Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
They looked so happy. Of course, so do many lovebirds before the honeymoon is over. After that, things can get really ugly—especially in the media spotlight. Here are 16 celebrity couples whose breakups became tabloid sensations, starting with Kim Basinger (in honor of her birthday) and Alec Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger
They prophetically met on the set of "The Marrying Man." Once they were wed, the gorgeous and volatile Alec Baldwin and the gorgeous and volatile Kim Basinger hosted political fundraisers even as personal demons made headlines: Alec punched a photographer as they left the hospital with their newborn daughter Ireland, and Kim suffered from crippling shyness and agoraphobia. Their divorce became a bitter custody battle, culminating in a leaked voicemail of Alec calling then-11-year-old Ireland a "rude, thoughtless little pig." Talk about daddy issues.
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
When Richard Burton, then 28, first saw Liz Taylor, she was 21, wearing a bikini. Nine years later, they met again on the set of "Cleopatra." They fell madly (and publicly) in love and were denounced by the Vatican. Nicknamed "The Battling Burtons," the explosive couple married, divorced, remarried, re-divorced and married others, all while making 11 films together. When Richard died in 1984, his family requested that Liz refrain from attending his funeral. But in 2011, she was buried holding his last love letter, written to her three days before his death.
Paul Simon & Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, dated singer-songwriter Paul Simon off and on for years (though she found time to become engaged and unengaged to actor Dan Aykroyd in between). Artistic, passionate and argumentative, Paul and Carrie were so similar that friends wondered why they tied the knot in 1983. Eleven months and one miscarriage later, they separated—but dated again after their divorce. "Where there should be a flower and a gardener," Carrie said, "we were two flowers. In the bright sun. Wilting."
Sonny & Cher
When they met, Cherilyn Sarkisian was 16 and Salvatore Bono 11 years older. He transformed her from Phil Spector backup singer to first-name-only superstar, marrying her along the way. They sold more than 40 million records and starred in "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour." But "I Got You, Babe" became "I Left You, Babe" when Cher tired of his controlling ways. Cher later told Vanity Fair that he was a "terrible husband" who treated her "more like a golden goose than a wife." Sonny died in 1998. The epitaph on his gravestone: "And the Beat Goes On."
Cher & Gregg Allman
Three days after Cher's divorce from Sonny was finalized, she married Southern rocker Gregg Allman in Vegas. Nine days later, she filed for divorce, amid rumors of Gregg's heroin and alcohol binge on their honeymoon. They reconciled, refiled for divorce and reconciled yet again when Cher became pregnant with Elijah Blue. The marriage finally ended after the two made a duet album, "Two the Hard Way," which flopped. Concert audiences of Cher followers and Allman Brothers fans erupted in fights. So much for making beautiful music together.
Mick Jagger & Jerry Hall
Mick was still married to Bianca when he became smitten with tall Texan Jerry Hall. "I got Mick Jagger to quit heroin," she claims, "but I could never get him to give up girls." Together for 23 years and four children, he and Jerry only wed in 1990. Their marriage ended nine years later, when Brazilian model Luciana Morad revealed she was pregnant with the Stones frontman's seventh child.
Frank Sinatra & Ava Gardner
Frank Sinatra fell hard for ravishing Ava Gardner—they were both restless and jealous, hard-drinking and vicious-tempered. For their first date, Frank drove Ava to Palm Springs, shooting out streetlights with a .38. He divorced his first wife to marry her, but Ava's insecurities and his sinking career doomed them from the start. Frank slit his wrists, hoping she'd change her mind about leaving. She didn't—but she did convince a studio chieftain to cast Frank in "From Here to Eternity," reigniting his stardom. Even divorced, each called the other "the love of my life."
Madonna & Sean Penn
They met on the set of her "Material Girl" video. Madonna, then 27, is two years older than Sean. He fired at the helicopters circling their wedding; she was charmed by his intensity. It was later alleged that his violent jealousy, fueled by heavy drinking, only got worse—that he once tied her to a chair and attacked her for nine hours. Rather than press charges, Madonna filed for a divorce. "May God bless and keep him," she said, "but far, far from me."
