Heads up, we're not going to be swearing in this episode, but Britney is and we're quoting her. It's June 2004 and Britney Spears is cruising over the Atlantic. She just finished a massive tour of Europe. Now she's flying to New York and she's not traveling alone. Seated beside her in the first class cabin is her new beau, Kevin Federline. Britney's European tour kicked off two days after they met. And even though they barely knew each other, she couldn't bear to be away from him.
She was like, I'm not going on tour unless you come with me. So pack a bag, grab your passport and get on that damn plane. Now they're flying home and the two of them haven't stopped talking or laughing or canoodling since the plane took off two hours ago. They polish off their in-flight meals and recline their seats as Britney listens to Kevin, talk about kids and how much he loves them, which, of course, perks Britney up because her whole life she's wanted a family of her own and suddenly they're talking about love.
Kevin stares deep into her eyes, or at least that's how I'm picturing it. But he's probably staring at the floor because he's kind of a bro. Anyways, he says love is love. Love is the only commitment who needs to take some marriage box or sign some piece of paper.
But Britney doesn't agree. She's always wanted to get married. She believes in that kind of commitment. So she says, well, what if one of the people wanted to get married and Kevin gives her these oh shucks puppy dog eyes, which gives our girl hope. And right then and there she says, Would you marry me at a girl? Say what you want. Kevin mulls it over. Then finally he turns to her and says, No, wait, what?
OK, my brain literally just exploded. I mean, it's Britney bitch. Yeah. And the worst part is they're trapped. A few minutes go by awkward, painful minutes, and then Kevin gives her a nudge.
She looks up and he asks, OK, can I just say this episode has more pregnant pauses than all of our series put together?
He says, Now, will you marry me? Oh, no. Oh, ok.
OK, I'm happy even if I'm not supposed to be. It is kind of sweet. Kevin's old school. He thinks proposing is a man's job. Britney doesn't care. All she cares is that the guy of her dreams just pop the question at forty thousand feet.
Yes, she says yes, I'll marry you. Sure. She's been in love before. First there was JT and then her fifty five. Our marriage to Jason Alexander. That was practice. This is the real deal. Her dream for a family is finally coming true, but it won't last long.
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Wonder we feel the story. From Gundry, I'm Brooks Efron, and I'm Alicia Skidmore Williams, and this is Even The Rich on our last episode. Britney Spears went from QAI, Louisiana girl to international sensation, and now she wants to try something new, settling down. But when you're rich and famous, it's never quite that easy. This is Episode two, Circus. When Brittany's plane lands in New York, the first thing she does is call her mom to tell her the good news, although she's not sure how Lynn will take it.
She wasn't exactly thrilled when Britney and Jason tied the knot in Vegas. Well, that's probably because they only got married because they were high on ecstasy. Yeah, but this time, Lynagh proves she's never met Kevin. But from Britney's glowing report, he sounds like a good match for her daughter. He's laid back and chill. Unlike Britney, who spent the last decade recording and performing and trying to be perfect, he'll keep Britney grounded. He's just a normal guy, a mechanic's kid from Fresno.
And it seems like he loves her for her. Now that her mom has approved, Britney decides it's time for an engagement ring.
Kevin may have proposed to her, but she knows what she wants. So she buys it herself a five carat diamond. I mean, that smart girl knows what she wants. Why not buy it? Plus, she can afford it. And Kevin doesn't have that kind of money.
Of course, the press can't get enough. Once the engagement is announced. They follow the couple everywhere. It was such a whirlwind romance. They assume the only reason Britney would want to marry this guy is because she's pregnant. So she decides to put everyone's questions to bed by granting an exclusive interview with People magazine. No, I'm not pregnant, she tells them. But she continues with I do want four or five kids. I think a pregnancy is in the future.
She makes it clear she's found the one. When the reporter asks if maybe, just possibly she's moving too fast, she bites back. I'm sorry, you don't have what I have. I kissed a bunch of frogs and finally found my prince.
This is my happily ever after.
She even poses for an exclusive photo with her fiancee and her mom and her brother. People magazine has photographed hundreds of celebrities, but what happened next was even surprising to them. As Britney and Kevin walk out of the interview, they're met by more than 20 paparazzi lying in wait for helicopters circle overhead. Britney security detail, which is comprised of twenty five people. Twenty five are pulling people out of bushes and flinging them away. It's a madhouse. As Britain can get into the car, the paparazzi gives chase.
This feels like the same story for every celebrity. Yeah, it's brutal. But here's the thing. Brit doesn't seem to mind. She sits on Kevin's lap and poses in waves. Britney is in love and not even the paps can break her mood.
