By Margot Dougherty
May 09, 1988 12:00 PM

The party didn’t lack for name guests. Jack Nicholson was there. So were Michael Douglas, Oprah Winfrey, Martina Navratilova and Bruce Willis. But most eyes were on the host, Don Johnson, and the lady he had just met, Barbra Streisand. “They hit it off right away,” says a witness to that first encounter. The place was Johnson’s rented home in Red Mountain, near Aspen; the time was Christmas week, and perhaps both host and guest were in a giving mood. Streisand had broken up with ice-cream heir Richard Baskin and had been going solo to several L.A. parties during the fall. Johnson, who had had no loss of dates since breaking up with longtime spouse-equivalent Patti D’Arbanville, had recently been sighted with young model Lara Pole. But when the principals met that night in Aspen, the heat between them could have put the ski season in serious jeopardy. Babs gave her holiday party a week later at her rented Aspen house—and invited Don. Separated only by work commitments since then, the ice queen and the Wee king have stayed together over the ensuing months, and perhaps not since Liz and Dick has any couple inspired more fascination.

There was also, at first, more than a little disbelief. Even Streisand’s press agent, PR czar Lee Solters, was boggled by the pairing. “When I first heard about it,” he recalls, “I said, ‘What?!” After all, Babs and Donny, whatever their other qualities, possess two of the biggest egos this side of Frank Sinatra. The princess, 46, has a reputation for being as hard as her well-tended nails. The prince, 38, is as stubborn as he is stubbly.

Despite all that, it seems to be a romance with legs. The couple made their official public debut at the Tyson-Holmes bout in January, holding hands for all the HBO cameras to see. Shortly after, Streisand invited Johnson to her Malibu home for a dinner of spaghetti with lobster and garlic sauce, prepared by her Korean chef. Don stayed about four hours and left around midnight. Very respectable. Their itinerary since then has included a Lakers-Sonics game at the L.A. Forum, a movie industry awards ceremony at Bally’s Las Vegas and a lot of time in Aspen. Favorite eating spots there: Abetone’s, Gordon’s and Pinion’s. Favorite activities: skiing (he’s accomplished, she struggles on the bunny slopes of Buttermilk Mountain) and just lounging around the two-story, red-clapboard, million-dollar home he recently purchased in the Woody Creek section near town.

What’s the attraction? First off, take into account Streisand’s penchant for falling head over heels. “Some women do everything for their man, and Barbra is one of them,” says a close friend of hers. “She goes completely gaga when she falls in love.” (A few cases in point: actor Elliott Gould, Canadian politico Pierre Trudeau, producer Jon Peters and Baskin.) Which is not to discount Don Juanson’s particular appeal. “When Don wants to turn on the charm, all he has to do is look at you,” says a Johnson friend. “He never has to say a word to women to lead them on. Underneath all her glitz, Barbra is still the ugly girl that everybody shunned when she was a kid.”

As for Johnson, he likes strong women (cases in point: D’Arbanville and actress Melanie Griffith), and he has certainly found one in Babs. “They may seem like an odd couple,’ says a source from the Johnson camp, “but Don is totally in awe of Streisand.” Word from the Miami Vice set tends to confirm this. Johnson was reportedly “gooey-eyed” when Streisand paid a visit in March.

The relationship has already had a palpable effect on Babs, who has shed some of her characteristic chariness. “She’s very suspicious,” says a friend. “She trusts only a few people. Her son [Jason, 21, by Gould] is the same way. He’s likely to say things like, ‘You only like me because I’m Barbra Streisand’s son.’ But Don is helping her get over that. They’re probably the best thing that has ever happened to each other.”

The cynical suggest that Johnson is gaining some heavy Hollywood connections through the relationship. With the future of Miami Vice in doubt, Johnson (who’s now filming a cop thriller, Dead Bang) is casting an eager eye on a movie career. Just as Streisand helped turn erstwhile hairdresser Peters into a film producer, says one insider, “she’s now swinging professional doors wide open for Johnson. Maybe she thinks that’s the way to keep them steady and faithful.”

Of course, if that’s her goal, she could always marry her goy boy toy (as Bloom County cartoonist Berke Breathed refers to Johnson). Rumors of a wedding have surfaced and been deep-sixed by publicist Solters only to resurface again recently. Two sources say Streisand is pressuring Johnson for a late-summer ceremony but that Johnson is “a little nervous.” A friend of Streisand’s, however, doesn’t think it will happen. “Why should it?” she asks. “Barbra’s worth too much money. Besides, why would she need it? She has the man anyway.” So whether Streisand keeps Johnson under contract remains to be seen. For now, as Solters puts it, “Barbra is having a ball and she’s happy.”

