August 17, 1992 12:00 PM

BACKSTAGE AT THE THIERRY MUGLER fashion show in Paris last month, celebrity model Jerry Hall was losing her Texas cool. Girls nearly hall her 36 years were shooting her odd looks and whispering. Did you hear? Carla and Mick! one could almost hear them saying. With each sideways glance, said a close friend, the 6′ beauty grew increasingly flustered: “She felt humiliated.” By the time a reporter from London’s Daily Mail began asking questions about her marriage to Rolling Stone Mick Jagger—reportedly floundering because of 49-year-old Mick’s obsession with 23-year-old Italian mannequin Carla Bruni, who just happened to be sitting in the Mugler audience—Hall’s reserve shattered. “How did you find out about me and Mick?” she blurted.

And so blew the cover on the alleged love triangle that has left Brits titillated for months, has left Jerry distraught, Mick Jagger fuming, Carla Bruni—who says she hardly knows Jagger—baffled, and Mick’s mum, for one, wishing everyone would simply pipe down. “We’ve had the phones unplugged because of all this,” says a beleaguered Eva Jagger, 78, from her home in Westgate. “It’s disturbing. But we’ve just got to sit it out for the moment, I think, and say nothing.”

Sorry, Mom, not a chance. Indeed, after a lifetime of raucous rebellion, Mick is, ironically, the only one listening to his mother. “My family is very important to me, and I care about them very much,” he said through a spokesperson from Los Angeles, where he was working on a solo album. “However, they must remain a private affair.” For her part, Hall reportedly gathered their children—Elizabeth Scarlett, 8, James, 6, and 7-month-old Georgia May Ayeesha—and fled to the 17th-century Château de la Fourchette, the family’s 10-bedroom hideaway about 100 miles south of Paris—but not before pouring out her clearly overflowing heart to the Daily Mail. “I can confirm that Mick and I are separated, and I suppose we’ll get a divorce,” she said. “I’m in too much pain for this to go on any longer.”

The primary source of the pain, Carla Bruni, the daughter of a Turin multimillionaire tire manufacturer and a former girlfriend of rocker Eric Clapton’s, is the same siren blamed a year ago for coming between Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again fiancée, Maria Maples (PEOPLE, July 8, 1991). Now, as then, Bruni adamantly denies she is poaching. “I hardly know this man, she told the press of Jagger. “I’m fed up with these rumors.” But fashion insiders snicker at her protestations. “Everybody in the business has known about it,” comments a booker at a Paris model agency.

“I felt sick when I realized Mick was still seeing Carla,” said Hall. “I was determined to fight this and support Mick.” But nothing, she added, was working. Not ultimatums to her husband. Not threats to Bruni. Not visits to a marriage counselor. “Mick,” she has concluded, “is never going to change.”

It is a reality that took Mesquite-born Hall 15 years—and 15 minutes—to understand. When she met Jagger backstage at a 1976 Stones concert in London, “His life was like a railway station, with women constantly coining and going.” Hall wrote in her 1984 autobiography, Tall Tales. “No woman in her right mind would he willing to put up with dial sort of hassle.”

But Hall, it seems, was temporarily unhinged. Thai Jagger was a husband and lather when she met him—he married Bianca Perez Morena de Macias in 1971, and their daughter. Jade, was born five months later—mattered not one bit. “He pressed his knee next to mine, and I could feel the electricity,” she recalled. Nor did if matter that she was engaged to Jagger’s pal, musician Bryan Kerry. By spring Hall’s wedding plans and Jagger’s vows had been broken—despite her better sense. “Micks just a playboy,” she told herself even then, “this lasts a year, it’s a miracle.”

It was only a slight exaggeration. “Every time I left town on a modeling job, he’d be in the papers with this girl or that girl,” wrote Hall of their first half year together. “Whenever I got home I’d find things from other girls, such as earrings, next to our bed. It was so seedy.” For years Jagger flaunted his flings and Hall fumed and fussed—but at days end climbed back in bed with him. “Jerry wanted to marry Mick so badly,” said one old friend, “that she used to travel everywhere with an orange blossom and a plastic ring in her suitcase.”

