Since John Z. De Lorean, 57, was arrested for cocaine trafficking on Oct. 19, the failing auto magnate has had one solid ally: his wife, glamorous model Cristina Ferrare, 32. She flew to his side, worked day and night to set him free on bail, and stands by him still. She avoided reporters and even refused to be interviewed by such friends as Barbara Walters and Don Hewitt, producer of 60 Minutes. She has remained silent—until now. The day after her husband was released on $10 million bail, Cristina offered for sale her diary, giving her personal and perhaps self-serving version of the previous difficult days. “While people are making jokes,” she explains, “I want them to know what it’s like for the family.” Her agent said she also needs the money. While John stayed in L.A., Cristina returned to New York to see her children, Zachary, 11, and Kathryn, 5. Then, before flying West again to be with John as he pleaded not guilty, she met with PEOPLE Associate Editor Jeff Jarvis to clarify points in her journal. In the library of her Fifth Avenue duplex, under an oil portrait of John, Cristina remained calm and cool as she recounted again, in an almost childlike voice, the events and emotions of the 11 days in her diary. Only once, after recalling how she told the children that their father was in jail, did she become upset: She had to leave the room, sick to her stomach. She quickly regained her practiced composure, and when her daughter entered the library, silently, and pulled out a family album to look through, Cristina continued her unswerving defense of John. Here, in her words, is her story:
Tuesday, October 19
It’s a beautiful fall day, but I’m troubled and don’t know why. Walking up Madison Avenue to lunch with a friend, I’m thinking about John. He flew to L.A. this morning on a business trip. Something’s bothering me.
While talking to some people about hosting a TV show, I stare into space, unable to shake this odd feeling. I can’t get John out of my mind.
Hosting a dinner party for Maur, who decorated our apartment and became our friend. He does and does and does everything for you and never asks anything in return. I wanted to do something for him, to take the time to set the table and put the flowers out; I have fixed stuffed artichokes, pasta primavera and an ice cream cake—Maur loves ice cream. It’s his birthday.
My children are there; they’re always included. We don’t accept invitations to other people’s houses unless our children are invited too. We’re planning Zachary’s 11th birthday on Sunday—a costume party.
Halfway through the pasta, the phone rings. We have a rule: no calls during dinner. Cindy, our housekeeper, secretary and friend, finally answers it. There’s a reporter on the line; he says something terrible has happened.
It’s John! I run to the kitchen phone. Maur grabs it first. My knees buckle. Something terrible, I know it is.
“Is he all right? He’s dead, right? They’ve shot him! Please answer me! Is he alive, my God, just tell me he’s still alive!” I watch the color drain out of Maur’s face. “No comment,” he says into the phone. He hangs up. I ask Cindy to take the children upstairs.
Then he tells me: “John has been arrested in L.A. in a cocaine sting.”
Impossible! He’s lying! They’re lying!
But it’s true.
Zachary comes back. He knows something is wrong; he sees me shaking. He is an introverted child, quiet, shy, gentle. He keeps his emotions inside. But I’ve always been open and honest with my children. And Zachary is old enough. I have to be honest with him. I have to tell him.
We sit in the library. “Zachary,” I say, “something terrible has happened. Your father is alive. The plane didn’t crash; he wasn’t shot; he’s fine. But your father has been arrested.” I feel like I’m telling him his father is dead.
“It’s not true!” he screams. “It’s not true!” He breaks down.
This is tearing my insides apart. I don’t want him to see how frightened I am. “Listen to me,” I say, shaking him. “I have to go to L.A. and help your father. I promise everything will be all right. You’re scared right now. We all are. You have to pray tonight to give me strength and help your father.”
Kathryn comes in. Her eyes are puffy, but she’s rubbing her cheeks, showing me that there are no tears. She runs to my arms and looks at me with troubled innocence. “I heard jail,” she says. “Is my daddy in jail?”
Kathryn is 5. She is extraverted, charming, funny, open. But she’s too young. “No,” I say. I think of the electronic Monopoly game we just bought Zachary. She calls it Ronopoly. “You know,” I say, “when we play Ronopoly, I end up in jail, you end up in jail.” She starts laughing. To see the concern in her face! “Don’t worry,” I say. “When I come home I’ll bring Daddy with me.” My children, Cindy tells me later, did not sleep well that night.
