April 11, 1994 12:00 PM

THERE WAS NO MOON. IT WASN’T June. Nor did the prospective bridegroom drop to one knee to propose marriage. In fact, virtually all the traditional romantic components were conspicuously absent in a shadowy back alley near Hollywood Boulevard shortly after 2 a.m. on March 20.

Nevertheless, that was where and when 19-year-old Drew Barrymore, acting on an impulse, informed her boyfriend of six weeks, Welsh-born Jeremy Thomas, 31, a Los Angeles bar owner, that she wanted to pledge her celebrated, thrill-packed and occasionally troubled life to him—forever.

“That’s wonderful,” Thomas said, beaming. “When?”

“Now,” said Drew, squeezing him tight. “Let’s do it right now.”

And so it was, at shortly after 5 a.m., that the couple were married in a ceremony that looked not at all like something from Father of the Bride but very much like a sweetly wacky outtake from Reality Bites. How L.A. was this wedding? Well, it took place in Thomas’s dimly lit bar, the Room, on Cahuenga Boulevard. And the presiding official was a minister-psychic-private detective who arrived with her English bulldog, Jimmy. “He snarled at everybody,” recalls an amused Thomas. “Then he took a pee in the corner. It was quite surreal.”

Which, given Barrymore’s tumultuous track record, seemed somehow…right. The precocious child star of E. T. at 7, Barrymore was a seasoned substance abuser at 12 and well-publicized rehab survivor by 14. Much has been written about the family legacy that she carries as the granddaughter of John Barrymore, one of the most acclaimed, tormented—and inebriated—actors of the early 20th century.

In recent times Drew Barrymore has been working steadily, playing the title role in ABC’s The Amy Fisher Story, costarring (with Andie MacDowell, Madeleine Stowe and Mary Stuart Masterson) in the about-to-be-released Bad Girls and serving as the sultry poster girl for Guess? jeans. But Barrymore’s private life didn’t lack drama. In the past year and a half, she has endured a painful split with a fiancé (actor James Walters from The Heights) and is currently estranged from her mother, Jaid. “I think both of us needed some distance so we could figure out who we were,” says Drew. (She has never had more than sporadic contact with her father, the reclusive onetime actor John Drew Barrymore.)

The night was momentous for another reason. Although Barrymore no longer works a strict 12-step program, she has steered clear of drugs and alcohol—until the champagne toast at the wedding. “I know people will think I’ve slipped, that they will pass judgment and won’t understand,” the actress says. “But I’ve never been more in control of my life than I am now.”

Barrymore insists that she was completely sober when she got the idea for what she calls her “truly insane but amazingly, absolutely wonderful” wedding. It’s a good thing, too, because she had a lot to figure out, such as “at, like, three in the morning, where in the world were we going to get someone to marry us?” Luckily, Thomas’s friends came to their rescue. The Room’s employees, bartenders Ginny Johnson and Heide Blose, left in a mad scramble for a dress, flowers and wedding cake. Thomas’s pal Hilton Goring opened the Los Angeles Yellow Pages, found a listing for a 24-hour wedding hot line and dialed 1-800-I MARRY U. Luckily, Patricia Vander Weken, the clairvoyant-minister-private detective on duty, had not yet left for her scheduled shift on a psychic hot line. “She said she’d be there in half an hour,” says Thomas.

As candles were lit in the bar, Vander Weken went upstairs, where the bride-to-be was changing from combat boots, Levi’s and a T-shirt into a satin cream-colored slip dress (borrowed from Johnson) that was sheer enough to allow the new butterfly tattoo on her stomach to show through. “[Vander Weken] had me sign the license,” says Drew. “Then she gave me a pamphlet on childbearing. That’s when I almost fainted.”

Barrymore kept her composure, though, and just as the sun was rising over L.A., the bride and groom traded vows in the red-carpeted room while a moody song, “Billy’s Dead” by the English band the Fall, blasted on the bar’s sound system. “They were locked in each other’s eves,” says Thomas’s friend Ashley Joyce. “It was touching. I was choked up myself.”

The ceremony included a brief commentary’ by the dial-a-minister on the couple’s “unique commitment,” as well as a traditional Native American blessing: “Now the two of you will feel no wind, for you shall be shelter for each other.” Then the two donned rings—hers a diamond in a platinum setting that belonged to Thomas’s mother and grandmother, his three intertwined bands that he simply switched from his right hand to his left. “The whole thing was spur of the moment,” adds Johnson. “But it couldn’t have been more perfect.”

What most impressed Barrymore, the actress says, is that just before her departure, Vander Weken took the couple aside, grasped their hands and said, “You have definitely known each other in a previous life.”

