"How do you feel about Shannen being gone?" booms Ziering as Perry walks by. "My job's my job, whether she's here or not," exhales Perry, 28, sternly zipping past Ziering with a quick slap of palms. Ziering, 30 and as cocky as his character, admits, "I'm pretty happy she's gone, actually. I never liked her. Just a total lack of professionalism. Whatever. She's gone. She's history."
Unlike Ziering, most 90210ers are not particularly eager to talk about Doherty, 23, although they almost don't have to, as her problems both personal (nightclub fights and stormy relationships; see Encore on page 84) and professional (chronic tardiness) have been well documented. Even after she finally would arrive on set and have her makeup applied, say insiders, Doherty would often dart back to her dressing room and wipe it all off (which would account for her daughter-of-Elvira look during the 1993-94 season). One by one, the cast members-even the diplomatic Priestley-complained about her attitude to Aaron Spelling, whose Spelling Television produces 90210and Melrose. "They said, 'Enough's enough,'" recalls Spelling. "You get a call to be on the set at 6 in the morning, and if Shannen doesn't show up until 10 or 11, you're a little pissed, I would imagine."
Asked to confirm the story, Priestley, whom executive producer Charles Rosin calls the show's "quarterback," turns somber and carefully chooses his words. "I had a few conversations with Aaron. I never said, 'You gotta fire this girl.' But I did voice my concern for her. And just let him know. " He pauses. "At times Shannen's behavior did start to affect other cast members, and some of the focus was going away from what we were putting on film every day. That concerned me."
Whatever the final straw, Brenda Walsh was sent packing to a London acting school at the end of last season ("At this rate, we may never see her again," said Priestley's do-the-right-thing Brandon Walsh, with what appeared to be a touch of sarcasm, in the season premiere). Executives at Fox and Spelling Television maintain Doherty's contract was not renewed. Doherty declined to comment from the set of her latest project, a TV movie about Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, whom she portrays. But her spokesperson maintains, "Contrary to what the Spelling people are saying, Shannen chose to leave." (Informed of this comment, Fox Entertainment president Sandy Grushow laughs out loud.)
As if their collective brain had been implanted with a politeness microchip regarding Doherty, cast and crew describe life without her as "freer feeling," "different energy," and "more relaxed," usually ending with some form of, "but I wish her all the best." In her dressing room decorated with Marilyn Monroe posters, Garth elaborates. "We were friends at work, and I miss her most of the time," she says, her dimple-heaven smile turning into an earnest pout. "We were all uncertain about how it would be (without her). But now that we're back, it's like she was never here." Well, almost. "Feisty little s---, I miss her," says Joe E. Tata (eternally jovial Peach Pit grill man Nat). "Nobody's replaced her."