FALL ISSUE 2010
As I drive along a winding dirt road in the high desert of The Antelope valley I can't believe this picturesque landscape is a short 45 minutes north of Los Angeles. I slow down as a ground squirrel races across the road and turn into the entrance of Villalobos, the largest pit bull rescue in the country. I am greeted by the barking of almost 200 pit bulls as I make my way to the hacienda that functions as the rescue's headquarters and home to Tia Maria Torres, the rescue's founder and director.
Most people will recognize Tia as the star and linchpin of the television series
Pit Bulls & Parolees featured on Discovery's Animal Planet. Last season, Tia captured the heart of America with her unyielding spirit and no-nonsense spunk. This Kougar is in high demand, and today, as she wraps up a phone call, I make myself comfortable while Wedgie, a bull terrier and Hollywood, a French bulldog serenade me in the living room.
After some final multi-tasking, Tia rushes in, plops down, and...takes a breath. As usual, I get the ball rolling with some obscure questions - just to warm my victim up.
VERNON: If you could be granted one wish, what would that be?
TIA: That would be for me to have my husband by my side again.
VERNON : If you could change the world in some way, how?
TIA: I'd like to see people as a whole be more compassionate and understanding with each other, because that, in turn, will filter down to what I love the most, which is animals, especially dogs.
VERNON: If you were a color, what would that color be?
TIA: Black. It's a powerful color. It's mysterious.
VERNON: If you could be a hamburger, what kind of hamburger would you be?
TIA: [smiling] Oh! That's easy! Blood-red raw with ketchup and onion. [laughs]
VERNON: [laughing] Oh, my God! OK! That's cool! And...
TIA: RAW onion, by the way!
VERNON: Oh, great!...Alright then. Now, we can officially begin. For the first time in my life, I have about 20 pages of notes! At the moment, you're running the largest pit bull rescue in the country, as well as a rehabilitation program for parolees, and starring in a TV show that follows your journey. That's quite an achievement, but you've been through a lot to get here.
TIA: That's an understatement!
/ NATURAL BORN REBEL
VERNON: You grew up in an upper middle-class family in California, were a little bit of a rebel as a teenager, and, after getting heavily involved with gangs, you joined the military. How did you get involved with gangs to begin with?
TIA: Typical teenage boredom and rebellion. I went back and forth between my disiplinarian stepmother, who raised me, and my father who was the complete opposite and I just rebeled. One night, I happened into a nightclub in downtown LA. Little did I know it was a hangout for gang members, and I was intrigued. The first thing I noticed was that they were wearing old-school clothing, like zoot suits, and even though it wasn't the 40s, it felt like it, and I've always been a fan of that era. I loved that stuff. I got swooped up in that lifestyle, the music they listened to – it was just fun.
VERNON: But after a couple of narrow escapes, your stepmother finally said, "Enough."
TIA: Well, you see, I managed to stay away from drugs and alcohol, but after witnessing fights at parties and getting shot at a few times, my stepmother said, "Get the hell out. I'm not putting up with it." Being young and angry at the world, I got this bright idea to join the Army. I took my testing, and they said, "You know, you tested really high. You're smart. Do you want to go to medical school? What do you want to do?" I said, "Where are all the boys? I mean, in addition to being in the Army?" They said, "Truck driving school, the front line..." At the time, they were allowing women in the infantry. I said, "I want to be a truck driver." They were like – that's the lowest of the low! But I said, "No, I want to be a truck driver!" So I became a truck driver in the Army.
VERNON: Good lord. For how long?
TIA: Between my active duty and reserves, I did 6 years total.
VERNON: And when you came out you...
VERNON AND TIA IN UNISON: were worse!
TIA: [nodding] I was worse.
VERNON: Oh, yeah!
TIA: I was a rebel. I was unstoppable.
VERNON: You've said that you have your degree in "gangology," which I love.
TIA: That's right. At the time, Los Angeles started a – they were TRYING to start – a new program to stop gang violence, and they heard about me. They said, you know, she's from this area, yet she's NOT from this area. She's not in so deep that we can't deal with her. So they approached me and asked if I would be interested in working with them. I accepted the job and became a youth gang counselor.
VERNON: How long did you do that?