I call two of my closest friends. “Hello,” I hear, “I’m not here at the moment, but if you leave your name and number…” Their bloody answering machine. I’m desperate. Please God, make them be home. I plead into the phone for someone to answer. She does. “What’s wrong, darling?” she asks. I tell them. Ten minutes later, they are in my apartment.
As we watch TV for news, any news, the phone rings. Reporters. Friends. My mother. “What happened?” she asks. She’s hysterical. I snap at her. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I pack in five minutes. A friend is coming to California with me. We’re about to leave—I kiss the children goodbye and tell them how much I love them—and then the doorman says that the press is downstairs. Damn! Already. I want to confront them. I’m not ashamed. But my friend sneaks me out through the basement and we go to the airport.
The plane ride is interminable, the longest five and a half hours of my life. The stewardesses must think something is wrong with me; I have to use the bathroom every half hour. I can’t eat. They’re showing Rocky III. The De Lorean car is in the movie. It flashes on the screen. I think of John as Rocky, the underdog. When all this is over, I think, John is going to be back on the top, a better person.
Wednesday, October 20
My mother and father are going to meet me at the airport. This will tear my family to pieces. We are emotional, we argue a lot, as Italian families do. We don’t hide anything. If we want to cry, we cry. Momma and I are close. I put myself in her shoes and understand her heartbreak, her worry. I cannot fall apart in front of her.
We get off the plane. I see a huge light at the end of the corridor. I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience, the kind I have heard people talk about. They all say they are in a long, narrow tunnel with a light at the end. But somehow I know I will not be meeting God. I see my mother. I hear her footsteps. She is gray. Her face is taut, her lips tight. She rushes to me and extends her arms to envelop me. It is like a dream.
Pandemonium. Lights blinding me, cameras hitting my head, microphones everywhere, questions shouted at me, deafening: “Did this come as a total surprise to you?” If I stop and tell them I don’t know anything, that will satisfy them, I think; they’ll say okay and go their merry way. I’m wrong.
I overhear a passenger: “That’s the lady with the bladder problem.”
My mother’s cute little red frame home is neat, as always, everything in its place. I feel numb. I feel nothing. I take a hot shower and go to bed. I don’t sleep. I think of John. In jail. My John, my gentle, loving man, locked in a cell, cold, dirty, dark.
Momma comes with me. We go to meet with two attorneys. John has a bail hearing at 11 a.m. and they don’t want me to go. They’re afraid I’ll attract the press, afraid it might upset John to see me distraught. “You don’t understand my relationship with John,” I tell them. “If he sees me and I tell him the children are fine and I am fine, it’s going to help him. You have to trust my judgment.”
Arrive at the courthouse. The hearing is postponed until 2.
Postponed until 3.
Postponed until 4.
Finally. They take me to the courtroom. Standing room only. It falls silent when I arrive. I feel nauseated. I’m perspiring and break out in red blotches all over my hands and legs. I sit next to my mother. All eyes are on me; I stare straight ahead, afraid to show them the panic in my eyes.
Suddenly, there’s a commotion. I look to the right of the courtroom as John enters. At first I can’t see him. Then I can. My heart jumps in my chest and I gasp for breath.
They lead him in wearing handcuffs. They unlock them and I can’t watch. He’s wearing a suit but no tie. John’s clothes are always fresh and clean. But he’s disheveled, unshaved for two days. His face seems very, very old. It is long, drawn. John always stood erect and tall and proud. It seems as if somebody has kicked him. I want to go to him but I can’t. I’m frozen to my seat until John’s lawyer motions me over.
“Hi, Babe,” I say.
“Hello, Cristina,” John says.
I put my arms around him, very gently and protectively, and hold him very close. The whole world is watching.
“My God. My God,” he says. “Look what they’ve done to me. What am I going to do about all those workers, their jobs?” My God, here he’s faced with drug charges and all he can think about are his workers in Northern Ireland. “My family, my family,” he says. “What will this do to my family?”
“Your children love and adore you,” I say. “Your friends, hundreds of them, have called offering help, sending love. We are all 100 percent behind you.”
I take my hands and gently hold his face. “Are you scared?” I ask. He speaks softly. This is not the John I know, with a voice that is authoritative, booming, strong, resonant. It is soft and crackling. “Yes,” he says.
