Reading the stars: Will these couples stay or split?


The old Hollywood joke goes something like this: Two kids meet on the school playground: "How do you like your new dad?" asks one. "I had him last year."

Hollywood marriages -- a contradictory, troubling, comic phrase if there ever was one. It conjures up all the scandals we've ever read about -- the obvious lack of commitment, the blatant infidelities, the extensive prenuptial agreements, the huge post-divorce payoffs.

In short, they aren't anything like ordinary couples. And why should they be? Think about it. The pressures on Hollywood couples are enough to create a magnitude-8 earthquake: Celebrity couples face months of separation as competing careers take them to different corners of the globe, and their work brings them into constant contact with extraordinarily beautiful people.

So you'd have to be crazy to take out an insurance policy on any Hollywood twosome. For every Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Jimmy and Gloria Stewart, there are dozens of Woody and Mias, Stallone and Brigittes, Mac and Tatums.

Nevertheless, here are some predictions -- against the odds -- that put several of Hollywood's most celebrated relationships in the spotlight to see what makes them hits -- or flops.

Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith

Status: Fragile but hopeful.

The best thing to happen to this volatile relationship in a long time is Melanie's three recent flops in a row -- "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "Shining Through" and "A Stranger Among Us" -- which may have balanced the seesaw a bit. The partnership had looked decidedly rickety, heading for the "Star Is Born" (she's hot; he's not) marital scrap heap. As her career rocketed after "Working Girl," so his bottomed out once he took off the "Miami Vice" pastels. And the more his marketability plunged, the more 43-year-old Don's traditional roving eye got a workout. Thirty-five-year-old Melanie countered by reportedly starving herself to curb her tendency to plumpness and by augmenting her breasts to a hyper-sexy new image.

She also tries desperately to build him up, sometimes by putting herself down. "Anywhere in the world, everybody knows who Don is," she's said. "But they don't know who I am. I'm just the bimbo on the arm." Her self-abasement is matched only by her determination to make the marriage last.

In fact, together they've lived several lives -- lovers when she was 14 years old, married four years later, divorced six months after that, and remarried in 1989. They've both survived alcoholism and drugs to create a beautiful joint family and set up an idyllic ranch home in Aspen, away from the temptations of Hollywood.

But the strains remain, making this a can't-live-with-him, can't-live-without-him twosome. A lot may be riding on the fate of their joint remake of the old Judy Holliday-William Holden classic, "Born Yesterday," currently playing at theaters.

Michael and Diandra Douglas

Status: rough, very rough.

Things haven't looked too good for the Douglases recently: The tabloids reported that she found 48-year-old Michael in bed with one of her longtime friends in Los Angeles' Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He promptly took off for a stint at a fashionable addiction clinic in Arizona -- reportedly to overcome his sexual dependency. Mrs. Douglas, meanwhile, retreated to their villa on the island of Majorca.

What's their next move? Who knows? But if they do get divorced, there's an awful lot to split up: Besides the villa, the couple own a multimillion-dollar mansion with a vast view of the Pacific, a four-bedroom penthouse overlooking Central Park, and vast compound near the ski slopes of Aspen. Indications are, though, that 34-year-old Mrs. Douglas, whom Mr. Douglas married when she was 19, may have had it with her husband's "socializing."

"I knew I had to change a lot of things if we were going to survive," Mr. Douglas said some time ago. But genes will out, and the womanizing tradition he inherited from his father, Kirk, gives Mr. Douglas a taste for living carelessly. The odds on this one surviving -- despite the glue provided by their teen-age son -- are no better than 50-50.

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore

Status: Strained.

Hollywood is asking, "How long can two egos as big as these fit into one household?"

The 37-year-old former bad boy and the staggeringly beautiful Demi, whose flair for self-promotion is second only to Madonna's, have switched roles. When they married in 1987, it was he who was the megastar, she, the ambitious up-and-comer. But times change. Ms. Moore's success with "Ghost," and Mr. Willis' inability to find a place for himself in movies that aren't variations on the "Die Hard" theme, have made this marriage separate but unequal. Meanwhile, 30-year-old Ms. Moore has become a limelight-obsessed, pop-culture phenomenon with a seemingly permanent spot on glossy magazine covers in various stages of undress, making her the most self-absorbed actress since '40s stars like Crawford and Davis.

They live in great luxury in an $8 million Manhattan apartment and a Malibu Beach house fortified like Fort Knox, often surrounded by the kind of entourage befitting a royal family (including assistants, a masseuse, a psychic and several bodyguards). All of it is rather hard to take for Mr. Willis, a guy who once enjoyed nothing better than hanging out in a bar.

And though they are still in love, they're the first to admit to somebumps along the way. "It's certainly not a story-book marriage," Mr. Willis has admitted. "We have problems." Still, he insists they're working hard at it and are prepared to continue to do so.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Status: For the long haul -- maybe.

