Divorce Wars

Some people will do extraordinarily nasty -- even deadly -- things to those they once loved.

Sometimes they hurt themselves in the process.

Most recently, Dr. Nicholas Bartha blew up his $6.4 million Manhattan townhouse to keep the valuable property from his ex-wife in a divorce settlement.

In an e-mail shortly before the July 10 explosion, he warned her that he would leave the house "only if I am dead."

Bartha was pulled from the rubble alive but died from severe burns. New York medical examiners declared his death a suicide.

Police were unable to speak to Bartha after the blast because he was in a medically induced coma, but authorities investigated whether he had tampered with a gas line leading into the home's basement.

Bartha didn't just blow up his home. He blew the lid off the often-insane world of vengeful lovers.

Famed divorce lawyer Raoul Felder says he sees this sort of extreme emotion dozens of times every year.

"Maybe they don't blow up the house," he said. "Maybe they destroy a collection of records or try to injure a pet."

Mimicking Hollywood

Divorce -- especially among celebrities -- has become a source of entertainment.

Society often revels in the sordid details of celebrity divorces.

The divorce battle between actors Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards reveals just how much the public can be entertained by a play-by-play account of a deteriorating marriage.

"This is certainly the year's nastiest divorce. No question about it," said Barry Levine, executive editor of The National Enquirer.

In court filings, Richards called Sheen unstable and violent, and said he was addicted to gambling, prostitutes, and visiting pornographic Web sites.

"Now the fact of the matter is that Denise Richards knew very well that as soon as that hit the clerk's office in Los Angeles Superior Court, that that would be pumped out everywhere across the world," Levine said. Sheen vehemently denies the allegations.

Celebrities sometimes use their fame to get revenge. They use verbal warfare and the public's interest in someone to humiliate their estranged spouses and lovers.

Look at the seemingly endless divorce and custody battle between actors Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin.

In court and in public statements, Baldwin accused Basinger of "child snatching" their daughter while the actress said that he had alienated himself from their child with his violent temperament.

"The Baldwin-Basinger divorce was a kind of modern Hatfield and McCoys," Levine said, referring to two families that feuded in the backcountry of West Virginia and Kentucky in the late 19th century. Their war has become a metaphor for bitter feuds and rivals.

"There were some incredible blowouts that he had with his beautiful wife, Kim, in front of restaurant, on the street. … And he's just blowing at the top of his lungs," Levine said.

The tabloids and the public are willing witnesses to the airing of this kind of dirty laundry, i.e.., David Gest alleging that Liza Minnelli had beat him and forced her bodyguard to have sex with her during their short-lived marriage.

"Here's little Liza who is 5-foot-5. She has artificial hips," Levine said. "Oftentimes she's in a wheelchair and David Gest alleges in this bombshell lawsuit and court papers, that Liza physically abused him in violent drunken rages."

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