As the daughter of Hollywood royalty, Tori Spelling's life was glitzier than any character she played…until a tragedy left everyone wondering, “How could a promising life go so wrong?”
In 1973, legendary producer Aaron and actress Candy Spelling welcomed their first child Tori into the world of celebrity. But they had no idea that she’d become one of Hollywood’s most notorious riches-to-rags story. Sadly, when Tori tried to forge her own path, she found it overgrown with messy relationships, family feuds, and tabloid scandals.
Aaron and Candy showed their love through money—and boy did they have a lot of it. However, they also taught Tori that love and money were indelibly intertwined. Tori grew up measuring love by the numbers on price tags. These over-the-top declarations of love included making it snow on Christmas. In Los Angeles. Her father literally put snow in their backyard. But all that glitters is not gold.
Aaron wasn’t perfect, but he looked like dad of the year compared to Candy. When 12-year-old Tori asked her mom, “Am I pretty?”, the right answer was obvious. Instead, Candy replied, “You will be when we get your nose done” (which she did at 16). It’s no wonder that Tori finds love—or what looks like it—in the worst places.
Tori’s pattern of problematic relationships starts young—too young. At 15, she found herself in a secret, months-long romance. It wasn’t just forbidden because he was the family chef; he was also 26. When her parents discovered this, they understandably flipped out. The chef? Fired on the spot. Tori? Grounded for months. Tori didn’t take this well.
Hindsight really is 20/20. Teenaged Tori hadn’t realized how creepy her chef ex was yet, but her mother only made matters worse. Candy interrupted Tori’s heartbroken tirade by asking if she’d gone all the way with the chef. Tori was heartbroken—and only hours after this exchange, she grabbed a letter opener and dramatically pretended to hurt herself. Young Tori’s parents gave her countless things, but emotional security wasn’t one.
It still pays to be a Spelling—literally. When Tori started acting as a child, Aaron created roles just for her. In high school, Tori found her big break as Donna Martin on Beverly Hills 90210. Aaron was the show’s producer, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. Hollywood was never a stranger to Tori, but this fame still changed her for the worse.
Enter, Ryan: sweet, normal, and Tori’s first serious relationship. Tori confesses that she got caught up in her new fame, success, and lifestyle. She no longer saw a place in her life for him and didn’t even want to bring him to parties. Poor Ryan, who transferred colleges to be closer to her, never saw the betrayal coming.
After two years, Tori ended the relationship by cheating on Ryan with her co-star Brian Austin Green. The co-stars found themselves in a hot and cold situationship, until a very tense and very public moment changed everything. While they fought at a Disneyland event—in front of fans—Tori told him, “I hate you and I’m never speaking to you ever again”. Brian’s response shocked her.
He grabbed her arms and replied, “Did you ever consider that I start fights with you because I’m in love with you?” This was news to her: “Really? I love you too”. Tori and Brian eventually realized they still had an audience of fans. To get some privacy, he ushered her behind a food stand to make out, as you do. At work, the line between personal and professional blurred.
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Fiction imitates life: Tori and Brian’s characters ended up together, while in real life, they fell apart. 90210 even concludes with Donna and David’s fairytale wedding. Filming that scene dug up buried feelings. Tori couldn’t help but wonder whether she still loved Brian. But once Tori realized she’d gotten carried away in the moment, she moved on to even more volatile romances.
Tori works hard, but plays even harder. As Tori’s career grew with 90210 and roles in films like Scary Movie 2, her paycheque followed. But it was never enough. Thanks to her lavish upbringing, Tori spends money like it never runs out. Once it did, Tori found herself in debt again and again. Bad men noticed this and pounced.
Tori has a thing for bad boys, but actor Nick Savalas was on a whole other level. He didn’t stop at isolating Tori from everyone or verbally degrading her on the daily. To feed his gambling addiction, Nick “borrowed” Tori’s bank card and $500. Every single day. It got to the point where her entire salary went towards paying his debts. And Nick was just getting started.
Nick took her for a ride—literally and figuratively. He talked Tori into selling her car, a sweet sixteen gift from her parents, to buy his and hers cars. The Porsche Tori gave him was nearly half of her income. But that wasn’t the worst part.
A week later, he crashed it…after leaving a club with another woman. This wasn’t a one-off: Nick cheated on Tori like it was his job, and he was after Employee of the Year. It gets even more painful.
