America 's Angel
Our first meeting with Drew Barrymore took place
when we were still in grade school. Although that was
some eighteen years ago, we remember that day as
clearly as if it were yesterday. We piled into the backseat
of our parents' navy blue Buick Skylark and headed for
the movie theater to see E.T.--The Extra-Terrestrial
Throughout the ride, all we could think about was the
upcoming movie. We couldn't wait to get in our seats
and see what all the kids in school had been talking
about. At the time, we'd never heard the name "Drew
Barrymore" before. We didn't know who she was, what
she looked like, or where she came from. All we cared
about was that lovable alien who'd made such an impression
on us during TV commercials for E.T.
The two magical hours that we spent in the theater
that Sunday afternoon surpassed our wildest expectations.
As we stumbled out of our seats, trying to choke
back the lumps in our throats and the tears in our eyes,
we knew that for as long as we lived, we would never
forget either E.T., or the pudgy little blond girl who almost
stole the show.Her name, of course, was Drew Barrymore.
While she might not have been the stuff of household
conversation just yet, her face was permanently embedded
in the mind of every man, woman, and child who'd
seen Steven Spielberg's highest grossing movie to date,
Pretty soon, Drew was dubbed America's little darling
and began popping up all over. When she starred in
1984's Irreconcilable Differences
, we talked about going
to see "the new Drew Barrymore movie." She was
the first movie star with whom kids of a certain age
could identify, the Shirley Temple of the 1980s, the
cutest, the most famous, the best-loved kid in the U.S.,
perhaps the world.
President Reagan and the First Lady invited her to
the White House. NBC put her front and center on the
stage of Saturday Night Live. The Academy Awards and
the Golden Globes saw her walking the red carpet year
after year. Drew was always in the spotlight.
And then, just like that, she was gone. Not a snap-shot,
not a movie, not a word. Nothing.
In January 1989, she hadn't been out of circulation
long enough for anyone to notice a conspicuous absence.
That's when the National Enquirer sounded the
alarm: E.T. STAR IN COCAINE AND BOOZE CLINIC--AT 13!
Parents were horrified. Kids of all ages were dumb-founded.
"How could this have happened to our little
The scion of the Barrymore acting dynasty, Drew was
nothing less than a national treasure. For
generations,the Barrymores had been making headlines on the stage,
on the screen, and on the party circuit. Everyone knew
of the illustrious family's personal woes, checkered
with alcoholism and drug addiction. But Drew was supposed
to be different. She'd spoken out against drug
abuse. She'd starred in our favorite films. She'd captured
our hearts as we watched her grow up. This
wasn't supposed to happen to her.
As details of Drew's addiction began to leak out, the
controversy wreaked havoc upon her image as a
fun-loving but essentially down-to-earth child star.
Overnight, Drew became the poster girl for excess and
teenage rebellion. She went from everyone's role model
to public enemy number one. Indeed, prevailing wisdom
suddenly dictated that Drew Barrymore was nothing
more than a very bad girl.
It was Drew's darkest hour. When she got out of rehab,
no one wanted to hire her. Many of her old friends
disappeared without a trace. Cast out of the industry,
Drew might have easily reverted to her old habits. But
just as all signs pointed to what might have been another
tragic ending in the Barrymore saga, Drew chose
to do the unpredictable--she fought back.
At fourteen years of age, Drew Barrymore authoredLittle Girl Lost
, the autobiography that detailed her descent
into and arduous climb out of the depths of despair.
The book was an instant best-seller, and Drew
was back on top, a heroine to young adults nationwide.
That was more than ten years ago. Over the last
decade Drew has worked steadily toward reclaiming the
very fame, fortune, and respect that she'd been so quick
to throw away as a child. The 1990s have been good to
Drew, and while this biography will recap some of the
events narrated in Little Girl Lost
, it is the
new and triumphantly self-improved Drew who is the shining focus
of Happily Ever After: The Drew Barrymore Story
Dynasty . . . the word alone conjures up a parade of
grandiose images, which is perhaps why so much has
been made of Drew Barrymore's legacy. Her genealogy
bears the honorable Barrymore coat of arms; her dominion
is the world of stage and screen; her crown jewels
are gold-plated Oscars and acclaimed films. To earn
this distinction, she had only to be born. Not unlike
Prince William, Drew is the heir to a royal family
throne. Indeed the Barrymores are called "The First
Family of the Theater." Most of us naturally assumed
that with this throne came a fortune.
Hearing of Drew's celebrated lineage, we believed she
was born with the proverbial silver spoon. "Hollywood
royalty," they said, and we envisioned her coming of
age on a sprawling Bel Air estate where a staff of servants
was paid to cater to her every childish whim.