TIA: A couple of years. It was something the city got a grant for. It was sad because, when they ran out of money, the program had to end. But we were there to infiltrate. If we heard that a certain gang was planning to shoot up another gang, we went over to their neighborhood and tried to get them to peacefully work it through. We weren't law enforcement. We weren't there to do that. We would talk to parents and try to help them with their kids, help them with their school. We were counselors, but we patrolled like police officers. The cops hated us. Oh, my God, they hated us. I can't tell you how many times I ended up on the hood of a cop car, face first, while they tried to get information out of me.
VERNON: Good lord.
/ TAKE ONE
VERNON: What did you do when the program came to an end?
TIA: Well, shortly after that, I ended up meeting my first husband and my oldest daughter's father – ALSO a gang member. That was my way of counseling – marrying one! Unfortunately, that is when crack cocaine first hit the streets. I had no idea what it was because I didn't do drugs. When he began to beat me senseless on a nightly basis, little did I know it was spawned by his crack cocaine abuse. Oh, God, I can't even tell you how long that went on. A couple of years or so.
PAULA: (who's sitting in, interjects – as usual!) Why did you put up with it for so long?
TIA: Back then we didn't have laws to protect battered women. If I wanted to press charges, I HAD to press charges. Now, if you’re a battered wife, you can play the part and go, "No, officer, don't arrest him!" and at least look good in front of your husband, but know that the cops, by law, have to take him. Back then it was, "Ma'am, do you want to press charges?" When he's staring at you and giving you the evil eye and saying, "Bitch, I will kill you!" You're like, "No, officer. No, officer." And there were times I tried to move away and he would find us.
There was a particular night where he beat me with a telephone. My older daughter was about two years old, and I remember she was lying on my stomach on the floor. He had taken my ankle and broken it, and he was hitting me with the phone. I remember Tania was sitting on my back saying, "No, Daddy, no! NO!" So the neighbors called the police, and they came and removed him from our apartment. The next morning after he got released – [sarcastic laughter] yeah, the next morning! – I was going to work. I had a girlfriend who was going to spend the night with me with her baby and we were walking out of the apartment and I saw him come from around the bushes. I was carrying my daughter and I knew it was coming. And my girlfriend, she was a tough cookie, jumped on him trying to get him in a headlock, and started screaming, "Run, Tia! Run!" I took off with my daughter, and I turned back to see him flip her over his head and beat her with her little baby sitting right there. [She sighs.] So I ran, and my friend took a beating for me.
So, yeah, I'm living proof of "until you 've been there, don't judge." 'Cause, you know, now I'm a strong person. Back then, I was just a young 20-year-old girl with nowhere to go – or so I thought – and the laws didn't protect us, and he was around every corner.
/ TAKE TWO
VERNON: Where did you go from there?
TIA: Well, I began the journey that brought me to where I am today. Eventually, my ex went to prison for something unrelated. I began bartending in a cowboy bar. I grew up around horses and had animals as a child, so I felt a kinship with the country-western crowd. That's where I met the man who really got me back into animals and who would be the father of my younger daughter. We connected and I became pregnant with Mariah, but I soon found out he was a seven-night-a-week drunk. And although he wasn't physically abusive, he was very verbally abusive. But I'm grateful for that relationship because it gave me my daughter and got me back into animals.
It was interesting because, throughout our relationship, with the drinking and the cheating, I became this "kept woman." I had two little girls, and by that time, a couple of dogs, but it was the taking of my brother's wolfdog that truly got me started. My brother was a wannabe biker, and he got a wolfdog 'cause he thought it was gonna be tough. Turned out it wasn't tough because wolves aren't tough animals. So he asked me to take Cujo, this big ol' lovable wolfdog. I took him, and then someone else heard that I had a wolfdog, and they asked me to take another one. And it just kept spiraling. I kept taking on wolfdogs, and that became my little world. It was my escape. And eventually, by chance, I fell in love with a pit bull.
