August 01, 1994 12:00 PM

CALL IT THE WAR OF THE ROSIES. When the former Roseanne Arnold (now known, at her request, as just plain Roseanne) filed her 250-page divorce action against estranged husband Tom Arnold on July 13, it read more like a trashy novel than a legal document. And if future installments hold to form, Arnold v. Arnold could make Burt vs. Loni look like a mere back-alley catfight.

At issue, according to the court papers, are some $25 million worth of assets—and liabilities of almost equal value. All are in dispute under California’s community-property laws (which call for an automatic 50-50 split) because when the star of ABC’s perennial hit sitcom Roseanne (her estimated per-episode fee: $250,000) married Arnold in January 1990, she ignored the qualms of friends and lawyers and did not demand a prenuptial agreement. “Roseanne trusted him,” says a longtime pal, “so she listened to Tom and fired her attorneys.”

Bad move, Roseanne. Now the warring parties are squaring off to battle over assets great and small. Heading the list is the couple’s $3 million five-bedroom, seven-bath Brentwood, Calif., estate, from which Tom, by court order, is presently barred. (He has been living in a condo two miles away and this week moves to singer Lionel Richie’s former home in Beverly Hills.) Tom is asking the court to grant him access to the gym and exercise equipment in the mansion’s guest house; Roseanne calls the request “outrageous” because, she says, Tom has “a major, fully equipped gym [at another home] in Iowa” and “another fully equipped gym in the condominium.”

Next comes the farm and the couple’s restaurant, the Big Food Diner, in Tom’s hometown of Eldon, Iowa, where, according to Roseanne, Tom’s family occupies most of the seven houses on the property. Total value: $5 million. Says Roseanne: “I no longer wish to feed, clothe and house unnecessary personnel, including [Tom’s] family members, which he put on various payrolls over my repeated objections.” (She also wants the return of her 1993 Best Actress Emmy, currently on display at the diner.) And there are 23 vehicles to be distributed, including a restored 1957 classic Chevrolet, a Bentley, two limos and several motorcycles, plus a 37-foot Sea Ray yacht.

In Tom’s counterclaim, his attorney, Manley Freid, has petitioned the court to grant Arnold $100,000 a month in alimony to subsidize the “extremely rich, opulent lifestyle” to which he had become accustomed. “[Roseanne] and I shopped at the finest department stores and specialty boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York and abroad,” Tom points out in court documents. “We also had our clothes made for special occasions by designers.” Oh, yes, about those clothes: Tom is seeking an additional $100,000 to replace his depleted wardrobe. “In April of this year,” he explains, “[Roseanne] and her employees…threw most of my wardrobe into the swimming pool, thereby destroying same.”

Both sides are gearing up for the next round, two hearings set for Aug. 25. Will Tom’s good notices as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sidekick in the smash True Lies (after two failed sitcoms, Tom and The Jackie Thomas Show) increase his per-picture asking price and work against him in court? Attorney Freid offers this caution: “The income has to be earned, not projected.” Roseanne, of course, has reason to hope that Tom hits it big. “I believe if [he] had a successful career,” she adds in her papers, “[he] may leave me alone.”

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