Brooke Shields Looks Ahead
Looking At the Past
It's hard not to stare. Brooke Shields and I are sitting at a restaurant near her home in downtown Manhattan. She's just dropped off her kids at school and she's got a big pile of knitting on her lap. "Doesn't it look like I'm trying to impress you with my domestic skills?" she asks cheerfully. "But I swear, I knit a lot." She wears not a drop of makeup. She has crow's-feet and shadows under her eyes like any other 44-year-old human being, but unlike any other human being she is Brooke Shields, which means you can't take your eyes off her.
To look at that face is to flash back to indelible moments in the last few decades of popular culture. Shields as an achingly beautiful prepubescent in Pretty Baby. Shields at 15, when nothing could come between her and her Calvins. The cheesy '80s movies (Endless Love) and popular '90s sitcoms (Suddenly Susan).
But for all her fame we have always been able to identify with Shields's personal struggles: her fraught relationship with her mother, her need to be a "good girl" (before Britney, Brooke was America's most outspoken virgin) and her inexplicable starter marriage (Shields and Andre Agassi?). Then there was her very public -- and brave -- battle with postpartum depression chronicled in her best seller, Down Came the Rain. And now she is facing a heartbreaking experience common to so many of us: caring for an ailing parent. Often it's a time when we first truly see ourselves as adults, a period of great transition. Certainly it has been for Shields.
Last May the National Enquirer outdid itself in tackiness when a reporter from the tabloid, claiming he was Teri Shields's friend, checked her out of her assisted-living facility in New Jersey and drove her around. Brooke threatened to sue the newspaper and reportedly got an undisclosed settlement (which she says will be donated to Alzheimer's research), but the incident forced her to acknowledge her mother's dementia publicly.
"I've dealt with her alcoholism for many years, but this is so new to me," Shields says. Because her mother was a lifelong drinker who denied her addiction, it wasn't initially clear to Shields whether Teri's increasing confusion was booze or something more organic. But then a few years ago the police in the New Jersey town where Teri lived found her outside a local school without her shoes. She didn't know where she was. That's when Brooke knew this was something different.