My friend wanted to adopt a dog so I went with her to an animal shelter. They were bringing in a pit bull from a double homicide scene. It was a drug deal gone bad. Everyone shot themselves to death, thank God – that took care of that. But the pit was the only thing that remained alive on the property, and as they were bringing her into the shelter, she broke free. Across the way, I saw her charging at my daughters who were little. They were sitting on a bench, and I couldn't get to them fast enough, and I just thought, "Oh, my God, my daughters are going to be maulded by a pit bull." Well she knocked them off the bench! It was like a movie! They both flipped back onto the grass, and all I heard was giggling! Giggling, giggling! And there she was just kissing their faces and I said, "Oh, my God!"
At the time you couldn't get a pit bull out of a shelter. It was just impossible. They put them to sleep. So I petitioned for this dog, and I begged and begged. And after the investigation, they released who would be named "Tatanka." And the cycle began again! Someone found out I had a pit bull and wanted me to take another one, so then I had wolfdogs and pit bulls, the two most maligned types of canine. You had the wolves who were victims of the myth, of all the stories of the werewolves and the vicious wolves in The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. Then you had the pit bulls who were the victims of the present. I felt very connected with these two canines. Even though they were polar opposites in their temperments and behavior, they both shared a common demoninator – they were both victims of man.
So, in rescuing both of them, I hid, escaped from what was going on around me with my relationship. At one point during our 12 years together, my ex and I separated and I moved up to Frasier Park. It was the only place I could afford for my daughters and me, and it was very rurual, so I began rescuing on a small scale. My ex and I got back together and we moved here, to Villalobos. And he went back to the same cheating and drinking, just like in a country-western song. It was was Christmas Eve Day of 2000, he got into a drunk driving accident. I asked, "Who did you kill?" And he was like, "I don't know." I thought, "It's Christmas, there are children and families Christmas shopping." I said, "That's it. We're done." We both remained on the property. He lived in the 4000 square foot house, what a nice guy, while the kids and I lived in a trailer.
VERNON: Oh, that was nice of him.
TIA: But I stayed with my animals. I kept rescuing them. And this is gonna sound corny, but the animals, damn they gave me strength! I started becoming a somebody. I was no longer, you know, "his girlfriend" or "the mother of his children." I became a somebody in the dog rescue world. It was like, "Oh, that's Tia Torres. She rescues the wolves and the pit bulls." And I was like, "Oh! I do, actually!" They gave me a lot of confidence, and through them, I found my strength. I got to a point where I was like, "You know, I can REALLY get rid of this guy now."
And it was funny how it just filtered through my animals. My ex had a pet rooster. He loved this rooster! This rooster was the meanest motherfucker on the planet! And every time we came out of my trailer, he would attack me and my kids. Roosters are very mean animals anyway and this was a big Rhode Island Red. I would tell my ex and he'd think it was funny. The damn rooster loved him though! So one day I came out of the trailer, and this rooster came out of nowhere. He got me by the hair, I fell to the ground, and he's ripping at my face and I'm screaming. All of a sudden, my big, red pit bull, Duke [she pats the tattoo of Duke on her shoulder] came flying out of that trailer, snatched that rooster up, ran off and shook him like a rag doll – killed him, and said, "Fuck you!"
He's yelling, "My rooster!" Yeah, well, you can cook him for dinner tonight.
VERNON: [laughing] Dear God!
TIA: It was symbolic! I’d had my ex’s name tattooed on my butt cheek – when we finally split, I took Duke and got his pawprint tattooed over his name. And that, boys and girls, is the end!
VERNON: I like it!
/ WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
VERNON: Apart from the rescue, you are also a professional animal trainer.
TIA: Yes. In the twelve years of that relationship, I began, with my newfound confidence, training animals and was becoming noticed for my work. My big break in the film industry – you guys will love this one – was being asked to go to Sri Lanka to film The Jungle Book with the wolves.
TIA: It was beautifully done. It was called Mowgli's Story and it was my first movie job, my first training experience. I was going to another country! It was..Ho! It was amazing! It was the most amazing thing I've ever done.
VERNON: Why didn't you continue?
TIA: Well, I did. I still work within the industry. I've worked on a lot of music videos with the pit bulls –rap videos, of course – did a couple of different TV series – Sabrina the Teenage Witch with the black cats, Veronica Mars...I did a J.Lo video – which was my favorite music video to ever do. It was this rendition of Flashdance. But after a while it just wasn't fun for me.
