Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips – they were the personification of the lyrics: “It’s just nobody knows, honey, where love goes. But when it goes, it’s gone, gone.”
How Did Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips Meet?
Fans of rock-n’-roll sensation Bruce Springsteen have his tour agent, Barry Bell, to thank – or is blame? – for introducing “The Boss” to his first wife Julianne. “I knew people who knew a lot of actors, so I got to know Julianne. I brought her to a show…I figured she’d be right for him because she was very down to earth. And the rest is history.”
Springsteen remembers that Phillips was, “twenty-four, tall, blonde, educated, talented, a beautiful and charming young woman.” He was apparently charmed by Phillips’ obvious warmth and perceived lack of pretense and the two bonded over their mutual appreciation for classic rock. Impressed and wanting to learn more about her, the rock legend invited her out for a proper date.
Subsequently, the pair’s burgeoning love affair was up and running. He introduced her to his parents over the winter holidays; in February she brought him home to her mom and dad. A month later, she joined his tour in Japan and afterward, they headed to Hawaii for a vacation.
It was either during that respite or soon after that Phillips said yes to Springsteen’s proposal. They planned a ceremony for May 15, 1985, but news of the impending wedding was leaked by the event’s florist and confirmed by the bride’s mother.
Hoping to salvage their special day, the pair instead exchanged vows on May 13 at the Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. Their first kiss as man and wife was shared shortly after a clock struck midnight.
Trouble From The Word Go
It didn’t take Springsteen long to realize that his rush to marry had been a mistake. “I was scared, but I did not want to scare the wits out of my young bride.” Instead, he quietly endured the crippling anxiety attacks that he claims seized him post-nuptials.
“One evening, while I sat across from my beautiful wife in an upscale Los Angeles eatery, a conversation formed silently inside my head. There, as we politely chatted by candlelight, hand in hand, a part of me tried to convince myself that she was simply using me to further her career or to get . . . something.
“Nothing could’ve been farther from the truth. Julianne loved me and didn’t have an exploitive or malicious bone in her body. Inside, I knew that, but I was out where the buses don’t run and couldn’t center myself around the truth.”
By May of 1988, the couple were separated – a fact made all the more clear by their decision to not recognize their third anniversary. Springsteen began to make the rounds sans wedding ring and one month later, he was photographed embracing his bandmate, Patti Scialfa, while both were in an obvious state of undress.
“…I came clean to Julie as soon as I knew how serious Patti and I were, but there was no decent or graceful way out of it. I was going to hurt someone I loved . . . period…I dealt with Julie’s and my separation abysmally, insisting it remain a private affair, so we released no press statement, causing furor, pain and ‘scandal’ when the news leaked out.”
Phillips was the one to initiate divorce proceedings. On the application, dated August 30, 1988, she cited irreconcilable differences. A divorce settlement, reportedly worth $16 million, was reached four months later – amongst the legalese was a “no talk” clause, meaning Phillips was to neither discuss the matter with the press nor commit her feelings or opinions to print. The final decree was granted on March 1, 1989.
Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips Reflect
Springsteen has said that his handling of the entire affair – from the marriage all the way to conclusion – is, “something I regret to this day…Julianne was young, just getting her career started, while at thirty-five, I could seem accomplished, reasonably mature and in control, but, inside, I was still emotionally stunted and secretly unavailable.
“She’s a woman of great discretion and decency and always dealt with me and our problems honestly and in good faith, but in the end, we didn’t really know. I placed her in a terribly difficult position for a young girl and I failed her as a husband and partner. We handled the details as civilly and as graciously as possible, divorced and went on about our lives.”
Though notoriously guarded when it comes to her personal affairs – “My private life is my private life and I hold it very dear to me.” – Phillips did allow the author of Springsteen’s biography to print the following:
“The one and only thing I will say is that the period was a time of incredible growth and introspection for me. And I will forever give that credit to Bruce.”