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Celebrity marriages also known for brevity

R.D. Heldenfels
Akron Beacon Journal

The looming divorce of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline is a disappointment to lovers of gossip, celebrity excess and examples of big-time love gone wrong.

Never all that interesting to begin with, a post-divorce Federline will have lost the one thing that made him noteworthy to the public and the tabloids: Britney. He will instead be consigned to the back table of the celebrity banquet, one chair over from Cris Judd.

You know, Jennifer Lopez's ex. He was married to her almost as long as Britney and K-Fed were hitched.

And a name like Judd's should help remind you that, even as the crashing noises fade from the latest front-page marital train wreck, something just as spectacular will come along.

Somewhere in the Heather Locklear/Richie Sambora/Tommy Lee/Pam Anderson/Denise Richards/Charlie Sheen/David Spade amalgam of lust and newsprint, there must be some pairing that hasn't been consummated yet.

While divorces can be entertaining (witness the current Paul McCartney saga), celebrity history has had plenty of marriages that seemed plenty odd before the lawyers got too involved. Can you say ... Whitney and Bobby?

Houston and Brown, in the opinion of Akron Beacon Journal music writer Malcolm X Abram, are the gold standard for insane public couplings. The stories about drugs alone could keep "Inside Edition" and "Extra" burbling for years. Impossible as he seemed, crazy as she appeared, they stayed together 14 years, satisfying some bizarre need in each other that no one else was quite nuts enough to do.

But Whitney and Bobby are essentially a next-gen Liz and Dick.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, a match apparently made in simultaneous adultery, married and divorced and remarried, traveled and spent and played the glamorous couple in so many ways that people could easily forget that Burton was considered one of the great actors of his time and Taylor was an Oscar winner.

Speaking of Taylor, Lisa Marie Presley once said she and ex-husband Nicolas Cage thought of themselves as "the new millennium version of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor." But Presley makes an even more spectacular entrance into the bad marital standings for her hookup with Taylor's friend, Michael Jackson.

Of course, Jackson has seemed like a bad match with just about any female. But Presley, the princess daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, brought a collective "WHAT?" from the world, and nothing about the ensuing marriage's less-than-two-year stint changed anyone's mind.

Presley, by the way, seemed far more assertive, confident, even masculine than Jacko, a trait that also applied to deep-voiced Liza Minnelli during her marriage to David Gest, whose mannerisms made him on good days the Michael Jackson of Upscale-Marrying Nobodies. Of course, high-profile/low-class marriages are also common in celebrity train wrecks. We could bring up Cris Judd again. Or Tom Arnold before he got involved with Roseanne Barr.

"We were America's worst nightmare: white trash with money," Arnold later wrote. They feuded with the press and other celebrities, and battled with each other. In a way, they were like Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, only without the blood vials and the good looks. Angelina's at least.

Sometimes celebrity marriages are remarkable not only for the antics that occur, but also for their sheer brevity. Not the kind counted in years, either. Britney and Kevin look like an old married couple next to, say, Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney, over after four months. Spears certainly improved on her first marriage to Jason Allen Alexander, which lasted about two days.

But my favorite among those belongs to a golden couple of the past: Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine.

It was 1964. He had an Oscar and a couple of previous marriages. She had been the toast of Broadway and had three exes. Troubles began on their honeymoon, Borgnine said in later interviews, because people recognized him from the movies and knew Merman not at all.

After a little over a month, they separated. In her memoirs, Merman summed up their marriage with a single, blank page.

Which, considering the current headlines, probably sounds good to Britney and Kevin.

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