Between the lines

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

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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.

Only five months ago, Gigi Grazer insisted to the Daily Telegraph that her marriage was great. Any spouse can be forgiven for telling a lie about the state of the union, of course, and things can go south pretty quickly, but given the high profile of this couple and the current silence of the parties, it's an irresistible temptation to examine the recent public record -- their interviews and her novel -- for hints of trouble.

Last May, for instance, Gigi Grazer was promoting the publication of her third novel, "Starter Wife," which is about a 41-year-old woman who is dumped by her Hollywood executive husband via cellphone. She finds redemption when she falls in love with a homeless man who lives in the Malibu Colony. A dishy New York Times Magazine spread seemed to foreshadow domestic trouble.

"I'm pretty needy," Brian Grazer is quoted as saying at one point. "When I'm doing press during the premieres, I need her in those moments to support me or indulge me. I get nervous still. And it's become increasingly boring for her to sublimate herself to me. Though she does it." He also said that "in our equation, she is extremely independent and tough. Sometimes I wish it was just a little cozier."

This year, the couple was slated to have nearly colliding projects. Grazer's new film, "The Da Vinci Code," the subject of almost hysterical anticipation, is scheduled to open May 19. Gigi Grazer's fourth novel was supposed to have been released May 30, but an assistant to David Rosenthal, her publisher at Simon & Schuster, said Thursday that the book is not yet finished, is still untitled and has no publication date. Still, Amazon.com is taking pre-orders for what it is calling "Untitled Novel." Last September, on her website, Gigi Grazer wrote that her next novel will be set in New York and will deal "with the not-so-glamorous business of a messy divorce."

When the New York Times Magazine reporter asked Gigi Grazer whether she could imagine herself in the shoes of Gracie, her suddenly solo protagonist, she replied: "Well, if I lost everything, I would have a house to live in with a backyard. I would have a car that works. I would have children still in school. My closest friends wouldn't change.... I wouldn't get to go to certain parties. I wouldn't be going to the Academy Awards.... Would it kill me? No."

Four days after the piece ran, the Home section of this newspaper published a long story on the couple and their fabulously remodeled Pacific Palisades home (they added 11,000 square feet).

The story mentioned Gigi Grazer's close relationship to her interior designer, Michael Smith, whom she jokingly called "my next husband," and that the Grazers have been in therapy for a recurring marital issue involving her unwillingness to take control of their family's social calendar. "I like to fly by the seat of my pants," she said.

But it's the second chapter of "The Starter Wife" that makes it especially tempting to compare art and life. The chapter is called "The Seven Stages of a Hollywood Marriage." They are:

1. Date.

2. Marry.

3. Swear you won't give up your career.

4. Give up your career when the charity work gets to be too much.

5. Have two kids ("a must" because "two kids = triple child support = a lifetime of yoga retreats").

6. Begin drinking.

7. Hire a decorator, become best friends with him, pay him exorbitant sums and "fight with husband over new best friend."

After that: divorce.

A recorded message on the "media line" of Brian Grazer's Beverly Hills attorney, Robert Kaufman, explained that he does not speak to reporters about clients.

"I got a hunch that this is all going to blow over. Brian is mellowing out," Frank Levangie said. "I am not taking this too seriously."

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