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Between the lines

Did Brian Grazer take a page from his wife's novels in filing for a separation?

April 22, 2006|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

Gracie wondered at the marriage she'd thought she had. She and Kenny were supposed to be the happily married couple, they were the ones other people talked about in their thrice-weekly therapy sessions, they were the ones who were called the Power Couple in L.A. Confidential. How could the Power Couple break up? The Power Couple cannot break up!

From "The Starter Wife" by Gigi Levangie Grazer

*

WELL.

The Power Couple would appear to be calling it quits.

Or are they?

On Monday, after eight years and seven months of marriage, mega-producer Brian Grazer filed for a legal separation from his novelist wife, Gigi Levangie Grazer.

Brian Grazer, 54, is one of the most successful and moneyed producers in Hollywood. His scores of credits include the upcoming "The Da Vinci Code" and the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind," made with his production company partner, director Ron Howard. Grazer is also one of the most colorful characters at the top of the industry food chain, known for his finger-in-a-socket hairdo, nerdy look, restless mind and intense vulnerability.

Nor is the 43-year-old Gigi Grazer your typical Hollywood "Wife of" (her coinage). She is thin and beautiful, of course. But she is also outspoken (she calls her affliction "social Tourette's"), occasionally snarky (as opposed to reverential) when she speaks to reporters about her husband, and she's deeply cynical about the lot of the Hollywood wife.

"I guess I used to be a Trophy Wife," she told a reporter for the London Daily Telegraph last November. "Maybe a pain-in-the-ass wife is what I am now."

Some people close to the Grazers believe they will not divorce. Gigi's father, Frank Levangie, and Michael Rosenberg, president of Grazer and Howard's production company, Imagine Entertainment, both dismissed the idea that the Grazers' marriage will end any time soon.

"It's very clear that it isn't a divorce filing," said Rosenberg, who has been friends with both of them for many years. "It's a legal separation, and everyone should look at that in the most optimistic way."

Later, he added: "I'm just rooting for them to get back together. They're in the middle of a very stressful, uncomfortable situation in their lives."

Frank Levangie, 73, was even more blunt. "They're not split up," he said. "It's kind of a threat. There is no anger. He is still madly in love with her."

Levangie, who lives in Venice, said he spent Easter Sunday with his daughter and her husband at their home and remains optimistic that the marriage will right itself. "This has been on the back burner for a while," Levangie said. He alluded to some problems in the pair's extended families as a possible trigger. He said his daughter was in fine spirits and he was about to meet her for lunch.

Brentwood attorney Sara Wasserstrom, a family law expert, said it's unusual to file for a formal separation if the ultimate intention is not a dissolution. "The main reason people do that in California is that they haven't met the six-month residency requirement [for divorce], or they are doing it for religious reasons -- that they don't believe in divorce." The other reasons might be to work out custody and/or financial agreements while considering whether to pull the plug on the marriage or, in an extreme case, to put teeth into an ultimatum. Also, she added, "it's possible there's something in the prenup that things are treated differently if it's a legal separation as opposed to a dissolution."

According to the petition filed by Brian Grazer in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the couple, both of whom have been married previously, have a premarital agreement and no community property. They have two sons, who are 6 and 2. (He has two teenagers from his first marriage.) Their primary residence is a massive and much-written-about home in Pacific Palisades that was designed by architect Cliff May and once owned by Gregory Peck. According to published reports, they also own a Malibu beach house and a vacation home on the North Shore of Oahu.

Gigi Grazer has used the Hollywood divorce to great effect in her novels, which include "Starter Wife" and "Maneater." She satirizes the ritualistic behavior of the well-kept Hollywood woman -- the Botox, the blepharoplasties, the breast implants, the exhausting work of staying beautiful -- all the while benefiting from her position as wife of one of Hollywood's most successful -- if odd -- producers. She not only moves in the most rarefied industry circles, she also uses her perch as a vantage point for fictionalized takes on the viciously competitive world of the "Wife of."

Her lightweight but entertaining novels are frankly drawn from this world and center on the conferred power that accrues to women who marry powerful men and what happens when those marriages fall apart.

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