While Tori worked in New York, a friend broke bad news about her bad boy. When this friend called her apartment, some woman picked up and identified herself as Nick’s girlfriend. We already knew about Nick’s shamelessness, but bringing his flings to the apartment where Tori paid for everything, was a new low. Tori’s response was unbelievable.
Tori had a one-of-a-kind, go-to move whenever she discovered another one of Nick’s betrayals. She bought him expensive things to bribe him into staying with her. Yes, you read that right. She gave him gifts for cheating. It was a Rolex this time, by the way. Nick had already crossed so many lines, so Tori didn’t notice how horrific his next transgression was.
Casper Van Dien is an actor—handsome, sweet, flirty, and Tori’s love interest on 90210. Turns out, Nick was the jealous type. Ironic, isn’t it? When Nick picked up Casper’s call, he responded in classic Nick fashion. He threw the phone at Tori and shoved her into the counter. Tori had to lock herself in the bathroom just to talk to her horrified costar.
The truth was evident to everyone but Tori: Nick was garbage and had to go. Casper insisted on calling 9-1-1, but Tori reassured him that everything was fine. She then showed up to work with a huge bruise. Casper documented the injury in case Nick was charged. He wasn’t alone in feeling this way, but other 90210 stars made their opinions known much more loudly.
While Tori’s troubled romance and isolation alarmed her parents, they did nothing. They didn’t intervene out of fear of alienating her even more. But at their lavish Christmas party, all of Tori’s worlds collided. Violently, and publicly. There, Nick and Luke Perry brawled and nearly toppled the 18-foot tree. Her co-star was just getting started.
After the Christmas Incident, the 90210 cast, led by Luke, staged an intervention. It not only failed, but she even stopped speaking to Luke for months. While they eventually reconciled, it was years before she thanked him. On the show, her character also ends up in a harmful relationship, but Tori couldn’t make the connection at the time. Her epiphany came during an unexpected moment.
One day, Nick was yelling about how ugly and untalented Tori was. It was the same vitriol, but Tori had a different reaction. She realized that this rant was familiar, and it wasn’t just because he repeated himself: Nick sounded exactly like the tabloid headlines that tried to tear her down. Tori realized that she could—and had to—toss him out too. She sprung into action.
Tori had the locks changed as she and her friends packed Nick’s stuff into garbage bags. In the middle of the night, they drove to actress Nicollette Sheridan’s house (Nick’s sister) and dumped everything onto her front lawn. That’s when Nicollette emerged from the house. Tori confessed, “I’m so sorry. Are you mad?” She wouldn’t have guessed Nicolette’s reaction in a million years.
Nicollette replied, “Mad? I told you to break up with him a year ago. Now come inside and have some tea”. Tori realized what everyone—even Nick’s sister—already knew: “I didn’t have a boyfriend; I had a money-sapping verbal abuser making a fool out of me on a daily basis”.
Just like that, Tori’s bad romance ended. But her tendency towards bad boys? Well, this was only the beginning.
There’s mixing business with pleasure, and then there’s whatever was in the water on the 90210 set. Everyone dated each other, and Tori was no exception. She didn’t put a stop to her on-and-off fling with Brian. She only kissed Luke once, then hid a summer romance with Jason Priestley. But it was Vincent Young who really put the “fun” in dysfunctional.
Vincent Young was bad news. As the 90210 actor basked in his newfound fame, he didn’t want to share any of it with Tori. Vincent didn’t want to go out with her. Instead, he demanded that Tori stay home and act like a domestic housewife, tending to his every need. This went on for two years until an unexpected source talked some sense into her.
At a party, an unknown man showed up and demanded to speak to the stoned actress: “I don’t want to scare you, but I have psychic ability… I was given a message for you”. This “psychic” delivered a speech that boiled down to: You choose terrible relationships and you have the power to change your life. Maybe he was crazy, but his words struck a nerve.
Tori knew what she had to do. The psychic’s message couldn’t have been clearer: dump Vincent…even when he begs you to stay with an engagement ring. By the way, the psychic wasn’t a goon that someone hired to talk some sense into Tori. It was Terence Trent D’Arby, a Grammy award-winning musician. He refused to let Tori’s boyfriend keep her from her husband.
Enter, Charlie Shanian. Tori began flirting with him out of habit more than anything. But in no time, the co-stars started dating for real—to the confusion and skepticism of many friends. Once again, they saw what Tori couldn’t. She was a privileged, outgoing, and a party animal. In contrast, Charlie was introverted, religious, and traditional. Basically, the polar opposite of Tori’s bad-boy type. But opposites attract, right? Not always.