Carrie Leigh carved her niche in history on Feb. 11 this year by filing the first palimony suit ($35 million) ever brought against the granddaddy of playboys, Hugh Hefner, 62. That she has since dropped the suit (all she wants now from Hef is the return of her cat, Pug) is a tribute to the passing of time and the power of love. Yes, Leigh, 24, Hefner’s hutchmate of choice for five years, has found her significant other in New York antiques dealer Cory Margolis, 28, and what a sweet story their romance makes.

They were brought together in mid January by a mutual friend, Screw magazine publisher and world-class vulgarian Al Goldstein. In from L.A., Carrie was going to attend Goldstein’s birthday party. Al asked Cory to escort her. “I’d set Al up with a girl I work with, and he was trying to repay the favor,” says Margolis. “He said I couldn’t pursue Carrie because she was still living with Hef, but I’m the sort of person who wants what I can’t have.”

In Leigh, however, Margolis found a Bunny ready to bolt. Angry over Hefner’s ministrations to Jessica Hahn, she was already planning to exit the Playboy mansion and leave Hef in a huff. “I was having very rough times with Hef at the time,” says Leigh. When she met Margolis, she says, “it was love at first sight, I think.”

Margolis was likewise smitten. He wasn’t fazed by who, or what, she was—”I’ve dated a lot of models and party girls,” he says—and he found one thing about Leigh especially fascinating: “I have an image of all the Bunnies with lots of hair, but her hair was extremely short. I thought that was intriguing.”

During the next few months Leigh shuttled back and forth between New York and L.A., meeting with her attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, in the latter venue and holding daily seven-hour phone chats with Margolis while there. “All through the lawsuit I was by her side,” says Cory. “We thought if two people could stand such pressure, then we were meant for each other.”

Leigh agrees. Litigation, in her view, is a wonderful preparation for marriage. “Because of the palimony case I had to be very honest with Cory,” she says. “I think most relationships don’t start out that way. Most of the time it starts out as infatuation, and after that wears off, you see a different person. But Cory’s seen me at my worst.”

And liked it. The two were wed last month at his Greenwich Village loft, where they now live. The Unitarian ceremony was attended by 22 people, including Margolis’ folks, who traveled from Brockton, Mass. There were a few absences. Leigh’s parents, who couldn’t make the last-minute affair, stayed in Toronto. And there wasn’t even a congratulatory note from Hefner. “You’d think he would have it in his heart to send a wedding gift,” says Leigh plaintively. “But that’s all right.”

It doesn’t much matter what the city or season, wherever Michael J. Fox is these days, the Pollan count is high. Having been tight-lipped about his paparazzi-documented pairings with the likes of model Dana Brockman and actresses Helen Slater, Nancy McKeon and Jennifer Grey, Fox is making no secret of his latest amorous success. “Tracy, I love you!” he crowed on receiving his best-actor Emmy last fall for Family Ties.

That is, of course, Tracy Pollan, 27, he’s talking about, also known as Ellen, his artist girlfriend from Family Ties, the actress he once affectionately described as a “fish out of water” and a “good egg.” Last spring, when Fox, 26, heard that Tracy had fled the nest of her live-in love of five years, Kevin (She’s Having a Baby) Bacon, he asked her—casually, mind you—out on a date. “I knew I could have a drink with her now and not feel guilty anymore,” he said at the time.

The quintessentially cute couple (currently co-starring in Bright Lights, Big City) have been an item ever since, commuting together from L.A., where he’s based, New York, where she lives, and Vermont, where they’ve just purchased a 100-acre homestead. Fox is currently wrapping Casualties of Warm Thailand with Sean Penn before donning smart Alex Keaton’s tweed jacket for the next TV season. Despite his denial, rumors persist that this summer Fox will gather himself to his full 5’4″ and carry Pollan, two inches his superior, over the threshold. Time is running out. Just a year ago he gave that rumor some force with a prediction. “No long courtships for me,” he said. “It will be boom! and I’ll be married.”

Soon after Tracy Pollan took up with her once and future co-star Fox, Kevin Bacon’s heart strings were twanging over one of his co-stars, Kyra Sedgwick. Sedgwick, a cousin of the infamous Warhol model Edie, played a drug-loving waif intent on marrying rich in Lemon Sky, a PBS teleplay starring Bacon that aired in February. Come late summer, Kevin, 29, and Kyra, 24, will throw a wedding for immediate families only. Meanwhile the two, who have been engaged since Christmas Eve, are spending their time down on the 22-acre Connecticut farm Bacon once shared with Pollan.

They don’t call it the Fox lot for nothing. Corbin Bernsen does his L.A. Law filming at the 20th Century Fox studio. Before her show was canceled, Amanda Pays shot Max Headroom on a nearby soundstage. It was that simple fact of proximity that (after an initial meeting in a nightclub) kept Pays in Bernsen’s scope. The relationship has been as solid as a gavel block since the fall, but wedding bells aren’t ringing yet. Pays, 28, is still married to her estranged husband, production manager Peter Kohn. “Amanda has to be divorced before we can get on with our lives,” says Bernsen, 33, whose legal know-how knows no bounds.

