I was 24 years old. I had just dropped out of law school to chase my dream of becoming a comedian. I already performed a few sets in San Diego prior to moving to Los Angeles. It was on the stage at the Comedy Store in La Jolla that I realized I wanted to do more then just be a cute girl with dirty jokes. I wanted to do the IMPOSSIBLE- bring light to the unspeakable subject. Suicide.
I wanted to learn more about networking so I applied for an internship with a big name in the PR world. He represented all of the stars: Michael Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman– just to name a few. I had heard all of the Hollywood stories, just like we’re hearing now, so I did my research to be safe. His reputation was squeaky clean. “The kindest man in Hollywood.” When I went for the interview I was nervous and excited. I sat there with him at a coffee shop for two hours and in the end I got the position– under two conditions. I stop with my “girlish” giggle and I got rid of my gum because, “No one will respect you with that in your mouth!”
Deal! I signed up for an internship that was for four hours on Sunday for the next six weeks. The following day, on Monday my phone rang. Mr. PR kept me on for two hours with his list of demands. “Sure, no problem!” said the little girl from Alachua, Florida. On Tuesday, my phone rang. I stayed on the phone with him for another two hours listening to more demands. Then again on Wednesday, and Thursday, and again on FRIDAY!
I arrived at his residence with another intern that Sunday five minutes early. I was reprimanded for that.
“You are to be here at 12 pm- not five minutes before and not one minute later!”
He then gave us a tour and said we were not to touch anything except water, from his sink, if we needed it. He ended up keeping us for eight hours. As the sun went down my stomach started to growl. He didn’t care. He proceeded to have a nice dinner delivered for himself and ate it right in front of us…while we drank water…from his sink.
I woke up the next day exhausted, starving, and broke. As I was walking into work, my phone started ringing. It was the King of the PR world. I decided not to answer. Five minutes later my phone rang again, and again, and again until I finally picked up.
“Ms. Rizzi when I call you, you pick up that phone, you understand me?”
I replied — without a “girlish” giggle — “No, I don’t understand. You’re not paying me so understand this. I will pick up the phone if I can or I will speak to you next on Sunday since that’s what I agreed to.” There was a long pause and then he said, “You’re right. How about you meet me at the SkyBar on Friday? I have a meeting that I think will help you with your comedy career.”
Why not, right? This was the reason I has signed up for the internship in the first place. He’s “the nicest man in Hollywood” and I was not nearly as beautiful as the other interns I had met so it couldn’t be for anything else. I walked in and there he was, waiting for me. I was in awe. Not of him, but of this bar. I had never seen anything like it in Florida. I was in Hollywood now! Look at me, the cool girl, with the cool internship, with the King of the PR world!
I sat down and asked where the other intern was? He said, “Well I just wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Me? Okay let me order a drink first.”
He stopped me from speaking to the waiter and said, “Let’s see what her response is before you get her a drink.”
Then he sent him away. I thought it was weird, but in my head I heard my mother’s voice, “Who are these people?!”
He then scooted closer to me and said, “I’d like to make you my project.” I didn’t understand. What happened to helping my comedy career?
So with a confused look on my face I said, “What kind of project — like a science project — I will fail. I never passed a single science class in my life!”
He said, “No, I want you to be the young woman by my side. You have this special light about you, Jeannette. It’s all eyes on you when you walk in a room and that will help me. I need you to go to events with me and on trips with me and in return I will teach you how to be a woman in bed and I will make you famous. All of this under a few conditions– lose 30 pounds, cut and straighten your hair and get rid of your acne.”
If I had gum in my mouth I would have swallowed it. If I had a drink in my hand I would have chugged it. If I had pepper spray, well, I might have sprayed it if my hands weren’t shaking so badly that I may accidentally spray myself in the face. But, I didn’t have any of that. So instead, I froze.
The waiter walked back up and said, “Well, can she have a drink?”
He said, “Judging by the look on her face the answer is going to be no – so – no!”
I took a deep breath, exhaled, and tuned into the strong polite girl I was raised to be.
“I would like to thank for you the opportunity, but I can’t. You see, I was raised by a nun and monk who taught me better than that. I want my dreams to come true, but if I made it happen that way it would destroy them. Especially my father.”
Then I opened my little purse, pulled out a stick of gum, and said, “So, I think it’s best if I go home now. I might not be the King of PR, but I have learned a thing or two in my 24 years of life. People will respect me more if I am chewing this stick of gum than they would with your old dick in my mouth, so I’ll risk the odds of becoming famous on MY OWN.”
As the valet pulled up with my car and opened the door, he came outside and yelled, “Jeannette, I mean it about that light. You’ll make it one day…but if you ever tell anyone about this I will ruin you!”
The thing is, I may not get my dream any further than it already is, but in regards to preventing suicide– that night is one of the reasons I continue to fight all of these years later. One in every five women gets raped. Every thirteen minutes someone takes their own life. How many of those suicides occur because of rape? I know not all, but I’m sure a few do. So keep talking about #MeToo, keep asking for help and keep being strong and fighting the good fight. The louder we scream, the more people are listening.
Onward and upward… saying me too, you too, and you- you dirty fucking dog! #AllDarknessComesToLight