It’s been a busy sports morning, checking the Internet for news about A-Rod and Madonna, Cynthia (Mrs. A-Rod), and Lenny (Mrs. A-Rod’s special friend). Inevitably one is drawn into the topic of cashing in.
Cynthia is cashing in and will do well. She has a husband who is a jerk, an absent father, a known philanderer, and, on the happy side of the street, a professional baseball player who recently signed a $275-million-dollar contract. This is a divorce attorney’s version of heaven. Cynthia’s prenup will be a problem, but nothing a roomful of lawyers can’t fix.
Yet the observer is not satisfied. All these people are already rich and will remain rich no matter how this plays out, so, in terms of dramatic structure, their jeopardy does not move an audience.
Cashing in is a skill very few people have. To do it right means you must betray completely, with dignity, without appearing greedy, and then have the strength to pick up your winnings and walk out of the casino. It’s not only grabbing fame and money, but after you’ve cashed in, can you handle it? Can you use ill-gotten fame and unearned money to make a better life? Sadly, almost everyone returns to the disloyal, greedy, dismal existence they had before the sky opened up and rained hundred-dollar bills.
There are exceptions. Here is my nominee for Cashing In, Best of Show, West Coast Division. Introducing, in the blue corner, Ms. Amber Frey. Remember Frey? She was Scott Peterson’s girlfriend, the Scott Peterson who was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife.
Amber had no preparation, no practice. There was nothing in her past to indicate she would come out of the gate with her A game and keep playing at that level for the next three years. What she did was the hardest thing: grab the money and get off the stage.
Amber was a single mother, living in a very small guesthouse in Fresno, California. She rented space at American Bodyworks, where she worked as a massage therapist. That’s depressing. A girlfriend of Amber’s met Scott at a business conference in Anaheim and acted as matchmaker. Scott and Amber’s first date occurred on November 20, 2002. They met in the Fresno Radisson Hotel bar, then drank champagne in Scott’s room, dinner at a Japanese restaurant, went to a karaoke bar, closed the place, bought a bottle of gin at Food Maxx, returned to Scott’s hotel room, and consummated that act of physical love. That’s very depressing.
Sixteen days later the matchmaker found out Peterson was married. Six days after that, on December 14, at a Christmas party, Amber introduced Scott to friends as her boyfriend. Twelve days more, Amber and girlfriend/
matchmaker run a computer search on Peterson. Thereafter, Amber calls an acquaintance who was a Fresno cop. The next day she agreed to record her phone conversations with Peterson. Amber had known him for 37 days. They had four dates.
Sure, meeting Scott was like hitting a Lotto jackpot, but after that it was Amber…she played the hand.
Here’s the timeline: January 15, 2003- Amber and Scott’s affair became public; April 18, 2003- Peterson is arrested in La Jolla; his trial began over a year later, in June of 2004; Amber testified that August; Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances in November 2004, two years after they met.
Remember Amber’s first press conference, January of 2004? She looked like a Fresno massage therapist with scraggly, long, disheveled hair, downcast eyes, frumpy clothes. Fast-forward to her May 19 press conference introducing L.A. celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. Amber had transformed by way of bleached-blond hair, facials, tanning salon, eyelashes, new clothes, the works. This is not a knock. It is one thing to buy a redo and another thing to walk, talk, and carry yourself in front of millions of people as if you belong in that redo.
Hiring Allred was a champion’s play. Since Allred was not officially connected to the trial, she was not included in the judge’s gag order and therefore free to appear on every television show in the world, hustling her practice while scaring off the media from digging too deep into Amber’s life.
Days after the verdict was rendered and months before Peterson was sentenced, ReganBooks published Amber Frey’s ghostwritten book Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. Amber embarked on a relentless, scorched-earth book-and-media tour that succeeded in moving Witness to number one on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
Time passes. Amber stayed in Fresno, bought a house with her winnings, opened her own spa (Escape Day Spa), and in 2006 married Robert Hernandez, a prison guard at Corcoran State Prison. Now, if she can just stay put and carry on.