The two plan to marry at the very fancy Bacara resort in Santa Barbara, but then Britney pulls a last minute switcheroo and they decide to get married away from photographers and press and have a low key impromptu wedding at the home of a friend in romantic, exciting Studio City, California. Britney later told People magazine. I just thought it would be too much if we had done it when we were supposed to. I was like, what are we waiting for?
We know this is the real thing. Why not just do it now? It's September 18th, 2004, and Britney is upstairs at that friend's house in Studio City. She's dressed in a white satin Monique Lulea gown. The big day is finally here, except none of the 30 guests know it. They've been told they're coming to an engagement party, but when they walk through the front door, someone hands them a card that says, surprise. It's no special celebration.
It's a wedding.
When the guests are all assembled in a tent in the backyard. Britney comes down the stairs. Her dad, Jamie, meets her at the landing. She leads her down the aisle, which is really just a path through the living room and into the backyard. Kevin's nervous, but he's reassured when Jamie offers him a fist bump.
Yeah, because nothing says I approve of you, bro. Better than a fist bump. Kevin and Britney exchanged their vows under an archway of pink flowers. I'm so proud of you, Kevin says. I'm so proud to be your husband.
They say their ideas and have a long, passionate kiss. Everyone's laughing and crying and pelting them with flowers.
That sound sweet? Totally. It may not be the big fairy tale wedding some girls dream of, but for Britney, it's perfect. After the ceremony, the married couple hands out a gift sent by Juicy Couture, matching velour sweatsuits for all the ones for the girls, say maids on the back and the ones for the guys say pimps. All of the guests are thrilled.
They put them on and head out for a night on the town, drinking Grey Goose vodka and dancing at clubs. Britney's new life is finally beginning. She couldn't be happier.
The honeymoon is also low key, but high class Britney and Kevin had to a private island in Fiji for two thousand dollars a night. They buy complete solitude. No helicopters hovering, no. Perhaps hiding in the bushes just to booze and a bright blue ocean. It's totally relaxing and romantic. And Britney even gets the staff to snap a few photos so she can memorialize it in her scrapbook. And when they get back to the states, Britney's refreshed and ready to start a new chapter.
She's finally got someone beside her. She can count on someone who's got her back. She feels like it's time to take control of her life. So she makes a big move. She calls up Larry Rudolph. He's the lawyer who's been overseeing her career since she was a teenager.
She tells him it's been a great run, Larry, but I think we've gone as far as we can go together. Basically, Britney's ready for a fresh start. Next, she posts a letter to her fans letting them know she's happier than she's ever been in her life.
And now she wants to make some changes.
Do you want to read a little bit of it? Yeah, I'd love to walk a paragraph in Britney shoes. My priorities have changed, and I'm going to be focusing on three main areas of my life for the immediate future, myself, my husband, Kevin, and starting a family. She also says, I can't wait to have my own Christmas tree in my very own house. I'm picturing a little house in the south with a white picket fence close.
Britney and Kevin move into a big Spanish style mansion in Malibu with eight bedrooms and a swimming pool. OK, even better, Britney embraces married life. She shops for furniture and picks out paint colors all by herself. She also cooks up a storm and entertains.
It's like she's a young Martha Stewart in the making and she's happy. Just three months after the honeymoon. US Weekly publishes photos of Kevin and Brit on their honeymoon.
Wait, it was totally private. It was, but there was staff and they sell the pictures for who knows how much. I'm sure for Britney, it must have felt like a betrayal, like she just can't have what she wants. People won't leave her alone. But now with Kevin at her side, she's ready to fight back. Her first move is to grant an interview to Detail magazine. She tells the tabloids that if they're trying to get under her and Kevin's skin by spying on them, it's not working.
She says, quote, Nothing gets to him because he's not a shallow motherfucking Hollywood guy. Oh, damn. She's feisty. I kinda love it.
But US Weekly still doesn't back down. They keep printing rumors about Britney. So on March 30th, she writes an open letter on her website calling out false tabloids and other desperate magazines. US Weekly quickly shoots back. Could it be that Britney is seeing red after not seeing the green from these photos, mainly because she didn't get the money from the photos?
Yep, that's all kinds of twisted logic.
I know they also write Britney Spears should start a magazine if she'd like to dictate her own coverage.
But Britney doesn't want to start a magazine. She wants to start a family. In September 2005, almost exactly a year after her wedding day, Britney gives birth to a baby boy. Please stop that.
They name him Sean Preston Federline. And he looks like, well, I mean, he looks like a baby. But both she and Kevin are over the moon, which is when US Weekly steps in and gives Britney a not so welcome baby gift. The magazine runs a story under the headline Britain Kev Secret Sex Tape. New parents have a new worry.
Racy footage from 2004 after she had a baby is nothing sacred with the tabloids?