Tori proved that love, if anything, is blind. At home, Charlie told her off because he didn’t want his girlfriend using obscenities. This was one of many moments where their incompatibility became obvious to everyone but the lovebirds. But Tori didn’t want to face the music. She wanted her happily ever after with Charlie—or at least the idea of him.
A year later, Tori walked into a hotel room to find romantic music, candles, polaroids, rose petals, and champagne. When Tori turned around, she found Charlie on one knee. Tori was on cloud 9. Who cared if her relationship with her parents was strained? Or that they barely cracked a smile at their only daughter’s engagement? Tori hoped that wedding planning would bring them closer together. But Candy had other plans.
Planning Tori’s dream wedding turned into a nightmare thanks to her momzilla. Since her parents picked up most of the bill, Candy called the shots. These included changing the date and venue at the last minute and reneging on promises to pay for expenses. Candy’s power trips often left Tori and Charlie responsible for bills they couldn’t afford.
Aaron and Candy always told young Tori that their love for her was directly connected with how much they spent. This made Candy’s unnecessary and petty penny-pinching even more painful. Message received, loud and clear. But just in case Tori missed the memo, Candy went even further. Once this momzilla started, she couldn’t stop.
When Tori asked her mom if she had any long diamond necklaces she could borrow for the rehearsal, Candy denied having anything. So Tori bought a cheap fake necklace to wear instead. Naturally, the mother of the bride showed up to the dinner wearing 1. A top that just happened to be the exact shade of Tori’s dress and 2. The diamond necklace she denied owning. Message received.
The wedding day is hyped up to be the best day of a woman’s life—not that Tori would know. Tori later confessed that she felt more like an actress playing the bride. After penny-pinching for no reason, Candy revealed her big gift: a performance from a beloved artist. Specifically, Candy’s favorite singer. Tori felt devastated that Candy made it all about her. But at least she was excited to marry Charlie, right?... Right?
Tori and Charlie’s wedding day was already the beginning of the end. Charlie literally had to drag Tori off the dance floor to spend their wedding night together. Once they arrived at their suite, Tori took a long bath just to delay the consummation. How many more red flags until Tori saw the light? Turns out, just one more.
Distance made Tori’s heart grow anything but fonder. “It was love at first sight” and game over the moment Tori met her co-star Dean McDermott. The pair were already deep into their conversation when Tori noticed Dean’s wedding band and photos of his kids. That’s when she remembered “oh, yeah—I had a husband too”...then immediately forgot.
Tori and Dean took moving fast to a whole new level: They slept together on the very first day. When Tori woke up beside him the next morning, she realized: “I had no regrets. Something was really wrong with my marriage”. Her reaction was shocking, especially since Charlie flew in the same day. After his visit, it was back to “business” for the co-stars turned cheaters.
After filming wrapped up, the lovebirds vowed to leave their partners in six months for each other. Tori spent her days home avoiding Charlie, and wondering whether Dean would change his mind. She got her answer in just three days when his wife discovered the affair and kicked him out. At least Tori and Dean could be together now, as long as Charlie didn’t catch them.
This charade was crumbling, and Tori knew it. On a night out, Charlie made it clear that he wanted to be intimate when they got home. Tori found “cheating” on Dean intolerable, so she kept partying to avoid it. Charlie joked, “If you go to Fubar, our marriage is over,” but it quickly turned into an argument. Charlie went home alone, and we all know where Tori went. She was done with hiding.
After spending time apart, Tori finally summoned the courage to call it quits. When they met at their therapist's office, Charlie cried and declared, “I’m not going to let you get rid of me. I love you”. It took the combined efforts of Tori and the therapist to dump Charlie. He eventually caught on: “Is this about someone else? Did you cheat on me?...It was with Dean wasn’t it?” The truth hurt, but it set them free.
Tori and Dean’s hearts sank when they discovered a tabloid planned an exposé. They raced to tell friends and family first. She tried to tell her mom, but Candy was always too “busy” to speak with Tori. Aaron and Candy’s disappointment over Tori’s affair, divorce, and general life decisions led to a massive falling out. Her next moves only increased this rift.
