They were nicknamed Ken and Barbie, the American dream couple. Married in 1971 after meeting at Michigan State University, Los Angeles Dodger Steve Garvey and his blond talk-show-host wife, Cyndy, now both 37, projected a wholesome, strictly monogamous image. Even though Steve once confided in a Playboy interview that he had thought about having an affair, infidelity was something that happened to folks up the block. But perhaps only dolls have storybook marriages. In September 1981, unable to keep her failing marriage together, Cyndy moved to New York with the couple’s daughters, Krisha, then 6, and Whitney, 5. According to Cyndy, although she didn’t know it then, her husband was already enmeshed in a longtime affair. In his utobiography, published earlier this year, Garvey claims “Cyndy thinks the marriage broke up because I was involved with another woman, someone who worked for me, but I wasn’t seeing anyone else back then….” Soon after their separation—for which she was severely criticized in the press—Cyndy began dating composer Marvin Hamlisch. Although he currently lives on the East Coast, they have maintained a long-distance relationship. These days she is writing a book about her life. “A portion of it will deal with the subject of infidelity and how it affected my life,” she says. Cyndy, who now lives in Malibu with her daughters, spoke about love and marriage—and the differences between them—with Correspondent James Grant.
My first real clue was when I tried to find Steve to help me sell our home. This was back in January 1982. And he was on a ski trip. So I called his office to speak to his secretary, and she was on a ski trip too. The seed was planted. Soon after that, I sold the house on my own, and I was clearing it out and I was crying. My housekeeper said, “Go to the office.” So I did.
I saw enough. I saw their lives on the walls. The two of them. There was nothing of me. There were directors’ chairs with their names on them. There was a fold-out bed. And then I saw her. She was sitting there. And she ran out of the office. I wouldn’t have known it was her, but she was so obvious. I’ve blocked it out, but I remember she had dark hair, and she was bigger than me. So I walked over to her desk, and I read the five-year planner there. I just started going backwards and saw “Stevie”—I never called him Stevie. “Stevie and me skiing, Stevie and me/new car, Stevie and me dinner.”
It was a crushing experience. And when I confronted Steve about how long this had been going on, at first he wouldn’t answer me. Then he said—I’m serious—it had started out that she was like his sister, and I said, “You don’t —— your sister.” He didn’t have any sisters. It was just all too rich. You see, I never went to the office. When you’re married to a guy like Steve, he does a lot of public things, and the phone was constantly ringing at home. So he got one of his charities to fund an office. I had no need to go there. I just didn’t know that the office, which was a quarter-mile from home, would be used for other purposes. If I ever marry again I’ll be damn sure the man I choose has the mental makeup not to lie, never to betray.
Now I really want other women to know what happened to me. Like me, a lot of women believe that if they go quietly into the night, the behavior of the men they love will change. The men will recognize the fault of their ways and come back. I had hoped that if I stayed quiet—quiet had the connotation of classy—then my private life would come back to me.
When I think about Steve’s masterfully hidden other life, what I get most angry about is he took my time. He took my options away from me. I had always wanted a third child, and when I think that was taken from me…. If I had known that he was having an affair, I would have acted differently. I wouldn’t have been left to flounder around the last three years of our marriage trying to figure out what was wrong. Dishonesty and betrayal are devastating when you are brought up to believe that the family is the first priority. On a very public scale, mine was a very classic case.
As for me, the humiliation never left. Just a few months ago I was at a local shop with my children, and the shopkeeper said, “Mrs. Garvey, you forgot your change.” I turned around, and a man was coming toward me I had never seen before. He said, “So you’re the bitch that left Steve Garvey.” I don’t think it was right that I took the rap for the breakup of our marriage. I want my girls to see me stand up for myself, now. And then let it go.
I never suspected another person because Steve’s image is too important to him. It’s been honed and crafted, and I bought the package. There could never be another person because he is just Mr. America, isn’t he? But the Steve I fell in love with is no longer there. Steve Garvey, the image, is alive and well. In this country a folk hero almost has to become an ax murderer to fall from his pedestal.
When I married Steve, I noticed right away that he really loved the fame and the adulation, and I was happy for him. But I remember Steve would mark his calendar, and I would say, “This event’s not necessary. Let’s stay home.” But I knew he didn’t want to. After a time, I just didn’t ask him anymore. I blame myself for not telling him more often that taking total responsibility for our home life was becoming overwhelming. I created this home he would come in and out of. I wanted to. I thought he wanted that too. But he’s not a man who loves his home. Over the years, as I watched Steve rise, I watched him pull away from me. It was easier to accept that I was not loved anymore than to accept that I was set up to be forced out.
Steve is not a very demonstrative man—so it was subtle as it was happening. I was desperately trying to figure out what was going on. And he was mute. But I loved him. That’s the other part—I loved him. Finally the pain got so bad I left Los Angeles. When we separated, I thought he just didn’t love me anymore. After I learned what was going on, when I came back to California, I was devastated. The puzzle pieces came together, everything I had tried to figure out all those years.
I had professional help to get through all this. I went to private therapy for seven or eight months in 1982. And it’s imperative that people get counseling. I certainly needed help to talk it out. It got me through the feeling that I should have done more—what more could I have done? You automatically compare yourself to the other person. I wouldn’t know her if she walked by me today. I don’t make it a point to call, but last I heard, they were living together.
As for my children, the separation and divorce are kind of cloudy to them. They were 5 and 6 when it happened. They’ve watched me cry. I don’t pull any punches, but I don’t give them the gory details. Steve Garvey is not part of our daily life. His name does not come up. I don’t call him in times of crisis. He is not around. But when we were married, he was not around either.
Today it makes me sad sometimes when I see people married and sharing. I think, “That’s what it was supposed to be. That’s what it’s about.”