Apparently not. The article claims that Britney and Kevin made a sex tape. Britney can't believe it. How do you defend yourself against something that didn't happen? She demands a retraction, but the magazine refuses. Instead, they run a news story making fun of her for demanding a retraction. So Brit fights back and this time she goes all out. She hires a lawyer and sues US Weekly for twenty million dollars for defamation and libel.
Hell, yeah. Go get those dunderheads. Now it's in the judge's hands. OK, let me read an excerpt from her ruling, I'm editing this a little for clarity, but the words are verbatim. The issue is whether it is defamatory to state that a husband and wife taped themselves engaging in consensual sex.
So it's defamatory to make the statement right. Well, the judge says no. She says the plaintiff, that's Britney, has put her modern sexuality squarely and profitably before the public eye and has publicly portrayed herself in a sexual way in her performance and in published photographs.
OK, that's ridiculous. It's basically saying if you're sexual or people see you as sexual, that anyone can say anything they want about you if you are a woman.
And it's definitely a blow to Britney, but she's stronger than yesterday.
She tries to pick herself up and dust yourself off, focus on her baby, keep doing the Martha Stewart thing. But life at home is starting to crumble now. Turns out despite his amorous declaration on the plane about loving kids, Kevin's not so happy being a stay at home dad.
He wants to be a rapper. I mean, who doesn't?
True, it's an odd turn of events, perhaps even disappointing for Britney, but she wants to be a supportive wife, so she helps him get into the studio and she writes his first song.
It's called Also The Single Drops on New Year's Day 2006.
And it's not good and everyone knows it. And I mean everyone, even James Lipton, the Inside the actor studio guy, gets in on it. He goes on Conan O'Brien's show and does a dramatic reading of the lyrics.
Toye All your thing on me in Portuguese, it means bring your ass on the floor and move it real fast. Okay. Kevin Just because you can doesn't mean you should preach.
But Kevin's not about to let the haters get him down. He does what any failed musician would do. He goes on tour and Britney is not thrilled. It's one thing to go into the studio and make a song. It's another to have the father of your kid up and leave. But again, she tries to play the supportive wife.
Except it turns out Kevin's not just touring, he's partying and meeting women, which leads to all sorts of rumors that Kevin's unfaithful. And just like that, Britney's personal life is back in the tabloids and it stays there for months until it reaches the point where Britney feels like she has no choice but to defend herself. She's still committed to Kevin and she wants the world to know it. She's just going to do it her way. And that means on stage.
It's August 20th, 2006, the day of the most important event of the year, the Teen Choice Awards.
Britney walks on stage giggling and chewing gum and looking fabulous in a pink maternity dress. That's right. Britney's pregnant again. And when the crowd sees her, they go absolutely bonkers. Everyone jumps to their feet and screams at the top of their lungs. Britney practically has to beg them to sit down and let her speak because she has something to announce. Here it is.
This show has been very good to me and my career over the years, and I'm hoping that it will be as good to our next performer. Please give a warm welcome to my man, Kevin Federline. What the up. When Kevin takes the stage, Britney hikes up her shoulders, squinch is up her face and does these little baby claps. She looks like a girl with a crush. It's actually pretty cute. And from the thundering applause, it seems like the world agrees.
It looks like Britney and Kevin are happy as clams. And then. Oh, my God. Can you please make that stop? OK. A month after the award show in September 2006, Britney gives birth to her second son, Jayden James Federline. And of course, she loves the crap out of him. But two little ones is a lot to deal with. You think Kevin might pitch in, right? But nope. Three weeks after Jason's born, he's back on the road.
This time, he takes a solo trip to Vegas where he booked a table at a hot club and pounds, drinks and dances with women who are definitely not Britney. Yeah, because she's at home alone, wiping up spit up. Sadly, yes. For the past two years, Britney's been hoping her little family would be the one she always wanted, but now she's not so sure.
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Right on the app, go to Hello Fresh Dotcom, even the rich Nidhi and use code. Even the rich Nidhi. That's even the rich nine zero to get ninety dollars off, including free shipping one more time. That's hello fresh dotcom. Even the rich Nidhi code. Even the rich ninety. It's November 7th, 2006, and Kevin is in New York taping an interview on a music show called Much Music. He starts talking to the host about Britney and bragging about what a good husband he is.
He holds out his hand and points to the ring on his pinky finger and says, this was the the diamond ring that I gave to my wife when we first got married.
So, you know, I got her a bigger one and I made a pinkie ring out of this one. She really loves what I'm doing right now. And she's my number one fan, you know what I'm saying?
