Last month I had the privilege of traveling to New England for the dedication of the Aaron Spelling Room at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. The special exhibition is called Aaron Spelling: A Retrospective of Prime-Time Success. Aaron's written works starting with his early days on The Jane Wyman Show were part of a beautiful exhibition mounted by the students of the College of Communication. Visitors can see Aaron's annotated scripts, his typewriter and a collection of personal photos, which will now be alongside collections from stars like Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire as well as Boston University's most famous alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King.
It was a very emotional weekend for me. When I sold The Manor, of all the rooms in our home, packing up Aaron's study was the most difficult. So for me, the dedication was more than just a formality or photo op. It was a moment of profound meaning and it was also very healing for me. I am particularly proud of my gift to establish the Aaron Spelling Scholarship that will be awarded each year in perpetuity to deserving students in the School of Communications.
I was very touched by speaking with all of the students who attended the ceremony. Aaron would have stayed until the very end and made sure he spoke to each and every student. He probably would have pulled every one of them aside and had them pitch him their ideas so he could help them refine their presentations. It would have been wonderful for the students to see that in this cutthroat business Aaron succeeded by being the kind and humble man that he was.
Aaron's success spanned four decades, so most people are not aware that when I met and married him he was just another television writer in Tinseltown. In fact, he had just walked away from a very respectable staff-writing job at Four Star Entertainment to start his own production company where he would own his ideas and have complete creative control.
My husband's success began right around the time that we were married with The Mod Squad and from then on it was hit after hit. At one point, Aaron was responsible for seven hours of ABC's prime time line-up. Business insiders half-jokingly referred to the network as "Aaron's Broadcasting Company." Believe me, it wasn't always easy for him. I saw firsthand the discipline involved in writing and the courage it took to pitch his shows to the network. They weren't always receptive to ideas he was so passionate about.
I don't think it's any mistake that his success coincided with our union. I always believed in Aaron. I had never met any man like him. He had a creative vision and I always supported him in it. I believe he drew strength from our marriage. Whether it was the overtly simple yet fantastical notion of a man on an island who granted wishes. Or years later, when his last show went off ABC and Variety declared Aaron Spelling's Dynasty Dead. Aaron was devastated by the mean-spirited headline but once again we were in it together, for better or for worse.
Aaron always used to say, "It's alright," in his Texas drawl. "It's alright," meant that things would be okay again. And even now with Variety publicly calling his career a wrap, Aaron Spelling dug deep and recovered. Just like he had with The Mod Squad, Aaron tapped into the youth market and revolutionized prime-time television again with Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. He proved that he still had his gift for knowing what the public wanted and when they wanted it.
I am always amazed when I read tributes to Aaron on fan sites. People from all over the world and across generations are still thanking him for his shows. From time to time, I also find cards, flowers and just this past summer, a teddy bear left for him on his grave. What is so fabulous about his exhibition at Boston University is that it is open to the public so now his fans have another place to pay their respects and also for the first time ever, see his work.
When we built our home, I designed Aaron's study with enough shelf space to hold his bound scripts until he was 108. Sadly, this was just not meant to be. I am very proud to have his collection on display at Boston University and I know he would be too. The best part of it all is that now Aaron's legacy will live on forever.
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