(Coming Soon from Hillenglade Publishing House)
I first met Jennifer O’Neill twenty-five years ago. She was a startling beauty and an irresistible force in the glamorous venues of fashion and Hollywood, who, upon entering a room chock full of entertainment elite or anyone else for that matter, elicited a sudden and serious attack of slack jaw. Moreover, she had an array of artistic talents as well as stiletto sharp perception and simply had all of the apparent attributes for a life rich in accomplishment and happiness.
She and her CoverGirl face were recognized worldwide, but her internal compass sometimes failed her with respect to problems she encountered, both personally and professionally, in her turbulent life. The exquisite visage that was her calling card masked the internal bleeding of her soul. Though many obstacles in her quest for serenity kept her goal just beyond reach, she invariably rebounded with energy and fortitude. Perhaps the inimitable Billy Joel described the grand lady precisely in one lyric phrase, It’s “All About Soul,” and that it is. In addition to her parents and her children, she had one consuming passion in her lifelong affair with horses, and more specifically, the equestrian competitions which have always revitalized her spirit.
I will never forget an event back in the 1980’s where she and her massive steed performed and that radiant look at lift-off on the back of her Champion in the split second she was airborne. She and the horse were one: Jennifer and the mythic Pegasus in flight, defining exhilaration. Recently I was fortunate to witness that expression again. Jen was speaking to a women’s group at an elegant club in Palm Beach, Florida, on the subject of her frenetic life and ultimate conversion. As she glided into her uplifting testimony, there it was again. Not a mask, but simply unrestrained joy emanating from her entire being, and it was clear to me that in her acceptance and embrace of her faith, our cherished aviatrix has been propelled in flight now and for all time, under the watchful gaze of her Ethereal Wingman. Jen, I wish you all the serenity, peace and love that is now finally in your grasp.
Vaya con Dios,
Excerpts From CoverStory
Jen was my first two-legged mission in the pursuit of finding happiness. It was after meeting her that I decided I would refer to myself as Jenny, not Jennifer (as Mom and Dad always called me when I was in trouble). Besides, Jenny sounded less formal and more user-friendly. My wannabe buddy had long, braided, black hair. I had short brown tufts. She had all the dolls one could ever desire. I had envy. Not only was she doted on by her parents, but the boys in school liked her too, and she knew it.
I told her that boys were as interesting to me as a stubbed toe.
You’re a liar, Jenny!
* * *
It was soon after those fleeting rounds of fond memories that I experienced my first huge scare (other than the two times I was dropped on my head). I was nine when I had a Polaroid-moment, a term I use for images I can’t erase. I was on my way home, alone, from school when I came upon a man standing near the lake with his dog. He had suddenly appeared in the half-light of dusk, his body made ethereal by the layers of fog that rolled about him in the rainy, cold air. His eyes snared mine with a look that caught my attention. I had been taught about strangers but had never actually run into one.
Hey, but this stranger has a dog, Jenny!
The man smiled at me, then started to turn away, but the dog wagged his tail in an invitation for me to come closer. I smiled at the pup that looked to be well fed. That made me happy since the man seemed less-than-cared-for with a long, scruffy beard and uncombed hair that stuck out at odd angles. Still, I wanted to pat the dog whose tail now looked like a propeller gone wild.
“Is he friendly?” I asked, holding my ground.
“Sure.” The words slipped out between the mans mustache and his grin.
As I ventured closer, the mans battered coat suddenly opened with a swishing flair reminiscent of Dracula’s cape, and an instant later, his zipper was down and he was exposing himself to me. The expression on his face made me nauseous. I bolted, racing away so fast I was sure my feet weren’t touching the ground. So fast, that when I finally looked over my shoulder, he had disappeared into the mist. And even though the man was gone, he owned a part of me from that moment on
Like a scar that marks the point of an incision.
Petrified, I kept the terror and fear buried away in my hidden-place, a place of emotional amnesiaa protective storage method I’d invented that quickly turned into a bad and costly habit.
And worse, my very own emotional ticking-time-bomb was being assembled.
While I constantly dreamed of being swept away by a flawless and powerful White Knight, I couldn’t seem to ward off my nightmares or deep-seeded fears. I concluded that I couldn’t wait to grow up and find my all-and-all, so I reverted back to my having-to-earn-love theory. Even though my dancing, spinning, twirling and leaping across the floor during Mom and Dad’s renowned parties had been well received when I was younger, I was about to enter junior high and I needed new material. I decided I was going to get straight A’s in school so my parents would have no choice but to notice me and be proud that I was their daughter. Besides, kids in my class were receiving five dollars for every “A” on their report cards, so I hit the books harder than ever to ensure I’d find an emotional and financial windfall.
I’m sure Mom was confused when she found herself buying me a training bra a few days later because she couldn’t see any reason I would need a bra.
“But Mom, that’s the point of a training bra!” I wailed. The starter bra had flat stretchy material that expanded with ones bustline.
Hopeful bustline, Jenny!
These days it seems that bra-less is the way to get attention, but in the early 60’s, late developing girls could feel all grown-up with bra straps holding up.
Once home and armed with my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, I snuck into the bathroom and stuffed the stretchy material full of Kleenex (and everything else I could find). Finally satisfied with my new triple D silhouette, I flew out the door, down the block, across the quarry, up the hill to Monty, threw his bridle on and galloped back down to the quarry in what felt like less than a minute. I made such extraordinary time, my hair was blown back slick against my drenched brow and my nostrils felt permanently flared. I arrived at our rendezvous point just in time to catch David trotting down the trail on his mare-thankfully alone this time.
