11 Long Celebrity Marriages That Ended in Divorce
When some celebrity couples divorce, it’s not at all surprising (here’s looking at you, Kim and Kris). But when couples like Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito announce they’re divorcing after 30 years of marriage, it comes as a true shock. We really thought those crazy kids—and many of the couples on this list—would make it!
1. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, 30 years
This couple met in 1971 after Rhea saw Danny perform in a play. They moved in together two weeks later. Sounds hasty, but they were compatible enough to exchange wedding vows in 1982 and eventually have three children together. The pair even worked side by side on TV’s Taxi and in the film Matilda.
2. Jerry and Patti Lewis, 36 years
The dedication of Lewis’ 1971 book The Total Filmmaker reads “To Patti, whose love, patience and wisdom never diminished while waiting for me to grow up.” Patti Palmer was a singer with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra when she married Lewis in 1944, but she retired from show business to raise their six children. In 1980, the self-described “multi-faceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius” left his family and 32-room Bel Air mansion to live with SanDee Pitnick, a dancer he’d met when she auditioned for a bit part in his 1979 film Hardly Working. According to youngest son Joe Lewis, his father informed his family of his intent to leave by bringing a copy of the National Enquirer which announced “Jerry and Patti Lewis split!” to the dinner table one evening.
3. Buddy Ebsen and Nancy Wolcott, 39 years
Nancy Wolcott earned a degree in theater at Vassar before she enlisted in the Coast Guard during World War II. She was stationed in Seattle when she met Lt. Christian “Buddy” Ebsen, an actor-turned-officer (you probably know him as Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies) serving aboard the USS Pocatello. The couple married in 1946 and had five children. Over the years, though, they slowly grew apart. According to Nancy, she was becoming more politically liberal while Buddy grew increasingly conservative. They divorced quietly in 1985, and Buddy married Dorothy Knott, a woman 40 years his junior, in Hawaii that same year.
4. Ann Landers and Jules Lederer, 36 years
The advice columnist (who was born Esther Pauline Friedman, and nicknamed Eppie) married salesman Jules Lederer in 1939. In 1960 Lederer founded Budget Rent-A-Car, five years after Eppie had taken over the Ann Landers column. After 36 years of marriage, Lederer broke the news to his wife over dinner that he’d been seeing another (younger) woman. Eppie announced the end of her marriage in her column, followed by a four-inch blank space as a “memorial to one of the world’s best marriages that didn’t make it to the finish line.”
5. Leonard and Sandi Nimoy, 34 years
In a 1966 magazine interview, Star Trek’s original Mr. Spock reminisced about life before TV success: “On Saturday nights for a long time we were in a position where we were so short of cash that dinner consisted of my going out to a Chinese restaurant and picking up a dinner-to-go for one, bringing it home and splitting it among the four of us, the two little children, my wife and me.” Leonard Nimoy went on to credit his wife Sandi, whom he married in 1954, for relentlessly encouraging him during those lean days between acting jobs. Instead of insisting he go out and get a “real” job to support his family, she always told him that “she didn’t mind doing without, that someday their ship would come in.” Nimoy left Sandi on her 56th birthday, just a few months shy of their 34th wedding anniversary. Sandi, who died of heart failure last year, complained in interviews after the fact that after the divorce, she’d been cut off from their Hollywood friends by those who didn’t want to get on Leonard’s bad side.
6. George and Marion Segal, 26 years
When the Just Shoot Me star left his wife, Marion, after 26 years of marriage, she summed up the seemingly thankless job of being the spouse of an actor: “If they don’t make it they’re bitter and miserable for the rest of their lives. If they do get to be stars or semi-stars, famous enough for people to come up to them in the street, and they get deferential treatment, it’s very hard to handle that. They soon believe they are kings.” George moved in with (and eventually married) Linda Rogoff, a woman he met backstage after playing with a Beverly Hills jazz band, and Marion took night classes that taught her the skills she’d never had to learn before her divorce, like how to balance a checkbook.
7. Robert Redford and Lola van Wagenen, 27 years
The future screen hunk was just 22 and had only $300 to his name when he married Lola van Wagenen in 1958. Redford has always fiercely guarded his privacy, so much so that even though he and Lola divorced in 1985, it wasn’t made public until 10 years later. According to Robert, the split was a mutual decision and the couple still has “great love, great affection, great friendship” for one another.
8. Luciano Pavarotti and Adua Veroni, 35 years
The opera star married Adua Veroni in 1961, shortly after he made his professional singing debut. The couple had already been together for seven years, and as Luciano’s fame grew, Adua became his business manager as well as his wife. Pavarotti always had an eye for the ladies, apparently, but Adua was philosophical about the situation: “He might look at another bowl of pasta, but there is still plenty of linguine at home,” she often said. Nevertheless, in 1996 Luciano left Adua for his secretary, Nicoletta Mantovani, who was younger than his own daughters.
9. Morgan Freeman and Myrna Colley-Lee, 26 years
The Academy Award-winning actor separated from Myrna Colley-Lee in 2007, but it took almost two years to hammer out the final divorce settlement. If Myrna is to be believed, she was awarded $400 million in cash and real estate along with the go-ahead to eventually write a tell-all book.
10. Ben Vereen and Nancy Bruner, 36 years
The Tony Award-winning actor/dancer married Nancy Bruner in 1976 and, citing irreconcilable differences, filed for divorce in September 2012. Vereen has petitioned the court to terminate Nancy’s ability to collect spousal support.
11. Malcolm and Roberta Forbes, 39 years
The billionaire publisher and his wife Roberta parted company in 1985 after a 39 year marriage. The official party line was that Roberta was tired of her husband’s increasingly opulent lifestyle, which included $5 million birthday parties, but more cynical sources hinted that what Mrs. Forbes was truly weary of was Malcolm’s homosexual dalliances.
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