My brother just sent me an email with the subject line “Kill me please.” The body contained the news that Tori Spelling and her husband, Dean What’s-his-name, are in talks to become the next wife/husband team starring in Chicago on Broadway. (The others were Amy Spanger/Michael C. Hall and Lisa Rinna/Harry Hamlin.)
After my initial wave of nausea subsided, I decided that I was not going to be upset at this latest bit of stunt casting. It’s time to accept that Chicago has been reduced to regional dinner theater. I’ve found that the most cathartic funerals usually contain both weeping and celebration. I’ve already wept, so now it’s time to celebrate. Rather than celebrate Chicago or the theater, I’m going to take a moment to reminisce about the phases of Tori Spelling’s career that have brought me joy rather than pain. I’m skeptical about the musical theater phase — and I’ve chosen to ignore the reality show phase — but she has brought me discrete moments of happiness over the years.
1. The Child Actor phase: Jamie (Red Feather), Troop Beverly Hills
Tori Spelling did not star in Troop Beverly Hills, but she did a creditable job in her first feature film. I haven’t seen the movie for a few years, but it’s one of my mother’s and my guilty-pleasure favorites. It may be Shelley Long‘s best movie role and has other hallmark features. It co-stars Stephanie Beacham (one of the “Costa cons” on later seasons of Bad Girls; and it introduces Carla Gugino and Kellie Martin, among other young actresses.
2. The Teen Queen phase: Donna Martin, Beverly Hills 90210
Despite the fact that the show was unwatchable in the last few seasons, I have a soft spot for Beverly Hills 90210. It was created and written by people I did not know, but who were at college with me, and I saw numerous events from my college days play out on the show. During the 10 years the show lasted, Tori Spelling consistently turned in a respectable performance as virgin-turned-boutique-owner Donna Martin. While she went through fewer trials than her best friend, Kelly Taylor, Donna did have her share of drama. She struggled to maintain her virginity for seven or eight seasons. She was almost suspended from high school. And she got knocked down a flight of stairs by abusive boyfriend, Ray Pruitt. Although never the primary star of the show, the most enduring catch phrase of the show (Donna Martin graduates!) centered on her character.
3. The Lifetime Movie phase: Stacey Lockwood, Death of a Cheerleader and Laurel Lewisohn, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger
This is, without question, my favorite phase of her career. Mother, May I Sleep With Danger is the Best. Lifetime. Movie. Title. Ever.
Tori Spelling plays a somewhat fragile college student who becomes infatuated with and then terrorized by a controlling, abusive suitor (Ivan Sergei). Her protective (and kind of hot) mother, played by Lisa Banes, goes to great lengths to save her daughter from this predator.
Death of a Cheerleader would rank among the most fun, schlocky movies ever if it weren’t based on a true story. That part makes it kind of creepy.
Tori played the mean cheerleader who lesbian-baited sad sack Kellie Martin, who just really, really wanted to be her friend. (To the point of quasi-stalking her.) After the climactic exchange between them, Kellie Martin stabbed her to death. Alas.
4. The Indie Movie phase: Lesly, House of Yes and Katherine, Trick
I don’t really remember her very well in House of Yes. (In fact, I don’t really remember the movie.) But I know that I liked it. And Parker Posey was the star, so that just makes it inherently good.
And, finally, there’s gay indie comedy Trick. Tori played the bad-actress, fag-hag best friend. So she gets points both for being pro-gay, and for being willing to make fun of herself.
After that walk down memory lane, I barely care about what she’s doing to Chicago. If you have any favorite Tori Spelling moments, please feel free to share in my reverie.