Actress Jeri Fields’ life was not always as perfect as the lives of the women she played on the small and big screens. Daughter of musician, Mickey Fields, and actress Penelope Junket, Jeri Fields was raised by her father.
“He was good dad,” Jeri said about Mickey. “At least when I was little,” she added. “Daddy was sort of larger than life to me. He always seemed to sort of sweep in and sweep out. I mean, he’d tickle me or play with me and then he’d be gone for long stretches of time.”
During her early years, Jeri’s uncle Danny, the famous soccer player, and his wife Lakesha still lived in the family home with their daughter, Hannah.
“Hannah and I were very close. Uncle Danny and Aunty Kesha, too, but mostly Hannah. My earliest memories are of her playing with me. We were best friends growing up, too. She was a year older, but still my best friend.”
A lot of people say that Jeri owes her acting talent to her mother, Penelope Junket, but Penelope was not really a part of Jeri’s life.
“She gave birth to me, but then gave me to my dad to raise. Dad said that she didn’t think people would like her as an actress if she had a daughter out of wedlock.”
When she was young, Jeri rarely saw Penelope.
“I saw her once when I was like eight. I was at the park with my aunt and Hannah. I knew she was my mother, so I went up to her to introduce myself, you know?”
The meeting didn’t go well. “Dad always said she was a selfish and bitter person. I didn’t understand until that moment. She wasn’t happy to see me.”
Penelope never had any other children and never got married.
“She was focused on her career, I guess. I never did understand. I don’t think being an actress has anything to do with being a mother. A woman can do both.”
“I always thought of Vanessa as my mother, anyway,” Jeri explained. Vanessa Fields was her step-mother. She was the daughter of a wealthy researcher at Landgraab Science Facility in Sunset Valley.
“She was my nanny at first, but I didn’t know that. I knew she cared about me and my dad, so I guess I just associated her with being a mother.”
“I remember their wedding. It was at the Butterfly Pavilion. Everyone was really happy, and Vanessa had on this slippery pink dress with a huge flower in her hair. I liked the flower.”
Vanessa and Mickey were married for eight years. During that time, both worked at the theatre. He was a rocker with moderate fame, and she was a fledgling bassist in the orchestra.
“Our house was filled with music and laughter in those years. We were all happy.”
But just before Jeri’s thirteenth birthday, the Fields family was torn apart.
Mickey and Vanessa were blessed with a baby boy, Orrin Fields. “They were both so excited to have a baby together. I was excited, too. Hannah had two little brothers. I’d always wanted to have a brother or sister, too. I love kids.”
Unfortunately, little Orrin was torn from his loving family. He died when he was three months old. The doctors could not find a cause of death, so it was ruled SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy).
“Daddy and Vanessa were devastated. We all were. They just dealt with it in different ways.”
Mickey, always known for his wild ways before he met Vanessa, started drinking again, but he also concentrated on music.
“Daddy drank a little after Orrin died. But then he focused on his career. We rarely saw him.”
Vanessa, left alone with her grief, also started drinking. But unable to find solace in her music, she became suicidal.
“I knew about the drinking they both did only in the abstract. Daddy had always been a drinker, so it was just something I expected from him. I didn’t know it was bad, at the time. Things were bad when Vanessa tried to kill herself.
She didn’t just drink a lot. She also did bubbles and took pills. Daddy found her naked and almost comatose in Orrin’s room. He rushed her to the hospital and she was placed in psychiatric care.”
Unfortunately, Vanessa was still depressed when she returned from the hospital.
“We didn’t realize that she was still pretty bad when she got back. At my birthday party, she seemed pretty happy…almost her old self.”
But Vanessa’s appearance of normalcy didn’t last.
“She was pretty angry at the world,” Jeri explained. “I didn’t know why she was so mad at me. She seemed to hate me because I was getting older and Orrin would never get older.
As a mom now, I understand how she must have been feeling, but at the time I thought I had done something wrong.”
Vanessa and Jeri argued a lot when her father, Mickey, was at work. The day before Vanessa left the Fields family, they had a huge fight.
“I’d been painting,” Jeri explained, “and I spilled some on the deck. Vanessa came out and saw the mess and started in on me. She told me I was stupid and clumsy and accused me of doing it on purpose.” Jeri thinks about the incident, frowning.
“She blamed me for ruining everything. I know she blamed my dad for Orrin’s death, but she seemed to think that I had ruined her life. Vanessa was really troubled. She needed help.”
Jeri was home when Vanessa Fields finally had enough and decided to leave her husband and step-daughter.
