Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Hollywood’s favorite girl-about-town who forgot the pain of surviving imprisonment

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We all know the condition of Brett Butler. In her beloved memoir “Dalton,” she described a deeply insecure young woman whose every act was met with skepticism and attack. “I’ve failed so many times, I’m exhausted,” she complained.

We also know that Brett Butler had problems and nothing that happened to her in 2014 and 2015 was left unsaid. In the first book, one of the things she vividly described was the eviction of her mother, whom she adored. Now that the actress has a Golden Globe nomination for the Emmys and a movie out, “A Wrinkle in Time,” it looks like she’s back in prime actress territory. But there is no telling whether she’ll be able to regain a spot in a place she once loved and she’s certainly not running for mayor.

Butler, 52, a member of the Order of Australia, has filed for bankruptcy and has been living in hotels, which were part of her manifesto in “Dalton,” a book that moved her entire family to tears and that is said to have caused people close to her to faint when she read it.

In her memoir, which covers her struggles with her father and mother’s grief over her mother’s death, Butler, a longtime neighbor of the Kennedys in Hyannis Port, Mass., detailed the horrors she experienced before, during and after moving into a downstairs apartment of her mother’s house in Salem, Mass. At the time, she was living with her dad, who was spending his days and nights in prison for misappropriating more than $70,000 in deposits in an unsuccessful business venture, but had recently been released from jail. “Although I had a strong sense of who I was, my background (which I never discussed with my parents), people I had known, and things I had done had all of the buzz in the world,” she wrote. “A shift of focus shifted back from me to what I looked like, what I sounded like, and how I looked and sounded, which was everything.”

Butler said that because she had not been in Salem, Mass., for her mother’s funeral, her friends did not know she had died. Her father “hasn’t even told me that my mother is gone,” she said in the book. “How do you know that the voice talking about me saying my goodbyes in the living room, how do you know that the people who drew my last breath aren’t going to show up at my gravesite, who is going to pack my precious little belongings and bury me in those very hands?”

After four days, Butler had to leave because she was in over her head. She found another man, who was a sort of tutor, to live with her and she moved to New York City to live with an older couple in Brooklyn, where she performed at the Theatre for a New Audience and wrote. When people asked about her “Dalton” story, Butler had to take them through the letter she wrote describing her terrifying stay with her grandmother in a hospital where a loving nurse tried to warn her off the medication her grandmother was on.

When she got back to Salem, Butler wrote that she was broke and jobless and that, a month later, the couple where she had lived abruptly moved out. She also had to contend with two broken kidneys, a recurrence of Lyme disease, a broken leg, and on top of that, she was living with a man who used steroids to deal with his sexual health issues and bipolar disorder.

In a 2017 interview with The Boston Globe, Butler described how she didn’t recognize herself in her effort to escape and clean up her life. Butler told the newspaper that she hid her weight loss. At the time, she also said that people were attacking her while she was receiving outpatient treatment. They called her names, she said, and did nasty things while she was there. “If I could maybe hear the voices of all those people that were taunting me, what would it be, maybe, that would help,” she said.

In the interview, Butler spoke of what it felt like for her to be one of the state’s most famous actresses, but whose life was in shambles. When Butler said she would leave the East Coast for good, she didn’t mean it, as she only lives about half the year in Arizona.

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