What do you get for a man who has everything? How about a custom-made pinball machine with balls whizzing over images of his face, his family and his dogs while a recording of his wife's voice purrs, "I love you, darling"? Or a delicate Chinese agate bottle emblazoned with his portrait -- intricately painted from inside the vessel?
Such totems of Aaron and Candy Spelling's nearly 38-year marriage remain from their onetime reign as the town's quintessential everything couple. If Donald Trump was the crown prince of the go-go '80s, then TV uber-producer Aaron Spelling was their production designer. Spelling's stable of potboiler dramas in lavish settings, including "Dynasty" and "Fantasy Island," built his fame and fortune -- not to mention Los Angeles County's largest home, dubbed "The Manor." All the while, by his side until his death in 2006, stood the inspiration for "Dynasty's" Krystle Carrington, his wife, Candy.
On the wall of the two-lane bowling alley at the Spelling manse, there's a framed photo of the couple from that period. The two are dressed in black tie -- which, in Candy's case, meant a profusion of white diamonds and emeralds on her ears, neck, wrist and ring fingers, as well as an immaculate coif: the straight, ice-blond bob with bangs that Linda Evans as Krystle made a uniform of the well-turned-out trophy wife.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, April 02, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Candy Spelling: An article in Tuesday's Calendar section about Candy Spelling's memoir said the Century condominium building in Century City is being designed by architects Robert A.M. Stern, Jean Nouvel and Richard Meier. Stern is the sole architect on this project.
In her memoir, "Stories From Candyland: Confections From One of Hollywood's Most Famous Wives and Mothers" (St. Martin's Press), which hits bookstore shelves today, Candy cracks open the door to her life as a distinctive breed of Angeleno -- the ultimate trophy wife, not a member of the first wives' club, but the (usually younger) last wife. Spelling's chatty account traces her own trip to Fantasy Island from her youth as an L.A. model stuck on movie magazines and Rock Hudson to such wifely tasks as designing Aaron's dauntingly huge office -- and mogul's image.
Other hazards of the trophy-wife trade can be short marriages, but not this one. Candy Spelling assiduously maintained hearth and home -- as well as her husband's business, her own short-lived gift boutique, a QVC doll line and the family's investments -- by virtue of her skills as an American geisha. She was the Hollywood spouse who figuratively walked a few steps behind her mogul, so minutely attuned to his needs that she inscribed the frames around their French Impressionist collection with the names of artists and paintings so her husband could impress their guests.
The rewards of such a life -- which included a 56,500-square-foot French chateau-style cocoon and a first-class tour of Europe with 52 suitcases in tow -- are legendary. But there have been costs as well. One was her gnawing lack of self-confidence, which led to eight years of therapy.
On the plus side, her modest demeanor "was a good fit" for her husband, 22 years her senior, she says. At the moment, she's perched on a chair in her beige library, surrounded by hundreds of her husband's TV scripts, which she had bound in leather, and his 10-foot-long, stained-oak desk, custom-made to her extravagant specifications. A trim 63, Spelling is casually dressed in black slacks and flats. "I didn't really want to be anything other than the trophy wife," says the L.A. native. "Today, I'm a different person, but in one of our beginning dates, he literally spent the evening teaching me how to say hello and shake hands. 'Look up, look them in the eyes.' My mother never taught me that. She taught me to set a beautiful table. I could cook and I could sew, but I was very shy." If you'd like the recipe for the chicken casserole that helped her land a budding zillionaire, see page 224.
Life after Aaron
Now the self-described "celebrity by marriage . . . and motherhood" is at a crossroads, facing a tree-in-the-forest kind of quandary: Can a trophy wife without a mogul husband make a sound? If the book is any evidence, the answer seems to be yes. Indeed, it's hard to imagine such a tome competing for Aaron's spotlight while he was alive. Candy says she wrote the book only because her friends encouraged her to do so.
Now that she's a widow, Spelling has also decided The Manor is too big for one person. As widely reported last summer, she bought a $47-million, 16,500-square-foot penthouse condo in the Century, a Century City building under construction and designed by star architects Robert A.M. Stern, Jean Nouvel and Richard Meier. She plans to move in to her new spread in about a year and has just put her home on the market with an asking price of $150 million (although real estate sources say a price in the low $100 millions is probably more realistic).