You’re a married man with two children, alone in a hotel on a business trip and a 21-year-old woman sends a provocative photograph of herself up to your room. She asks to meet you. You learn that the woman is also married, but she seems to have lost interest in her husband and her baby son. Your own mother describes the woman as “a broad.”
Would you marry her?
Most marriage counselors would advise against such a union, but Sylvester Stallone wed Brigitte Nielsen as soon as both were free of their respective spouses. The bride wore white. She probably wore flats, too. Now, after less than two years of marriage, Stallone, 41, is seeking a divorce from Nielsen, 24, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The only other grounds for the dissolution of marriage in the state of California is “incurable insanity.” Stallone did not select that option.
In recent months it had been difficult to decide just how the marriage was doing. Nielsen was rumored to be romantically involved with Tony Scott, her director in Beverly Hills Cop II. Stallone was rumored to have commissioned a bronze statue of himself and Nielsen, in the nude and life-size. Yo, Rodin. One more rumor worth noting: The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s London tabloid, reported that Nielsen was having an affair with her female secretary, Kelly Sahnger. Headlined “Rocky to Divorce ‘Gay’ Wife,” the story said that Sly’s mother, Jacqueline, had caught the pair in bed. Stallone’s denial, issued through his PR person in florid un-Rambo-like language, said, “I am totally outraged by the fictitious allegations made in a London newspaper about my estranged beautiful wife. She’s a totally feminine woman.”
A friend of Stallone says of Nielsen: “She is a real conniver and schemer. She made a fool of him publicly. She used him. I don’t think he ever thought anyone would get the better of him, and she did. He became a stepping-stone for her career.”
When they met in 1985, Stallone was at his peak, hammering out Rocky and Rambo movies. Nielsen was a model and had already made Red Sonja, but her career picked up after she became involved with Stallone. She landed roles in Rocky IV, Cobra and Beverly Hills Cop II, jobs she almost certainly would not have gotten if she were still Mrs. Kasper Winding, wife of a Copenhagen musician.
Not long after the start of their relationship, Gitte and Sly were in Manhattan together, spending the day shopping. Say what you will about Nielsen, she was always willing to shop. On this occasion they stopped in at the Theresa Wig Co. in Manhattan, where John Zervoulei recalls Stallone buying about $3,000 worth of wigs for her. “She had everything under control,” he says. “She had his number. He looked like he was in a trance. She was trying everything on. She didn’t give a damn what she bought. She bought stuff out of style for three years, like Bo Derek braids. He kept questioning her, ‘Honey, are you going to wear this?’ She’d say, ‘Sure, for you.’ I couldn’t believe he was that easy.”
A close friend of Nielsen claims that Brigitte “is still in love with Sly” and should not be blamed for the divorce. “If somebody asked me, ‘Is Brigitte a gold digger?’, I’d say, ‘No,’ a hundred times,” the friend says. “He’s the one who’s divorcing her. She’s not giving him the boot.”
There seems little doubt that Nielsen is fun-loving, wild and flirtatious—charming qualities, if not necessarily those a guy would want in a wife. A woman who worked with Nielsen on Beverly Hills Cop II said Brigitte was a cutup on the set, except on the single occasion when Stallone visited and “she sat sedately by his side and didn’t say a word.” A member of a production crew who worked with Nielsen for three days on a bathing suit commercial in Beverly Hills describes her as energetic, bubbly and fun to work with. He particularly liked the fact that whenever she had to change a top, she seldom went back to her trailer but just turned her back and took off her shirt.
Stallone was married to his first wife, Sasha, for 10 years. In 1978 she threatened to divorce him after he started seeing actress Susan Anton, but they reconciled and remained together until he met Nielsen. His reputation for fidelity is less than spotless. There have been occasional stories that he is flirtatious or worse, but these rumors have been more restrained than those surrounding his second wife. This indicates that he is innocent, discreet or employs a better public relations staff.
Regardless, it appears that “irreconcilable differences” is an understatement of the difficulties bedeviling the marriage of Gitte and Sly. And all this time we thought the only problem was that she was too tall for him.
—Written by Alan Richman, with bureau reports