Ali McGraw & Steve McQueen
In the early '70s, Ali MacGraw was the top female actress in the world, married to producer Robert Evans. When Steve McQueen visited the Evanses to discuss Ali co-starring with him in "The Getaway," the two stars locked eyes. That was it: Ali divorced Bob and married Steve. But Steve, raised by a single mom who put him in reform school, distrusted women, and he expected Ali to forsake film and serve him dinner daily at 6 p.m. Ali lasted five years before leaving. Three years later, Steve died of cancer—purportedly still in love with Ali.
Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks
They met in high school. Two years later, bassist Lindsey Buckingham remembered gypsy vocalist Stevie Nicks and asked her to join his new band. They ended up partnering for years, musically and amorously, dramatically and contentiously, as part of Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey called her a "schizophrenic bitch" and kicked her onstage; Stevie slept with bandmate Mick Fleetwood after a sprawling night of cocaine and brandy. They ended their romance but still occasionally reunite—onstage only.
Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz
Ironically, Lucille Ball met Desi Arnaz on the set of the 1940 film "Too Many Girls." Giddy with love, they eloped months later. Desi's wandering ways caused bitter fights. Lucy, eager to get her bandleader husband off the road and away from temptation, finagled his playing her husband in a new show called "I Love Lucy," and together they made TV history. By 1960, however, Lucy'd had enough. They divorced, and remarried others, but remained close. Desi's last words to Lucy, "I love you too, honey. Good luck with your show."
Billy Bob Thornton & Laura Dern
Though he'd been wed four times before, Laura Dern agreed to be the fifth wife of Billy Bob Thornton. Their togetherness, however, soon devolved into she said/he said: Laura, away filming, said she first learned of her broken engagement in the tabloids; Billy Bob said he and Laura had broken up before he and Angelina Jolie met, married and began wearing lockets containing each other's blood. That relationship, too, wouldn't last.
Michelle Phillips & Dennis Hopper
In 1970, wild man actor Dennis Hopper lived in Taos, his days an excess of nudity, drugs and sex. After Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas & the Papas) happened to visit, she and Dennis impulsively married. The next morning, Dennis was so stoned, he didn't recognize his bride. Citing Dennis's "unnatural sexual demands," Michelle called it quits eight days later. To counter rumors that he handcuffed Michelle to keep her from leaving, Hopper said, "I didn't handcuff her. I just punched her out." Thanks for the clarification.
John McEnroe & Tatum O’Neal
Tennis star John McEnroe and Oscar winner Tatum O'Neal stayed together for eight rancorous years, and their divorce proved as volatile as their marriage. Tatum lost custody of their three children because of her spiraling heroin addiction, but she kicked the habit and reestablished closeness with her children. "The first time Tatum and I made love, we were high and it was terrible," John confesses. "Shouldn't that have told me something?"
Eddie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds
In 1955, crooner Eddie Fisher's marriage to Debbie Reynolds was called the "showbiz wedding of the year." And when Debbie's MGM pal Elizabeth Taylor married producer Michael Todd, Eddie was the best man, Debbie the matron of honor. After Todd was killed in a plane crash, Eddie gave more than solace to the widow Liz. But he paid a price for dumping Debbie: His career crumpled, hers soared, and Liz eventually left him for Richard Burton. When the dust cleared, it was Debbie who was singin' in the rain.
Bruce Springsteen & Julianne Phillips
More shocking than Bruce Springstein's sudden marriage to former cheerleader Julianne Phillips was the couple's equally sudden split less than four years later. Did they break up prior to his steamy relationship with backup singer/Jersey girl Patti Scialfi, or did Julianne learn of the affair from a tabloid photo? Bruce and Julianne deny they separated because she wanted to continue acting while he wanted children, but marriage to Patti quickly produced three little Bosses. Apparently the hungry heart wants what the hungry heart wants.
Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio
Marilyn Monroe was on the cusp of superstardom when she wed Joe DiMaggio, the just-retired Yankee Clipper. He was obsessed with her, and she loved his adoration. But he was jealous and physically abusive. His rage over her iconic skirt-billowing shoot from "The Seven Year Itch" prompted her to end their nine-month marriage. Joe was devastated. Despite their divorce, he rescued her from a mental hospital, lent her money, organized her funeral and delivered roses weekly to her grave. At his death, his last words were, "I'll finally get to see Marilyn again."
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