an L.A. beauty salon, and her older brother, Sean, 26, a political volunteer). "She's too generous," thinks her dad. "Your cash flow just dries up."
Ultimately, of course, Aaron Spelling governs that spigot, and an insider says he is looking to dump Doherty from 90210. Though she has 28 episodes left in her contract, Doherty's onscreen time next season may be minimized if Brenda leaves for college in Minnesota. But Spelling is concerned more for his daughter than his series. Tori has moved out of her family's 100-plus-room Holmby Hills mansion. Over the last month she and Savalas have been spotted engaged in loud arguments in several L.A. hot spots. Says Roxbury doorman Todd Spenla of their relationship: "Tori is always unhappy for some reason." Notes the insider: "With Tori getting caught up in [Shannen's lifestyle] now, Aaron is beside himself as a father."
Given Doherty's long-standing reputation—not likely to be enhanced by Factor's allegations—losing 90210 could cripple her career. Shannen, her father hopes, may be getting the message. "It's disheartening for her," says Tom of the adverse publicity. "A little of the life, a little of the spirit is out of her. She's just gelling over the shell shock." Then he adds meaningfully, "She's beginning to understand things too."
TOM CUNNEFF and NANCY MATSUMOTO in Los Angeles; ANNE MAIER in Dallas; BARBRA SANDLER in Chicago and CRAIG TOMASHOFF in New York City
- Tom Cunneff,
- Nancy Matsumoto,
- Anne Maier,
- Barbra Sandler,
- Craig Tomashoff.
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