I’m so distressed at this. John always seemed bigger than life, so strong. I felt so secure, so protected. But now I’m doing the protecting. I kiss him and tell him I love him.
The hearing begins. The U.S. Attorney wants $20 million bail. The magistrate says $5 million. I’m relieved, thinking we might be able to raise that quickly. [Boy, was I wrong!]
Afterwards, somebody slips John a card—from the National Enquirer. I tear it up. I was asked once what my biggest fear was and I said, “To be on the cover of the National Enquirer.”
We leave. Again with the lights and reporters shouting. Walking, walking, walking, getting nowhere. I’m shoved into the back seat of a limo and locked in. No driver, no attorneys, no mother. Where is she? I start yelling for her, feeling abandoned, like I did when I was a child and got locked in a room by accident. “Momma, Momma!” I see her pushing through the crowd. I couldn’t get the door open from the pressure of all the bodies. Finally, I do.
A hot shower. I’m too tired to even dry my hair. Feel faint, helpless. Momma dries me off, tucks me in. I cry uncontrollably. My mother, father, grandmother, sister and brother stand around me and I go to sleep.
Thursday, October 21
I wake up feeling rested. Spend most of the day on the phone. I talk with lawyers. I try to raise the cash bail: $250,000.1 talk with the De Lorean Motor Co. office, taking care of business. I start to return calls from all my friends. Most of them break down and I find myself trying to console them.
All of a sudden, I’m in the world of high finance. I have to decide to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the company—myself, without telling John. I’m deciding how to transfer funds, raise money. Where I learned how to do this, I’ll never know. I used to think I had no business sense. But now I do. John says my mission in life is to blither. He always wanted to know where I got my master’s in blither.
All the friends. I’ve had a very rude awakening. A lot of people called, saying, “Anything I can do, let me know.” God forbid you should ask. Twice, I asked for help and I was sorry with all my heart that I did. The people who have stayed close to me I can count on my hand. But many close, close friends have accepted what they’ve read in the paper. John hasn’t even been heard yet. It’s so damned unfair.
I go to bed early. When I turn on the TV, I make sure the news is not on.
Friday, October 22
Wake up and call New York. I miss my children terribly. I decide to keep them home from school, afraid that reporters will follow them. I fear that Zach’s classmates would ride him and say hurtful things; they teased him even when John’s company started having financial problems. I call home to make sure they are all right. Cindy tells me that Zachary’s teachers came to the house to reassure us that they would take care of him, that his friends missed him and they were all behind him. I feel better.
The weekend, October 23-24
Sunday—my son’s birthday. Oh, my God, I have to call him. No time for this journal. Life all blurs together in confusion. Talk to lawyers about bail, worry and wait for John to get out.
Monday, October 25
The waiting room at Terminal Island federal prison: big, brightly colored, with a window on the ocean. Nice view. I want to sit in a corner. But they make you sit in rows. Behind me, I hear Spanish. In front, a guy and his girl have their tongues down each other’s throats, making me sick.
Depressed. Feel ill. Haven’t eaten anything. Must have smoked a hundred cigarettes. And I don’t smoke.
The U.S. Attorney wants to raise bail to $20 million. John might have to spend another week here. I worry about the way they’re treating him. You hear such horrendous stories about prison, frightening. But the guards and prison authorities have been most kind. They are understanding and helpful in my dealing with the press. They seem very humane.
John comes in. He’s snapping out of it, in control again. He’s not himself ye But it is good to be with him. On the phone, we only get 10 minutes a day; all we have time for is business.
“How are they treating you?” I ask.
“Very nice. It’s not a bad place, clean. I was just playing volleyball with some of the guys.”
The Bible I brought seems to have made a difference. Our families are both born-again. Our pastor gave me some passages for John to read. “Look, pal,” I tell him, “this is your answer. This is bigger than you are.” He’ very glad to get it. John used to sit in church and write notes; he wouldn’t listen. “I’m ready to listen now,” he says
All this has changed him. I’ve always had a hard time with John relating to family and friends because he’s not that open and demonstrative, except with me and the children. Now he’s more accepting. This has brought him and his three brothers together again, banded them in love and unity. He understands the importance of family. It finally hit him. In that sense, I can’t say this has been all bad. This really has helped him spiritually. It’s the only con solation I’ve had so far.
A little boy is screaming pathetically and banging on the door. “I want my daddy! Why can’t my daddy come home?” It breaks my heart.
