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Tracey Gold's Bright Future
by Susan Karlin Redbood September 1997

Between takes for her CBS movie The Girl Next Door Tracey Gold can be found in her trailer cuddling her baby boy, Sage. Her mother has flown to the movie's Montreal location to help with domestic chores while Gold is on the set.

If this scene seems unremarkable-a typical new mom/Hollywood routine these days-remember that only five years ago, the former child star of Growing Pains hovered near death from anorexia; at five feet three and a half inches, she weighed only 80 pounds. Now 28, Gold has triumped over the illness long enough to emerge as a sought-after TV-movie actress and to sustain the weight gain necessary for a healthy pregnancy. When Sage was delivered on February 16, he weighed in at a whopping eight pounds ten ounces.

"When I decided to get pregant, I had been at a good, stable weight for a few years and felt I could handle it,"Gold says softly. "I knew gaining weight would be scary, but I also knew it was for the purpose of nourishing my child. That mtivated me to take care of myself-it no longer was about me. I was now responsible for my baby, and denying myself a meal would be a selfish act."

As it happned, Gold had a extrememly easy pregnancy (no morning sickness) and gained only 25 pounds. "I did a movie -of-the-week whine I was five and a half months pregnant, and was walking around until the day I delivered. The hardest thing was giving up Diet Coke, which is my thing," she laughs. "You wouldn't have known I was pregant unless I turned around and you saw this big stomach. When I gave birth, the majority of the weight came off. A week later, I was back down to 100 pounds.

HOW SHE FOUND HER SOUL MATE

Gold is clearly ticled by her domestic bliss and proud of the hard work she and her husband, Roiby Marshall, a 32-year-old athletic coach at a privarte school in Los Angeles, have doen to get here. Most boyfriends, she knows, would have been scared away by her ordeal, but when they met, Marshall had already survived his own horror, and ironically, it's what had led him to Gold. In 1984, Marshall's father, Robery, a hard-driving insurance broker in Toms River, New Jersey, hired a hit man to kill his homemaker wife, Maria, so he could collect on a $1.5 million insurance policy. As it was later revealed, Robert Marshall was having an affair with a neighbor and was deeply in debt, so he arranged to have his wife shot on the side of the road as they returned from a night in Atlantic City. In 1986, he was convicted of contracting her murder and sentenced to death.

The case inspired Joe McGinniss's 1989 bestseller Blind Faith-which is told from the point of view of Roby, who was 19 at the time, and his younger brother-and the 1990 NBC miniseries of the same name. Joanna Kerns, who played Gold's mother in Growing Pains, also played Marshall's mother in Blind Faith. One day, she invited Marshall, who was serving as technical advisor on the miniseries, to the Growing Pains set and introduced him to Gold. Their attraction was instant.

"We really are soul mates. We've been through so much together; we're now getting to reap the benefits," says Gold. "I always wanted to be married, have babies and a beautiful home. Acting is what I like to do, but I look at others who really get into it and work the scene-that's just not me. Also, foe me, it's not about the trappings. I never liked to go out and party.

"Well, My husband is the farthest thing fro mbeing involved in acting. He hates the business. He loves me. That's his connection to the business. He visits me on location and is getting very good at changing diapers, which is good, because I eventually want four kids."

"I'm the oldest of five girls, so I've been changing diapers since I was 8. Roby has never changed a diaper in his life; taking care of a baby is a foreign concept to him. He loves playing with Sage. ut the minute he starts crying, it's " Tracey, I think he wants you!"


WHAT MADE HER WANT TO LIVE

Gold was 12 when she had her first bout of anorexia. At 19 she suffered a recurrence that nearly killed her: A casting director had teased her about her weight, so Gold decided to whittle her 133 pounds to 113, a weight suggested by a established endocrinologist who, despite her documentaed history of anorexia, put her on a 500-hundred calorie-a-day diet to help her reach that goal. The resulting praise as she shed pounds was too seductive. Gold kept going.

When she plunged to 90 pounds over three years, gold had to leave ABC's Growing Pains after six seasons and enter the hospital in January 1992, By May, she had gotten back up to 95 pounds, and she went into a tailspin, feeling she was losing control. During the next three months, Gold melted to 80 pounds while her family and Marshall watched helplessly.

Then something clicked. One day seeing her emaciated frame in a mirror, it finally hit Gold that she could actually die if she continued.

PrimeTime Liveran Diane Sawyer's taped interview with Gold, Sawyer announced (as Marshall had requested), that at that moment on the West Coast, he was proposing to Gold. Sure enough, Marshall took the cue and sank to one knee in the living room, where Gold and her family were watching the show, and popped the question. Stunned, Gold said yes, and they were married in October of 1994.


WHY SHE'LL NEVER FEEL BITTER

It's hard enough for child stars to successfully make the transition to working adult actors, espeically if they've been branded with addiction or health problems. But since 1993, Gold has managed to carve a niche for herself in TV movies, in such meaty star roles as a runaway, a psychopath, and a mother of a kidnapped baby. "When I got sick, I had to take a year off, which actually benefited me, because it distanced people's memory of my sitcom image,she says. Ironically, it was the rave reviews of her 1994 portrayal of an anorexic teenager in ABC's For The Love Of Nancy that refueled her success. "once people saw I could get through a shoot, they realized I wasn'"t that high a risk."

This fall, in The Girl Next Door, she plays a young woman who falls prey to an older man. Though she loves teh challenge of taking on differnet roles, now theat she's a mother she's also intrigued by the idea of returning to a regualr television series: "I like the stability, especially in a sitcom, Traveling with a baby is not the ideal, although I'm really lucky that I have a job that I can bring my baby to. But, as he gets older, he'll need a more permanent enviroment."

Although Gold had to deal with the tabloids throughout her illness and recovery, such intrusion into her private life is more uncomfortable now that it involves her family. "I walked out to get the amil in my pajamas when I was nine monhts pregant, and five days later I see my picture in the National Enquirer," she says. "I understand it goes with being an actress and the needs of journalists, but this was our house, our sanctuary. It's an awful feeling, dreading what's going to come out."

Still, Gold has never blamed the entertainment-industry values or pressures for her ills. "It's not a bad thing to see attractive, thin people on TV," she says. "That's part of what the Hollywood fantasy is about. For me or most women who suffer from anorexia, it's more than just seeing a skinny person on television, although that images is constantly reinforced. It's about getting control in your life.

"I feel I've been very lucky," she adds. "When I see what others have gone through in their lives, my situation is peanuts by comparison. The anorexia was unfortunate, but I'm lucky to have had the ultimate decision of whether to beat it. With other diseases, it might not have been up to me." Gold also realizes how lucky she is to have been able to have a son. "I've heard of women who couldn't have children as a result of going through anorexia.">

Consequently, she appericates what she has even more. "I was lucky enough to learn certain lessons early-that you're in control of your won life and you choose the kind of life you want to live." >/p>

For Tracey Gold, that kind of life will include several more TV movies and those three more kids.



Susan Karlin, who is based in Los Angeles, has written for The New York Times, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly.