There’s fragile Winona Ryder, 19, and brooding Johnny Depp, 27, the quintessential ’90s pair who declare their burning love with her diamond engagement ring and his WINONA FOREVER tattoo. There’s Drew Barrymore, only 16, whose impending nuptials to Leland Hayward, 24, will merge two Hollywood dynasties. There’s hitherto confidently single Sharon Gless who, at 47, finally announced plans to wed her Trials of Rosie O’Neill producer Barney Rosenzweig, 53. Cupid is working overtime in Hollywood these days, slinging arrows at just about everybody—and almost always hitting his mark.
Cruise and Kidman, Roberts and Sutherland, Travolta and Preston are other couples whose names have power enough to light up marquees. “We’re seeing the first slew of storybook romances since the days of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, “observes veteran Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan. “It’s no longer chic to be unmarried and live a free life.”
“These are uncertain times, with AIDS, the economy and now war, “says USA Today celebrity columnist Jeannie Williams. “A lot of today’s couples come from the divorced generation and want to create a stable life.”
And how. The unwedded bliss of such long-running paramours as Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett or Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn is passé as singles bars. New showbiz parents—Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick—insist on a marriage certificate before ordering blueprints for a nursery.
Which is not to promise that they’ll all live happily ever after. “Harry Hamlin met Nicollette Sheridan in my office, and I could sense something was going to happen between them,” says Ruben Preuss, producer and director of the now-betrothed couple’s 1990 cable movie, Deceptions. “But there’s so much competition in this business it’s hard to say if it will last.” Preuss adds a maxim that might stand for virtually every celebrity twosome: “If their professional lives go well, their personal lives will go well, too.”
JULIA ROBERTS & KIEFER SUTHERLAND
Late last winter, Kiefer Sutherland gave his sweetie Julia Roberts a diamond ring. She has said he bestowed it on her “without questions and without response.” Then, for her 23rd birthday in October he presented her with a tattoo on her left shoulder blade. It’s a red heart inside a black Chinese symbol that she has said means “strength of heart.”
Beyond that, Roberts, 23, keeps her sensuous lips sealed tight when it comes to discussing her 24-year-old Flatliners costar, with whom she began cohabiting last spring. “We’re together all the time,” she told USA Today earlier this month. “We work together, we’re in love with each other. That’s a life. You can’t ask for more.”
And if you do, chances are she won’t answer. “I believe that this is it” is about as much as she’d confess to the ever-persistent Barbara Walters. The relationship can’t be easy. When Roberts was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Pretty Woman Feb. 13, rumors swirled that the affair was ending. “There is definitely a problem and the problem is work-related.” explains a source close to the couple. “Kiefer is not getting offers for roles, and Julia’s phone is ringing every two minutes. But she is madly in love with him, and she wants the relationship to work.”
Skeptics might point out that each has, well, a costar-crossed past. Sutherland has a 3-year-old daughter, Sarah Jude, with ex-wife Camelia Kath, who acted with him in the 1987 low-budget thriller The Killing Time. Roberts lived with Satisfaction costar Liam Neeson in 1987, before she became briefly engaged to Steel Magnolias costar Dylan McDermott in 1988.
All the same, you could use Roberts and Sutherland to define compatible. For starters, both come from acting families (her brother is the famous Eric, his father the renowned Donald), and both were children of divorce at age 4. They camouflage their celebrity with ragged jeans and mussed hair and have been known to act impulsively. Julia bought her BMW convertible and million-dollar home in Benedict Canyon in the Hollywood Hills because Kiefer told her she “needed to own things.”
But if they share a cavalier attitude toward material things, the two are single-minded about their work. “They both take acting very seriously,” says Joseph Ruben, who directed Roberts’s current hit. Sleeping with the Enemy, and observed the couple together during Kiefer’s frequent visits to the set. “And I think they make each other laugh. What can you say? It’s chemistry.”
BONNIE RAITT & MICHAEL O’KEEFE
She was a fast-living, hard-drinking rocker who sobered up four years ago and cut Nick of Time, 1990’s Grammy-sweeping album. He briefly was a member of a religious cult called the Wav who went on to acclaim on screen (The Great Santini) and stage (Mass Appeal) before settling into the role of Simon MacHeath in Fox Broadcasting’s Against the Law. By the time Bonnie Raitt, 41, met Michael O’Keefe, 35, at the September 1989 shooting of a fund-raising video for the homeless called Wake Up America, just about the only thing each had managed to avoid was a walk down the aisle.
