When asked about Jessica Simpson’s memoir this week, her ex-husband Nick Lachey said “it was a long time ago and we've all moved on.” But all the juicy details in the book will bring you right back to the Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica era.
Simpson, raised a minister’s daughter, was infamously a virgin when she married Lachey in 2002. She was 22 to his 28 and while she loved him when she said “I do,” she wrote in Open Book, out today, that it was part of the reason behind them getting married: “I had joined a long line of virgins in my family who said yes to forever for that one experience,” she wrote.
Simpson’s dad and manager, Joe Simpson, tried to talk her out of walking down the aisle minutes before the couple’s wedding — and maybe she should have listened. Because almost immediately after getting hitched, things fell apart — partially because her dad sold a show to MTV around their married life that they hoped would be as successful as The Osbournes, which premiered a year before. So not only was their marital home filled to the max with cameras — living not a lot of intimate moments — but she was also young, her star was on the rise and she was working a non-stop work schedule to help pay their bills.
Here’s what Simpson said about her real married life with Lachey in the book:
Simpson scoffed at a prenup — not her dad.
When the pair married, Lachey was a bigger star as part of 98 Degrees and approached her about signing a prenup. While there was a rumor that her dad refused to let her sign, Simpson said she was the one who said no. “What are you talking about?” she recalled saying during the explosive exchange. “For when you want to get a divorce?” He insisted that he didn’t have plans to divorce and told her his “advisers [said] it’s for the best.” She told him “to marry them” and stormed off. He didn’t bring it up again.
Cameras ruined their newlywed bliss.
Simpson’s dad thought appearing on the show would get MTV to play her music, beyond TRL, so she and Lachey inked a deal. The premise was to be “two celebrities who viewers were used to seeing airbrushed to perfection, eating cereal and passing gas.” While their married life consisted of them sitting on the couch (with her making her infamous Chicken of the Sea observations), it morphed into more of an acting gig, where producers planned things for them to do — like camping. They quickly felt under surveillance from dawn to dusk to the point where they had “burn marks on our backs from the mics being strapped to us for so long” each day. They started playing roles and would have little spats, which resulted in her going to the couch to “sad-watch TV while Nick finished his beer outside.”
She worked non-stop to pay off the wedding, their mansion mortgage.
The truth about their early days as newlyweds is that they were often apart. Their wedding set them back financially and their music careers were pretty slow. Much of their time was was spent “trying to figure out how we were going to pay the mortgage on our $1 million house in Calabasas,” Calif., she recalled. She said she’d take any gig — and they started rolling in. “I was very aware that I was a midlevel celebrity still paying off my wedding and not in a position to say no to gigs,” she wrote. As the show grew in popularity, the gigs became more lucrative. “We could pick up $100,000 to sing three songs at a bar mitzvah or crazy money to surprise employees at a Chicken of the Sea staff meeting in San Diego,” she recalled. But being away all the time meant she never really settled into married life. She recalled coming home from one trip and Lachey had decorated the house without her. She was upset he did it — mostly because she wanted to use decorators, but he was trying to save a buck. She said Lachey would complain about the bread being “moldy,” but it was tough to be a housewife when she was on the road for weeks at a time.
They stopped getting along early on — as her star rose.
The pair was set to shoot a Rolling Stone cover in 2003 and at the eleventh hour they were told Simpson would appear solo. That caused tension and they started fighting more and spending time apart. She said Lachey enjoyed going to strip clubs and “that scene” which she found “gross.” She talked about the tabloids reporting in November 2004 about Lachey being at a bachelor party, where porn star Jessica Jaymes hooked up with another woman in front of the men. “There were so many tabloid stories about Nick in strip clubs or talking to girls that I just didn’t know what to believe,” she wrote. “Did he feel caught in this marriage? He kept putting himself in situations where he could be so easily accused of cheating. It was self-sabotage. And I was supposed to stay home and be Betty Crocker?” They also had an explosive fight over a “brunette” Lachey gave a look to while they were out together because, in her mind, “there was something different about the way he had looked at her.”
She became addicted to Johnny Knoxville.
