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The YouTube Divorcée

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From left: In a Hellmann's mayonnaise commercial in the late eighties; Tricia and Philip's wedding blessing in 2000.   

She had bills to pay, and she consoled herself with a romance with “the Face,” a handsome California surfer. He was captain of a yacht in Hawaii he told her he owned. (Only he didn’t, really.) He hadn’t even kissed her when he asked her to marry him, she says, and she accepted. They tied the knot up on a cliff. She wore a muumuu.

There was money to be made chartering the Face’s yacht, a three-masted affair requiring more than two people to sail. “But if you pulled out into the channel and went to the left toward the pineapple island of Lanai, the wind never blew. So we’d go out that way, and the sails would flap pathetically, and I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, guys, but we’re going to have to motor.’ ” She took care of the sandwiches. But the Face turned out to be “really dumb; he thought Shakespeare was an Arab sheikh,” she says.

After two months, she sailed off with a “wild and crazy and sooo dangerous” Italian who proposed over dinner the night they met. She started work on a new book: Yacht Girl, whose heroine was one Venetia Van Myers. But the relationship foundered after the boat caught the tail end of Hurricane Seymour. Broke, she was soon living in New York, on the couch of yet another fiancé, a perfume manufacturer almost 30 years her senior who was eager to get her into analysis “because he wanted nookie,” she says. His therapist slapped her into rehab that weekend. It was December 15, 1994, and she says she’s been sober ever since.

She was soon telling the tabloids that she’d joined Emotions Anonymous, a group that discouraged even platonic dating. She was now claiming she was a man addict—addicted to falling in love.

In June 1995, Elaine Stritch took Tricia along to a wedding reception on Park Avenue. It was here she met Philip. “I said I was a playwright,” she remembers.

“How do you live?” he asked.

“With difficulty,” she said, twitching her nose like Samantha Stevens on Bewitched. A businessman in his early sixties, newly widowed, a workaholic, Philip had a sexy radio voice. At first they were “inseparable; he was the love of my life,” she will say in a heartfelt way. No sex, but “we had a very healthy romping around.”

She excused his bedroom behavior because he was Catholic, she says. He got her a job in theatrical PR and then Manhattan Plaza Health Club hired her as a consultant after a brilliant promotional campaign. “Going up the wall? Climb ours!” was the slogan. Philip lent her actors from Cats to demonstrate the feat on the club’s climbing wall.

She escorted Philip to premieres, and he took her clothes shopping even though he wanted her to dress like his mother. But after two and a half years with Philip, she demanded marriage, knowing he’d waited eight years to marry his first wife, a June Taylor dancer.

After they wed, “Philip never laid a hand on me again,” she said, except for once in Palm Beach. “I tried to seduce him. I did candles. I took him to a therapist.”

“Somebody once asked Sophia Loren why she chose Carlo Ponti over Cary Grant, and she said, ‘Carlo is my culture,’ ” Tricia says. Philip was second-generation Irish, born in Brooklyn, self-made, in the theater “but not a producer, really,” says Tricia, watering down his role. “They’re landlords. He’s not creative at all. Which is why I’m feeling a bit used. I would read scripts for him, write the notes.”

“Phil Smith is one of those people who loves theater and loves the people in it,” says Rocco Landesman, head of Jujamcyn Theaters, a Shubert competitor who sometimes stages things in Shubert theaters. “He is a person of unassailable integrity. People love him. I’ve operated with him for many years on a handshake. And his opinions on shows very much count. That he’s not a producer is inaccurate.”

They split for a year, and Philip was miserable, she says. There was a time when “all sugar sweet, his daughters wanted me back with their daddy,” she says. For the first time in her life, it appears, she was perceived as a good influence. She went to see him in the hospital after a colonoscopy, and “he was a big fat piece of blubber.” She got him out, refurbished him, “and I was basically his cop. I’d say, ‘Skim milk in that cappuccino!’ And, ‘No, you can’t have that Brie.’ ”

They were married in October 1999 by a judge downtown, but not until she’d signed away her right to everything he would earn during the marriage in a prenup. Philip reserved the right to chuck her out with 30 days’ notice upon the filing of a divorce action, even if the divorce—in which she’d been guaranteed $750,000—never went through. She imagined Philip was worried she’d run off with a younger man. He seemed so grateful; he would never leave her.


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