“Michael is the best catch in the nation—young, attractive, great body and money. A lot of girls, when they saw him, were frothing at the mouth—and the girls in L.A. are very aggressive. I know a lot who went with him, slept with him, whatever. I can deal with it because he chose me over the others.”
Marjorie Wallace, Miss World 1973 and high-rolling playgirl, had acquired the reputation of sports groupie supreme after very public liaisons with soccer star George Best, the late racecar driver Peter Revson and then Jimmy Connors—all by the age of 23. Today at 25, mellowed and seven months pregnant, she is happily married to TV producer Michael Klein, 31, millionaire son of the owner of the San Diego Chargers football team.
Klein, once a notorious playboy himself, may have inspired his wife’s new maturity by a casual acceptance of her spectacular past. “I didn’t expect to meet someone her age who hadn’t gone out on a date,” he shrugs. “I’m not threatened. It’s hard to be jealous of someone who’s not around.”
Michael first met Marjie at a Beverly Hills party in summer 1977, several months after her breakup with Connors. They disliked each other immediately. “I thought, ‘Here is the epitome of the kind of guy I can’t stand—a guy who dates a new girl every three days,’ ” Marjie recalls. Klein was put off by her fur coat, red boots and heavy hand with cosmetics. ” ‘If I got the makeup off this girl,’ I thought,” he says, ” ‘she would be gorgeous.’ She looked like a magazine cover, and I had no interest in going out with a magazine cover.”
Marjie had in fact begun to focus on her modeling career again, having all but given it up to concentrate on Connors. In summer 1977 she moved to New York, interviewed as a sports-caster with ABC and CBS and did commercials for Ultra Brite, Wella and American Express.
She was making money but losing touch. Back in L.A. in December, she complained to a girlfriend that she had no one to go out with. The friend set her up with Klein. Remembering their earlier meeting, Marjie insisted, “not alone,” so Michael suggested she accompany him on the Chargers’ team plane to a game in Denver. “It was such a creative first date, there was no way I could say no,” Marjie recalls. Michael adds, “It was warm, friendly, distant and polite. We had dinner—the conversation wasn’t deep—then went to our separate rooms.”
Next day at the game a likeness of the couple was flashed on the Denver scoreboard. Michael felt something “magical.” By the time he kissed her goodbye at the airport (he had a business appointment in Aspen), “I felt myself falling in love.” It was not unrequited. “I had a buzz,” recalls Marjie. “I got home and my answering service said, ‘Mr. Klein called and he misses you.’ ” Michael cut his trip short and Marjie met him at the airport. “We started living together almost immediately,” he says. “But, I kept my apartment,” qualifies Marjie. “I was apprehensive.”
Two months later Michael proposed. “I didn’t plan on marrying,” he says. “It was 2 a.m. and Marjie was asleep and I wanted company so I asked her if she would marry me. She woke up and mumbled, ‘In general, or is that a specific proposal?’ I said, ‘A proposal,’ and I had company for the rest of my life.” Their wedding took place last May in his father’s Beverly Hills home, and if the Kleins had any reservations about Marjie, they’re forgotten now. “She is wonderful,” says Michael’s sister Randee. “Mike has really calmed down since he married. When our children are sick, ‘Aunt Marjorie’ always calls and comes by.”
Originally from Indianapolis (“I didn’t know what Van Cleef & Arpels or Halston even were”), Marjie started modeling at 15. Soon she was Miss Indiana, Miss USA and, at 19, Miss World. “I wasn’t exploited,” reasons Marjie, “I was using the contests.” She was dethroned when she moved in with Revson three months later. After he was killed practicing for the South African Grand Prix, she met Connors at a party and lived with him nearly a year.
Klein is the only son of a close-knit Jewish family. He had a “regular” upbringing in the San Fernando Valley where his dad, Eugene, sold used cars. “Regular” until 1954, that is, when Gene became a Volkswagen dealer
and sole Western distributor for Volvo. That led to a quick fortune and a move to Beverly Hills. “I wish I had the money people thought I did,” says Michael. “Dad was strict with money and lenient with love.”
After graduating from Beverly Hills High with Richard Dreyfuss and Rob Reiner, Klein went to Harvard (class of 1969) and ended up a floor broker at the New York Stock Exchange. Eventually he returned to L.A. as an entertainment stock analyst (“Wall Street ignored these stocks until Star Wars”), then started his own production company. He produced NBC’s Aspen miniseries in 1977 and is now working on The Seeding of Sarah Burns, a story of the first human fetal transplant, to air on CBS this spring.
Michael was married to his live-in girlfriend soon after the death of his mother (she was only 49) in 1973, but they split a year and a half later. He was subsequently involved with a parade of women whose names he says he has forgotten. “It’s no insult to them,” he says. “It’s part of my mentality to forget the way I conducted myself. Would I call myself a slut? Maybe.” Often his women friends were unglamorous types “who didn’t have to have great bodies.” “Give him a T-shirt, jeans, and a girl with the wind in her hair and he’s thrilled,” sighs Marjie. “His friends say he used to take out ‘dogs.’ ” “Some of those ‘dogs’ are going to be calling,” Michael winces.
With their baby due in April, both Kleins are taking Lamaze classes and will use the Leboyer technique at birth (dim lights, no spanking, immersing the baby in warm water minutes after it’s born). Through her seventh month, Marjie was reporting to the gym four times a week. “If you are going to have a baby, better to have it with a nice Midwestern goy,” says Michael. “They know how to carry. Marjie’s no Beverly Hills Jewish princess who would be home sick for nine months.”
Extremely body-conscious, the two of them are high fiber, no-salt, no-sugar dieters whose whole dinner often consists of cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes. Michael jogs four miles each morning, and a masseur comes by twice a week for his and her rubdowns. Their house is a 45-year-old manse in Brentwood with a driveway traffic jam: a Mercedes, Rolls and Porsche.
Theirs is not the standard California “open relationship,” having—and discussing—affairs. “It better never happen,” warns Marjie. “There will be nothing to discuss except a murder rap.” They also avoid Beverly Hills parties. “It’s just the same group, into Quaaludes and one-night stands,” observes Marjie. Michael admits to old-fashioned chauvinism. “I’ve relaxed my dominance but I can’t live with someone who isn’t at my side,” he says. “If she had gotten, say, Phyllis George’s old job [as a sportscaster], I would object.”
“The things I want to pursue are peace and happiness,” says the newly domesticated Marjie. “I sound like a hippie. But I’ve always known that home, love and family are the bottom line.”