“She had everything packed up and was walking out the door. Dad was at work. I did everything I knew to try and stop her, reason with her. I ran after her when she was headed to the cab. But nothing I could do would dissuade her from leaving.”
Despite how mean Vanessa was to Jeri after Orrin died, Jeri still loved her like a mother.
“She really was the only mother I’d known. I knew she was hurting and I wanted to help. But she left me just like my real mother. I think I was more upset by that than losing my brother. I felt like I’d let my dad down. He lost two women because of me.”
Mickey took his wife’s departure very hard. He spent a lot of time in the bars around Bridgeport.
“My aunts were always finding him drunk somewhere and bringing him home.”
Mickey’s drinking became much more pronounced with his wife’s leaving than it had been when their son had died.
“Dad got over Orrin because he believed that god must have had a plan for Orrin. When Vanessa left him, he started to believe that Vanessa’s accusations of everything being his fault was true.”
Mickey Fields spent his nights away from home, and when he did come home, he’d continue to drink.
“We had a bar in the house. If Daddy wasn’t drunk enough to numb his pain, he’d mix up his own drinks at home. Then he’d either pass out or spend the night puking in the bathroom.”
Jeri shakes her head remembering her father’s drunkenness. “No one was there to stop Daddy from destroying himself. I tried. I cleaned up his messes and helped him walk up to his room to try and sleep it off.”
“Grief is a terrible thing,” Jeri explained. “When he was sober, or mostly sober, all Daddy could think of was Vanessa. He talked about her all the time. Cried over her. He cried about Orrin, too, but mostly Vanessa.”
“If it wasn’t for Hannah coming over to keep me company, I think I might have gone insane.”
Hannah Fields and her family lived only a few blocks down the street from Jeri and Mickey.
“I didn’t tell Hannah everything about my dad. He was rarely home when she was there. I didn’t want her to know how bad it really was for me. She would have told Uncle Danny, and then Daddy would have been in trouble.”
Jeri acknowledges that her uncle might have been able to help Mickey, but she explained that at the time she couldn’t tell because she was afraid that it would cause her remaining parent to be mad at her.
“Daddy needed me. I didn’t want him to get mad at me and leave me, too. I was too young at the time to realize that Uncle Danny could have helped both of us. Maybe Daddy could have gotten some help with his drinking problem.”
Instead, Jeri dealt with Mickey on her own. There were cycles, Jeri explained. She’d get upset and confront Mickey. He’d feel bad and would apologize to her. She’d reassure him that she loved him and would tell him everything would get better eventually.
“Daddy really was sorry. He felt a lot of guilt about how he’d raised me. When he’d drink, he sometimes told him how sorry he was that he’d been a crap dad. He neglected me, he said, and I would have been better off with Uncle Danny and Aunt Lakesha.”
Mickey would get sober. He threw away all of the alcohol in the house.
“He tried. We’d gather up all the booze and dump it down the sink or toilet. Daddy would say he was getting ‘Clean sober’. He’d promise never to touch the stuff again.”
And for awhile, at least, Mickey would keep his word. But then he’d go out with his band after a concert. “Daddy was a rocker and rockers had a certain image.”
Mickey started to hang out at the vampire bar, Plasma 501.
“He came home with bites on his wrist. He was no longer just drunk on alcohol or high on bubbles. He’d be groggy from loss of blood,” Jeri explained.
“One time my aunts, Virginia and Sherona, found him sitting at the bar in Plasma, and he wasn’t wearing anything but his underwear. He didn’t remember where he was or how he’d gotten there. He was covered in bites.”
Virginia and Sherona brought him home.
Sherona stayed until Jeri got home from a party she’d been attending.
“She was waiting for me in the dining room. She had a coffee in her hand and there was a plate of cookies. I grabbed one an sat down.”
Sherona made Jeri promise to call her if Mickey came home drunk, if he was drinking at home, or if it was really late and Mickey hadn’t come home at all.
“Of course I promised her I would. I agreed with her that Daddy was in really bad shape. I cried on her shoulder and thanked her for her help.”
Mickey stayed home after his sisters had brought him there. He sobered up again.
“He was pretty depressed, though,” Jeri said. “He slept on the couch all the time. He never did anything and skipped work a lot.” She was still worried about her father.
“I wasn’t surprised when I woke up one morning to find my dad passed out on the floor near the bar. It was really just a matter of time before he started up again.
I got really upset with him and threatened to call Sherona, and he got in my face about it. For the first time, I thought Daddy might hurt me, he was so mad.”
Jeri never called. “I thought I could handle everything myself. And I was afraid, still, that Daddy would leave me. If I called, he might not love me anymore.”