VERNON: [nodding] That's when you quit. Let's go back to the black cats for a second. You have 19 black cats, is that right?
TIA: Yeah. That started the same as the others. I was working with several of my cats on Sabrina, and when people heard that I had black cats, more black cats started mysteriously appearing on my doorstep.
VERNON: That's incredible.
TIA: Yeah! Well they just fit in around here! You know, looking back at all of the work that I've done in the industry, I will say that the most fun movie jobs to – and let me finish this before you laugh – the most fun movie jobs to work on were porn...
[Vernon starts to laugh]
TIA: [pointing a finger at him] You’re not supposed to laugh. [continuing] Because the porn industry – they love animals! The people, the crew, for whatever reason they're just a real animal loving group. And this particular company I worked with was very much into – it was very creative. It wasn't just a sex movie. Everything was mystical and magical. In one particular trilogy, the stars would morph into wolves. Then we did another one where it was vampires in a castle with Asia Carrera, who I loved. She was a wonderful person.
Vernon: I know Asia...[whispering] I shouldn't say that!
TIA: One thing I thought was really cool about working on these movies is that the director would never allow the sex scenes to be shot in front of the animals. It was so sweet. Oh! We did this one movie where my wolf Nashaka was supposed to get up on an iceberg, and he was becoming very nervous. I knew if I brought my pit bull Duke onto the set, it would make Nashaka comfortable, so I asked the director if that would be OK. The director said, "Absolutely, Tia. Go get him." Duke was a movie dog, too, so he was very confident on set. Once I brought him in, he saw the camera and was like, "Oh! It's my turn!" And I thought, "Oh, no. Duke is gonna get his feelings hurt." So I said to the crew, "Can you guys do me a favor? Can I just work him on the set for a second and you pretend he's in the scene?" 'Cause Duke knew the cues – he knew "Action! On your mark! Roll-ING!" So the director said, "All right guys. Let's do this for Duke." We had Nashaka come off set and got Duke up on his mark and then, "Rolling. Action! [whispering] Do whatever you want, Tia." So I'm like, "Duke! On your mark! Speak!" And he's doing his thing. "Okay, cut! Great!" And they all clapped and gave him a standing ovation. It was so cute. Love the people in porn.
VERNON: All right, I've got one question that I've got to get answered because, when I was reading about it in your bio, I went, "UH." It could be taken in a million ways. Your daughter came home with a set of twins that had been left by their mother, and to me it sounded like, this is not being flippant, but it sounded like – oh, my daughter came home with a couple of puppies and wanted me to keep them. And I was thinking, "Who else would just go – "Oh, you've come home with a couple twins. Well, we'll adopt them. They'll be fine." It just blew me away.
TIA: Well, Kanani and Keli'i were teenagers and they were known in the area for having a troubled life – you know drugs, abuse, their mother and their aunt were known to be drug addicts. So my daughter came home and asked if we could help them. They started off by just working here on weekends...and they're still here. [she laughs] And they fit right in with the rest, getting speeding tickets and getting their cars impounded...and you know, they're now part of the family.
/ FACING REALITY & THREE'S A CHARM
VERNON: Is Villalobos classified as the largest pit bull rescue in America or the world?
TIA: Probably the world. And I always say, "We are the largest pit bull rescue in the world – unfortunately." That's how it is. It's not like we're bragging. It's sad.
VERNON: How many animals do you have?
TIA: We average around 200. We're down now to about 180, thankfully, because of our TV show. It raised the adoption rate through the roof.
VERNON: I find the TV show fascinating simply because it's the kind of thing – it's reality TV, and if a producer came up to me and said, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a reality show about this woman who rescues pit bulls." I'd say, "Uh-huh. That'd be interesting for 20 minutes." But you guys have managed to turn it into this really interesting thing because you not only rescue pit bulls – you rescue people. Ex-cons who are given a job and a chance at rehabilitation by working with particular dogs, right?
