Christina Applegate's World

A child of Hollywood and a hardscrabble Laurel Canyon lifestyle, Christina Applegate grew up to face down bad boyfriends and, at 36, a double mastectomy. But she found the tools to survive and thrive, rebuilding her life with a caring fiance, their adored baby girl and her boisterous TV series, Up all Night

by Gerry Hirshey
christina applegate image
Azzedine Alaia wool-knit dress; Barneys New York, 212-826-8900. Charlotte Olympia kidskin pumps; 212-744-1842. Deville Fine Jewelry 18k gold, black diamond and white drusy ring;
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

At 10, she began learning meditation, lying side by side with her mother: “She would say, ‘Visualize a chalkboard on your forehead. Now start erasing those thoughts.’ Then we would put in intentions, things we wanted in our life. I finally understood. It’s not a car or bike. It’s grace, gratitude, health.”

It was then that she built her survivor’s tool kit. Still, we have to ask: What “intentions” did a girl visualize at the dawn of the MTV age? She laughs. “I wanted to hang out with John Taylor,” the Duran Duran bassist. Years later, there he was, working with her on Samantha Who? She also visualized being on TV—and ended up as Kelly Bundy, beginning at age 15.

At 17, Christina declared her intention to move out of her mother’s home and into a tiny house they had invested in. Priddy let her go—a decision she still questions, even though she was only five minutes away. Maybe sticking around longer would have afforded her daughter a bit more protection.

“She’s kissed a lot of frogs, that poor kid,” Priddy says. In the Bundy years, Applegate brought home plenty of boy pals from the studio, nice guys just breaking into the business on Fox throb-a-thons like Beverly Hills 90210. Johnny Depp, then starring in 21 Jump Street, was an early friend. “Brad Pitt used to come up, and Jason Priestley. We’d do barbecues,” Priddy says. It did not help matters, though, that Kelly’s micro-skirted screen image sizzled into so many male viewers’ thick skulls.

Applegate’s TV dad, Ed O’Neill (now starring in Modern Family), confesses to some fretting: “We all went through her having boyfriends that were rather questionable. I would say, ‘Hey, you need a hand with these guys?’ She had a propensity for taking guys in that really weren’t on her financial level. She’d just take care of them, nurture and encourage them.” Then came the one O’Neill calls the fisherman, who showed up after Applegate’s marriage had crumbled.

During her Tony-nominated New York run in Sweet Charity, a friend introduced her to deep-sea fisherman and aspiring photographer Lee Grivas. Living together in L.A., they had a relationship that was stormy at best. “We had been apart for a couple of months because of his drug addiction,” Applegate says. “During that time, I found out I had cancer—when that relationship was dissolving.” She broke it off to work on saving herself. On July 1, 2008, Grivas was found dead in his apartment of an overdose.

Suddenly, at this grim juncture, Applegate laughs. For the past few hours, she has been gamely submitting to a speed recitation of all the rotten things she has endured. Nonetheless, 2008 was the worst: “Both of my cats died right after I found out I had cancer. The cats and the boyfriend died, all within three months. I laugh but . . . oh my God.”

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get much darker, “Martyn came back into my life,” she says. “We’ve known each other since 1995, but we hadn’t seen each other for 10, 11 years. We ran into each other at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, where we were both volunteering.” Another visualization come true? She shrugs. “We had always cared deeply for one another when we were friends. And he came and put me under his wing. That was it—he was supposedto come.” They would like to have a second child, she says, but “because of some things that happened during my pregnancy, I don’t know if I can. I hope I can. We’ll see.”

Art and life overlap these days—sometimes a bit sloppily. So many babies on board. Sadie lunches with her mother nearly every day on the set of Up All Night. Other frequent child visitors are Arnett’s two little boys with Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph’s three children with movie director Paul Thomas Anderson, as well as the twins who play baby Amy. This is kid-friendly Hollywood: Good-night, moon. Good-night, Mr. Fuzzy Sound Boom.

First published in the November 2012 issue

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