I leave. The men hang out their windows, waving, saying, “We’re all behind you, Mrs. D.” Thumbs up.
Bill Fugazy [of Fugazy limousines] calls. He’s helping me sell John’s stock in the Yankees. Bill says he had dinner with Bob Hope. Bob remembers when he signed the cast on my broken leg. I ask if he’d sign my broken heart.
Tuesday, October 26
One week today.
The lawyer says John will be out today. I’m skeptical. My chest hurts from all the cigarettes. I’ll try not to smoke.
Check into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel under an assumed name. Mrs. John Brown. Original. They show me where to park my car, down in the bowels of the basement. They tell me that’s the way President Reagan does it. Am I supposed to be impressed? The hotel is expensive, and for the first time in my life I’m concerned about the cost.
I go back to my mother’s house. I wonder how long that hotel room will stay empty, waiting for John.
A terrible headache. I want to rest. The phone rings. My premonition was right. They can’t get John out tonight. I feel so helpless.
John calls. He’s frustrated and depressed. I tell him that, with the help of George Steinbrenner, I sold his stock in the Yankees. I had to. The U.S. Attorney wouldn’t take just our Pauma Valley, Calif. property for the bail. He insisted on our New York duplex too, and to pay off the loan on it, I had to sell the Yankees stock. This disturbs John. He wanted to give his piece of the team to Zachary someday.
My headache is back. I go to bed and end this day.
Wednesday, October 27
My mother wakes me with screams in her sleep. I manage to calm her down. (I really need this!) She tells me about her nightmare; she senses evil trying to bring the family down. I hold her until she falls asleep. Eventually, so do I.
John phones. Sounds anxious. Asks me to locate his wallet; needs his credit cards. They’ve been canceled, I tell him. Even your American Express Gold Card. “Can you believe that?” He says he was never late with a payment. “I’ve had that card for 18 years.” Even Gristede’s, the grocery store, canceled our credit.
“I know,” I say. “We must accept these things.”
I leave for Terminal Island, thinking back over the last few months, how strange life is.
If, if, if…If we hadn’t bought the Pauma Valley house. If we’d stuck to our rule: no outsiders. Pauma Valley was our retreat from the outside world. If Zachary hadn’t become friends with one of the neighbor’s children three years ago. If I hadn’t tried to be such a super mom and invited the kid over. If the boy’s parents hadn’t taken Zach to a motorcycle race and brought him home. If we hadn’t met the parents, the father.*
Drugs? In my business, people use them all the time. But everybody knows that when Cristina goes into the studio you better not have them or she won’t work. Anybody’s who’s brought them into my home, I’ve asked them to leave and I don’t want any part of it. John’s the same. Absolutely.
At the jail. Met by the press. Naturally. Questions. Questions about a dinner John and I had at La Scala in Beverly Hills a few months before. How do they know these things? It was another business dinner—you have to be charming and can’t wait to leave. Morgan Hetrick was there, one of the men arrested with John; I knew him 10 years ago when he was a pilot for a man I dated, the late Fletcher Jones. Hadn’t seen him in years. Also at that dinner was Jim Benedict,* * one of the undercover FBI agents. I liked him then—that’s hard for me to say now. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and conversation. We talked about our children. We took pictures out of our wallets and proceeded to show off the most precious people in our lives. How could he just sit there, knowing the path of destruction he is leading us down? I think again of my children, my innocent children. What about them? How will this affect their lives?
John calls. Sounds better. He was in Bible study with five inmates and a guard. It’s calmed him. I feel relieved. I go to bed this night happy.
Thursday, October 28
Barbara Walters calls. Very nice lady. I explain we can’t give her an interview; our lawyers are very strict. She’s understanding.
At Terminal Island with John and two attorneys. For the first time, I hear him tell his story. We didn’t have time to talk about it before. He sounds authoritative, businesslike. I am stunned by the series of events leading up to the arrest. My mind races again to that dinner with Morgan and Jim Benedict. I am outraged for John. I want the lawyers to leave so I can hold John for a few moments, and be alone with him. I feel so protective of him.
Call the lawyer. I have this fantasy: He will tell me the grand jury refused to indict.
Instead: “We ran into problems.” I’m getting used to this. The U.S. Attorney wants our New Jersey home too. “Give him anything and let John out of there,” I say. The lawyer says John might be out in the morning. I am elated. Cautious. I tell John the news. He seems relieved and optimistic. I am not.
