Legally Brown

You've seen Legally Blonde, but did you know Elle Woods really grew up in Paradise Valley?

Amanda remembers leaving class one day.

"This one particularly horrible Trekkie was coming in as I was going out the door, and he knocked everything out of my hands, and there were Vera Wang sketches on the floor and, of course, he didn't help me pick anything up, so I'm down on the ground picking it up, and for the first time in two years, he said something to me. He said, Why don't you just leave and get married like you're supposed to?'"

So she walked to the registrar's office.

Amanda Brown
Amanda Brown
Brown's second book, Family Trust, looks to be a very tasty
read.
Brown's second book, Family Trust, looks to be a very tasty read.

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Photographs by Jeff Newton

"I said, You know, I'm leaving. I need the form to fill out so I can quit.' And [the registrar] said, You can't do that. We don't have that form.' I said, What do you mean?' She said, No one's ever done this before.' And I said, I just want to leave.' And she said, Well, you can't do that, you have to petition to do that. And, in fact, you would have to petition to petition to do that.' And I was like, You see, that's the whole problem here. That's it. I quit!'"

She thinks she might still be enrolled at Stanford Law, which always gets a laugh in media interviews.

For years, Amanda couldn't go anywhere near Stanford without getting physically ill, but now she is finally able to go to her dermatologist, whose office is just outside Palo Alto.

Amanda says she wrote Legally Blonde after a literary agent advised her to turn "One Elle," which she envisioned as a book of essays about her law school experience, into a novel. She says she took a community college writing class, put together a manuscript, and shopped the book with no luck. She was pregnant with Alexandra when she decided to send out the manuscript again. She used pink paper to attract attention. No book agents bit, but the movie people went nuts. Suzanne remembers the day of the bidding war. She figured Amanda would be lucky to get $10,000. The final figure was much, much more. Amanda won't say how much more.

Jack Brown didn't live to see the movie Legally Blonde, but he read the manuscript and returned it covered in notes, in his typical fashion. Amanda says she couldn't read his legendarily bad handwriting.

Suzanne pauses, when asked Jack's opinion of Legally Blonde.

She finally says, "He thought it was funny. His view of the law was a little different than hers."

Amanda did make one friend at Stanford Law School, a brunette named Alexis Bircoll who was an academic star of the class and the inspiration for the character Eugenia (Elle nicknames her "Eugenius"), who didn't make it from the book to the movie. Now married, blonde and living in Los Angeles -- and not practicing law -- Alexis Bircoll Martin describes Amanda as "a keen observer of people," and says the film "really did capture certain individuals, who I will not name. Reading it, it was a blast for me, having been there."

Amanda had nothing to do with Legally Blonde 2, but she does have a sequel in mind, "The Perm" -- à la The Firm -- based on Brown and Bain.

"That one my dad was not thrilled about," Amanda says, laughing. "He knew about that, because as soon as I had Elle I was like, She has got [to get] to Arizona.' And some of these characters are just hilarious -- some of the lawyers in my dad's office just make me laugh."

The idea is that Brooke Vandermark, Elle's sorority sister who is wrongly accused of murdering her husband in Legally Blonde, gets remarried and moves to Arizona.

Elle moves, too, because "every day's a good hair day," and joins a law firm. Bizarre things happen involving Indians. Amanda says she's about 90 pages in.

So can she share specifics about where she's getting inspiration?

"No, no, no, I definitely cannot! There are a lot of lawyers with bad perms. It could be any number."

Along with The Perm, Amanda has several other projects in the works. There's Family Trust, of course, which may soon be a movie. Amanda envisions a series of young adult books based on Elle (like Elle of the Ball, in which Elle travels to England), similar to The Babysitter's Club series. The beauty of these, Amanda explains, is that she could just sell someone else the ideas. She's at work on a children's book. She's pitching a show to HBO called The Mommy Diaries. And, of course, she's raising Alexandra. The Brown-Chang family splits their time between San Francisco -- the swank Russian Hill section, to be exact -- and Malibu.

Throughout the interview, Amanda is pointedly nonchalant about the trappings of her success. She could barely be bothered to set foot on the set of Legally Blonde, doesn't really care much for the movies. But she just can't help but offer a sidewise peek at her glamorous life. Waiting for the valet outside T. Cook's, talk turns to child-rearing, and Amanda steers the conversation around to the fact that Alexandra is desperate for a bunny.

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