YouTube’s unlikeliest superstar was squeezing back the tears on the couch of her Park Avenue apartment. Here she was, age 52 but looking a full ten years younger with that Morgan Fairchild hairdo. Now her husband, Philip, had filed for divorce. Under the impression she had just 30 days to remove herself from the 76-year-old’s sight line, she had taken her case to the court of public opinion.
“You’ve got the Post and the Times in your pocket, but there are 100 ways I can screw you,” she says she warned Philip, the reigning president of the Shubert Organization, which oversees seventeen Broadway theaters. “You’ve got power and money, but I have my imagination.”
Philip just sat there in the den in his velour jogging suit, his cane hooked over a doorknob, and laughed, she says.
“I’ll go on YouTube, and everyone will know my name,” she assured him.
She made good on the threat, uploading a video of herself in her marital abode on April 10. Now millions of people across the planet had been briefed on the precise terms of Tricia Walsh-Smith’s draconian prenup, subjected to the thumbs-down review of Philip’s bedroom performances, a guided tour of their worldly goods, her campy renditions of show tunes. She stated on the video that he is worth $60 million, a figure she pulled from the clouds.
“Hi, it’s Tricia,” says Walsh-Smith in the video, brightly broadcasting from the couple’s French Provençal kitchen. Before she was a playwright, she’d starred in more than 500 commercials on English television, for Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Ariel dishwashing liquid. Now she was hawking humiliation. Just two minutes in comes the big reveal:
“Oh, and another thing: We never had sex. He said it was because he had high blood pressure and he was older than me,” she says with a casual wave of her hands, as if comparing two rival brands of laundry detergent. “And I accepted that.” But this was before Tricia found his stash of Viagra, porn movies, and condoms. In the video, she dials him at the office, asking just what he wants her to do with the stuff.
“Wait wait wait wait wait,” says Philip’s hapless longtime secretary, Gwen, caught in America’s headlights. “You want me to ask him this now?”
WILL POOR, VULNERABLE TRICIA BE EVICTED? OR WILL MEAN BAD HUSBAND DO THE RIGHT THING? flashes onscreen. Some of the answers would be supplied in subsequent videos—there are now three of them, along with what seemed like daily appearances on The Insider, whose ratings pop in sync with her appearances.
Her unblinking zombie eyes seemed to mirror some madness in the soul. Tricia Walsh-Smith was either a Jackie Collins character who’d short-circuited under the strain of overdrawn credit cards and lawyerly manipulations, or she was an astute video marketeer aiming to mill disgrace into some rhinestone-studded rebirth à la Paris Hilton. One couldn’t help but wonder how enamored she’d become of the media circus unfolding around her.
Her ex, meanwhile, was saying nothing. “Mr. Smith’s position is that these are private matters, and he is not going to engage in a public debate with his wife,” says his attorney, David Aronson. “Look, he regrets she has taken this course of action, but he’ll deal with it in the courts.”
A feminist following has dumped $1,000 into a PayPal account the e-mail address of which flashed across the screen in video No. 3, answering her plea for Women Warriors of the World to unite! And the inevitable has already occurred: Tricia is now in serious talks for her own reality show. YouTube made her a star, in a way the legit theater never could.
What a fool I was. What a fucking fool,” YouTube’s superstar is saying in her British accent as she stretches her blue-jeaned legs felinely across the sofa, mood music and a Filipina maid gently wafting about the perimeter. The dramatic Twiggy eyeliner seen in the video is not in evidence as she answers her cell phone. “I’m going through a really bad time,” she tells whomever is on the other end of the line, before she gets back to unspooling more—much more—of the story that made her famous.
She looks like somebody’s rebellious teenage daughter, wearing video No. 3’s T-shirt, proclaiming, to anyone who cares, YOU CAN’T BREAK MY SPIRIT. She flexes her tangerine-painted toes as she begins to explain why she’d hooked up with this man 25 years her senior in the first place. “I have a father complex, okay?” she tells her public on video No. 2. “You don’t have to be Freud to figure it out.”
Father was a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, a lanky Irishman with the furrowed forehead of William Holden. He’d said he had served with the Gurkhas in Her Majesty’s Army. And if a Gurkha pulled a knife, he was obliged to draw blood. He’d told Tricia that, before a series of strokes and a massive heart attack that finally felled him at his posting in Germany when she was 12. “He had high blood pressure,” she says solemnly. “He wouldn’t die now. He’d be given pills.”