Friday, October 29
Today, John is supposed to be released. I sit and wait for the phone to ring with bad news.
The phone rings. Bad news: There’s a rumor that as soon as John is released from federal prison, then California will charge him. I’m afraid it will all start over again: arrest, handcuffs, bail hearings. Bail? We have nothing else to give. I’m nervous and keep fumbling and dropping things. Okay, girl, get ahold of yourself. I sit on the couch, put my feet up and pray: “Lord, I know I have been asking a lot of you lately. But please cut this out.” Phone rings again. The rumor is not true.
My car has broken down. What else is new? I call a friend to borrow his new black Jaguar. I’m afraid to drive it.
The grand jury has indicted John on nine counts. Bail is $10 million. Oh, no. The lawyer says not to worry. The U.S. Attorney will accept the property as bail. I go to the federal court to sign papers.
I see U.S. Attorney Jim Walsh, the man who wanted $20 million bail. He strolls over, casually, extends his hand and shakes mine heartily and says, “How do you do, Mrs. De Lorean, so nice to meet you.” Are you ready for that? I can’t believe how calm I remain. I’ve waited all afternoon. Finally, the papers are signed.
We drive to Terminal Island. At the gate, the guard asks for my ID. My God, we’ve only been on the front page and on TV every day for 10 days. I search for my driver’s license. Reporters swarm the car like killer bees. In the confusion, somebody sticks some papers in my hand. I’ve been served in a suit involving John. “Your timing,” I growl, “is perfect.”
John is released. Smiling, holding his Bible. We embrace. His first words: “I want a hamburger.”
There is a scramble for cars. We are being tailed by two—two!—helicopters and 40 press cars. Ridiculous! I’m getting paranoid. I’m wary of pronouncing my words, moving my lips, afraid they’ll have a lip reader. The faces staring at me. It’s like a carnival fun house with those mirrors that distort all the faces.
There’s a traffic jam. Good thing, or we could be dead now. Just as we’re picking up speed, a press car turns left in front of us, cuts us off. John’s friend Roy, who’s driving, slams on the brakes. Too late. We slam into this guy. The car spins around. I close my eyes. Keep spinning. I’m waiting for the cars behind us to hit. Spinning. I’m going to die. I’m not scared. I’m ready. We stop spinning. We’re still among the living. My God, my friend’s Jaguar! The press runs over. Not one asks whether we’re hurt. Instead, they take pictures.
Finally, I break down. It’s the only time I let go. [Even later, when I returned home to New York and my daughter said, ‘Where’s my daddy?’ and I wanted to break down and cry, I didn’t. I wouldn’t let myself.] Now I’m hysterical. I’m shaking so badly I can barely walk. They drag me out of the Jaguar and put me in another car.
I’m mad at myself for breaking down in front of John. He’s very quiet. When John is quiet, I know he’s terribly disturbed. “Please baby, don’t cry,” he says. “I can’t take that.”
I cry anyway. I can’t do this to John. I have to stay together. He’s angry, mad that I’ve had to go through all this.
The hotel. I phone my friend about his car. He already saw it on the news. I break down again. Go upstairs to take a shower and through the steam on the glass I talk with my mother. “Momma!” “Baby!”
Finally alone with John. He goes up to take a shower. I’m on the phone with the hotel manager.
John comes down the stairs. He slips. I watch in horror as he falls down the stairs. I can’t believe it! Arms and legs everywhere. I scream.
John is lying on the floor with a look that says, “What next?” He starts to laugh. So do I. “What’s the matter?” the manager asks. “My husband just made me laugh,” I explain. “Oh,” says the manager, “that’s good. I suppose you could use some laughter.”
I go to pick him up off the floor. My knees give out and I fall down, laughing, crying. I can’t stand it anymore.
“Well, my darling,” I say, “it can only be uphill from here.” We go upstairs to bed. We just lie there for a long time and keep holding one another. He kisses me softly and keeps kissing me until it turns into a deeply passionate kiss. We make love. I sleep holding him close to me all night.
* PEOPLE has established that this neighbor was Jim Hoffman, the federal confidential informant in the De Lorean drug case.
** Jim Benedict was FBI agent Benedict J. Tisa’s undercover name.