In the pricey boutiques and tree-lined streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea, that picture-perfect town on the West Coast 25 miles north of Big Sur, residents who tire of waiting for the great California megaquake may now brood upon a small seismic social shock—the suing of former Mayor Clint Eastwood, 58, by his frequent co-star and constant companion, Sondra Locke. According to the suit, filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles, Locke, 41, suffered “humiliation, mental anguish…severe emotional and physical distress and…mental and physical harm” during their 11-year relationship, including two abortions and a tubal ligation allegedly done at Eastwood’s request.
Carmelites, who never quite warmed up to Locke, had mixed reactions to the news. “It’s probably because he wouldn’t marry her,” says Jacque Booth, a saleswoman at I. Magnin in town. “No one can put you on the abortion table or make you get your tubes tied.” Nancy Gallik, another saleswoman at I. Magnin, doesn’t see it quite the same way. “We feel kind of close to Clint,” she says. “But there must have been a lot of hurt for her to speak out like that. When you go out with a man for 10 years, the hurt runs deep.”
The Locke-Eastwood romance began amid whispers of scandal in 1977, while Clint and Sondra were filming The Gauntlet. Soon afterward, Eastwood walked out on his wife, Maggie, after 25 years of marriage. At the time, Locke now claims, she and Eastwood entered into an unwritten agreement: She undertook wifely duties—tending to the household, seeing to the couple’s social activities and attending to “Eastwood’s personal needs,” as the court papers have it. An Oscar nominee for her supporting role in 1968’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Locke says that during her relationship with Eastwood she did not pursue her career independently and appeared only in Eastwood-controlled projects. In return, according to Locke, Eastwood frequently confirmed that what was his was hers, and that he would always provide for her.
The first indication that he’d changed his mind allegedly came in December, when, Locke claims, she and Eastwood argued and he told her to leave their Sun Valley vacation home. According to a Sun Valley-area woman who says she dated Eastwood earlier this year, the fight started because Clint wanted his son, Kyle, to live with them. Through a spokeswoman, Locke has denied this. Whatever the cause of the squabble, Locke says the couple have spent exactly two nights together since then. And rather than sit around and wait to be cast in another Eastwood movie, she began work as director of her second film, Impulse.
On April 10, court papers claim, Eastwood or someone working for him entered the house in Bel Air while Locke was working and removed many of her possessions, including all her clothes, and placed them in storage. The locks on the house were changed, and a guard was posted on the property to keep Locke out. Needless to say, this did not make her day. Notified of Eastwood’s actions by a letter delivered to the Impulse set, Locke says she fainted and was unable to continue working. Two weeks later she filed suit, seeking unspecified damages, title to two houses, and an equal division of property worth millions of dollars.
The papers have revealed some unexpected aspects of the Eastwood-Locke relationship. The two houses being contested are the place in Bel Air, which Locke had remodeled, and another on Crescent Heights Boulevard in Los Angeles, where Locke’s husband has lived. According to the papers, Eastwood purchased a home for Gordon Anderson, 41, a sculptor from Locke’s hometown of Shelbyville, Tenn., whom she had married in 1967. Eastwood apparently had small cause for jealousy, since Locke’s marriage, according to the suit, was never consummated. “Plaintiffs relationship was at all times known to Eastwood,” says the papers, “who accepted Anderson as plaintiffs surrogate brother and treated him as an extended family member.” An accurate reading, says Locke’s sister-in-law. “Gordon and Sondra have a different relationship,” says Teri Locke of Wartrace, Tenn., who is married to Sondra’s brother, Don. “Maybe not as romantic as some, but very compatible. They’ve always had that.”
And apparently still do. Neighbors say she has been staying at Anderson’s Crescent Heights home. Wherever she is, Eastwood, who may appear in court May 31, said in a terse statement that he was “deeply disappointed and saddened” by her charges. “It will soon come to light that these accusations are unfounded and without merit,” he said. “This matter will be dealt with in an appropriate legal arena.”
Eastwood has been in that arena before, notably when his wife, Maggie, separated from him 10 years ago and reportedly won a $25 million settlement. The mother of Eastwood’s two children, Alison, 16, and Kyle, 20, Maggie declines to comment about Clint’s current problems. Carmel residents, for the most part, are equally circumspect, though it is obvious that Eastwood is more popular around town than Locke. “She looks at you like she’s expecting you to ask for her autograph,” says a saleswoman at a local shoe store.
If Locke is seen as standoffish—her sister-in-law in Tennessee says she has seen Sondra only once in 22 years—some Carmelites suggest that Eastwood is anything but. “Clint’s not into being tied down,” says one. A longtime friend of Eastwood’s agrees. “I’m surprised he stayed with [Locke] as long as he did,” she says. “He’s never been faithful to the women in his life. But Clint has such a way with women, they never believe he’s unfaithful.” As for Locke’s contention that Eastwood encouraged her to have abortions, says the friend, “Clint adores the two children he has, and he wouldn’t want to upset them by having children by a woman to whom he’s not married. He may be a player, but in some ways he’s very straight arrow.”
Though the tabloids have linked Eastwood with Barbra Streisand and Locke with producer Howard (Heaven Can Wait) Koch Jr., it remains unclear who or what caused the rift. The split, however, seems irreparable. “I’m always appalled, just knocked out by disloyalty,” Eastwood once said. It seems unlikely he’ll forgive or forget.
—Joanne Kaufman, Elizabeth McNeil in Carmel, Jacqueline Savaiano in Sun Valley, and the L.A. Bureau