Lesley Ann Warren Washed Jon Peters Out of Her Hair, but Barbra Is Her Soulmate

It may lack the publicity and fatal attraction of the Bermuda original, but at least the Malibu Triangle is document-ably real. Just the other day a victim resurfaced to tell the tale. Lesley Ann Warren had been a star of Broadway (at 16 in 110 in the Shade), Disney (films like The Happiest Millionaire) and TV (Mission: Impossible). Only to fade, Lesley says, because her then hairdresser husband Jon Peters (“Jon was already into overseeing everything”) fashioned for her a sophisticated TV and movie image she couldn’t handle.

“When I met Jon,” she reflects, “I had just come to Hollywood, crazed with insecurity, scared and thinking I was dependent on him in every way. He liked and encouraged that feeling.” The next development, according to popular misconception, is that Peters dumped her for Barbra Streisand. The fact is that Warren divorced Jon—pre-Barbra—on the grounds, among others, that “I had to get out and take care of myself.”

The bottom line seems to be that Lesley is, at 30, finally doing just that. She’s now shaking down a club act in L.A. and is the leading contender to open the upcoming Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin concert tour. She’s also up for a Broadway comeback in the rock adaptation of Luv. But perhaps the most significant proof that Warren’s got her head back together is that, following a year of Gestalt and a whole gamut of other therapy, she could fend off est. What other insecure Hollywood lady has brushed past a burly doorman to freedom the first night, explaining, “I understood it, I even bought it. But I want to go to the bathroom, and I want a cup of coffee.” Over and out.

A final indication that Warren had made peace with the past was her acceptance of the female lead in Snip, a sitcom NBC scrubbed at the last minute last fall (though the seven episodes in the can may be played off this summer). The comic premise was Lesley’s divorce from a swinging hairstylist (David Brenner). “I was shocked when I read the pilot script,” she says. “There were so many similarities [to her life with Peters], I told the producer if I didn’t get the part I’d have to be the creative consultant. David even dressed a lot like Jon did then, with an open shirt and chains.” Though it was therapeutic (“I got through a lot doing that part”), the scripts, Lesley felt, were “rotten and couldn’t be fixed.”

Would that Warren had been so analytical and career-savvy earlier on. She’s the child of a Manhattan real estate agent and a nightclub songstress who pushed her into tap dancing at 3 (her younger brother, Rick, 24, is Rhoda’s musical arranger). Since 1971 and until recently, she’s been doing mostly tube guest shots as, she cracks, “neurotic ladies, crazy problemed people—I cry great.”

In her own life, Lesley got over the crying yesterday. “I went out a lot after my marriage broke up, because I was scared to be alone.” But since a “disastrous” live-in experiment, “it’s been easier for me to turn down dates than go out. I’m not looking to share my life with a grown-up anytime soon, though I would like to have another child in about four years. So,” she jokes, “I guess I’ll have to get together with someone for a minute or two.” In the meantime, her man is Christopher Peters, 8, whom she describes as “a total athlete, very tough and pretty together—when he could be crazed. I love taking care of him. My agent will call me for a meeting, and I’ll try to get out of it because I’m going to watch Christopher play basketball.”

They live in a Sherman Oaks home “half furnished from the leftovers of the marriage and half from Abbey Rents” with a child-support assist from Peters. In an earlier, more anxious time, Mom fretted over the boy’s weekend visits to his dad’s Malibu ranch. “Jon and Bar-bra live real expansively,” Lesley figured, “and I used to worry that Christopher wouldn’t want to come back here after being there.”

Now Warren seems to have resolved it all, and so has Christopher, whose weekend buddy is Jason Gould, 9½, Streisand’s son by Elliott Gould (who co-starred with Warren on Broadway in 1965—hence Lesley knew Barbra before she met Peters). “Elliott and I are still friends,” Warren reports, “and I’m friends with Jenny, his other ex-wife. It’s so incestuous here in old Hollywood.” When Warren was putting her new act together, Jon and Barbra counseled her but honored her request not to attend. Lesley herself has avoided A Star Is Born, but says she has “a great relationship” with Streisand. “We have a lot to say to each other, but it’s touchy, and we make rules not to talk about certain things.”

In any case, Warren admits that her role model is Streisand. “It’s a very hard business, and Barbra was alone in it for many years,” she explains. “In spite of all the horrible things that are thrown at her—at her and Jon—she persists. She believes in getting up and starting again. And,” proclaims Lesley Warren, “so do I.”

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