I have lived many lives in one, but I think my most colorful life had to be as co-owner of the Beverly Hills magazine. What an amazing trip into wonderland it was.
My third husband, Lee, was a Renaissance man. He was a genius at just about anything he put his mind to, but his brilliance came at a price. He was a danger addict and bored by anything that wasn’t just a little dangerous or illegal.
For example, for a while we belonged to an income tax protest group and I had to stamp the back of every check with some disclaimer about the fact that we didn’t pay taxes. When the founder of that group was imprisoned, Lee dropped it and went back to paying the IRS. He also bootlegged cable TV antennas for some people who had mob connections. He was a pilot, sailboat racer, drove sleek, sexy cars, and lived on the edge. On the other hand, he always had a legitimate job and was honest to the core about most things.
Although I have immortalized Lee in a few other stories about my crazy life, this one is about the Beverly Hills magazine.
Lee was born in Baker, California. His great-grandfather founded the little desert town that now boasts the world’s largest thermometer. I will resist the obvious anal joke.
Before I met him, he owned a fast food restaurant there—The Cone Taco—and doted on his Arabian horses and doberman dog. He later moved to Los Angeles and opened his own business in the specialized field of color separations for the printing industry. However, Lee dreamed of something bigger, better, and with more glitz
We had been together for a few years when he started Beverly Hills magazine. I wrote the astrology column and a few articles, but for the most part, I was the receptionist and the “bosses girlfriend.” I didn’t care that the other employees talked about me behind my back and probably said nasty, jealousy things, I was having an amazing time in the world of Hollywood—movie stars, celebrities, fancy parties, and more! I couldn’t get enough.
I met some of the most interesting people, got to attend the King Tut’s exhibition on a press pass before it opened, was invited to the upperclass Holmby Hills parties, met Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hagman, Mary Pickford (just before she died, and so many others. I had my hair cut by Elizabeth Taylor’s hairdresser. I was treated like one of the “cool” people. Little did they know what a fraud I was.
At one hoity-toity party in Holmby Hills, at the mansion of a newspaper publisher, the room was filled with celebs and wannabe celebs. I was bored. They all talked contracts, agents, and their last projects. After stifling too many yawns, I wandered into the shiny, massive kitchen and sat down on a stool at the central island. I looked around, watching the busy waiters and waitresses moving in and out of the kitchen with wine, fancy champagne, canapes, and such.
When one middle-aged man in a tuxedo came in to direct some of the staff, he looked at me with raised eyebrows.
I raised mine back.
“May I be of service, miss?” he said in a polished voice I’m sure he practiced nightly.
I thought, I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I am so done with all those boring people out there. At least I thought I had kept that in my head. I realized too late that I had said it out loud.
Expecting to be ousted immediately, I looked at “Jeeves.”
His face twitched and he snorted, then broke out into a very undignified belly laugh. Walking over to me, he sat down and whispered, “I am, too.” Offering his hand, he said,
I took his hand and replied, “Anita, Beverly Hills magazine and wannabe circus clown.” We both laughed and spent the next hour chatting and, yes, I admit, gossiping about the guests. What a wonderful night.
Beverly Hills magazine was a hit, but after a year, Lee decided that it was time to move on and he sold it to a man who only ate meat. We moved to Houston, Texas, where Lee took a job with a printing company and I taught classes in hypnotherapy and gave stop-smoking and weight-loss workshops, among other things. I continued my education, wrote my first book, and my second. Life was good for a while. Beverly Hills was far behind us, or so we thought.
One morning, the doorbell rang and a pretty, young woman in a crisp blue suit with a white blouse proceeded to tell us that the IRS had been looking for Lee for over a year and that he owed the government $200,000 in back taxes.
WHAT???? It turned out that after “meat man” took over, he didn’t pay employee taxes and eventually skipped the country with all the money and assets. Lee, who was so clever in many ways, was not clever enough to withdraw from the company and somehow, he was now liable for all that money.
So Beverly Hills magazine was an adventure with a twisted ending. I wouldn’t trade the experience for twice $200,000. And, in hindsight, Lee had it coming. Plus, I added this to my list of lives lived through the looking glass.
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