TIA: Yes. The pit bull aspect was my doing. The parolee aspect...in 2001, I met my present husband in a way that could be described as a fairytale – a twisted fairytale, but a fairytale nonetheless. When I finally split up with my ex, I didn't want a relationship. I thought, "I'll just stick with dogs." Well, there was this dog whose owner had been arrested. I was going to pick him up at a shelter. The shelter said the only way I could take him is if he were legally released to me. I said, "How do I get in touch with his owner?" They said, "Well, he's in jail. Go find him. Get him to write you a letter." Back then, I didn't know that much about the internet, so I started by putting in "inmate locater." Little did I know that looking for an inmate – all these penpal sites came up. "Oh! You're looking for an inmate, are you? How 'bout one to write?" I was curious so I clicked on one, kept clicking. It's a lot like a catalogue of...fine wine.
TIA: I'm like, "Oooh! I'll take one of them, two of them, every color you can think of..."
PAULA: [laughing] She likes the bad boys!
TIA: Oh, yeah! I'm like, "Wow!" And once again, you know, I'm making that circle. I'd gotten away from that type of man and here we go again! So there was this one particular guy that I saw – cause I do have a vampire fetish. I'm a "Twihard." And I saw this one guy and I thought, "Gosh! He looks like a vampire!" What I really liked was that, in his profile, he said, "Not looking for love. Just a friend." And I thought, "Ok. That's me. I don't want to fall in love." So I started writing him, and in the first couple of letters, we had some very strange coincidental things in common. For instance, he loves Enya! I'm like, "A guy in prison who likes Enya?"
We wrote for five years and he was starting to get more serious and I wasn't sure what to do. I just abandoned him. I stopped writing. On Feb. 27, 2006, I got a call on my cell phone – "Tia? Hi! It's Aren." "Aren who?" "Aren Jackson!" I had never heard his voice – we had only written. He said he was in the area and wanted to meet me. All I'd ever known up to this point was a picture of this guy, and on paper, he was everything. And, when it became too good, I ran. Now I had no choice. I had to deal with it. I'm Scots-Irish so he asked me to meet him for lunch at an Irish Pub by the beach. It was raining when I pulled up and saw him. This is a guy who just spent 14 years in prison, and you wonder how he's going to act. Is he going to be this tough guy? And in my head I'm thinking, "What am I going to say? Am I going to shake his hand? What am I going to do?" He opened up the passenger door, I said, "Hi." He just dove on me and hugged me like he was going to lose me forever. I didn't say anything and that was it. We've been together ever since. We got married eight months later on Halloween, 2006, as vampires! Up 'til then our whole relationship was letters only.
VERNON: And so was he the inspiration for the show?
TIA: When he got out, we found out very quickly how difficult it was for parolees. Once we managed to get settled in here, he saw how much help I needed and suggested we hire guys on parole. Give them a chance. And that's what we did. This was a gift and a curse. The gift – word got out and LA Weekly voted me one of the top ten most important people of 2007.
Because of that article, production companies all over thought I needed a reality show. But it took a company who already did all the prison shows out there – Lockup, Lock Down, Lock SIDEWAYS! And I'm like, "OK. Those people I trust because they get it and they won't make fools of us. Both the production company and a producer friend of mine who came forward and said, "You need to do this." He was actually the creator before the production company even stepped in. He came out with his little camcorder and started filming everything we were doing. By the time the production company came and said, "OK. We're ready." He said, "Look. I got it all right here." And when they saw the footage they were like, "Oh, my God! We've got a show!" Then we ended up selling it to a network and, who would have thought, Animal Planet? We were thinking we'd get picked up by Spike TV or something, but Animal Planet? I asked, "Why?" They said they were trying to get a little more edge. [laughter] Yep! We got 'em there!
VERNON: And what was the curse?
TIA: The curse behind the parolee program – my husband had been out on parole for a year and a half and one night we got raided. The police mistakenly went to the house next door and searched it. They gave our house a clean bill of health, but said they found a stolen motorcycle next door. I thought, "Not my house, not my problem." A few days later, they arrested my husband for grand theft. Those charges were dropped, but a couple of others were brought. Even though he was inocent, we couldn't prove it. The DA gave him a choice: he accepts a deal to do 15 years or he goes to trial and risks doing life. So we took the deal and that's where he is right now. So this wonderful parolee program bit us in the ass. We thought we were doing a good thing. It took everything I had to continue doing it because my first response was, "Fuck everybody. Get everything out of here – the guys, the dogs, all of the attention we were getting – get it out of here." But I didn't. And it was hell. I can't even tell you – suicidal thoughts came into my head.