Thirty-year-old Tom Cruise and 25-year-old Nicole Kidman recently arrived at the luxurious Regent hotel in Sydney, Australia, with Ms. Kidman's mother in tow and took the elevator up to their suite. No sooner had the elevator doors slammed shut than Ms. Kidman grabbed a startled Mr. Cruise and, in full view of Mom and the bellboy, enveloped him in a big-screen smooch. "It was almost as if she was saying, 'Look what I've got. Aren't I the clever girl?' " said an acerbic Australian observer.

This pair of lovebirds, who married in 1990, may seem the most romantic since Romeo and Juliet. But hold your bets on how long they'll stay that way. Mr. Cruise is clearly besotted with the tall, beautiful redhead. "Nic just makes me feel fun around her," he said not long after they were married. Ms. Kidman, on the other hand, is considerably less starry-eyed -- and more practical. In fact, she's one ambitious career girl who, at 14, called every agent in her native Australia until she got one to represent her. By marrying Mr. Cruise, she jump-started her career, even getting equal billing with her husband in "Far and Away." Not a bad move.

Jane Fonda and Ted Turner

Status: darned interesting.

"They're just so alike," gushed Ted Turner's daughter Laura Turner Seydel. "Both overachievers, both brilliant. Neither one of them outshines the other."

She was talking of course of her 54-four-year-old dad (worth around $1.4 billion at last count) and her new stepmother, the indomitable, ever-changing, 55-year-old Jane Fonda (net worth, about $60 million). The big surprise of this 1991 marriage is that the once-ardent feminist has turned into a stand-by-your-man, sexy little woman with not a thought in her head but to support her husband.

At the same time, her career has bottomed out with two flops in a row, "Old Gringo" and "Stanley & Iris." This gives her a wonderful excuse to stay home. "Ted isn't a man you leave for three months to go on location," she cooed soon after their wedding. "He gets lonely, and it's so much fun to be with him that you don't want to be anywhere else."

Still, how long will it take her to get bored with taking a back seat? Will Mr. Turner, who has an eye for pretty women, be content with one woman, however spectacular? Meanwhile, the master of CNN, a news organization so powerful it was credited with speeding the fall of communism, can almost literally give her the world. She can provide him with some much-needed show-biz glitter. Let's hope it's enough for both of them.

Warren Beatty and Annette Bening

Status: Hardest call of all.

Hollywood question of the century: Can a man who pursued countless women with the fervor of the hound running down the fox be content with just one? Don't forget that his own sister, Shirley MacLaine, is rumored to have said, "He's 50 from the neck up and 14 from the waist down."

But, amazingly, Mr. Beatty, now 55, takes marriage much more )) seriously than most of his Hollywood pals. "That phrase, 'Until death us do part,' I always said if you're going to stand up and make this sort of promise, then you really ought to keep it," he once told Norman Mailer. "I felt that if you didn't have the stamina to stay in it for life, then you really shouldn't make the promise."

All his friends agree that Mr. Beatty will work hard at making his marriage of one year work. "Divorce is a failure," said a buddy, "and Warren doesn't fail."

The troubles may come when 34-year-old Ms. Bening, Mr. Beatty's co-star in "Bugsy," decides to go back to work after her recent "maternity leave." She has reportedly turned down several very attractive offers and is widely considered the most exciting female talent to come along in Hollywood in a long while. According to one longtime Beatty associate, he doesn't like his women to be off playing love scenes with other men. After all, who knows better than he what temptations lurk in those boring hours hanging around the set? And when he's in love, and he is now, he doesn't like to be left alone.

"If she goes off to work, and it isn't his picture," says his friend, "you can bet there's going to be a cop there, too."

Kevin and Cindy Costner

Status: Enduring -- unless she gives it up.

What Mrs. C. has been through in the past 15 years would be enough to bust up most marriages: a husband who by his own admission loves to flirt and who has women of all ages flinging themselves at him. Rumors abound that 38-year-old Kevin is a discreet womanizer and that Mrs. Costner knows it, but the dirt never reaches the gossip columns. Despite his rumored infidelities, Mr. Costner is an old-fashioned guy underneath, one who would be distraught if his long-term marriage were to crack.

"They've weathered a hell of a lot," explained Michael Blake, the Costner pal who wrote "Dances With Wolves." "Just the fact they're still together says a lot about their union. Kevin doesn't believe in breaking up, no matter what."

Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky

Status: Oh, please!

Is the 41-year-old construction worker getting bored with Bel Air, the Aston Martin, the constant traveling and the sicknesses? Is she discovering that her toy boy has a mind of his own after a

year and a half of marriage? The poundage is piling on again, and she's been back in the hospital -- bad signs all around. If it lasts another year, Hollywood will die of shock. On the other hand, 61-year-old Liz has surprised them before.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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