LAUREL CANYON—Tara was my best friend. People always said our age difference didn’t matter because I was wise beyond my years and she was chronologically beyond hers. We made a perfect pair!
We were twins. We thrived doing girly things. We loved hiking, dieting, and fawning over adorable animals. We both had curly, waist-long hair that we sometimes put in 100 little braids for fun but you knew we were getting serious about something if we tied it into a knot.
We loved lip gloss and owned every color. She liked the dark serious ones and I liked the light fun ones. We quietly commiserated over the fancy Hollywood events we were regularly expected to attend.
We had big plans for the future. She was going to throw my 21st birthday party and be my maid of honor. She would babysit my kids and animals while I ran a thriving media company.
We planned many a holiday together. We were to go on snowboarding and jet skiing excursions. Pampering ourselves would be a lifelong necessity, shopping and treating ourselves to manicures and pedicures every week for the rest of our lives.
We loved taking the doors and tops off our matching red jeep wranglers and flirting with guys at stop lights.
Yet we were also opposites. She loved to plan everything perfectly. I never planned anything. She was clean and I was messy. She was computer illiterate and I was a budding tech-wiz. She read manuals but I never needed to.
She could pass on chocolate, I was addicted to it. She was always polite and diplomatic while I was bubbly and bratty. She loved to wake up early, I loved to go out late. She was the reasonable think now, do later one. I was the spontaneous, do now, think later one. She was street smart, I was naïve.
Her husband was a 30-year-old actor who was rarely around. He had recently won an Oscar and was in high demand, leaving little time for her. One day, she discovered an email on his computer. She employed my tech-wizardry to investigate.
He was having an affair with a 50-year-old executive at Paramount Studios. She was crushed.
One day, she told me she wanted to celebrate something secret, but wouldn’t tell me what. She brought over gift baskets to my home, a strange gesture. But as usual, we had fun together.
But I sensed something. She finally broke-down and told me her secret. Earlier that week, she tried to kill herself in her Laurel Canyon home.
She had sealed-off ventilation to her garage and locked Bailey, her dog along with herself in the car. She then ran the engine. Miraculously, our friend Brian unexpectedly dropped by and halted her suicide attempt about 45 minutes into it.
When she confessed this to me, my ignorant, insensitive response was, “Why would you want to kill Bailey?!”
Shocked at my reaction, she looked at me, as I naively returned her gaze. She made me promise not to tell anyone. I made her promise she wouldn’t do it again. We made a pact!
Our secrets were always safe with each other and our promises were always kept. But this was heavier than I could handle. I couldn’t help but share the burden with my parents. They both advised me to tell her parents, but I couldn’t. She would never forgive me.
I searched the internet for answers. The only options presented for suicidal people felt limited and drastic. I’d lose her friendship, or more importantly, her trust. For the next several months, I was constantly on guard, watching over her.
If she showed-up five minutes late to a meeting, I would think something terrible had happened.
Eventually, we decided we would move-in together. I naively believed leaving her husband and living with me would resolve her sadness.
She planned to serve the divorce papers while back home in Canada. Meanwhile, we found a flat in Beverly Hills, signing the lease on Halloween. I moved in the same day, getting everything organized as best I could while she was away on holiday.
On November 7th, I was rushing to get ready for a Hollywood event, the kind we both hated, when Tara phoned to tell me that she was back from Canada. As she pressed me for details on our new home, I told her that I didn’t have much time to talk because I was scrambling to get ready for the event.
I had promised to arrive early for my god mum, who was performing that evening. Both of us knew how strict my god mum was about punctuality.
Lee told me that she needed my attention, that this was an urgent call. There were police present and she was being committed to the hospital at Cedars Sinai.
She said her mother would phone me the following Saturday morning with further details. She complained that I was always too busy for her, lamenting that she wasn’t as important as this event.
I told her that wasn’t true. Then she said, “Please don’t think less of me for this.”
I promised I wouldn’t. She told me I was her guardian angel. I told her she was mine. She said, “I love you sister,” and I said, “I love you too.” Then we hung up.
Knowing she was on a 5150, a psychiatric hold, I felt selfishly relieved. I was beyond exhausted by worry that she was going to kill herself at any minute. Now, she was under professional care. Thinking the suicidal secret was out, my worry blindly evaporated. The next 5 days would be the last days I would live without worry.