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Dysfunctional Family Businesses: Spelling Entertainment

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Family drama that plays out like an episode of "Dynasty."

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Tori Spelling's relationship with her family reads like a rejected script for Dynasty, one of her father's hit TV shows.

Her inheritance was cut to a pittance when Aaron Spelling suffered a stroke in 2006. Tori says she learned of her father's death via email, but the family notes she didn't rush to her father's bedside after he fell ill.

Aaron Spelling is credited with producing about 4,500 hours of TV entertainment, including The Mod Squad, Charlie's Angels, Starsky and Hutch, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Melrose Place. But he also took on a few serious projects, most notably, And the Band Played On, based on Randy Shilts' book about the AIDS epidemic.

The family feud wasn't always at odds, since dad gave Tori a starring role in the wildly popular Beverly Hills 90210, despite what some have described as her conspicuous lack of acting talent.

Spelling's fortune was estimated at about $500 million at the time of his death in 2006, but may have been closer to $650 million. Tori received $260,000 from his estate, but got another $788,000 from investment funds. That's starvation wages in Hollywood, and prompted much yowling from the press about the unfairness of life.

Spelling Spelling Family
Tori's brother, Randy, says he received the same amount, and denies any war between the generations.

However, Ma Spelling says her Tori's estrangement from her father "killed my husband --- he didn't want to live after that." (Never mind that he was 2 months short of his eighty-first birthday, a time when the actuarial tables grow short for men.) Maybe that explains why, according to Tori, her mother never called when dad suffered the stroke that would kill him.

On the other hand, it doesn't explain why Tori appeared on the cover of US Weekly just days after he died -- something the family has wondered about, loudly. The interview has been described as "creepy," because Tori didn't say much about her father's death, and claimed that her mother spent time with a "male friend." This flap was followed by endless media speculation as to whether or not Tori attended the burial.

Maybe being raised with incredible wealth -- after all, Beverly Hills 90210 wasn't exactly a stretch for Tori -- makes it impossible to lead a normal life. But that's probably the charitable view.

Forced to scrape by, at least by Hollywood standards, Tori did the logical thing: She starred in a reality show.

Ironically, Tori's chronic detachment from reality may stem from her father's desire to shield her from the rough side of life. He served in the Army Air Force during World War II. After winning an award for writing a short play as an undergraduate, Spelling tried to make it as a Broadway playwright. The effort flopped, so he worked as a bit actor in Dragnet, Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, and other TV shows. Eventually he began writing for TV, including, in 1954, for the Zane Grey series and soon thereafter for Playhouse 90.

Let's hope Tori doesn't think she's inherited one iota of her father's writing talent, lest it prompt her to write a book. Oh, wait! She already did. Mommywood is a "hilarious and humbling" (so sayeth the book reviewers) story about her life as a mom in the limelight.

Quick! Hit the light switch!

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