I seductively lowered my voice, “Hey, how bout we take the horses swimming?” And with that offer, I stuck my chest out to show off my new shape. Davids eyes bugged out and we were off to the quarry in a flash.
David had already disappeared over the hill when I felt a light breeze across my chest. My head snapped down to see if my blouse had come open, and to my horror, a button had ripped away. Soaked, my shirt clung to me like a second skin bearing evidence of a gross deformity planted right there on my chest: one side of my new training bra was exploding with shapely tissue; the other side was flat as a pancake!! My head whipped back to check the water and boom, there it was, pounds of wet tissue-floating proof of my humiliation!! Yes, it was tangible evidence of stupidity beyond a reasonable doubt. I was caught in a lie that had surfaced atop the otherwise clean, sparkling quarry water.
My right boob had washed out from under me like a cloud blown out to sea.
You’re busted Jenny!!
* * *
The keys were in the Buick and I was peeling out of the driveway before thinking twice about any consequences. Part of me was surprised that I’d so boldly ventured forth, especially since I’d never blatantly disobeyed my parents before. But there I was, whizzing along making up for lost times of abandonment. The road was narrower than I figured. It was also gusty and slick with fall leaves that swirled and stuck to the windshield like nasty little demons determined to block my view. My palms poured sweat and I quickly came to the brilliant conclusion that my adventure was way over my head. I started to look for a place to turn around when my eyes were suddenly blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights.
My throat gagged as my stomach turned over in a wave of nausea.
The road barely accommodated my car; how was I ever going to be able to pass this wall of light barreling toward me? I considered jumping out of my moving vehicle to my sure death but opted to ride the nightmare out…
TO YOUR SURE DEATH!!
Shaking seizure-style, my hands fumbled about the steering wheel in search for some reassurance.
As the headlights filled my vision, I swerved and closed my eyes in preparation for impact.
In hindsight, it was the first time in my life I realized I had an escort of angels hovering over me, because the oncoming car passed by me without incident. Alive and still on the road, I quickly looked in the rear-view mirror.
That’s Dad’s car, you triple fool!!!
Then reality struck; there was no way I could possibly beat my parents home.
Okay, you’re toast!!!
Finally able to slow my panic, I decided to pull Mom’s car over. Lunging and jerking through skid marks, I made it to the side of the road and sat for what seemed an eternity. As I contemplated my future, my accelerated breaths formed a film of steam on the windshield and windows. I thought about leaving Dodge and heading north to the high country in Mom’s Buick with no money, gas, food, or clothes.
* * *
I decided to give myself a break from my quest to conquer my fear as a songstress, and set my sights on travel and adventure whenever Aimee spent her vacations with her dad. I returned to Europe and hung out with The Beatles and Mick Jagger at famous night spots, traveled on the Orient Express as a celebrity for Robin Leach, met with Henry Kissinger for cocktails, chatted about world affairs and life in general with David Frost, Charlie Rose and Larry King, shared the stage with Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Cher, Pacino, Mel Tormé, Don Rickles, dined with Princess Grace and John Travolta, played cricket with England’s Royals, hobnobbed with international business giants and politicians extraordinaire, bet on the races in Deville France and the Kentucky Derby, rode to win a televised racetrack meet against the great jockey, Laffit Pincay, sat in Steinbrenners private box for Yankees games, played international pro-celeb, center court tennis tournaments with McEnroe, Rod Laver and the likes, addressed Senatorial and Congressional gatherings, sat on the United States Presidential Arts Committee and court level at Wimbledon and the French Open and competed over fences at the welcoming of the Equestrian World Cup show in my spare time.
* * *
When I consider all the times I’ve skated under the wire and barely made it to the other side of a situation, I know my guardian angels have worked overtime on my behalf, and I am humbly grateful for their unmerited diligence. As I near the home stretch of this account, it’s Technicolor-clear to me that I had a lifetime of deep and dirty house cleaning to do before my springtime could arrive.
Talk about the blush-off-the-rose, Jen. Hey, happy endings, by definition, point to tough beginnings No?
The restraints that had held my hidden stash of remorse from being healed ran so deep, nothing short of events marking ten on the Richter Scale of experiences could crack my protective walls. And in the wake of my awakening, I realized that the only way to make it to the other side of disaster was to go straight through.
In that regard, my pendulum had all-too-often swung from self-focus, to self loathing in a blink, while healthy esteem continued to elude me. It’s true that the only one who ends up bitter, not better, is the one who’s stuck in unforgiveness. It’s also said that bitterness is feeling that you have not received your fair share.
* * *
I yearned for the peace beyond understanding promised in the Bible, and prayed for more enlightenment and better use of the directives God offers for greater fulfillment and thriving relationships. My trust in people continued to be a moving target, and at times, all I was able to do was to envision myself standing in line waiting to receive my due.
Surely not a medal of honor, Jen? So, who is trustworthy? Hey do you think you’re still looking in the wrong toy box? You say you trust God, but do you really? AND CAN HE TRUST YOU!?! My scorecard continued to show that I had as many shortcomings as I had tall dreams. Here’s a thought, Jen: just because something is familiar doesn’t mean its necessarily good for you!
You’re such a repeat performer.
No one could ever say that I’ve lead a drab existence, even though I’ve been hiding in public for most of my life. As for my defining times, they’ve usually been carved out with a knife. But despite the carnage left in the wake of my choices, there is a moral to my story: THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF MY TUNNEL, AND ITS NOT A TRAIN, ITS GOD!!! Not only that, I can have as much of God as I want because He’s just a prayer away. He’s never too busy to hear me or hold me. He always has time to spend with me. And most amazing of all, He actually wants a full-time intimate relationship with me.