Longform

Legally Brown

Page 7 of 8

Amanda's assistant asks for a Diet Coke. The publicist immediately shushes her. "No, for her," the assistant says, pointing to Amanda, who's on the phone with her mom. The publicist backs off.

Turns out, all they have is Diet Pepsi.

"No!" the assistant, publicist and makeup guy say, in unison. They decide on two waters, which come in coffee mugs and go untouched.

Inside the studio, McMahon and Amanda reminisce. Turns out McMahon's wife, Duffy, once showed her sculpture at Suzanne Brown's gallery. Amanda shares a fond childhood memory. She was once a guest on The Wallace & Ladmo Show, the legendary local children's television show that garnered McMahon (who went on to be a radio and television host) his biggest fame as a series of characters including a little boy named Gerald and an old lady named Aunt Maude. The highlight of the show was a studio audience drawing for a "Ladmo Bag," a brown bag filled with potato chips and snack cakes, and Amanda proudly shares the story of the time Amanda's Brownie troupe visited the show. Suzanne persuaded McMahon to rig the drawing so she could win a Ladmo Bag because, as Amanda explains, "I never win anything."

After the interview with McMahon, Amanda is back at the ABC affiliate for the news segment, then running late for a meeting with the dean of the ASU law school. She shows up alone, has a brief chat with Patricia White, and the two walk over to the law library to join a group of students for lunch. The group includes two women in burqas and several blondes. They want to know if anything about the movie bugged her. Yes (for you LB cable fanatics), the "Bend and Snap" scene. And did anyone from her law school class complain after the movie?

No. "They didn't recognize themselves. Everybody thinks he's the smart, good-looking guy."

Dean White advises the students to "just think of yourselves as collecting material."

"Everything's material," Amanda confirms. After signing a few books, she heads back to The Phoenician for more hair and makeup, and a photo shoot. Serena and Kristen Spayd (née Borosky), another blonde friend, join her, as Suzanne, Alexandra and Alexandra's nanny look on.

Serena is six months pregnant, and complaining about it, but she hardly shows in a black tube top, simple black pants and the tiny black heels all the girls are wearing. Kristen accessorizes her black outfit with camouflage pants. Serena and Kristen have those matching purses with their first initials on them that are all the rage in Scottsdale right now. The girls talk about Legally Blonde, and Kristen admits that she never did read the book. Although it wasn't officially published until this year, Amanda self-published it in 2001.

"I sent everybody copies," she insists.

"I wasn't part of everybody' that week," Kristen says to no one in particular, laughing quietly.


A few hours later, everybody gathers at Borders for the big party. Suzanne Brown is lovely in sea-foam green, and even the publicist and the personal assistant are dressed up, but Amanda's wearing the same drab outfit she's had on all day. She looks tired, and her hand must hurt from gripping the Sharpie, but she also looks happy.

Most people would be thrilled to have their book become a movie, but Amanda was always disappointed that no one published Legally Blonde.

"It's very gratifying to see people saying your words, yeah, but I was never a big movie person," she says. "Great, but where's my book?" Earlier this year, a division of Penguin books published Legally Blonde, along with Family Trust, which coincided nicely with the release of the movie Legally Blonde 2. Amanda stakes no claim to the second Elle Woods movie; the credits simply list her as the creator of the characters.

But she insists the rest of her work is all hers -- even though the U.S. Copyright Office might beg to differ.

The copyright for the novel Legally Blonde, filed in 1994, clearly lists the authors as Brigid Kerrigan and Amanda Brown. And there's similar paperwork for Family Trust and The Perm. (The Family Trust materials, dated 2001, list Brigid's married name, Thomas.)

Brigid Kerrigan Thomas lives in Virginia and has an unlisted number. She graduated from Harvard College (where she gained brief notoriety for waving the Confederate flag out her window as a call for free speech) and the law school at the University of Virginia. She clerked for Brown and Bain in Phoenix in the early '90s, which could have been when she and Amanda collaborated, or at least when the daughters of two old friends reconnected -- but neither woman will say so.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.