“He’s desecrated the memory of my grandmother,” Princess Beatrice wailed to her mother Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. Tears streamed down her face. According to Fergie, it was a horrible moment for her. It was also a horrible moment for me because her daughter was talking about me.
It all began in the summer of 2006 when I made a blind script deal with Fox TV Studios. I had written a spec script called Washington Wives Social Club, sort of a Desperate Housewives set in the Beltway with lots of sex and politics. It didn’t sell to the networks, but it got me some meetings at various studios, and when it landed on one executive’s desk at Fox, he thought I might be right for a project they were considering that would be produced by Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew’s ex, based on her own original idea.
After her divorce from Andrew, Fergie found herself wallowing in debt and sharing a house with her ex-husband because she couldn’t afford to make it on her own. She decided she needed cash, lots of it, so she set about finding work. This was before the whole “selling access to royalty” scandal that permanently tarnished her reputation last year. She was still considered a big deal on these shores. In fact, when I was going to meet her for the first time, my friend Mike insisted I buy a new sports coat. “It’s not every day you meet British royalty,” he sniffed, looking down on my simple wardrobe of jeans and a casual button down shirt, not even tucked in.
Fergie did finally find a way to make some serious money by signing a lucrative deal with Weight Watchers, becoming their National Spokesperson, and dropping tens of pounds in the process. She also began writing a series of popular children’s books. And then there was the idea for a prime time soap loosely based on her mother’s story.
That’s where I came in.
The show was to be set in Palm Beach, Florida, the home of the International Polo Club, and was to focus on the lives of the rich and famous jet setters who gather every year for sport, cocktail parties, and of course, an endless array of sexual hook ups. Fergie wanted her mother’s story front and center. Years ago when Fergie was still a child, her mother fell in love with a hot studly Argentinian polo player, and left the family to be with him, thus feuling Fergie’s abandonment issues later in life. Simple enough. I was raised on Dallas and all that “Who Shot JR?” hoopla as well as the knock down drag out catfights between Joan Collins and Linda Evans on Dynasty. So I felt right at home creating enough sexual intrigue and high stakes drama between these Palm Beach one percenters. The trouble is, I had no idea Fergie’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie would assume I was writing a fact-based account about their maternal grandmother’s life as opposed to a campy soap about filthy rich backstabbers. So when the girls read my preliminary pages, that’s when the tears started flowing back in Merry Ole England.
A meeting was set in Los Angeles when Fergie arrived to do an appearance on the Tyra Banks Show, and we all gathered in a conference room at Tyra’s studio. Luckily I had done some additional work on the premise and story in the meantime (having no idea about the drama my initial effort caused in the UK) so when Fergie announced at the start of the meeting, “Beatrice read Rick’s pages and burst into tears!” I had to do some fast tap dancing. I explained that the mother would, of course, be a sympathetic character, and how we all can understand and appreciate sacrificing for love, and well, you get the picture, I was bullshitting. By the time I was done back tracking, Fergie slapped her hand dramatically on the table and said, “Yes! This is it! This is the show I want to do! I spoke to my psychic and she told me we will DEFINITELY sell it!”
So onto the networks we went. Fox. CBS. ABC. The CW. Fergie didn’t appreciate them offering her Lipton’s instant tea at Fox. She wandered into Business Affairs at the CW, grabbed a fistful of red licorice and told them, “Don’t worry. I’ve been with Weight Watchers ten years. I know exactly how many points these are.” She was a bonafide hoot. When I first met her, she held out her hand stiffly. I didn’t know whether to shake it or bow before her. But by the time we finished, she was giving me warm hugs. I really liked her as a person. A bit loopy but with a good heart.
But it was all for naught. The show didn’t sell.
I’m guessing Fergie might be in the market for a new psychic.