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Speaking before a packed audience at the October 11 opening of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center exhibition Aaron Spelling: A Retrospective of Prime-Time Success, Candy Spelling said she was pleased to “find her heart” among her husband’s collection, which was donated to the center in 2011 and includes annotated scripts and family photographs. Spelling, who was married to the famous television producer for 38 years, said everything in the collection “represents Aaron’s love, passion, and character,” and she hoped that visitors to the exhibition would find inspiration in the work of her husband, who died in 2006 at the age of 83.
“I spent most of my life watching this collection come together and revolutionize television,” said Spelling, who was dressed in a svelte black suit and Christian Louboutin heels.
She became emotional as she announced the Aaron Spelling Scholarship Fund, a new $1 million gift in response to the Century Challenge. The fund will provide annual scholarship awards, with matched payouts from the Century Challenge, to one or more deserving College of Communication undergraduates, based on financial need. The scholarship is for candidates studying film, television, or new media who demonstrate “exceptional talent and potential for success.” Preference will be given to students planning to pursue writing and producing careers. Recipients will be selected by COM and the Office of Financial Assistance.
“In honor of Aaron, may his legacy live on to provide the opportunity for students to learn, grow, and continue to revolutionize entertainment,” Spelling said. “I look forward to seeing your names in the credits.”
The Guinness Book of World Records describes Aaron Spelling as television’s most prolific producer, with more than 4,000 hours of episodic television to his credit. Spelling Television produced such popular series as Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat, Charmed, Twin Peaks, and 7th Heaven. The seven-time Emmy Award winner’s shows were famous for outlandish plots and scheming characters, so much so that he called his shows “mind candy.”
“Aaron Spelling’s shows shaped the popular culture of our country and our world,” said Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of COM. “A lot of this was pushing the envelope. So much of it tied into mirroring the American culture at that time.”
Vita Paladino, director of the Gotlieb Center, applauded the producer as a “sociologist with his finger on the pulse,” referring to the storylines featuring minorities and gay characters in shows such as Dynasty, at a time when it wasn’t common to do so. Spelling won the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 1994 for his contributions to promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. “Looking at the cast of his shows, he was a progressive innovator, and you have to look at his wife, Candy,” said Paladino (MET’79, SSW’93). “Shoulder to shoulder, together they made this legacy.”
Spelling was joined by Emmy-winning actor Ken Howard, whose many television credits include roles in such series as Dynasty and Melrose Place as well as numerous guest appearances on shows like 30 Rock. Howard is the current president of the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. He recalled the late Spelling as having a “real empathy for actors….As a producer, he had a curiosity that I often associate with writers and directors.”
The Gotlieb’s display includes bound leather scripts from Charlie’s Angels, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, and Dynasty, 1980 and 1994 Humanitas Prizes, the 1976 and 1977 People’s Choice Awards for Starsky and Hutch, a distinguished alumni award from Southern Methodist University, and a congratulatory letter from President Ronald Reagan sent when the producer was named Man of the Year by the Beverly Hills Charity Foundation and the B’nai B’rith Lodge. In total, the Spelling collection fills 240 boxes.
“What is going to be beyond measure is that students, faculty, and researchers from all over the world can come to BU and put their hands on the scripts, his papers, and through that see what shaped us,” Fiedler said. “He was the first one to take ownership of the shows that were produced on the networks and made syndication possible for so many others. He was pioneering as a producer and as an entrepreneur.”
Spelling’s remarks were followed by a cocktail reception.
Aaron Spelling: A Retrospective of Prime-Time Success is on display in the Richards-Frost Room, Mugar Memorial Library, first floor. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, for a limited run. Find more information here.