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Candy Spelling lets you inside 'Candyland'

What do you get for a man who has everything? How about a custom-made pinball machine with balls whizzing over images of his face, his family and his dogs while a recording of his wife's voice purrs, "I love you, darling"? Or a delicate Chinese agate bottle emblazoned with his portrait -- intricately painted from inside the vessel?

Such totems of Aaron and Candy Spelling's nearly 38-year marriage remain from their onetime reign as the town's quintessential everything couple. If Donald Trump was the crown prince of the go-go '80s, then TV über-producer Aaron Spelling was their production designer. Spelling's stable of potboiler dramas in lavish settings, including "Dynasty" and "Fantasy Island," built his fame and fortune -- not to mention Los Angeles County's largest home, dubbed "The Manor." All the while, by his side until his death in 2006, stood the inspiration for "Dynasty's" Krystle Carrington, his wife, Candy.

On the wall of the two-lane bowling alley at the Spelling manse, there's a framed photo of the couple from that period. The two are dressed in black tie -- which, in Candy's case, meant a profusion of white diamonds and emeralds on her ears, neck, wrist and ring fingers, as well as an immaculate coif: the straight, ice-blond bob with bangs that Linda Evans as Krystle made a uniform of the well-turned-out trophy wife.

In her memoir, "Stories From Candyland: Confections From One of Hollywood's Most Famous Wives and Mothers" (St. Martin's Press), which hits bookstore shelves today, Candy cracks open the door to her life as a distinctive breed of Angeleno -- the ultimate trophy wife, not a member of the first wives' club, but the (usually younger) last wife. Spelling's chatty account traces her own trip to Fantasy Island from her youth as an L.A. model stuck on movie magazines and Rock Hudson to such wifely tasks as designing Aaron's dauntingly huge office -- and mogul's image.

Other hazards of the trophy-wife trade can be short marriages, but not this one. Candy Spelling assiduously maintained hearth and home -- as well as her husband's business, her own short-lived gift boutique, a QVC doll line and the family's investments -- by virtue of her skills as an American geisha. She was the Hollywood spouse who figuratively walked a few steps behind her mogul, so minutely attuned to his needs that she inscribed the frames around their French Impressionist collection with the names of artists and paintings so her husband could impress their guests.

The rewards of such a life -- which included a 56,500-square-foot French chateau-style cocoon and a first-class tour of Europe with 52 suitcases in tow -- are legendary. But there have been costs as well. One was her gnawing lack of self-confidence, which led to eight years of therapy.

On the plus side, her modest demeanor "was a good fit" for her husband, 22 years her senior, she says. At the moment, she's perched on a chair in her beige library, surrounded by hundreds of her husband's TV scripts, which she had bound in leather, and his 10-foot-long, stained-oak desk, custom-made to her extravagant specifications. A trim 63, Spelling is casually dressed in black slacks and flats. "I didn't really want to be anything other than the trophy wife," says the L.A. native. "Today, I'm a different person, but in one of our beginning dates, he literally spent the evening teaching me how to say hello and shake hands. 'Look up, look them in the eyes.' My mother never taught me that. She taught me to set a beautiful table. I could cook and I could sew, but I was very shy." If you'd like the recipe for the chicken casserole that helped her land a budding zillionaire, see page 224.

Life after Aaron

Now the self-described "celebrity by marriage . . . and motherhood" is at a crossroads, facing a tree-in-the-forest kind of quandary: Can a trophy wife without a mogul husband make a sound? If the book is any evidence, the answer seems to be yes. Indeed, it's hard to imagine such a tome competing for Aaron's spotlight while he was alive. Candy says she wrote the book only because her friends encouraged her to do so.

Now that she's a widow, Spelling has also decided The Manor is too big for one person. As widely reported last summer, she bought a $47-million, 16,500-square-foot penthouse condo in the Century, a Century City building under construction and designed by star architects Robert A.M. Stern, Jean Nouvel and Richard Meier. She plans to move in to her new spread in about a year and has just put her home on the market with an asking price of $150 million (although real estate sources say a price in the low $100 millions is probably more realistic).