Figure-skating champ Debi Thomas, 21, may have watched the Olympic gold medal slip through her fingers in Calgary last February, but on March 15 a college classmate made good on the loss. In a secret ceremony at the Boulder County Courthouse, Brian Vanden Hogen celebrated his 23rd birthday by sliding a diamond-crusted ring onto the bronze-medal winner’s ring finger.

The two met last fall at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where Debi (a San Jose, Calif., native) took pre-med courses while training and where Brian (a De Pere, Wis., native) studies kinesiology. That means he examines human motion, and he liked her moves. Meeting her, Vanden Hogen said, “was like finding my soul mate.” Thomas, whose hunger for attainment is surpassed only by her appetite for pizza, usually grabs for what she wants. When she decided Vanden Hogen belonged in her long-range program, and when he failed to propose, she reportedly choreographed the next step and popped the question herself.

The pair had tried to keep the wedding quiet, said Vanden Hogen, “because we wanted something that was just ours.” It didn’t work. During the World Championships in Budapest two weeks later, Thomas discovered that word had somehow leaked out. As in the Olympics, she came in third, Canadian Elizabeth Manley placed second and East German Katarina Witt finished first. As the three were standing on the winners’ platform during the awards ceremony, Manley whispered to Thomas, “Congratulations on your marriage.” Raising her eyebrows, Witt said, “A wedding? When?” If her competitors would like to attend, Thomas will be restaging her nuptials this summer in Boulder.

Diane Sawyer, the new anchor in Mike Nichols’ life—following his divorce from wife number three Annabel—was scheduled to become a bride herself for the first time last week. Preparations for the fast-breaking event were hushed, but Nichols, 56, director of Silkwood and Biloxi Blues as well as such Broadway shows as The Real Thing and Social Security, had been introducing Sawyer as “my fiancée” for the last several weeks. Initial plans for a quiet ceremony on Martha’s Vineyard were scrapped when word leaked out. During her 10-year alliance with investment banker Dick Holbrooke, the ever-stunning Sawyer, 42, was persistently plagued with questions about why they didn’t marry. “When a woman in a hot position like Diane has been single, she experiences a lot of strain,” says a friend. “There’s still an awful lot of pressure for a woman to be married.” Life with Nichols should buy 60 Minutes’ million-dollar correspondent her fair share of social security.

Lasting only a year, Chrissie Evert’s courting period is over. Following the end of her eight-year marriage to tennis player John Lloyd, Evert is set to tie the knot with ’76 Olympic skier Andy Mill, 35. Ever since her first love match with Jimmy Connors—they whisked away his-and-hers Wimbledon championships in 1974—fans have wondered when the champ would loosen up on her two-fisted backhand long enough to get into the motherhood racket. Though a London tabloid claimed she was preggers, Chrissie, 33, denied the rumors. The wedding, however, doesn’t take place until July 30. She has plenty of time to buy a maternity dress, just in case.

In the event that love doesn’t spring eternal, it’s a comfort to know that it can at least spring repeatedly. When actors Jane Powell, 59, and Dickie Moore, 62, tie the knot in two weeks, they’ll be veteran newlyweds. Powell, who was ordered to pay a year’s worth of alimony to her last husband, has five marriages and three children to her credit. Moore, the child star of the ’30s who gave Shirley Temple her first screen kiss, has two children, two grandchildren and two ex-wives. Practice makes perfect, they say. Powell, who lives in New York and Wilton, Conn., with Moore, feels more secure this time around and “has more of a sense of self,” she says. “There’s no urgency.” Call it star-crossed predestination—or the result of living together for the past six years—but her intended feels “frankly, as if we’ve been married a very long time.”

Moore, who owns a public relations firm, and Powell were both baby-faced celebrities during the Hollywood studio contract era. Moore made the first of his 100-plus films, which include Oliver Twist and Sergeant York, at age 11 months. But the two met only seven years ago, while he was researching his book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car), based on a series of interviews with other child actors.

When he met the diminutive singing and dancing star of Royal Wedding and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Moore was “struck by how very tiny and exquisite and elegant and vulnerable and honest and very, very nice she was.” Guess he liked her.

Their lunch date a week later progressed to dinner and then dancing. “I was just getting over a divorce and so was he,” says Powell. “I wasn’t looking for any romance at all.” The twinkle having long since returned to her eyes, she and Moore will be married at a friend’s house in New Canaan, Conn., on May 21. “We just think it’s time,” says Dickie. “And our friends want to go to a party.” There are worse reasons.

—By Margot Dougherty, with reporting from the Chicago, Denver, London, Los Angeles and New York bureaus