"Acting dynasty," they said, and we were led to understand
that she was a princess and her life a fairy tale.
How were we to know the truth: Drew Barrymore
was born into a single-parent household, a latch-key kid
completely disconnected from the deceased ancestors
who had so glorified her famous last name?
"Drew and I started with nothing but the clothes on my back,"
Drew's mother, Jaid Barrymore, said on This Evening
with Judith Regan
No family. No friends. No money. How had it come
to this? Drew is the proud heiress of thoroughbred thespian
bloodlines as pure as they are long. Reaching back into
the 1800s, the glamour-personifying predecessors who
informed Drew's talent were more than mere superstars.
For over a century, the Barrymores have represented
America's cultural aristocracy, that singularly charming,
witty, and talented coterie that best exemplifies all that
is most noble and most eccentric about true greatness.
It's mind-boggling to consider how many books,
plays, and movies have been written to either spoof,
honor, or expose the ostentatious display of genius that
is the Barrymore family. Awards and theaters have been
named after this hallowed clan. The story behind the
family tree, however, is as full of corkscrew twists and
hairpin turns as is the history of Drew Barrymore's public
The young star's name is itself no flight of fancy, no
last minute caprice on the part of her parents. In fact,
every part of Drew Blythe Barrymore's auspicious
moniker stems from a family surname. Drew is actually
the maiden name of her great-grandmother Georgiana
Drew, a renowned stage actress who was born in 1854
to the equally lauded actors John and Louisa Lane
Drew of Philadelphia.
As the daughter of a celebrated husband-and-wife
acting team, it is perhaps not surprising that Georgiana
(or Georgie as she was more commonly known) went
on to marry one of the most respected performers of her
day, Maurice Barrymore. Born Herbert Blythe in 1847,
Maurice came to the U.S. by way of Great Britain where
he studied law at Cambridge. But donning the barrister's
wig evidently failed to satisfy his flair for the dramatic;
he quit the profession, changed his name, and
joined the theater. By 1875 he was in New York.
It was while working as a leading man at Augustin
Daly's theatrical company that Maurice met and fell in
love with Georgie Drew. Within a year of his arrival in
the U.S., the two were married. Countless rave reviews,
six years, and three children later, the future of the Barrymore
legacy was secured. Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore--
never was so much raw acting talent assembled
beneath one stage name. This is the triumvirate
that would give the family its prominent place in performing
As the trio matured, so did their family's reputation.
The upper crust of New York society was just as smitten
with the Barrymores as the theatergoing Philadelphians
had been with the Drews. Horse-drawn carriages,
sparkling jewels, motley brocade gowns,
everything was beautiful at the playhouse. On the home
front, however, the Barrymore life lost some of its luster.
Beset by Maurice's infidelity and alcoholism, the Barrymore
marriage was not a happy one. By far the biggest blow
to the family, however, came while Lionel, Ethel, and
John were still in their teens. At only thirty-seven
years of age, their mother died of tuberculosis,
leaving her children to the care of their maternal grandmother,
Louisa Lane Drew, who along with her late husband
managed to endow the children with just as many
vices as talents.
Like his kindred spirit of a son-in-law, John Drew had
been known for his prodigious drinking. So severe was
his condition that he actually reveled his way into an
early grave long before either Lionel, Ethel, or John were
even born. Meanwhile Louisa Lane, the grande dame of
a matriarch whom the grandkids called Mummum and
loved like a mother, rarely lost her icy reserve and
preached the virtues of this stoicism by withholding both
her approval and her affection from the children. These
heirlooms from the Drew branch of the family tree
would go on to characterize the Barrymores' lives, as
tales of their infamous aversion to emotional entanglements
and their fatal penchant for drugs and drink
would subsequently snowball to monstrous proportions.
Strangely enough, these proclivities would endure to
affect Drew Barrymore's life just as surely as if she herself
had been born some one hundred years earlier into
the Philadelphia home of her great-great-grandparents.
The saga of the three Barrymores is now the stuff of
Hollywood legend. The Golden Age of American cinema
wouldn't have been as bright had it not been for
this troika of actors who rode the wave of filmmaking
all the way from the silent screen to the talkies. Although
today's generation of Barrymore fans might not
know it, these were the Barrymores who made the real
headlines and inspired awestruck mortals to pen so
many documentaries, plays, books, and scripts.From the Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Happily Ever After by Leah & Elina Furman. Copyright © 2000 by Leah & Elina Furman. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.