Which bullshit? Britney bought that diamond her damn self. Yeah. Basically, Britney fell in love with Kevin because he wasn't a shallow motherfucking Hollywood guy. And now he kind of is. After the taping, Kevin and his entourage hit the town.
They go to dinner at some swanky restaurant. Kevin's laughing and having a great time. He orders a big steak. He's living it up. But when the entrees come out, Kevin gets a text message and he takes a peek at his phone. After he reads it, the color goes out of his face. He pushes his plate away and gets up from the table. Did someone die? His marriage. The steak wasn't the only thing Kevin just got served.
Britney is filing for divorce after two years of marriage and she just let him know via text message.
Is it bad that I don't feel sorry for him? Hell, no. But here's the thing. Even though Britney was the one who filed her heart, doesn't want to let go, there's a small part of her that hopes she and Kevin will somehow work things out. She flies to New York so she can be closer to him just in case he comes to his senses and realizes he can't live without her.
But that doesn't happen. Instead, the next day, Kevin agrees to the divorce. And here's how he tells the world. He's in the dressing room of the venue where he's performing and he picks up a Sharpie and scrawls across the shower door. I'm a free man, ladies. Look out. Fuck a wife. Give me my kids. Bitch signed Kevin Federline.
Kevin, I do some copyediting on the side. Hit me up. But seriously, shit that is so low.
Yeah. And it gets worse. The next day he files for sole custody of their kids.
When Britney finds out she flies into a panic. She's the one who's been at home raising them while Kevin's been running around. She can't imagine losing them even part of the time. So she decides to talk to someone, someone who knows her, someone who's known her since she was a teenager. Larry Rudolph, the old lawyer guy. Yep. Larry Smart. Remember, he's the one who made Britney who she is. His advice now, they should go ice skating.
I mean, there's never a bad time for ice skating. They go to the rink at Rockefeller Center and it just so happens that someone tipped off the paparazzi that Britney's there. Larry, understands optics. He knows that right now Britney needs to show the world that she's strong, that she doesn't need Kevin. She's fine on her own. So she smiles and skates while the cameras flash. But Britney can't keep that brave face up for long. When she gets home to L.A., she's a mess.
She goes in and out of Kevin's closet touching his clothes and crying. Oh, so now she's going to smell like axe body spray. That sucks. And then a judge rules on Kevin's custody suit. Kevin's not getting sole custody. Thank God for Britney's not getting it either. She'll get the kids for three days a week. The other four days, she'll be all alone in the massive Malibu home she bought for her family. Her only companion is her assistant, a 23 year old former hairdresser named Caylee.
The two of them start hitting the clubs.
Britney stays out all night dancing. Anything to take the edge off. Thanks to these outings, the tabloids have her back in their sights again in November after a night out on the town with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, The New York Post runs a photo of the trio with the headline The Bimbo Summit.
Oh, come on. With the tabloids. Ever do anything like this to guys like if Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen were hanging out, would they call them the Dickheads Summit? Maybe the douche duo? Exactly.
At nine p.m. one night in January 2007, Kelly, Britney's personal assistant, gets a phone call from a blocked number. The guy won't give his name. All he'll say is that he's a private detective who's working for Kevin, but he wants to change teams.
He says Kevin's given him all sorts of dirt on Britney and he wants to hand it over. Caylee says, OK, email me what you've got. And then she hangs up. Five minutes later, the guy calls back.
He says what he has is too sensitive for email.
He says they should meet face to face. Right now, he gives her the address for a Starbucks in Santa Monica, about twenty miles south of Malibu, or like a two hour drive in L.A. He says, I'll be the sketchy guy in a baseball hat, except he leaves out the sketchy part. But Kayleigh figures she owes it to Brit to at least see if this guy is legit. So she hops in her car. And heads for Santa Monica when she arrives, she sees the guy in a hat, he's short and stocky with a soul patch.
He tells her his name is Sam Lutfi. When she sits down at his table, he adds, Don't try and take down my license plate number. It's fake. OK, who says shit like that? Sam Lutfi. He was in our last episode.
He showed up at the hospital after Britney got 51, 52. And no, he's not a private detective. He's just a Hollywood hanger-on with a funny hat and a few restraining orders against him, one for threatening his neighbor and another for calling a woman up 20 times a day. Ackerly doesn't know that yet. She's like, yeah, I don't even know what car you drive. So no sweat about the license plates. And then she's like, what do you got?
But Sam seems more interested in asking questions about Britney, like who lives in her house and where does she go when she's not home? Does she keep a spare key under a fake rock? You know, that sort of thing? Caylee tells him she's not there to gossip about Britney. She's there because he promised to hand over some incriminating evidence. Only now she realizes he doesn't have a bag or any papers on him. Clearly, this guy is full of shit.
