We have all heard the many angles on how one should choose a spouse and, thus, increase the chances of a happy marriage. Some say a woman marries a man hoping to change him while a man marries a woman hoping she will never change. Others say men should look to their girlfriend's mother, a woman to her husband's father, because that is what your spouse will become in 25 years. They say never marry a woman who is close with her father, or a man who is close with his mother, as you are unlikely to ever measure up to that figure in their life.
I suppose that I had some prejudices, fantasies and hang-ups of my own going into my marriage. To a degree, I wanted a wife who was, in some ways, like my mother and not at all like her in others. Oddly enough, however, it was my father, and the role he had played in my life, that had more of an impact on my marriage than anyone or anything else.
My father taught school for twenty-eight years in Massapequa, Long Island. He'd dropped out of Syracuse law school to take an entry level teaching position in a newly formed school district. His uncle told him that a respectable career as a school administrator would be his, with a little effort. But my father never left the classroom. Not only did he not become an administrator, he never even became a department head.
It wasn't that my father was a bad teacher; quite the opposite. The students adored him. Twice the student body dedicated their yearbook to him while he was still living and active, an honor normally given to those retired or dead.
My father refused to play the political games necessary to advance. One man in particular could have made my dad's life unimaginably easier if my father had just played ball. But my father refused. He didn't think it was right. Self-respect and integrity were always front and center with my dad, a former Marine. "Judge me by my merits," was his attitude. And he never attained the level of success he might have because of it.
My relationship with my father evolved in the years after I left home. He became a more essential advisor and mentor to me, someone whose judgment I trusted almost implicitly. He supported my decision to pursue a career in acting in New York after leaving George Washington University. I found his advice invaluable as I moved further into the entertainment industry where men like my father were few and far between. Just as I was making the transition from New York to Los Angeles, my father died suddenly, of cancer, at the age of 55. His passing left a huge void in my life.
Over the next few years I began to actively, even unconsciously, search for someone who could fill his role, not as a parent, but as a trusted ally in a cutthroat business. Little did I know that I would find just that in a beauty-queen-turned-movie-star from Athens, Georgia.
Kim made a quick ascent up the Hollywood ladder in the late 1970's and early 1980's. She went from modeling and commercials to television and feature films in a relatively short time. When we met on the set of a film in 1990, she'd already established herself as a major star. Although she'd achieved a great deal of success in a difficult business, she did not allow the industry to consume her.