By the end of their first date at an Italian restaurant in L.A. three months later, they knew they would hold out no longer. “Basically.” says O’Keefe, “we were very much aware that this was it right away.”
Still, he waited until last Christmas Eve to pop the question. “We stood facing each other in a spot overlooking the ocean,” recalls O’Keefe, who was celebrating with Raitt in her Mendocino, Calif., house. “I took her in my arms and told her how I felt, and then I took her hands in my hands and I asked her to marry me. She said yes. Then she said, ‘Let’s get out of here and call everybody.’ ”
One of the first on the list was her father, Broadway musical star John Raitt, who is thrilled to see his only daughter happy at last. “She had gone through a lot of people I wasn’t crazy about,” he admits. But when Bonnie brought Michael home to Pacific Palisades last year to meet the elder Raitt, the 74-year-old actor-singer approved immediately. “Let’s put it this way,” he says. “This is the first time she got someone who would take us out to dinner and pay the check.”
After a private wedding ceremony this spring—with a Celtic theme celebrating her Scottish and his Irish heritage—the couple will divide their time between homes in New York and Los Angeles. But the two vow not to stay joined at the hip. “Sure Bonnie will go oft on tour.” says O’Keefe. “The only way to make love stay is to let it go.”
Crew members noticed their goo-goo eyes and dreamy smiles almost at once. But it came as a surprise to almost everyone that Tom Cruise, 28, and Nicole Kidman, 23, made it official so soon after lightning struck on the Days of Thunder set last year.
“Usually a situation like that is a “location romance,’ ” says Thunder’s director of photography. Ward Russell. “After the film is over, they break up. This was obviously more than that.” Indeed. PEOPLE’S Sexiest Man Alive of 1990 turned out to be a one-woman guy who wasn’t itching to play the field following his divorce from actress Mimi Rogers, 36, after nearly three years of marriage. “He’s not a playboy,” says Russell. “He’s a very serious actor and a very serious person.”
Cruise was serious enough to tailor a leading-lady role in Thunder for the popular Australian actress after seeing her in 1989’s Dead Calm. Kidman, in turn, was so smitten with Cruise that she broke off with her live-in love, Australian TV actor Marcus Graham. Months later, the pair were arranging a formal Christmas Eve wedding at a rented house in Telluride, Colo.
After keeping company in North Carolina while Nicole finishes shooting Billy Bathgate with Dustin Hoffman, the Cruises will head to Ireland in June to star together in Ron Howard’s new romance, The Irish Story. Meanwhile, they can divide their time between houses in New York and Los Angeles. And when they get tired of puttering around the kitchen, they can always get going on a little Cruise.
HARRY CONNICK JR. & JILL GOODACRE
Almost exactly one year ago, Harry Connick Jr. was taking a leisurely swim in the pool at the Sunset Marquis hotel in Los Angeles, where he was working on his We Are in Love album. Suddenly he looked up and saw his fantasy walk by. Dripping wet, Connick jumped out to pursue the long-haired beauty he recognized from a Cherokee jeans billboard back home in Manhattan.
If this match-to-be of two romantic icons wasn’t made in heaven, then the angels must have been pink-slipped. Connick, 23, is the debonair jazz pianist and crooner who has been called the new Frank Sinatra. The voluptuous model turned out to be Jill Goodacre, 25, whose ads in the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalogs have made her a household form, if not name.
Catching up with Goodacre at the hotel’s check-out desk, Connick introduced himself. “We have a mutual friend.” he said. “Do you want something to eat?”
“I turned around and there was this sweet face with these big blue eyes looking at me, and he was just very gentlemanlike,” says Jill, who had never heard of Harry, although his 1989 version of “It Had to Be You,” from the sound track of When Harry Met Sally…, was a fair-size hit.
The mutual-friend story checked out (they’re both pals of actor D.B. Sweeney, who costarred with Connick in his film debut, last fall’s Memphis Belle), and the next day the two went out to Barney’s Beanery in L.A. “We just had dinner and shook hands,” says Jill, who adds that they didn’t kiss until a week later.