So she gets up and says she's leaving with the guy, just won't quit. He says something like, I know you're under investigation. I know you're being followed everywhere you go. Your house is bugged.
Now, Caylee's creeped out. She walks out of the coffee shop and calls a lawyer, Larry, to tell him what happened.
And Larry tells her not to worry about it. He's probably just some guy trying to glom onto Britney. So Caylee tries to put it out of her mind. But this isn't the last we'll hear from Sam Lutfi in January. Britney gets gut punched again. World of Britney, one of the most popular Britney Internet fan sites is shutting down. The site's owner writes, I believe Britney is unfortunately done for me, at least no matter what anyone thinks or how they may disagree, it's very hard to maintain the respect needed to keep things going.
Britney is devastated. She's always adored her fans. When she was a girl on the Mickey Mouse Club, she spent hours perfecting her signature. She wanted to be sure that every autograph she signed was perfect, so none of her fans would be disappointed.
When she became a star and went on tour, she'd spent an hour or more after every show meeting fans, signing autographs and taking pictures, no matter how exhausted she was from performing or what kind of mood she was in. So the thought that now they may be turning away from her, it hurts.
So Britney writes a heartfelt message on her website.
I noticed today that one of my biggest fan sites is shutting down soon. And I want you all to know that I do understand all the reasons that went behind making that decision. And I'm sad to see it closing. And then she makes a big announcement. After focusing on raising her family these last few years, she's ready to get back to work. She announces that she's going to start working on a new album. Maybe she can win back her fans by getting back to what made them love her in the first place.
Her music. Hell, yeah, Britney's back. But here's the thing. According to this book I read called Britney Inside the Dream, even while she's portraying this outward confidence, she's actually really struggling inside. Apparently, she told a confidant that she wanted to run away from everything, moved to a private island, or give up showbiz and become a schoolteacher like her mom. It's like the thought of having to be a performer again or having to be Britney Spears is more than she can handle.
Her lawyer slash manager, Larry Comptel, she's struggling and he's pretty sure he knows the answer.
Britney must be doing drugs. Now, we know that Britney has prescriptions for a few anxiety meds, but we don't know whether she was abusing them or taking anything else, for that matter.
And a lot of people in her circle, like her assistant Kayleigh, say they never once saw her do drugs.
But Larry is convinced that's why she likes to party and why she's clearly struggling now and he's worried about what might happen to her kids, not to mention her career if something doesn't change.
So he conspires with Britney's parents to send her to rehab.
Britney is furious, but she still agrees to go.
She flies to the Caribbean island of Antigua and checks into Crossroads, which looks more like a beach resort than a rehab center. Britney signed up for a month long stay, but she checks out after 24 hours.
She heads straight for the airport and buys a ticket home. It's February 16th, 2007, two days after Britney left rehab.
I imagine her thinking maybe I'll take a drive, get out of the house, clear my head, maybe then I'll feel a little better. But Britney can't just leave the house and drive around like a normal person. As soon as her driver pulls out, a pack of photographers start to tail them, not just one or two cars either. We're talking like 70 photographers following her every move. I imagine she's sitting in the back seat wondering what happened. Where did my dream go wrong?
Maybe she's wondering if she'll ever get control of her life again around a corner and she spots a hair salon in a nondescript strip mall and she says, pull over. She marches inside, sits down and tells the hairdresser, I want you to shave my head. A hairdresser is like, are you sure you want to do this? This could be a hormonal day. And tomorrow you're going to feel differently. So let's talk about it. She turns to Britney's bodyguards, hoping they'll back her up.
Britney's like, fine, you won't do it. I'll do it myself.
She grabs an electric razor and starts to rake it across her head as long brown pieces fall to the floor. The paparazzi outside are all crammed against the window of the salon, snapping pictures. When she's done, she looks at herself in the mirror, runs her hands across her bare scalp and says, My mom is going to be really mad.
And she starts to cry. The hairdresser tries to comfort her. She tells Britney at least she has a nice shaped head. Well, Britney gets up from the chair and heads to the tattoo parlor next door.
She walks through the front door and is met by total silence, even without her long brown hair.
Everyone in the place recognizes her immediately and they're completely stunned. Finally, an employee speaks up and asks Britney why she did it, why she shaved her head. And Britney says, I didn't want anyone touching me. I'm tired of everybody touching me. And then she announces she'd like to get a tattoo that night. It's all over the news.
The media is brutal. ABC News says Britney is bald and broken. Another outlet asks if she's, quote, teetering on the edge of sanity.
Joy Behar from The View calls what Britney did an act of self mutilation.
And the thing I can't get over is that the only reason these people know about it in the first place is because the paparazzi snapped pictures of the whole thing.
