Culture

Shannen Doherty Was An Awful Person, And Five Other Things We Learned From Jason Priestley’s Brand New Tell-All Memoir

All those Shannen Doherty horror stories? Totally true.

As celebrity memoirs go, Jason Priestley’s first attempt at recounting his life in showbiz — titled Jason Priestley: A Memoir, to make things as easy as possible for you — is fairly dull stuff. Does the erstwhile Beverly Hills, 90210 star let it rip with tales of Hollywood excess, drug-fuelled misbehaviour and behind-the-scenes drama? Well, yes. But then, not really.

priestley2

The surface here is wafer-thin, and it’s politely skimmed. There’s exactly one passing mention of 1997’s Love and Death on Long Island, a lovely little indie in which he starred opposite John Hurt — and perhaps the best project on his entire resume. Priestley totally avoids discussing that weird, spacey 2000 on-air interview with Fox News in which he railed against celebrity, and claimed that five million of his fellow Canadians had left the country “because they were tired of listening to Celine Dion music.” And he never even discusses Joe E. Tata. Joe E. Tata! Nat from the Peach Pit! Talk about a missed opportunity.

On the other hand, he’s quite candid about the DUI arrest that nearly derailed his career, and spares few grisly details of his 2002 race-car crash. After he hit a wall going 300km/hr (ouch…), he flat-lined twice and discovered his nose had been all but ripped from his face (OUCH!). Still, there are hints Priestley is holding some better, deeper, far more libellous tales back. Much like Brandon Walsh, that do-gooding milquetoast with whom Priestley will forever and always be associated, he just doesn’t seem to want to hurt anybody’s feelings. This is hardly a tell-all. More like a tell-a-bit-and-hope-it-suffices. Also? The chapters are short. Really short. Like, two pages short. Yay! Easy reading! I’ll make it even easier. Here are some of the cool things I learned (and a few assumptions that were confirmed)  by reading Priestley’s mildly entertaining look back at his life. –

#1: His Elementary School Years Were Almost Certainly Cooler Than Yours

Windsor House School, writes Priestley, “was exactly what you would imagine a small school run by a hippie in early-1970s Canada to be.” That meant sitting in a circle with fellow students for sing-alongs to ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’, all led by a teacher named Corky, who was not fond of deodorant and constantly wore a crocheted brown vest, the key feature of which was a lightbulb shooting rays of yellow light. Students were given actual dead fish to cart around during the annual Caveman Week celebration. Lunch often consisted of raw almonds, millet and greens. Pete Evans would be so proud. –

#2: His First Unwelcome House Guest Was Definitely Cooler Than Yours

Priestley moved to L.A. at seventeen; he often commuted home to Vancouver to film forgettable TV shows like Danger Bay. Once, he returned to find “some random guy asleep in my bed.” That random guy soon became a fixture in Priestley’s crappy two-bedroom apartment, where “we lived on Ramen noodles, generic beer and Marlboro Light cigarettes”. They often went out in random guy’s junky Nissan 200SX to play a game called Seatbelt Dummies (it’s as foolhardy as it sounds, so I won’t repeat the rules here). And random guy, Priestley writes, “always won” competitions to see who could go the longest without showering or shaving. His name was Brad Pitt. –

#3: Aaron Spelling Was A Pimp

Sorta like a cooler, kinder Mr. Burns. Priestley says Spelling’s office — the so-called “inner sanctum” — lay behind a 15-foot tall oak door with ornate brass handles. It was stuffed with ashtrays, a tumbler of vodka, and a long white couch. Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty posters covered the walls. A key design feature: “the deepest shag carpeting I’d ever seen in my life.” This was in 1990, by the way. aaron

#4: Shannen Doherty Was A Diva From The Get-Go

Just after Fox gave Beverly Hills, 90210 a series order, Priestley and Doherty were flown to New York City for the upfronts: that dog-and-pony show where network TV shows shill their wares. Despite the fact she was a relative unknown (unless you’d seen Heathers or, like me, watched Our House), Doherty was already acting up. Seconds after stepping onto the corporate jet — and in full view of the network president — she snapped at her publicist. “Really? A town car? You send a town car to take me to the airport, not a limo?” Later, after Priestley requested a car to take the two shopping during a day off in New York, she went in once more. “Really? Again? A fucking town car? Again? I don’t get a limo?” Bless.

She wasn’t always this sweet.

#5: And Tori Spelling Was Also Pretty Awful

Presumably in deference to Aaron Spelling, whom Priestley repeatedly credits with making him a star, he mostly writes around Tori, instead focussing on her poor taste in men and her second career as a barrel-scraping reality-TV star. He’s no fan of her husband Dean McDermott, or the fact she sold her invitation to Priestley’s 2005 wedding at a yard sale for five dollars (autograph included!), and then bragged about it on the local news. In any case, there’s one fun anecdote that sheds a bit of light on how Priestley handled the nepotism that came with starring opposite the boss’ daughter. During filming of the infamous “Donna Martin Graduates!” scene, Priestley immediately changed his lines and got everybody to bellow “Donna Martin masturbates!” over and over again. (Fun fact: filming of the scene was nearly derailed by the off-screen discovery of two homemade bombs underneath the stadium bleachers.)

#6: He is basically responsible for the success of Barenaked Ladies, Hilary Swank’s film career and Ashley Judd’s marriage to Dario Franchitti

Depending on how you see the world, these random facts either make Priestley a really accommodating guy or something akin to Satan. (Terrifying fact: Barenaked Ladies sang ‘Close to You’ accompanied only by mandolins at Priestley’s wedding.) – Jason Priestley: A Memoir comes out through Harper Collins Australia on Friday May 2. – Nicholas Fonseca is the editor of Time Out Sydney.