40. She Secretly Married
Dean’s ex-wife Mary warned Tori that Dean wasn’t faithful, but Tori dismissed her warnings. After all, she and Dean were something special. In May 2006—less than a year after they met and a month after her divorce went through—Tori and Dean eloped in Fuji. After everything they went through to get here, this should’ve been the start of their happy ending. Key word: should’ve.
After Tori and her father Aaron reconciled over lunch, he thought it was the perfect time to drop his bombshell of a will. Turns out, Tori and her brother Randy would receive $800,000 (not including inheritance taxes) each out of Aaron’s $500 million fortune. That’s a 0.16% crumb of the pie for each kid, by the way. Everything else? It’ll go to mommy dearest of course. Oh dear.
In June 2006, just two months after reconciling with Tori, 83-year-old Aaron passed from a stroke. He left behind a Hollywood legacy, a massive fortune, and a broken family. Oh, and a spendthrift daughter turned mom of four. But we have to give credit where it’s due: Tori is a hustler who tries everything from television to memoirs to make a buck. But Tori learned the hard way that she can’t outearn her spending addiction or rely on Candy.
If Aaron hoped that his will would bring Tori and Candy closer together, he couldn’t have been more wrong. Candy even declared that Tori’s estrangement from Aaron is “what killed my husband actually”. Over the years, they’ve traded more barbs. But recently, Tori admits, “I'd rather have a complicated, misunderstood relationship than have no relationship at all”.
How you get them is how you lose them. When rumors of Dean’s infidelity spread in 2013, Tori “didn't think for a second that it was true”. But Dean eventually confessed after she confronted him. At the same time, Dean checked himself into rehab for addiction. It gets worse: the tabloids soon broke the story, shared the scoop, and made it everyone’s business.
How did the tabloids get these juicy details? Emily Goodhand, the other woman, sold it to them. Emily was 28 to Dean’s 47. They met while Dean worked away from home. That same day, they slept together and continued their affair the next night. Does any of this sound familiar? To add insult to injury, Dean told Emily that he no longer slept with Tori.
Reeling from the cheating scandal and the end of their marriage, Tori and Dean tried to salvage their marriage in the most normal way possible: by starring in the reality show True Tori. In the first episode, they broadcast their couple’s therapy to the world. Tori confessed she didn’t know how this would end: “I know he's my soulmate. I know he's the love of my life. I also know he broke my heart…this might not have a happy ending”.
In one unforgettable episode, Tori and Charlie reunite for a heart-to-heart. Before the meeting, Tori felt physically sick. Their two-hour conversation left her bawling. She realized that Charlie was—and still is—a good man and husband. She shared this with Dean, who asked if she regretted leaving Charlie for him.
Tori’s answer wasn’t reassuring. She didn’t answer Dean’s question directly. Instead, Tori said that Charlie was a good man, with many positive traits. She confessed that seeing Charlie fuelled her anger towards Dean. But she concluded, “I chose not to be with him. I chose to be with you. I made the choice, so I need to figure it out”.
Many viewers doubted Tori and Dean would stay together until they shut down the skeptics in a grand way. In 2010, they stated, "This is a rebirth. We've gone through our ups and downs, but we wouldn't have changed a moment of it”. In 2016, Dean proposed to Tori again. They raved about their marriage—but it didn’t take long for cracks to reappear.
If anything, Tori and Dean’s post-scandal marriage became even messier. They’re the dictionary definition of an up-and-down relationship. We know this because they leave a trail of crumbs on social media. These clues include not sharing anniversary posts, not wearing their wedding bands, and Deanless Christmas cards. Even soulmates can withstand only so much betrayal and money problems.
In June 2023, Dean created a frenzy. He announced on Instagram that they planned to divorce. Did this blindside their followers and Tori? Dean deleted the announcement a few hours later. This added even more fuel to the fire. Reports on their marriage have been conflicting. But one thing is for certain: This wasn’t the wedded bliss Tori hoped for.
For months, Tori lived through a real-life horror story. One by one, her children became sick thanks to an unknown disease. The culprit remained a mystery until August when they figured it out: mold. The family fled their rental home to a shabby motel. Tori hoped this was only temporary. Spoiler: It was temporary, but not in the way she hoped.
In one month, Tori’s living situation became even more complicated and confusing. People spotted Tori and her family living in a mobile home. Is this a permanent arrangement or just a budget vacation? Is Candy helping out? But the biggest question, the one that’s haunted Tori for her adult life, is: How did she end up here? But only Tori knows the answer.
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