While the media is busy hounding Britney, Larry and her parents are trying to find some way to get her help. They tell Britney she needs to go back to rehab and this time she has to stay. Britney is livid. She knows something's wrong, but it's not the drugs she needs. Love care someone to actually see her. But Jamie is firm. He tells her if you don't go back to rehab, you're going to lose your kids. And then they fire her assistant, Kayleigh, who's been one of Britney's only companions lately.
They think they're helping.
Yeah, that's definitely how you help someone in the throes of a mental health crisis. Yeah, but Britney's afraid Jamie might be right. Losing her kids entirely would break her.
So on February 20th, four days after shaving her head, Britney checks into a rehab center in Malibu. It's called Promises. The facility has three pools and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. There's a private chef on staff who's known to make a mean osso buco. And Britney intends to stick it out this time.
Except the day after she gets there, she learns Kevin's scheduled an emergency custody hearing. So she checks out early and goes to his house to confront him. We get support from core zeltzer, core Sulzer isn't your average Sulzer rooted in causes long history of sustainability.
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It's February 21st, 2007, and Britney is in a silver Mercedes that's being driven by her cousin, Ali Sim's Ali picked up Britney from rehab to take her to Kevin's house so she could confront him about the surprise custody hearing. When they pull up to Kevin's house, Britney jumps out and heads for the door. We don't know exactly what she and Kevin say to each other, but we do know that he tells her he's spoken to Britney's mom, Lynn.
It seems Lynn found out that Britney checked herself out of promises and now she and Kevin have come up with a plan.
He's willing to cancel the hearing as long as Britney goes back to rehab and she has to stay there for the full 30 day treatment. Otherwise, he's going to tell the court that Britney can't be trusted with their kids well-being and ask for full custody. Britney agrees to his terms, but she's not happy about it. Yeah, it's messed up. He's treating her kids like pawns in a chess game. But Britney's Madeleine, too. She can't believe her mom would go behind her back and conspire with Kevin.
It's like she can't trust anyone.
Britney gets back into the car and they head for a nearby gas station. When they roll into the mobile's parking lot, a swarm of paparazzi appears out of nowhere. Apparently, Lindsay not the only one who found out that Britney checked herself into rehab. Somehow the paparazzi know it, too.
And they followed her here as the paps around the car and start clicking an endless stream of photos. Britney feels like she's suffocating everywhere she goes there, someone watching her, documenting her every move. Ali gets out of the car and begs them to leave Britney alone, but they don't. So Britney gets out, too. And now she's pissed. She grabs a green umbrella from the backseat and goes up to a paparazzo who's shooting pictures of her from his Ford Explorer.
And she starts swinging the umbrella like an axe. She's yelling, fuck you. And she cracks the window and smashes up the side of the car. Then she drops the umbrella and flees. And of course, the photographers get Britney losing it on camera. The next morning, a photo of Britney brandishing the umbrella is on the cover of the New York Daily News with the headline Britney's Fury. But by the time the tabloid hits newsstands, Britney has checked herself back into rehab.
She lashed out at the paps in a moment of panic, but then she came to her senses. She knows that Kevin is not kidding around. Losing her kids is a real possibility, and she wants to be able to show the courts that she's doing her best to get better. So she holds up her end of the bargain and spends a month in rehab. We don't know a lot about what happens there because the place is famously private. But we do know that when she gets out at the end of March, her two boys, Sean and Jayden, are there to greet her.
She runs over and wraps them up in a big hug. I don't know if Kevin's there, too, but I do know that pretty soon after she gets out, he honors their deal. They agree to a preliminary divorce settlement. They're going to share custody of the kids 50 50. Britney's gotta be relieved, but she hasn't totally let go of the fact that she was practically forced into rehab in the first place. She blames Larry for most of all.
So now that she's out, she fires him again.
But this time she realizes he's been kind of a toxic force once. She's had time to process it a little bit. She explains the decision and everything that led up to it in a deeply personal letter to her fans. Let me just read you part of it, because it's pretty powerful. I had a manager from a long time ago come in and try to direct me and my life. After I got my divorce. I was so overwhelmed. I think that I was in a little shock, too.
I didn't know who to go to. I confess, I was so lost. Wow.
I love how vulnerable she is when she absolutely doesn't owe anybody anything. Right.
I love how she just opens up. Yeah. And then Britney adds that she thinks some of the people in her life, she doesn't say who didn't like that. She used her brain when she cut ties with Larry and took a step back from performing and that they, quote, wanted to be in more control of my life than me. I'm guessing that's her parents. Yeah. Britney's disappointed in her mom for going to Kevin behind her back. Even if her mom had good intentions to Britney, it still feels like a betrayal.
