By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"It was particularly tragic because Christine had been very close to Lisa's family," Winter says. "The family felt like Mike did something to their daughter. How could he do this to her? There were definitely confrontations, a lot of them."
Daniels went to great lengths to shield Dillman from scrutiny. But Dillman avoided Daniels. LaCoe said Dillman told Daniels, "I don't even want to see you around the office unless I absolutely have to, and then I want to be as far away as possible. I don't want to be associated with it. I don't ever want to see you that way."
Daniels was crushed by Dillman's distance.
The same week as the divorce filing, Daniels suffered another blow. She covered a press conference for the L.A. arrival of British soccer superstar David Beckham. Also at the event was Paul Oberjuerge, a writer for the San Bernardino County Sun — and someone who didn't get Reilly's virtual memo to leave Daniels alone.
Oberjuerge took the opportunity to assess Daniels' transition. "She looks like a guy in a dress, pretty much," he wrote on the paper's Web site. "Except anyone paying any attention isn't going to be fooled — as some people are by veteran transvestites. Maybe this is cruel, but there were women in that room who were born women in body, as well as soul. And the difference between them and Christine was, in my mind, fairly stark. It seemed almost as we're all going along with someone's dress-up role-playing. ..."
The words greatly upset Daniels. Even an online outpouring of outrage on her behalf, which prompted The Sun to remove the post, didn't seem to make it better, because Oberjuerge had cut to the heart of one of the biggest issues for male-to-female transsexuals: whether they "pass."
"Christine probably had a fragile side that was in some ways quite feminine and in some ways quite attractive," LaCoe says. "She had a winsome side; she got her feelings hurt easily." (Oberjuerge, no longer with The Sun, did not respond to the Weekly's requests for comment.)
That setback notwithstanding, life remained largely upbeat for Daniels in the summer and fall of 2007. That September, she and Winter met well-known sex-change surgeon Dr. Marcie Bowers at a transgender conference in Atlanta known as Southern Comfort and, shortly thereafter, the friends had appointments to have sex-change surgeries on the same day in July 2008, at Bowers' Colorado clinic.
"That was something we were really excited about," Winter says. "Christine was so enthused by the female sex marker on her driver's license. It's a symbol of cultural acceptance."
Bowers recalls her first meeting with Daniels, about whom she had heard a great deal. She sums up her impressions: "For as good as she looked, she seemed a little bit shy and insecure. But she was a lovely woman and seemed to have herself together."
In truth, the euphoria wave was cresting.
The first outward indication was a big one. Friends say it was a catalyst in her downfall. Others say it was merely a manifestation of Daniels' rising inner turmoil. The occasion was a disastrous photo shoot intended for Vanity Fair.
Shortly after Daniels' 50th birthday, in October, she went to the L.A. studio of photographer Robert Maxwell. Accounts of what occurred there vary so starkly that they are hard to reconcile.
Maxwell was unreachable by the Weekly but told the L.A. Times in March that he intended to shoot Daniels in a "conservative, classy-type look." He claimed that she was unstable and weepy, bawling that she was ugly.
"I was trying to say all the right things," Maxwell told the Times. "How do you tell someone who looks like a man, 'You're a beautiful woman'? I don't know." Vanity Fair reporter Evan Wright backed up Maxwell, telling the Times he feared Daniels was suicidal and pulled the plug on the piece because Wright, too, was unsure how to cover Daniels without disparaging her "fantasy conception ... [of] who she is."
This account infuriates Daniels' transgender confidantes. The sportswriter had told more than a half-dozen friends a very different version: that Maxwell's aim was to sex her up and that he pushed her to pose in provocative ways.
She had told her friends that, far from Wright calling off the piece, Daniels had to fight him to stop the project from moving forward. Winter and others, in fact, say they helped Daniels draft a letter demanding that Vanity Fair kill the piece.
Daniels described the event this way in an e-mail to Winter and other friends that week: "They promised me, and I quote, 'This will be done YOUR way, you will be happy and look beautiful.' It was a total debacle, probably the worst experience of my transition. [The] photographer apparently wanted to portray me as a man in a dress, my worst fear, as I expressed numerous times. I was in tears by the end of it and a wreck for three days afterward. I felt betrayed, totally abused, and very, very vulnerable and exposed and alone in the world."
Then things began to snowball.
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