“Normally I would’ve figured she said that to everyone,” says Drew. “But she had this look on her face and said it with such passion that I was like, ‘Wow, thank you.’ Because that’s exactly how I feel. Everything about us is like fate.”

Her life has certainly taken a turn since she started dating Thomas. In the current issue of Movie line magazine, Barrymore speaks bitterly about her breakup with Walters after a yearlong live-in relationship—and goes on to say that she seldom dales anymore. “I’m the ultimate cynic now,” she says. “Love sucks.”

But on Feb. 12, the planets apparently aligned. On a visit to a friend’s house, Thomas, who had not been dating much himself, confided that he was ready to meet a girl. “My friend said, ‘Okay, she’s going to be wearing purple and her name will begin with a D,’ ” recalls Thomas. A half hour later Drew, just back from New York City (where she had been shooting Boys on the Side, with co-stars Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker) also slopped by—in a purple T-shirt. Though the two had met briefly two years before at the infamous Beverly Hills, 90210 hangout, Roxbury (“something that we’re embarrassed to admit even to each other,” says Drew), this time there was more chemistry. “Both of us were hungry,” says Drew. “So I said, “Come over to my house and I’ll cook you pasta.’ And I think that was the last talking we did that night.”

Friends of both say that Thomas may be just the man to help anchor her tumultuous life, and perhaps end what one acquaintance calls Drew’s ongoing search for family. “Jeremy is a very down-to-earth, ordinary guy,” says Joyce. “Real stable, sincere. The kind of guy you’d want as your best friend.”

The son of a salesman who died when he was 5, Thomas at 16 enlisted for a four-year hitch in the Welsh merchant navy and earned an engineering degree from Alltyryn College in Newport, South Wales. He was working for a defense contractor in London when his stepfather died of cancer eight years ago. “His death changed my focus on life,” says Thomas, recalling a need to expand his horizons. “I could see the way everything was going to play out for me.”

Shortly thereafter, he left with a friend for New York City. “We drove around a while until I ended up in L.A. with no money,” he says. But after four years of tending bar, working odd jobs and saving, Thomas had enough cash to go into partnership with three friends on the Burgundy Room. Last year he and a partner opened a second bar, the Room, across the street. His pals are quick to point out that Thomas is no hell-raiser and that the atmosphere at both his establishments is more Cheers than Viper Room, the Sunset Strip haunt where River Phoenix died last fall of a drug overdose. “Jeremy’s a real solid, regular guy, and his friends are like that too,” says Joyce. “They’re a great couple.”

So they seemed on the Room’s rooftop, where they retired after their wedding for strawberry cheesecake and the champagne toast that Drew took part in. “I wanted to have a sip of champagne at my wedding, and that’s what I had,” she says.

Barrymore, who works out almost daily and has periodic conversations with her former drug counselor, doesn’t think anyone should worry about her going off the deep end. “Everybody goes through a period of trying to find themselves,” she says. “Mine happened to be very public. But I’m not sorry about what happened. Because of it, I was able to acquire the tools I need to live a healthy life.” Except for that evening at Roxbury, she has not been in a nightclub, she insists, since her meeting with Thomas two years ago. “I may not be perfect, but I’m dedicated to feeling good.”

Barrymore says that her decision not to communicate with her mother for the time being—they’ve been out of touch for a year now—is something she did for her own emotional health, “although now we haven’t spoken for so long it’s kind of awkward for both of us.” And of the wedding? “I’m sure she’ll find out about it,” says Drew, with a slight quaver in her voice. “I hope she’s happy.”

Most of the time, anyway, the new bride seems to be. Hours after the ceremony, Barrymore hopped on a plane to Tucson for two days’ shooting on the Boys on the Side set—where news of the nuptials quickly spread. Whoopi’s initial reaction, says Drew, was “Oh, my God, girl! You did what?!” But mostly there were congratulations, “and all day long people called me Mrs. Thomas.”

With a honeymoon postponed until the summer, the couple’s biggest concern for now is where they will set up housekeeping. Drew rents a two-bedroom, 1920s Spanish-style house overlooking the San Fernando Valley; Jeremy has a smaller house several miles away in Hollywood. They have never cohabited. So far, the only item of Thomas’s at Drew’s is a toothbrush. “We’re trying to figure [living arrangements] out now,” she says. “It’s kind of cool. Usually people live together first and then get married. I guess we’re doing it the old-fashioned way. Kind of.”

In the meantime, they had more pressing plans. Six days after the wedding, they climbed into Drew’s black truck and drove up the coast to Santa Barbara. “We’re going to disappear inside a romantic little bungalow,” said Drew. “I can’t wait to walk along the beach with my husband. Can you believe that? My husband. Wow!”


TODD GOLD in Los Angeles

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