Hall was determined—and she seemed to have a plan: jealousy. A short but highly publicized fling with millionaire horseman Robert Sangster in 1982 apparently rattled the rocker; about a year later he agreed to start a family, By 1989 the had two children, and Hall had a diamond on her finger—but still No Satisfaction. “He says he wants to many me, but every time we talk about setting a date he gels this sort of sick look on his face,” she lamented.

Two more affairs—Jerry’s flirtations with Lord James Neidpath and Count Adam Zamoyski filled gossip columns in 1988—-seemed to do the trick. On Nov. 21, 1990, Mick and Jerry flew to Bali, donned matching sarongs and exchanged Hindu wedding vows. “We had the children, did the honeymoon, then got married,” said a triumphant Hall at the time. “It was all the wrong way around. But I think everyone is thrilled that we’ve finally gone of I and done it.”

When, last year, the newly married—and once again expectant—couple settled into a $4.5 million Georgian mansion, Downe House, in the London suburb of Richmond. Hall saw it as a statement of commitment. But to Jagger it apparently felt more like entrapment. On Jan. 13, the day after Jerry gave birth to Georgia, Mick took off on a trip to Thailand. According to a story in the March 1, 1992, Sunday Mirror. Jagger booked himself and a young woman (who arrived separately) into the swank Amanpuri Hotel in Phuket—a regular celebrity stopover. There, the Mirror said, Mick and the woman—later identified as Bruni—shared a suite, and one night slipped out to a back-street bar, where they “drank beer and hugged and kissed on the lip.”

Bruni denies she was ever in Thailand—with Jagger or anybody else. And publicly, Hall too dismissed the Mirror piece as one more bit of silly gossip. Privately, though, Hall’s friends told her that Mick was obsessed with Carla, that Carla was calling Mick “her boyfriend.” Finally, Hall has confessed, she decided to telephone Bruni: “I told her to leave my man alone.” Bruni denies the call took place.

Yet Mick’s pals suggest that, in the end, the split is not about Carla, nor, for that matter about Jerry, but about Jagger’s delicate ego. As Stones guitarist Keith Richards once put it, “He has a Peter Pan complex.” Said another buddy: “You should see how cross he gets when people chide him about being a grandfather,” referring to Jade’s new daughter, Assisi, born July 2. Seeing his aging rocker pals on the arms of beautiful young women—Rod Stewart, 47, with his new wife, 22-year-old model Rachel Hunter, for instance—just makes it worse. “There is no doubt that he loves Jerry and that she loves him,” said one friend, “but he has an insatiable desire for dabbling with other women—especially striking blondes under 25.” Concludes a long-time Jagger associate of Jerry’s angry outburst: “Mick had it coming.”

What exactly “it will come to is anybody’s guess. If Hall is serious about leaving Mick—she has cried wolf at least twice before—she and Jagger will likely enter a postmatrimony maze that will have divorce attorneys rubbing their hands. Jagger, famed for his frugality (Bianca Jagger called him “a penny-pinching Scrooge” after extracting a reported $1 million plus settlement) has reportedly told friends Hall is in for a fight—and maybe a few surprises. Problem No. 1: Hall reportedly signed a prenuptial agreement which, while leaving her children a fortune upon Jagger’s death, gives her not one penny of his estimated $150 million upon divorce. Problem No. 2: She might not be married to Mick at all. The couple failed to provide Balinese officials with necessary documentation. “As far as we are concerned.” said Bali’s marriage registrar, Widjanya Idabagus, “this was not a legal wedding.

For the moment, life for both Jagger and Hall goes on. The day after Jerry’s outburst, an unidentified blond woman in dark glasses ducked into the Hollywood Hills home Mick was staying in. Was it the same young woman—not Bruni but yet another model—seen in past weeks flitting in and out of Los Angeles nightclubs on Jagger’s arm? At this point, Jerry, for one, has more pressing concerns. “At the end of the day, you have to carry on with your life,” she said. “I am the mother of three children, and they need me.”



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