Y&R’s Tracey E. Bregman Recounts Life Before And After The Devastating Loss Of Her Home
When it comes to surmounting heartbreak and tragedy, the plucky Lauren Fenmore doesn’t have anything on her portrayer, Tracey E. Bregman. As the world found out when the actress was a guest on THE TALK last November, Bregman’s house was destroyed during a massive wildfire that ravaged parts of Southern California, which included her city of Malibu. Since her appearance on the talk show was brief, lots of details weren’t revealed, including Bregman’s sense that something was wrong almost a week before the fire’s outbreak. “My house burned down on Friday, November 9,” Bregman recalls. “The prior Saturday, I was riding on my horse when I turned to my trainer and said, ‘I have a bad feeling. We need to move the horses and I don’t mean next week, I mean now.’ We moved five horses within two hours.”
Even after that task was completed, the sense of foreboding didn’t dissipate. “On the night of November 8, I canceled plans I had with a couple of my girlfriends, which they both thought was odd, because I’m just not the girl who cancels at the last minute,” she explains. “I told them that I felt like I had to be with family. I ended up having dinner with [my son] Austin at his apartment in Beverly Hills, where we then watched a documentary and I went to bed [at his place].”
The actress’s intuition once again kicked in when she was awakened for no apparent reason at 1:45 a.m. “I had this feeling that I needed to go get my dog in Malibu,” Bregman shares. “So, I got in the car at 2 in the morning and I drove home. The whole way, I was listening to my ex-husband’s words in my head, ‘Nothing good happens on the road at 2 a.m.’ I mean, never in my entire life have I gotten in my car at that time of night. Ever. So, I picked up my dog, Buddha, and went back to Beverly Hills. I don’t know why, after driving that whole way, I didn’t stay in Malibu.”
Later, an out-of-control fire that had started the day before on the other side of a mountain range was headed toward Malibu. That afternoon, residents were told to evacuate. “I couldn’t go back to my house to retrieve anything,” says Bregman. “Now, two weeks before this, my house was photographed and they had asked if my family pictures could be moved out of the rooms while they were shooting. Those pictures had been sitting in two boxes, so when the evacuation was announced, I called the man who works for me at my house and told him, ‘Bring those boxes and grab my Emmy!’ ”
Though this was Bregman’s third evacuation over the years due to fire danger, she admits, “Never once did I even entertain the thought that I could lose my house. I thought I’d be gone for three-to-four days like the other times, so I was thinking, ‘We’ll be back in no time.’ Here, I had been there in the middle of the night and didn’t pick up anything else. If I had any idea, I would’ve awakened everybody to pack up cars.”
As the hours ticked by, the situation became chaotic and difficult to follow in the media. “I kept getting texts through the night from friends that said, ‘We just watched your house burn on TV,’ but when I looked, I couldn’t find it [airing],” Bregman notes. “I had arches but so do a lot of houses in Malibu, so I kept saying, ‘It’s probably not mine. The fire has never come down to where I am.’ ”
It wasn’t until the following morning that the actress learned the fate of her home from a neighbor who stayed behind. “He took a picture of my house in flames,” she sighs. “He lives close to me and has a white house but it didn’t get even one scorch mark.”
Not surprisingly, a roller coaster of emotions followed. “There’s not a day that goes by that I reach to grab something and remember, ‘Oh, right, I don’t have that anymore,’ ” Bregman relates. “And this is not, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ but it’s hard for me when people say, ‘Those were just things,’ and it makes me feel like I’m being shallow. What I miss are not the fluffy things, but my sons’ baby videos and my father’s memorabilia and I had both of my grandmothers’ stuff. It’s like somebody erased my past. I don’t have anything to show for my life. Thank God for Google [laughs].”
The first time Bregman visited the remains of her house was a surreal experience. “It was three weeks later and that was only because we weren’t allowed in until then,” she remembers. “What I found the most amazing is my house was two stories and it’s as if the second story never existed. You only see things from the first floor. The property is now on its way to being cleared off. I just dug through parts of it and I was able to find, if you can believe it, my kids’ mugs that they made at Color Me Mine with their little handprints. I was thrilled!”
The decision about whether to build again on the site was made for her. “As per my insurance, I have to rebuild and I have a lot of question marks as far as what I’m going to do,” she says. “We’re talking about two-ish years before I’m finished building and a lot could happen in that time, so I’m not making any big decisions. I’m just doing what I have to do for now. I will rebuild the house, but very differently than what was there.”
For now, Bregman is in a rental house (“It’s very weird to be where everything is not your stuff”) and is still moved by the outpouring of support and love. “My co-stars are so amazing, sending me little things or notes or texts,” she smiles. “The generosity of spirit and helpfulness from people is, I really have to say, mind-blowing.”
Counting blessings has been an integral part of coping with her loss. “Malibu looks like the moon,” observes Bregman. “But my kids are safe, my animals are safe, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. I’ve learned the graciousness and the beauty in people and what they give to others through this. I’ve been witness to a lot of greatness. Now, it’s just getting over what happened and not letting it overtake my life emotionally, but also making sure that I deal with it.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: May 29
Abroad Statement: Born in Munich, Germany, but raised in London, England.
My Boys: Bregman has two sons, Austin, 28, and Landon, 22.
Relationship Status: Dating Ari Soffer.
Former Address: Before she lost her house to the Malibu fires, Bregman had lived there for just over four years and was its first resident.
Tinder Heart: Oddly, a red ceramic heart found in the middle of the charred ruins was unscathed. “It was very breakable, and my boyfriend’s business card was next to it and it made it, as well. It had gotten to 3,200 degrees or something insanely like that at one point.”
No Excess Baggage: “My younger son has really been affected by the fire. He was on a trip when this happened, so all he has left is what he packed in his carry-on.”
Cover Me: Dealing with insurance claims has been “very challenging, but I do understand that this was quite a disaster and a lot of people are involved. The state insurance commissioner has said that anyone affected by the fire should not have to do inventory of what they lost but my insurance is making me go through that very painful and painstaking process.”
Did You Know?
Although Bregman’s Daytime Emmy, that she won in 1985 for what was then called Outstanding Ingenue, made it out of her house, the statuette didn’t escape damage. “Somehow, my Emmy looks like it got thrown out of the back of a car and dragged. It’s decimated.”
Her boyfriend’s house was spared, but he barely made it out alive. “He was almost overcome by these huge waves of flames. His video of leaving Malibu was the scariest thing I have ever seen. It was even on CNN.”
On THE TALK, the actress lamented that the NAACP Award that her late father, arranger/conductor Buddy Bregman, had won for the 1982 TV adaptation of the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ was lost in the fire. “After that, my friend Richard Martini, who has written books on past-life regressions and works with a medium, called me and asked, ‘I’m talking to your dad today, do you have questions for him?’ ” she recalls. “Normally, I’m fascinated by this and want to know more but I just said, ‘Tell him I’m really sorry about his award.’ ” Two days later, Martini called with surprising news. “He said, ‘Okay, we talked to your dad and he said his award is perfect and nothing happened to it.’ I thought it was the wrong time for me to tell him that his medium sucks because I was pretty sure that award had melted. Then, two weeks later, my mom called and said my workman wanted to know if he could drop those two boxes of my photos at her place and I told her that was fine. Two days later, she called me again and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. Your father’s award was on top of the two boxes and it’s perfect.’ She used that word and it was. There wasn’t a scratch on it.”