I want to play you something... My husband left this message when he went to jail and I've kept it all of these years. This is what's kept me going.
[Tia dials her phone, goes to her voice mail, and plays a message.]
"I hope you would know that I love you girls. I want you to know this – I love you more than life itself. It scares me. But everything's gonna be OK. Don't worry. I love you."
[Tia begins to cry]
VERNON: When does he get out?
TIA: Well, we're hoping he'll get out in about five years. If not, it will be eight or nine. It just gets me because I watch Dateline's To Catch A Predator, and these guys are trolling the internet, raping little girls, and getting nine months, a year.
/ LIVING LA VILLALOBOS
VERNON: So at some stage, the wolves and the dogs parted company.
TIA: As the wolves started dying of old age, I started really focusing on the pit bulls. There was just a greater need. Wolfdogs were big in the 80s and 90s. Everybody had a wolfdog. Thankfully, the craze died down and now pit bulls are taking their place, with the difference being the pit bulls, with increased popularity, also suffered abuse and neglect like no other breed.
VERNON: I assume that you remain here through donations and grants.
TIA: We are a nonprofit organization. We live off of grants and private donations. Now here comes that curse again – the TV show. A blessing on one hand, curse on the other. We've trippled our adoption rate. But people now assume that we've got a lot of money. Now, I don't mean this as an insult, but you don't make a lot of money doing reality TV. Those who used to give us private grants are assuming we don't need the money now, so they've come almost to a halt. It costs anywhere between $600 to $1000 a day to run Villalobos. The money is desperately needed.
All donations are tax-deductible. Donors can go on the website: www.vrcpitbull.com .
VERNON: How much is the asked adoption fee?
TIA: In rescue, it's just not cool to ask for $1000 adoption fee. Our adoption fees are only $200. I mean, by the time we adopt a dog out, he's been here months or years, and he's cost 50 times that in vet bills and food. We are definitely putting out more than we bring in and, even if it's not money – dog food, supplies – Walmart! Walmart! Walmart! Gift cards. Home Depot gift cards. These are gift cards we can use! We also have guys here. These guys need clothing for the winter. Work boots, they need this stuff. And it's a circle.
VERNON: How many do you have working for you?
TIA: Right now, we're down to four because funding is at an all-time low. These guys are not getting paid. They're staying here and helping me for free until the show goes back on the air, and hopefully, they get some money, but right now these guys have been here for months for free. I'm just feeding them. That's dedication.
VERNON: You're moving to a new location. How did you find the land and what's the plan with it?
TIA: We've been here 17 years. We've been through multiple fires, hurricanes – real hurricanes – the heat, floods, mudslides, numerous raids by our illustrious law enforcement. We are done. I decided to pick a place that meant something to me, and being that my husband was in a prison in Tehachapi when I first began writing him, I picked the town of Tehachapi to relocate. A wonderful woman who heard about our plan to do this loaned me the money to buy 21 ½ acres of paradise. It's beautiful – green trees and forest, and that's where we're going. The area that we're moving to is all off-grid. We're going to be going green – windmills, solar. My guys are going to have to live in motor homes until we build housing, but I can't wait to live like a mountain woman.
/ TIA THE "TWIHARD"
VERNON: You spend so much time working, plus all the stress you deal with on a daily basis with your husband's situation. What do you do to relax?
TIA: I don't relax. Well, I take that back! My guilty pleasure is vampire movies! I'm obsessed with them. Team Edward! All the way!
PAULA: Do you own a Team Edward shirt?
TIA: No, I don't – I have the keychain. I love all the vampire TV shows. I sit there and become a 15-year-old girl. It's more than just the whole Twihard movement. It's the relationship that Edward has with Bella. I'm a huge romantic. So, that is my escape – watching the vampire movies. The Gates just had their season finale, and now that I've gotten through The Vampire Diaries – I'm on to True Blood. I'm going to rent those now.
PAULA: [excited] Ooh! You're in for a treat!
