Real-Life War of the Roses

ByABC News
June 16, 2004, 3:19 PM

M I A M I , June 17 -- On the 31st floor of a condominium overlooking Biscayne Bay lives a couple who have crossed the thin line between love and hate: Michael and Rona Rose.

He calls her a gold digger. She calls him a sociopath and a psychopathic liar.

Michael Rose, 57, is an attorney who has practiced in Miami for more than 30 years. Rona, 36, is a full-time mother and former beauty queen. After a nine-year marriage, during which they had a son, Rona filed for divorce. What led to that act and the financial and emotional repercussions it caused are fascinating.

ABCNEWS followed the couple for almost a year, as their bitter divorce became a real life version of The War of the Roses the popular novel that spawned a hit Hollywood movie, and coined a new phrase to describe the rage of a bitter divorce.

Like their fictional counterparts, Michael and Rona Rose lived together through the divorce. But the real Rose story concludes with an ending that even Hollywood couldn't have come up with.

Love and Chicken

In the Hollywood version of The War of the Roses, the actor Danny DeVito tells the story of the battling couple.

His character, serving as the movie's narrator, said of the couple: "They met great, they agreed on that, but the way I saw it, the bastards never had a chance." The same might be said of the real-life Roses.

"I met Rona in a fast food chicken place, and I was just enamored of her. Just taken aback by her. I liked the way she looked and I liked the way she ate chicken," Michael said.

Rona remembered how he approached her. "He gave me his card and he winked and he said, 'Call me.' Very confident. Confidence is a nice quality in a man," she said. She said she called him two days later.

But the relationship from the start was volatile. "We went together for three years and it was up and down. It was like a roller coaster," said Michael. Still, they were married in 1994. It was Michael's second marriage. He was 48. She was 27.