As their one-year anniversary approaches, Jill’s still just wild about Harry. “He brings me flowers just about every other day,” she says. “And on my birthday last year, he took me to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus—black tie. He picked me up in a limo and didn’t tell me where we were going.”
Though they maintain separate apartments in New York City’s Greenwich Village, they see each other every day when their schedules permit. “Our favorite thing is to cook dinner at home and rent movies—old Frank Sinatra movies.” Goodacre says. “Harry loves Frank Sinatra.”
Jill believes their mutual southern backgrounds helped them click. “The most important thing in his life is family, and that’s how I am too,” says Goodacre, who was born in Lubbock, Texas, and started modeling in New York City in 1984. “That’s how you’re brought up in the South. I love his family to death, and my family adores him. They’ve adopted him.” Goodacre calls Connick, who grew up in New Orleans, where his father is district attorney, “probably the classiest guy I’ve met in my life.”
Still, wedding bells aren’t ringing quite yet. “It’s really an intense relationship,” says Connick. “One day I’d like to get married, but I’m too young right now. I think I’m going to just keep working on my relationship with Jill. You never know what will happen.”
WINONA RYDER & JOHNNY DEPP
He has been married once (to an actress named Lori Anne Allison), engaged twice (to actresses Sherilyn Fenn and Jennifer Grey), and Houdini is one of his big heroes. But Johnny Depp‘s no escape artist when it comes to commitment to Winona Ryder. Indeed, Depp, 27, gave his Edward Scissorhands costar a diamond ring last winter, after their first year together: soon Ryder, 19, gave him a platinum band he wore throughout the Scissorhands shoot, despite the pointy props on his fingers.
Then, lest anyone ever needle him again about the long haul, Depp put his own quirky imprint on the notion of always having a beautiful woman on one’s arm. He and Ryder drove to Sunset Strip Tattoo, where Depp had a double-banner WINONA FOREVER, which he designed himself, etched into his right upper arm. “I love Winona,” he says emphatically. “I’m going to love her forever. Putting her on my arm solidified it. Tattoos are extremely permanent. There was a bit of pain involved, but kind of enjoyable pain, like an electrical sensation.”
The juice started flowing between Depp and Ryder about two years ago, when they were introduced at the Chateau Marmont, where Depp stayed on weekend visits from his 21 Jump Street series’ Vancouver location. Lunching with Ryder and a mutual friend at a Hollywood diner, Depp displayed a refreshing range of literary interests, including Beat novelists and the ’60s counterculture.
For Ryder it wasn’t love, but “crush,” at first sight. “I was no veteran of relationships,” she says. “I hadn’t even had a boyfriend then, never had anything serious at all. It wasn’t like I was after him or anything. I’d heard horror stories about what happens when you dive in real quick.”
Ryder’s first beau proved to be thoughtful, romantic, attentive—even after she moved to Boston to film Mermaids during the fall of 1989. “He remembers everything,” Winona says. “I was once coming down with the flu when it was freezing in Boston. My favorite thing has always been Ramen (instant Japanese] noodles—Oriental flavor. So Johnny sent 200 packets to my room. He definitely spoils me.”
Depp is the gift that keeps on giving: roses, clothes, Ryder’s first pearl necklace. “I don’t wait for Christmas, New Year’s or Valentine’s,” he says. “Every day’s a special occasion. I like to give Winona things when she doesn’t expect them. I like making her smile, making her happy.”
Ryder is attached as well to this unwritten contract of sharing. She has surprised him with first editions of writers they admire (Kerouac, Salinger), antique locks for his Houdini hobby, and such inescapably practical items as socks. She can’t miss. “There’s nothing like a new pair of socks,” he says. “That’s for sure.”
After two years with Ryder, Depp feels his feet are firmly on the ground. “There’s something inside of me that she knows really well that no one else has ever known or will ever know,” he says. “Life is trial and error, but when you find the one who’s really it, there is just no mistaking it.”
JOHN TRAVOLTA & KELLY PRESTON
The six-carat yellow-and-white diamond ring has only circled her slender finger since New Year’s Eve, but Kelly Preston, 28, is already making baby talk with fiancé John Travolta, 37, “We plan to have some babies,” Preston gurgled to Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart recently. “We’re practicing right now. This could be barefoot and pregnant for the next 10 years.”
