TRENDS COME AND GO IN HOLLYWOOD: aerobics, tattoos, yoga, power breakfasts. But these days, the ultimate success symbol among stars isn’t a Beverly Hills mansion or an Italian sports car. It’s a wedding ring.
Some couples just work well together.
There’s a new longing for tradition, for love, marriage, and baby carriage. And it’s no coincidence that some of the biggest stars in Hollywood are also some of the most happily married. Supercouples like John Travolta and Kelly Preston and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson send. a message to fans that their lives are about more than just the next million-dollar paycheck. “These couples have treated their vows with reverence,” says relationship expert Jane Greer, Ph.D., “and we can sense and appreciate that.”
Of course, when stars mate with stars, there’s also the potential for real trouble. When a celebrity marriage fails, the pain and public scrutiny can be intense. After Bruce Willis and Demi Moore announced their separation, Hollywood buzzed with speculation that the split might hurt them professionally.
Having learned from their own set of public heartaches, the newlyweds profiled here are entering their marriages a little bit older and a whole lot wiser–reminding us, as Greer notes, that even in the town of the next big thing, “there are people out there who, despite the pressures of fame and past failings, are still willing to love and honor each other.”
BARBRA STREISAND & JAMES BROLIN
On a recent sunny afternoon, driven who stopped at a roadside gas station near Carmel, CA, tried not to stare. But who could blame them? There in front of a doughnut counter, happily picking out a dozen assorted sticky treats, were superstar Barbra Streisand and her ruggedly handsome husband, James Brolin. Just like regular people, they debated whether to buy powdered or glazed, how many to get, and whether to add a cup of coffee on the side. Completely caught up in each other, they headed out, climbed into a small Jeep, and took off down the road.
“Barbra and Jim have the best time when they get into this little Jeep they have and just go,” says Marge Tabankin, head of the Streisand Foundation, an environmental charity. “Half the time, they’re not even sure where they’re going–they just hit the road.”
Quite a different picture from the most common image of Streisand: impeccably manicured and maniacally driven, with nary a loose thread on her Donna Karan gown or an unscheduled second on her calendar. But in fact, since meeting and marrying Brolin, Streisand appears to be more relaxed and more confident than ever before. The intensely private superstar stunned fans when she gleefully–and quite publicly-declared her love for Brolin soon after they started dating. Suddenly, the couple was gracing magazine covers and appearing together on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, happily holding hands and sneaking kisses.
“They complete each other,” says Tabankin. “Barbra tends to be a lot of heat and energy, where Jim is sort of soft and quiet. Plus, they can’t keep their hands off each other.”
With Brolin playing yin to Streisand’s yang, the singer/actress/mogul has let go not only of inhibitions but also of old trappings. Following their marriage last July, Streisand put the Manhattan apartment that she’s owned since her first flush of fame up for sale for $10 million. She has also listed her Los Angeles home in the Holmby Hills for nearly $8 million. These days, the couple prefers to spend their time at Streisand’s Malibu compound, where they were married.
Streisand never expected to wed again. “I was learning to like my solitude,” she said shortly after her engagement. Streisand’s only previous marriage, to actor Elliot Gould, ended after eight years in 1971; the two have one son, Jason, now 31. She’s been linked to a long list of men, including Don Johnson and Andre Agassi, none of whom inspired her to take the plunge.
But after being seated next to Brolin at a 1996 dinner party held by her close friend Christine Peters, Streisand started to let herself hope that there might be someone for her after all. It was a hope that Brolin shared. “Within two minutes I was totally infatuated,” he has said about that fateful evening. Still, the one time star of Hotel, who currently stars in Pensacola: Wings of Gold, had reason to be wary of romance. His first marriage, to casting director Jane Agee, lasted two decades and produced two boys, Josh and Jess (now 31 and 26), before ending in divorce. His second marriage, to actress Jan Smithers, ended after ten years. They have one daughter, Molly, now 10.
But the past was clearly left behind when Streisand married Brolin in an exquisite outdoor wedding last summer. “Seeing the two of them dance their first dance together as husband and wife was truly magical,” says David Mark, the Los Angeles florist who created lavish bouquets of lilies and gardenias for the big day. “They found something so beautiful between them.”
Beautiful and remarkably uncomplicated. “I think people imagine Barbra as this very fancy woman who needs all these accoutrements,” says Tabankin. “But when they’re on the road, they’re not Hollywood stars. They’re just Barbra and Jim, two regular people who are very much in love.”
SHARON STONE & PHIL BRONSTEIN
Reporters at the San Francisco Examiner never know when they might receive a special treat to get them through the afternoon doldrums: chocolate-chip cookies, baked at home by their executive editor’s new wife, Sharon Stone.
“She has baked cookies for the staff several times,” confirms Susan Bronstein, the sister of Stone’s husband, Phil Bronstein.
Not exactly what one would expect from the actress who first grabbed major audience attention with her revealing performance in Basic Instinct. But then, nothing about Stone and Bronstein’s relationship has been predictable–right down to their hush-hush wedding day.
On February 14, 1998, 120 guests gathered at Stone’s Los Angeles home for what they had all been told was a Valentine’s Day bash. Though rumors had been swirling that the couple–who were introduced at a party in 1997 by San Francisco socialite Denise Hale–were actually planning to seal their nine-month relationship with a surprise wedding ceremony, Stone denied it just hours before the event. “I’m having a Valentine’s party,” she told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show on the eve of the wedding.
But an hour into the party, the actress slipped away from the crowd and out of her blue sequined gown. When she reappeared, she was wearing a dazzling pink chiffon wedding dress.
“She just looked so beautiful. And our whole family absolutely adores her,” says Susan Bronstein. The news of the nuptials appeared, of course, on the front page of the next day’s San Francisco Examiner.
The course of tree love didn’t always run so smoothly for Stone. A brief marriage to producer Michael Greenberg ended in 1987; six years later, she had a brief affair with film producer Bill MacDonald, during the filming of Sliver. There was also a relationship with country crooner Dwight Yoakam, and a long-term involvement with Guess? Jeans magnate Michel Benasra.
“I have a feeling that Sharon has been hurt a lot in her relationships,” says Liz Smith, the nationally syndicated columnist and a good friend of Stone’s. “All of her pluses–her beauty, her career, her intelligence–probably worked against her in matters of love. She herself has said that she’d all but given up when she met Phil.”
Bronstein, who’d been married twice before, showed Stone how a relationship could truly be a partnership. “He is strong without being overpowering, intelligent, independent, and he works in a business where [he and Stone] aren’t competing, but they still have common interests,” says Smith.
Though many saw the glamorous Hollywood star and the gruff journalist as an unlikely pair, Bronstein’s sister says the two are well suited: “They’re an equal match, because they’re both very strong people … very capable and successful in their own right.”
Now, a year after their wedding, Stone and Bronstein, who live in San Francisco’s Bay Area, may soon be expanding their new family. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to have kids.” Stone, 40, has “But we want the foundation of the marriage to be strong. We don’t just want to try to play Beat the Clock. So we’ll see.”
Though no one expects Hollywood’s favorite femme fatale to settle down completely, marriage does–already–seem to have changed Stone. As she told reporters shortly after the wedding: “Stardom isn’t the fuel of my soul anymore.”
“Phil is obviously good for her,” echoes Smith. “She seems much more serene now. She looks better–not that she ever looked bad. Her face is free of a certain strain that I noted previously, and I sense that though she remains very much career-driven, something else has taken the place of ambition.”