By Sue Reilly
April 14, 1980 12:00 PM

In a Vegas hotel room, Susan Anton, once the great hope of NBC President Fred Silverman and the grand passion of Sylvester Stallone, is popping corn on a hotplate. With the star is Sandra Horner, her traveling secretary and sister of Linda Horner, who is Sly’s secretary. The Horner connection is the last tenuous tie with a love that shook the tabloids. After nine months, the Italian Stallion and his Goldengirl broke up last February. “I didn’t want it to end,” says Susan, 29. “And I don’t want people to think that he’s cruel and that I’m devastated. He never did anything but love me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over loving him.”

Yet she’s trying. While Stallone films Hawks in New York—and seems to have resumed his Yo-Yo marriage with wife Sasha and their sons, Sage Moon-blood, 4, and Seth, 1—Anton has been singing of lost love on the cabaret circuit. She has just finished a two-week gig at the Sands Hotel. “I feel sorry for that girl,” a Minnesota fan exclaimed as Anton hugged a mike and crooned Smile (Though Your Heart Is Breaking). “She’s so young and pretty to feel so much.”

Susan and Sly were introduced at Studio 54 where she had gone with a girlfriend. The next day the pair found themselves on the same flight to Los Angeles. They talked the whole way, and a few weeks later Anton moved into his Malibu beach house. “He wanted so much for me,” sighs Susan. “He was the one who coped. I was sheltered. People think of Sly as demanding. I never saw that side of him,” she continues. “I just remember him refilling the humidifier when I had a throat infection and writing me cheery notes on my Mickey Mouse note pad.”

Nevertheless, there were rocky times, too. “I couldn’t approve of his going off for long periods and fooling around with others. I’m not like that,” she says. “It didn’t turn out to be a dream relationship. But in every dream you have to wake up. And if you wake up screaming, what can you do?” Part of the problem was pressure from their spouses. Susan split from her husband, agent Jack Stein, after meeting Stallone. “Jack was hurt and worried,” she says. Sasha, who had been left before when Stallone took up with his Paradise Alley co-star Joyce Ingalls, was practical this time. She suggested what she called a “friendly” $5 million pre-divorce settlement. Sasha even took an interest in her rival. “She’d suggest things through Sly, like songs I might be interested in for my act,” remembers Anton.

Susan’s sagging career needed the boost at that point. Stallone had sought to help by accompanying her for six weeks of club gigs. “But our greatest contribution to each other was cosmetic,” she reflects now. “I suggested he lose weight and grow a beard. He suggested that I wear bangs.”

The daughter of a detective in Yucaipa, Calif., Anton has been singing since childhood. Her grandfather, an apple rancher and occasional moonshiner, used to reward her with sips of beer if she would perform. At 18 she finished third in the 1970 Miss America Pageant and made up her mind to become an actress. But she had to work nights as a cleaning woman in Pasadena office buildings before she landed a few commercials and nightclub jobs. Then in 1976 she got her shot, replacing Edie Adams as the Muriel cigar girl. TV boss Silverman spotted her and co-starred her with Mel Tillis in Mel & Susan Together, then in a campy modern serial, Cliff hangers, and finally in her own variety show. The programs all bombed. Anton’s only film, Goldengirl, with James Coburn and Curt Jurgens, did barely better last year.

With Stallone out of her life, Anton is now focusing entirely on her career. Next month she will cut her second LP (the first wasn’t released). Men are incidental right now, she claims. Then suddenly the phone rings. “If that’s John Travolta again,” Anton deadpans to secretary Horner, “tell him I’m busy.”