Perhaps less well known is what a daunting prospect it is for her to downsize so that she and her stuff will fit into the two-story condo. Her days are filled with decisions about what possessions to donate or give away and ways to sneak in more storage niches at her new space. Huge as it is, the condo is still smaller than her meticulously organized and frequently dusted 17,000-square-foot attic alone.

As Spelling confesses in the book, she's a compulsive hoarder, although, thanks to an underrated perk of great wealth, she can call herself a collector because if you have the space and you're also compulsively neat, hoarding isn't a problem. The truth is, Spelling hoards collections, listing in the book 65 different categories of things she collects, including turtle soup dishes and spoons, antique Cartier clocks, erotic figurines, miniature sewing machines and Beanie Babies.

Spelling shows a visitor some of her treasures on display in the living room. Inside a cabinet are a dish that belonged to Egyptian King Farouk, a Fabergé cigarette case given to Cary Grant by Barbara Hutton, a 19th century bird box that chirps and the agate bottle she bought from the Chinese artist who painted it. She points to one of her first collections, a carefully positioned cluster of Chinese snuff bottles. "Tori used to play with them and then she'd break them, sometimes, the little spoons," she notes. "I stopped collecting them when I realized they could do fakes."

An uneasy dynasty

The tension between Candy and her daughter, Tori, is nearly as storied as her home. Tori is notorious for biting the manicured hand that fed her and blanketed the family's tennis courts with artificial snow for Christmas. The reality star opens her memoir "sTORI Telling," released in paperback in late February, with a description of her mother's response when, as a 12-year-old, she asked if she was pretty.

"[Candy] looked at me and said, 'You will be when we get your nose done.' I was stunned," Tori wrote. "So long, innocence." Tori acknowledged that her mother doesn't share that memory, but her critique of her parents' marriage and her nearly $1-million bequest from her father's $500-million estate have rocked many a blog and gossip magazine.

Spelling says her daughter stopped communicating with her after marrying her first husband, Charlie Shanian, in 2004. They reconciled with the March 2007 birth of Liam, Tori's first child, with her second husband, actor Dean McDermott. (She and McDermott fell in love on the set of the 2006 TV movie "Mind Over Murder" when both were married to others, raising Spelling family hackles.) A nanny would drop off Liam for weekly visits, but Candy says her daughter again broke off communication several months ago.

Now the Spellings are in the curious position of speaking to each other in the pages of their books. "It's fine if [Tori] wants her own reality show or wants to write books about her childhood, I just wish she'd leave me out of it," Spelling writes. Candy describes her own mother as a hypercritical perfectionist in her book, and she acknowledges that some of Tori's complaints sound like her own. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I guess I'm my mother after all," she says with a laugh.

The competition continues with dueling book publication dates. The release of Tori's second book, "Mommywood," was recently moved up to April 14, the original publication date of "Stories From Candyland." Tori's rep has said the release was moved so it would be closer to Mother's Day. In turn, Candy moved up the release of her book by two weeks to avoid going head to head with her daughter.

Both Tori and her brother, Randy, declined to comment on their mother and her book through publicists.

Up in Spelling's cavernous attic, filled nearly to the brim with 180 boxes of Christmas decorations, including nutcracker soldiers from Costco, carpet remnants, luggage, dolls and nearly 70 different kinds of replacement lightbulbs, the first object to catch her eye is a red '30s-style tricycle she picked up for Liam's second birthday. Soon she will give it a giant bow in one of her two gift-wrapping rooms before sending it to the grandson she doesn't see anymore. "It's heartbreaking," she says. "Not just for me. I'm their only living grandparent."

Still, Candy chooses her words carefully. "She's my child," Candy says of Tori. "I always say that there may be times that we don't like what our children do, but we always love them."

calendar@latimes.com

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