Those words are poetry to both performers’ families, who have high hopes for this union, following years of bad romantic breaks for the pair. Travolta’s great love, actress Diana Hyland, died of cancer in 1977. Preston’s first marriage, to her SpaceCamp costar Kevin Gage, lasted only two years, and her engagement to actor Charlie Sheen (the one that produced the famous $200,000, 25-carat rock that she refused to give back) was called off after a year.
“Kelly once told me, ‘I always get involved with the bad-boy kind,’ ” says her mother, Linda Carlson, director of the Hawaii Mental Health Center in Honolulu. Not this time, Mom insists. Travolta, who met Kelly while costarring with her in a 1989 film called the Experts and began dating her last summer, “is so kind and loving and generous,” says Carlson, “I just thank God. That’s what she wants and that’s what she needs.”
“I’ve never seen Johnny happier,” says Wendy Travolta, wife of John’s brother, Joey. “I guess it’s timing. John and Kelly are both ready to settle down.”
For now, Travolta and Preston have imposed a gag order on wedding specifics. ‘They do have a date set, but it is totally secret,” says Carlson. “It is definitely going to happen sooner rather than later.” And then, let the babies begin. “I can’t wait to have a grandchild.” Carlson says. “Kelly is part English, German and Hawaiian, and him with his Italian good looks, the baby is going to be a gorgeous blend.”
KIRK CAMERON & CHELSEA NOBLE
Snow was falling gently outside the window and a fire blazed in the hearth as Growing Pains costars Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble cuddled at a corner table at Chelsea’s favorite restaurant outside her hometown of Checktowaga, N.Y., east of Buffalo. It was shortly after Christmas, and Kirk, 20, had saved one present for his 26-year-old girlfriend. “He gave me a heart-shaped antique music box.” Chelsea remembers. “I didn’t open it right away because he was saying such nice things.”
As the bubbly brunet finally lifted the lid, “Kirk got down on one knee and proposed,” she says. “I’ll never forget that feeling. He was like Prince Charming.” Natch, a ring was in the box and Chelsea’s answer was yes. “We both started crying,” she says. “We went outside and started running in the snow, having a snowball war.”
Later that evening Cameron and Noble returned to Noble’s parents’ house, where 17 members of both families had gathered for the holidays. The whole approving clan was waiting with congratulations and champagne. “Kirk had asked my family that day for their permission without me knowing,” Chelsea say “When we were leaving for dinner, they were giving him the thumbs-up sign behind my back.”
Kirk and Chelsea met in the fall of 1989, when she joined the cast of Growing Pains as Cameron’s love interest, Kate. A growing flirtation turned serious last Valentine’s Day when Kirk blindfolded Chelsea and led her to the guest house behind his Hollywood Hills home. There, a waiter he had hired for the evening served a four-course dinner featuring roast chicken in mushroom sauce that Kirk had prepared. “That was the time we really told each other how we felt,” recalls Chelsea.
The two are bound by a mutual respect for “family and faith,” Kirk says. His close-knit family includes his mother and manager, Barbara, his gym-teacher father, Robert, and three sisters—Bridgette, Melissa and fellow thespian Candace, who costars on Full House. Chelsea, whose real name is Nancy Mueler (she changed it when she moved to Manhattan to model), is the daughter of an engineer dad, who died last year, and a private-eye mom. Her parents’ marriage lasted 36 years.
Though Noble has appeared in an ad for Clarion Cosmetics, Kirk insists her beauty is more than skin deep. During his five years as a pre teen sex symbol, he says, he learned that “a lot of people you come across are what I call ‘pretty pictures’ who wear the right makeup and clothes. But very few people are truly beautiful. Beauty has everything to do with what starts in the heart and shines out. Chelsea has that.”
No, a wedding date hasn’t been set yet, but Kirk has no doubt that he’s altar-bound. “When you love being with someone,” he says, “you just know that you can’t live another day without her.”
—By Elizabeth Sporkin, Vicki Sheff, Craig Tomashoff and Tina Johnson in Los Angeles, Jim Jerome and Maria Speidel in New York City