At first glance, the cards would seem heavily stacked against them. He’s the body-conscious Saturday Night Fever stud who once confessed that monogamy was not really his style. She’s the Twins starlet who has moved out of a triplet of serious relationships (one marriage, two almosts) over the past three years. Yet on New Year’s Eve, John Travolta, 36, and Kelly Preston, 28, were cozying up together inside the Palace Hotel restaurant in Gstaad, Switzerland, blissfully oblivious to the chilly weather outside. As the last few seconds of the old year slipped away, Travolta suddenly seized the moment. Undaunted by the presence of nearby revelers, he pulled out a six-carat diamond ring and asked, “Kelly, will you marry me?”
Though an engagement had been rumored for months, even the couple’s closest friends hadn’t seen it coming. While the two have been friends since co-starring in 1989’s amateurish movie The Experts, they started dating only last summer, while both were working in Vancouver. He was making Look Who’s Talking Too (see review, page 21), and she was filming the upcoming thriller Run. “I had no idea he would propose,” says Talking producer Jonathan Krane, who, with wife Sally Kellerman, was sharing a table with the couple that evening. According to Krane, even Preston was surprised. When Travolta popped the question, says Krane, “she screamed.”
Not that Preston—who quickly accepted Travolta’s bid for her hand—should be startled by marriage, engagements or big, expensive rings. In 1985 she married her SpaceCamp co-star Kevin Gage, but that union lasted only two years. Soon after, she began playing house with George (Roseanne) Clooney. Maybe it was his notion of romance—for her 26th birthday, George gave her a black pig named Max—but within a year Kelly declared the relationship kaput.
In place of Max (George kept custody), Preston soon found a 25-carat, $200,000 diamond engagement ring weighing down her finger in April 1989, courtesy of actor Charlie Sheen. The early momentum, though, carried the couple for only a year. When they split in April 1990, Sheen hoped to reclaim the ring, but Preston kept it firmly on her hand.
If Kelly was looking for love in all the wrong places, her new fiancé has an equally unconventional history. Travolta’s first serious romance—he was 23, she was 41—was with the late actress Diana (Eight Is Enough) Hyland, his co-star in the 1976 ABC movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. She died in his arms the following year, a victim of cancer. “I have never been more in love with anyone in my life,” he said afterward.
Since then Travolta has discreetly kept his sweethearts out of sight, except for Taxi star Marilu Henner, who was an off-and-on lover for many years after they met in 1972 (last year she married producer Robert Lieberman). Rumors also have linked him with Olivia Newton-John when they were partnered in 1978’s Grease and Debra Winger after they co-starred in 1980’s Urban Cowboy. In the early ’80s he was spotted with Brooke Shields. Last May the National Enquirer made much of an alleged liaison with male porn star Paul Barresi, who claimed that Travolta picked him up in a health-club shower room in 1982. Barresi, who had a small part in Travolta’s flop Perfect in 1985, said their affair—which is denied by Travolta’s publicist—ended early that year.
When Travolta and Preston are together, however, such ancient histories are safely out of mind. “She’s a doll,” says Travolta’s sister, Ellen. “Everyone in the family is thrilled.” Though no wedding date has been set, Krane predicts the couple will exchange vows soon, before either begins a new project. Also to be decided is their place of residence: Travolta owns a home in Daytona, Fla.; Preston lives in L.A.
Oh, one more unanswered question: Can Charlie Sheen get that ring back now?
—Jeannie Park, Vicki Sheff in Los Angeles