Simpson beat out big names for the role of Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard — and was charmed by her co-star Knoxville upon their first meeting. As Lachey partied at strip clubs, Simpson headed to Baton Rouge in Fall 2004 to film the movie. She talked about going out for drinks all the time with Knoxville, who was also married, and they formed an emotional — but not sexual — bond. She wrote, “It’s funny, I know, because I placed such an emphasis on sex by not having it before marriage. After I actually had sex, I understood that the emotional part was what mattered. And Johnny and I had that, which seemed far more of a betrayal to my marriage than sex.” Simpson and Knoxville’s closeness made the tabloids too and Lachey seemed jealous. She didn’t try to stop, explaining that she sometimes would not call Lachey back after a night out to make him wonder. Simpson recalled Lachey deciding he would move to Louisiana to record his album there — and keep an eye on what she was up to. After filming, Simpson and Knoxville would write long emails to each other — she said they were like “prison pen pals” who “wanted so much to be with each other but were kept apart” by their spouses — that she would delete after reading so Lachey wouldn’t see. Of Knoxville, she wrote, “I began to realize contact with him was an addiction... but I needed to walk away.” So she deleted his number and email for a bit, but they they got back in touch promoting the film. Simpson talked about how she awkwardly attended the premiere with Lachey while Knoxville brought his wife and daughter. (Knoxville and his then-wife split in 2006.)
Simpson and Lachey were paranoid they were being bugged.
Dukes came out in August 2005 and by then her marriage was in big trouble. While production had ended on their reality show, they were worried their house was being bugged because “tabloids made up the dumbest things about us, but sometimes they would get something so right it was scary.” They took to leaving the house every time they had to discuss anything “delicate.” But by then the fights had gotten really ugly. Simpson, who admitted she was a “terrible wife” to Lachey, recalled one night when he skipped a dinner she had planned with friends and came home later that night really drunk and angry. When she recounted something her friends told her, she said Lachey replied, “Your friends don’t exist. You just pay them to be around you.” He then added, “And your parents are only around because they are on the payroll.” At that point, she thought to herself, “All bets are off.”
They tried therapy, but he was a no-show after their first time.
She recalled the only session they attended together, saying, “I know you hate me. I feel it. Whenever we are in the same room, it just comes off you. I feel it when you lie down next to me. I feel it when you can’t even look at me.” The day of their second counseling session, Lachey didn’t show up — and that was that.
She told him she wanted a divorce — and he asked her to sleep on it.
On Nov. 22, 2005, Simpson told Lachey she was leaving him. He told her to sleep on it. The next morning, she hadn’t changed her mind. It was Thanksgiving weekend and she was on her way to Texas to be with her family. En route to the airport, she called her dad to tell him about the separation. She recalled Joe telling her that he was proud of her — and that he wished he had the nerve to do that with Jessica’s mother, Tina (to Jessica’s horror as her parents were still married) — and planned to put out a separation announcement to the press. Simpson said she cried throughout that flight — it didn’t help that The Notebook was playing — and when she landed, the world knew the news. She said her mother initially gave her a hard time about the divorce, telling her, “You are America’s couple,” but eventually came around. Simpson recalled the paparazzi trailing her to Waco, Tex., amid the split news — and when she returned to L.A., where she holed up at her parents house, paparazzi flew over their house in hopes of photographing her.
Simpson moved her stuff out of their house while Lachey was away.
When Lachey was away on “some boys’ trip or event,” Simpson’s mother hired a party rental truck to go to Simpson and Lachey’s home to take her things. Simpson brought along eight friends. “I admit it was rude,” she said of her stealth pack job. “I went over with the intention of getting only the things that were sentimental to me.” She said the house was “more like a haunted mansion to me than ever.” While she just wanted a few things, her mom orchestrated the removal of more things because “she didn’t want her baby taken advantage of.” Simpson took their dog, Daisy, too. She recalled hearing about Lachey’s reaction: “I knew he came home and was furious. Nick felt like he’d been robbed, and I know he told someone, ‘She even took my damn dog.’”
Simpson filed for divorce on Dec. 15 — after Lachey made one last play.
Simpson said she called to tell Lachey she was filing and he needed to sign the papers. The next day, he drove to her parents house, where she was staying, and sat on the couch to try to get her — and her parents — to rethink things. He offered to go to therapy, but she was done. She recalled, “He didn’t like me so I didn’t understand what it was he was trying to save.” She recalled him crying and begging her, saying, “Please don’t leave me. I love you so much.” She replied, “Love is not enough. If love was enough, I would stay forever, but it isn’t enough. We have to like each other.” He walked out and she hit her fist against the couch, saying she thought she would be sad, but instead she was “seized by anger.”
Open Book is now out. Simpson narrates the audiobook, which includes new music inspired by her memoir. Buy now on Amazon.
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