Although she had her cousin Hannah and their friends for support, Jeri was often alone.
“I spent a lot of time in my room or watching TV,” Jeri said, “but I wasn’t lonely, not really.”
“Hannah was my best friend, but I had some others. Wesley Littler was one of them. Sometimes he’d come over with Hannah and we’d all play video games.”
Wesley Littler was the son of B actor, Matthew Littler. Matthew had once acted with Penelope, Jeri’s mother.
“I really liked Wesley. We had a lot in common.”
Hannah, Wesley, and Hannah’s boyfriend, Corey, hung out together often.
“I didn’t like to stay home if Daddy was out. Before Sherona brought him home, I spent a lot of time at the Haunt with my friends. We played foosball, ate pizza, and sometimes danced.”
It was at the Haunt that Jeri saw her mother for the second time in her life.
“It happened just before one of the times that I got Daddy to clean up and be sober. Penelope saw me at the bar.
‘What are you doing here?’ she asked me. It was easy for her to recognize me even though I was a lot older than the last time she’d seen me. Except for my red hair, we looked a lot alike.”
The meeting wasn’t a pleasant one. Jeri was shaken by her mother’s mean-spirited insults directed both at Mickey’s behavior around town and Jeri’s own behavior at the Haunt.
“I won’t have my daughter acting like a slut,” Penelope had said.
“I don’t know why she thought I was behaving inappropriately,” Jeri shook her head, puzzled. “I wasn’t drinking. I was with my friends. I’d never even had a boyfriend.”
Actually, Penelope’s spiteful insults may have been the cause of Jeri’s first relationship.
“Wesley saw Penelope spewing hateful words at me and he was the one who comforted me after she left. I remember he held my hand and told me not to listen to her.”
“Wesley was wonderful,” Jeri smiled, thinking about him. “He was my first kiss and my first lover.”
But Mickey’s behavior interfered even with Jeri’s relationship with Wesley.
“Daddy wasn’t really responsible for what happened, Wesley and I made our own mistakes.”
As Mickey spiraled out of control, his daughter and her boyfriend were following the same path of destruction.
“Daddy left out some drinks that he had made one day, and Wesley and I decided to try them. They were terrible, but we drank them anyway. After awhile, we didn’t think the drinks were so terrible. I started mixing up drinks like I saw my dad do, and that’s when Wesley and I started getting drunk together.”
But they didn’t just get drunk. Mickey had his own bubble machine, so eventually the teens were getting high, too.
“I figured if my dad could do it, so could I.”
Wesley’s arrest for possession of drugs and alcohol ended their relationship.
“My dad had never been arrested, so I was really surprised when the cops picked up Wesley. We were under age, though.”
Although Wesley’s father got all charges dropped against his son, Wesley was not allowed back in the Fields’ house.
“Mr. Littler didn’t trust my dad as a guardian and he no longer trusted me and Wesley together. I was very sorry about the whole thing. I swore I would never drink or do bubbles again. I should have known better, seeing as how they’d made a mess of my dad’s life.”
Mickey Fields was upset that his daughter and her friend had been caught with alcohol and bubbles and knew it was his own fault.
“Daddy once again tried to get sober and stay that way. He blamed himself,” Jeri said. “Since he was clean again, though, he started to work more. I found myself left alone a lot because of course I was grounded.”
That’s when Jeri made the acquaintance of Sheldon Steppe, who was employed as a maid in the Fields home.
“He was very handsome,” Jeri explained. “And a good listener. I had a lot of problems in my life, and he let me talk them out.”
Jeri and Sheldon became friends. Teenaged Jeri would even call him on the phone when she needed someone to talk to. “He was a good guy. I needed him in my life at that time.”
The only person she told about her relationship with Sheldon was her cousin. “Hannah knew about Sheldon. She knew that I liked him more than just as a friend.”
Though Hannah warned her that Sheldon was too old for her, Jeri didn’t listen.
“Maybe our love was inappropriate,” Jeri said, “but I did love Sheldon.”
The maid started coming over to the Fields’ house after hours while Mickey was at work.
“He was the best kisser. I liked kissing Wesley, but Sheldon was a man, you know. He knew how to kiss a girl.”
Their relationship quickly turned sexual. “He had this little tattoo of a dagger on his chest. I loved it. It was so sexy.”
Though Mickey wondered why Sheldon was hanging out at his home after work hours, he didn’t suspect that the maid was sleeping with his daughter.
“Daddy didn’t know. We almost got caught a few times, but it was pretty easy to hide things from my dad.”
Unfortunately, there was one thing that Jeri could not hide from her father.