As for her dad, their relationship goes south a month after Britney leaves rehab, when he sends an email to The New York Post where he apologizes to Larry for the way Britney treated him, she was out of control. Jamie writes and he credits Larry for saving her life. And the kicker, he says the Spears family would like to publicly apologize to Larry. Britney can't believe it.
She fired Larry because he was trying to control her life and now her dad is defending him. She quickly releases a statement of her own. I'm praying for my father. She says we have never had a good relationship. It's sad that all the men that have been in my life do not know how to accept a real woman's love. I'm concentrating on my work and my life right now. But now that she's written off, Jamie fired Larry and fallen out with Lynn.
Britney is all alone with no one to turn to.
Until one night at a club, she meets a stranger. She asks this guy if she can have his hat. Maybe she's flirting. Maybe she just feels like chatting. Who knows? He tells her he needs it. He's got to hide his bald head. Britney's tickled. It's refreshing to hear a guy be so honest with her. So she strikes up a conversation, gets his number, and pretty soon she's texting him every day. His name is Sam Lutfi.
After that night, Britney and Sam are inseparable. They go to clubs, they go to Starbucks, they take midnight trips to the drugstore, which is not a euphemism. They literally go to the pharmacy in the middle of the night. And then in July 2007, Britney asked Sam to be her manager or that's what he'll say happened. But we can't be sure. He claims that Britney hired him and agreed to pay him fifteen percent of her income, which considering that she's making eight hundred thousand dollars a month, is a lot, but they never sign any sort of contract.
The whole deal is verbal. Personally, I think the whole thing's fishy.
I mean, especially given the timing, because right when Sam comes into Britney's life, she finishes recording her first album in almost five years.
Yeah, totally fishy, but very exciting. Brett has a new album. I know the release is set for October and she tells her label to start drumming up some hype. So at the beginning of August, the folks over at Jive Records meet with the producers of MTV's Video Music Awards and try to convince them to let Britney perform at the ceremony. But the producers aren't so sure. They know Britney's had a rough few months. They're worried she'll bail or screw up or embarrass them somehow.
Plus, they know she fired Larry so she doesn't have a manager to keep her on the straight and narrow. But team drive is persuasive. They're like, remember that time she came on your show and danced with a twenty five pound python on her shoulders? She's still that good at MTV. Says yes, on one condition. Britney needs a new manager I. I don't know about Sam. Yeah, apparently not. They want someone who will make sure she shows up at rehearsals and takes this thing seriously.
So Drive sets Britney up with a firm called the firm. Britney's not thrilled about it, but it's the only way to get MTV to sign off. So she agrees.
Britney spends the next five weeks rehearsing her butt off. She doesn't party. She doesn't goof off. It's like the Britney of old and she's having a great time, too.
It's been years since she threw herself into her work like this, building her team from scratch, collaborating with choreographers and backup dancers each day. She's more and more excited. Sometimes during rehearsals.
She's so fired up, she shouts, I can do it by the end of the month. She's got the routine down cold. She's ready. This is going to be one hell of a comeback. And then less than two weeks before the show, her lawyers call it's Kevin, you know, the 50/50 custody arrangement they agreed to.
Yeah, he changed his mind. Now he wants it to be 70, 30 in his favor. And that's not all. He's putting Britney's financial records in public view. Why? Because he wants to convince the courts that Britney's so rich she should pay his legal bills.
The companies on this asshole. My God, it's seriously Britney's beside herself, but she tries not to let it get to her.
She can't jeopardize AVMA performance. It's September 8th, 2007, a Saturday night in Vegas, and Britney is ready to paint the town beige because that's what she's wearing, a beige silk dress, it's a subdued look and that's a point. The VMAs are tomorrow, and Britney's new managers have given her clear instructions, make an appearance at the pre party, and then you're to go straight back to your sweet young lady and get some rest. But Britney has other ideas.
She's been rehearsing like crazy. She's been holding in the painful knowledge that Kevin's trying again to take her kids away. She needs to let off some steam, as they say, after the pre party. There's the after party. Party? You mean the party? OK, Trisha, I lived in Vegas. I think I know the terminology. Anyway, the after party party is at a Beatles themed bar where I imagine Britney throws back a few flaming Ringo's and then she goes to the VIP room at the Mirage.
And who does she run into? Diddy did he says something like, hey, big day tomorrow. Maybe it's time to call it a night, but Britney has zero interest in that. It's three a.m. the night is young. So she gloms on to some music industry folks and follows them back to some random hotel room. Around 4:00 a.m., Britney makes her way back to her room. She climbs into bed and sleeps until noon.
Things are not pretty. When she wakes up. Her mouth tastes like pennies. Her head feels like a flaming towel. You say from experience.
