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In the wink of an eye

A mockumentary. Friends. Work. Ted Demme's widow remembers, moves on.

January 12, 2004|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

She put everything Ted owned, "down to his underwear," in a vault for their children, then meticulously cataloged everything, his cameras, his clothing, every roll of film he ever shot. She lost a lot of weight in the first few months and joked with her girlfriends that "there's nothing like the widow's diet." She planted a treadmill next to her bed and now, she says, strives to stay "in the best physical shape of my life."

Memory gems

"Want to see something?" Amanda asks. She walks into her tidy closet, balances one stiletto on a suitcase to reach an upper shelf, and pulls down a vintage chenille-covered cosmetic case. Inside are a series of small velvet bags. Inside each bag is a memory. Two small black coral rings that Ted bought them during their Jamaican vacation to signify their engagement. A solitaire diamond set in platinum, his grandmother's, that he gave Amanda later. Handfuls of rings, studded with jade and lapis and coral, all of them gifts from Teddy.

Amanda dips her hand into another bag and pulls out the jewelry Teddy wore every day: his watch, his heavy silver bracelet and his silver necklace. She gently arranges them on the bed. "Those'll be for his kids," she says quietly. The jewelry sits on the bed, a small memorial to the man. Then the moment passes, and Amanda packs up the case and puts it back on the top shelf.

At first sight

Ted and Amanda met in L.A. in the late 1980s on the set of "Yo! MTV Raps." Ted was the show's producer, and House of Pain, the subject of that day's interview, was managed by Amanda's company.

"We were two incredibly interesting white people in hip-hop," she recalls.

Amanda, then the co-owner of Immortal Records and Buzztone Management, had established herself as a hip-hop entrepreneur with the New York club Carwash. There, she hosted DJ contests and rap shows with stellar lineups: Leaders of the New School, Afrika Bambaataa, Digital Underground, De La Soul. Eventually she helped launch the careers of House of Pain, Korn and Cypress Hill.

"I was really hard-core," she says. "I walked, talked and dressed the part of, like, the queen of hip-hop back then. I was so tomboy."

Ted had helped create "Yo! MTV Raps," one of the first mainstream TV shows to acknowledge the hip-hop audience. He was soon producing and directing for the network, including comic spots for Denis Leary. That led to the creation of his production company, Spanky Pictures, and directing credits on "The Ref," "Beautiful Girls," "Monument Ave." and "Blow," among others. In 1999, he won an Emmy for producing HBO's "A Lesson Before Dying."

"Everybody knew who Teddy was," Amanda says. "And when I met him -- oh my God! I fell madly in love. At first sight. I knew he was it." Six months later, they got engaged. They were married a few years later.

A multi-tasker

Amanda is the first to acknowledge her strong personality. She calls herself a "rock-and-roll mom," which means she's changing diapers and shuttling her kids around as often as she's out networking at the hippest parties. Among friends, she's the planner, the facilitator, the people-connector.

"She just makes things happen," says novelist Carol Wolper.

Since Ted's death, however, Amanda has revealed a softer side, says her friend Tracey Ross, the boutique owner. "I like her even more now," she says. "She's much more approachable, I think. She's opened herself up more."

At AD Entertainment, which encompasses a record label, TV and film production, artist management, music supervision and the high-profile events firm Supermarket Events, Amanda is the boss who tells it like it is and takes care of business. "If we were in a bar fight, I know she's got my back," says her business partner Dominique Trenier.

She is a tireless multi-tasker. For years, she worked as a music supervisor on film and TV projects, from "Erin Brockovich" to "Freaks and Geeks," while managing musicians and a record label. After Ted's death, she started AD Entertainment while overseeing the completion of his documentary, "A Decade Under the Influence." This year, she's launching a beauty line and taking over management of the three bars in the Roosevelt Hotel (including one, coincidentally, named Teddy's).

In the first interview for this story, last summer, Amanda wanted attention focused on her company, not on her loss. She asked that there be no sentimentality, no pitiful tales of life after Ted. And please, she said, no use of the word "widow."

Yet when she walked into her office, she opened the interview by handing over a copy of the invitation to Ted's funeral. It was a simple black-and-white card that featured happy family photos and a poem inside selected by Quincy Jones. After a 20-minute pitch on her company -- "It's rock 'n' roll. It's fashion. It's lifestyle in general" -- the talk turned tentatively to her late husband.

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