Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold – they were friends turned lovers and she saw him as a compatriot in her battle against the system. It was six years of them versus the world and since then it’s been a war of the exes.
How Did Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold Meet?
For years, burgeoning comedians Barr and Arnold led parallel lives. In 1983, their paths crossed at the Minneapolis Comedy Gallery where Barr was a headliner and Arnold her opening act.
According to Barr, Arnold’s set “Killed me.” Post performances, the duo headed out for a meal and a deep kinship was born. Barr recalled, “We’d party for a weekend and then we’d be just like best buddies. We’d always go shopping at the fat-men stores and buy the same shirts and then we’d go onstage as twins and beat each other up.”
But the relationship was chaste, both parties claim. Barr was a mother of three and married to Bill Pentland, her husband of nine years. For his part, Arnold was seriously committed to his girlfriend.
However, that all changed when Arnold was roped into playing Barr’s husband in an HBO special. “We fell in love,” Barr says. About six months later, they were a bonafide item.
With This Ring, I Thee Own
January 16, 1990: Barr and Pentland’s divorce is finalized. Four days later, she and Arnold are married. The low-key affair was somewhat marred by the presence of rifle-toting FBI agents – unwelcome guests made necessary after death threats were lobbied against Arnold.
The ceremony was held in the couple’s Beverly Hills villa and witnessed by 40 guests. The groom, a recent graduate of an alcohol and drug rehabilitation clinic, toasted his bride with mango juice and declared them, “America’s worst nightmare: white trash with money!”
Subsequently, Arnold convinced his wife to fire the majority of her management, distance herself from friends and family – particularly her sister Geraldine – and installed himself as her personal manager and the author of much of her stand-up material. Eventually, he was once again employed at his wife’s eponymous sitcom (having been fired due to issues resulting from his addiction) – this time as a producer.
The Couple That Works Together…Still Get Divorced
Not content to merely live with each other every day as husband and wife, commute to the same television studio, and to discuss and make decisions concerning every aspect of the running of Roseanne, Barr and Arnold frequently filled their “off hours” by appearing together in TV movies as well as creating other programs for them to star in.
Among the many ABC produced and aired “mini movies” were Backfield in Motion and The Woman Who Loved Elvis. In 1992, they co-created The Jackie Thomas Show – a vehicle for Arnold. The nominative Tom and an animated series, Little Rosey, soon followed.
But trouble was brewing and the end was in sight. For four years, the Arnold/Barr marriage had been typified by violent clashes – with each other and studio brasses, other celebrities, the tabloids, and the establishment as a whole – recrimination, reconciliations, and desire to just get away from it all.
In 1993, they seriously considered a permanent move to Arnold’s home state of Iowa. Towards that goal, they opened a diner specializing in “loose meat sandwiches,” the same menu item that the fictional Roseanne sold at her own diner every week. They also purchased a large plot of land and began construction on what was to have been the largest single-family home in The Hawkeye State.
Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold Call It Quits
Friday, April 15, 1994: An onset disagreement between the fiery pair, reportedly concerning Arnold’s relationship with his female assistant, Kim Silva, results in Barr firing Arnold and declaring their marriage truly over.
Three days later, she filed a petition for divorce with the Los Angeles County Superior Court citing “irreconcilable differences.” Furthermore, she requested the judge deny Arnold any alimony and issue a restraining order.
In the application, she wrote, “I now realize that I have been a classic battered and abused wife. Throughout our marriage, the respondent hit me, struck me, has thrown objects at me, pinched me and verbally abused me.” The divorce was granted on December 9.
In response to very public parting, NBC rushed a biographical television movie into production. The resulting project – Roseanne and Tom: Behind the Scenes – made its debut on Halloween night of the above mentioned year. Taking its cues from the court documents, this Patrika Darbo/Stephen Lee starring film painted Arnold as the villain and Barr as the put-upon victim.