[Vernon rolls his eyes]
TIA: You are outnumbered, dude. And they have a pit bull on the show now, so I'm excited. So that is my escape. I just become a little girl again. Thank God I'm not 15 because I would probably be just the most insane Team Edward-screaming-girl-crying!
VERNON: I'm so glad we had a little blood and guts in this interview.
/ WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
VERNON: So with the new rescue in mind, where do you see yourself in the future? What is the picture, the dream?
TIA: First, I want to get all of my kids secure. Secure financially, a home – for the twins especially. Their fear is being homeless again. That's my number one goal. Then, getting the dogs down in number so it's easier for my guys and the volunteers to take care of them. Then, it's just to sit and wait for Aren to get out. I love to write. I have visions of me sitting on the deck writing. As a kid, I loved the book The Phantom Tollbooth because it was a fantasy book, and it took me away into those lands. That was way before the Harry Potter days, and that's what inspired me to write. Writing sends me somewhere else. I don't have the time to do it right now, but that is my dream.
VERNON: There's now an entertainment agency interested in representing you. They're talking about a book deal, a movie deal...what's the deal?
TIA: It's true and, of course, the recluse in me is saying, "Noooo! I don't want to go out there! I don't want to do all of these things!" but the sensible side of me says, "Tia, money! It 's the fast track to sitting on that deck with a laptop and writing, watching your dogs play, having your kids secure." So this is kind of like taking one for the team. I don't like being in the public eye like that. See, even though I'm a public figure in the relm of television, I'm doing it in the security of my own home. That's different than being out in public doing it. And actually, when we're out in public, and the cameras are on me, I'm embarrassed. I'm like, "Oh, my God. Everyone's staring at us." The young ones love it, but I'm like, "Oh, no!" But, yes, hopefully those projects will come through, and they will help me do what I need to do.
See, I never expected all of this. I don't know what I was thinking! When I'm out in public, I hear, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" and I'm like, "What?!" and they're like, "No, no! You!" It's very uncomfortable for me. I don't want to be an actor signing autographs. I just did this TV show to keep my organization running, and I'm having a hard time with it. And I apologize to everyone I've been rude to – I was just in shock. I didn't know how to react. The second season of the show starts next week. Oct. 23rd they'll have a re-cap special catching people up and then October 30th is the first episode of the new season.
/ TIA'S TAKE...ON BEING A KOUGAR
VERNON: I find you incredibly fascinating. Now, the magazine is called Kougar...
TIA: My husband is 10 years younger than I am. When we met on paper, he lied to me. He was worried he would be too young, and right before we were married, I was talking to his mother on the phone and she said his age. I said, "He's 10 years younger than me?!" So when I confronted him right before we said our vows, he was like, "Hee, hee, hee!"
TIA: I will admit that it is kinda cool that this whole cougar movement has come about. I also admit that I'm not one that takes getting older gracefully. I have no problem saying that I'm PISSED OFF that I'm getting older, BUT the cougar movement has made it easier. To have my husband, who is ten years younger than me, who I think is pretty hot - my daughters even told me when I first met him in person that I shouldn't be kicking that one to the curb. To have a guy who looks at me and thinks I'm the hottest chick and is in love with me. You can tell that I'm the apple of his eye. And it just takes my breath away. And I'm like, "Thank God for the cougar thing!" because, um, it's kind of saved me, you know? He makes me feel very secure with my age. I'm insecure with my age. He makes me feel secure with it.
VERNON: So – the total Kougar! Everything you've achieved, everything you've gone through – people say that every life experience makes us who we are. And in the true definition of the term Kougar, Tia Maria Torres is everything and more.
premieres Friday, October 30th
at 10pm on Discovery's
VERNON G. WELLS
CELEBRITY & BEHIND-THE-SCENES INTERVIEWS/KOUGAR CUDDLER
This son of Australia and actor of both the big screen and television is one of America’s favorite cult heroes from his work both as Wez in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Bennett in Commando. Vernon is also a prolific writer and is with us to share the inside world of his celebrity friends in unbiased and, most certainly, candid conversations. One of Vernon’s passions is encouraging young people to stay in school.
Photograpy by James Hundhausen www.shadowplayglamour.com / Hair and Makeup by Stephanie Navarro www.stephanienavarro.com