If anyone has been goaded into writing a balls-to-the-wall avenging divorce memoir, it’s Mary Jo Eustace, who was tossed over in 2005 by her husband of 12 years, Dean McDermott, for Hollywood princess Tori Spelling. The skeezy details alchemized into tabloid gold: McDermott met TV mogul Aaron Spelling’s daughter on the set of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Three weeks later, Eustace, a former co-star of the TV cooking show What’s for Dinner, was blindsided by McDermott leaving her: they had just moved to Los Angeles from Toronto for his acting career and were adopting a seven-month-old baby girl, a little sister for their eight-year-old son Jack.
It gets worse. Unlike other women who have to ferret out information about their ex, Eustace only had to turn on Entertainment Tonightto view his “truly, madly, deeply, Tori” tattoo or pick up People, which devoted six pages to the couple’s “magical” 2006 wedding in Fiji, to read her ex say of Spelling: “I’ve never had as much of a desire to get married and make a woman my wife as I’ve had with her.” Since then, there has been the Tori & Dean reality-show domestic lovefest with their two children on which to gag.
But Eustace is too clever to get caught in tell-all divorce memoir gridlock. Rather, she has strip-mined her misery putatively for others’ benefit in an often funny, sometimes poignant survival guide, Divorce Sucks: What to Do When Irreconcilable Differences, Lawyer Fees, and Your Ex’s Hollywood Wife Make You Miserable. Many will take comfort that their split isn’t half as horrific as Eustace’s—her daughter’s adoption was nearly derailed, pitying women offered her money on the street, and, in the ultimate humiliation, tabloids reported her age as 62 when she was 44.
Sitting on a white sofa in the cozy living room of the Spanish-style house she bought after returning to L.A. from Toronto last year, a tanned and toned Eustace appears mended from a split she confides was more hellish than she depicted: “It’s the tip of the iceberg.” Still, post-divorce-shock embers glow. She says remarriage isn’t something she wants and expresses relief that Jack, now 11, isn’t lured by his father’s lavish new life. He attended his half-sister’s first birthday party, she says, a blowout with 500 guests, $3,000 gift bags and make-your-own pottery stations: “He came home and said, ‘Whoa, this is not for me,’ and I said, ‘Thank God.’ ”
The book’s directive to “love your children more than you hate your ex” pre-empts overt dirt-slinging. But Eustace is a master of the pin-in-the-voodoo-doll jab, beginning with the cover line “My husband left me for Tori Spelling . . . (and you thought your divorce sucked).” She knows readers will expect some dish and she delivers, writing of her first meeting with Spelling, who showed up at her house wearing skin-tight jeans and thigh-high boots, her hair in pigtails. “Vulnerable and passive,” is how she recalls the woman of whom she writes was her “Hiroshima.” (In her memoir sTORI Telling, Spelling claims that she dressed down to meet the 12-years-older Eustace in a baggy sweatshirt and sneakers, and carried a kitchen knife in her purse.) And she shares that her son, his face shielded by an “X,” appeared on Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood without her permission.
Eustace knows that, like her ex, she’ll be accused of capitalizing on the Spelling connection. “It’s fair game,” she says. “But on the scale of exploitation I’ve been offered, it’s nothing.” Her public divorce has made her a “get” in the thriving spurned ex-wife industry. She turned down a chance to appear on Ex-Wives Club, a reality show co-hosted by Marla Maples, Shar Jackson and Angie Everhart. She even took a meeting with a big-name producer who pitched a reality show produced by Spelling and McDermott on which they’d help her look for love. “It’s so twisted and warped,” she says. She said no and warned she’d sue if Jack appeared on camera again. “It’s the most abhorrent thing to put your child in a reality show.”
Eustace insists she wants to move beyond the “Tori & Dean” loop, as difficult as that may be. She’s working on a new TV show, Second Acts, about women who redefine their lives, for the W Network. “I’d rather be remembered as a woman who survived a bad divorce than the woman who was left for Tori Spelling,” she says. But she’s shrewd enough to know the chances of that are slim (Divorce Sucks has already hit the tabloids: Star claimed Spelling “collapsed” over the “tell-all”): “As long as there’s Google, probably not.”