OK, you know as well as I do that our Saturday nights watching rom com, it can get lit up so that Britney drags herself over the awards show venue and takes shelter in her dressing room.
She still feels awful and feeling awful messes with her confidence. Anxiety envelops her like condensation on a glass. She's got to find a way to calm down. And that's when she spots a bottle of tequila on the dressing table and pours herself a shot. And then another and then another. And then there's a knock on the door. Who is it? It's Justin. Justin who? Justin Timberlake, baby. What's he doing here? He's wishing Britney good luck, but when he leaves, she just freaks out harder.
Something about seeing Justin reminds her that this is real. This is the big leagues. Yeah, but she knows the routine cold.
That was before the tequila. Britney tries to get in the zone, maybe changing into her costume will help. It's a one piece by star designer Trish Somerville.
But to Britney, it just looks boring. So she scans the room and spots another outfit and she's like, this is what I'm talking about. Then comes the knock.
Seven minutes to showtime, Britney emerges wearing fishnet stockings, hot pants and a black bra.
She may be tipsy, she may be anxious, but she can still hear the crew member who's waiting for her say, what the fuck what? It's too late to change now.
It's showtime. And look, if there's one thing Britney can always do, it's perform.
The opening of her no is tightly choreographed. There's this moment near the top where she's supposed to look straight into the camera and lip sync. It's Britney, bitch. But when she gets on stage, Britney forgets to say the line. Actually, she forgets more than that. She looks unsteady. She's out of sync with her backup dancers. She keeps giving the audience these embarrassed looking smiles. But when it's over, she's not smiling anymore.
She runs backstage and cries for forty five minutes straight. Her big comeback was a big letdown. Oh, yeah. To add insult to injury, the firm drops her a week later. And just when things seem like they can't get any worse, they do.
On September 17th, one of her former bodyguard stands on the steps of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Facing a bunch of reporters, he says he's prepared to testify in Britney and Kevin's ongoing custody battle. He says he knows for a fact that Britney is abusing drugs and that her home isn't safe for her kids. He doesn't offer proof, but it doesn't matter. On October 1st, a judge gives Kevin sole custody. Oh, I can't. Neither can Britney.
When she gets home that night, she doesn't even go into the house without the kids. It's just too empty. So instead, she spends the night in her car. In the morning, she turns to the one person she thinks she can trust, Sam Lutfi. He moves into her guest room.
I'm sorry, but this guy is fucking sketchy. Yeah. On October 3rd, there's a follow up custody hearing. The judge is willing to reconsider the ruling. All Britney has to do is show up, but she never does. So the judge decides Britney will only be allowed supervised visits with her kids two nights a week and then.
An odd thing happens, Sam Lutfi does something good, he calls Lynn and tells her that she and Britney need to bury the hatchet, her daughter needs her and Lynn listens. She hops on the next plane. When she and Britney are reunited, they hold on to each other for what feels like forever. Lynn stays long enough to bond with Britney and long enough to get a funny feeling about this Sam guy, which she ignores for a few months until January 4th, 2008, when she's back in Kentwood and she gets a call from him.
Sam says Britney had her boys for a supervised visit, but when Kevin turned up to collect them, Britney locked herself in the bathroom with her son and refused to come out. So the visitation monitor called the police. Sam's not sure what to do. The whole place is in chaos. Turn on the TV, he says.
Lynn quickly flips through the channels until she sees a familiar sight her daughter's house, and then she sees Britney being loaded into an ambulance. She's being taken to Cedar Sinai. This will be the first time she's placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold. But what Lynn doesn't know is that her ex-husband Jamie is watching, too, and he's putting a plan into place, one that's going to change everything. This is the second episode of our three part series, Free Britney, if you like our show, please give us a five star rating and a review and be sure to tell your friends subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify, The Wonder We app or wherever you're listening right now, join.
In The Wonder Apple is an ad free. In the episode notes, you'll find some links and offers from our sponsors. Please support them. Another way to support us is to answer a short survey at Wonder Dotcom survey. We use many sources when researching our stories like Rolling Stone and People, but we especially recommend Britney Inside the Dream by Steve Dennis and the podcast Danso and Eat Pray Britney. I'm Brooke Saffron.
And I'm Orishas Skidmore Williams. Sara Liberi wrote this episode. Our producer is Caleb Dissinger. Our sound design is by James Morgan, audio assistants by Sergio Henriquez, additional editing by Allison Rimer.
Our executive producers are Stephanie Jones marshmallowy and Hernan Lopez are wondering. In Wonderings hit podcast, Dr. Death reporter Laura Bule dug into the story of Dr. Dunwich and the system failure that allowed him to maim and kill 33 patients.
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