Real-life Celebrity Romance: James DePaiva and Kassie DePaiva

James DePaiva and Kassie DePaivaJames DePaiva and Kassie DePaiva

James DePaiva and Kassie DePaiva — their reel romance was typified by War of the Roses-style shenanigans; their real-life love affair, though often strained, has stood the test of time.

How Did James DePaiva and Kassie DePaiva Meet?

For years, fans took for granted the fact that this future Mr. and Mrs. met on the set of ABC’s One Life to Live where they starred as Max Holden and Blair Cramer respectively.

But according to James, their initial encounter with each other took place much earlier and under less than auspicious circumstances.

“We met in a bar and she thought I was a jerk. And I had too many drinks and didn’t remember. So, when she came to the show, I said, ‘Wow she looks familiar.’ I gave her a big hug and I went, ‘Uh, oh. This is trouble.'”

For her part, Kassie was less concerned with old slights than she was about the “natural organic explosion,” she felt whenever her co-star was near. In fact, Kassie’s attraction to James was so palpable that it earned her a reprimand from the show’s executive producer, Linda Gottlieb.

“[She] calls me up and goes, ‘You can’t play this!’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘You’re playing the end of the story. You’re playing too much chemistry.’ And I’m like, going…’well, I can’t control that.'”

Whirlwind Romance

The undeniable, unexplainable spark that existed between the pair paid dividends during the years they were paired opposite each other on the soap but it wreaked havoc on their personal lives. Both were married at the time — she to Guiding Light’s production designer Richard Hankins (where she had played Chelsea Reardon) and he to Misty Rowe of Hee Haw fame.

When James and Kassie finally succumbed to the passion they felt between them and publicly announced their relationship, messy and protracted divorces followed. “We tried to do it with the least scars,” Kassie remembered — a lofty goal; easier said than done. In the end, Kassie admitted that “it was very ugly.”

Now free, James and Kassie eloped to the latter’s hometown of Morganfield, Kentucky and exchanged wedding vows in the Union County Courthouse. The ceremony took place on May 31, 1996, between the bride’s dentist appointment and a golf game.

Powering Through
The subsequent marriage wasn’t smooth sailing for either party. “I was angry and shut-down and enraged for a long time,” James admits. “I wasn’t just hostile at work. I was hostile everywhere…God bless my wife for sticking around. I was not a pleasant person.”

James and Kassie DePaiva Face A Daunting Challenge – Together

However, pleasantries would be the least of the couple’s worries. On May 12, 1997, they welcomed James Quentin into the world and the blessed event left them feeling, “overjoyed.”

Days later, the presumed, “healthy, perfect baby,” was brought home and introduced to his stepsister Drema – the only child of James and Rowe. Within a year, the parents were certain that something was amiss.

“If you think your 12-month old son is deaf, there’s nothing in the yellow pages to help you out,” Kassie says. “We were naïve, scared… We brought JQ in for testing, hoping it was just wax in his ears.”

The diagnosis was an enlarged vestibular aqueduct, a deafening abnormality of the inner ear. The irony of the result was not lost on James, who had played out a storyline on OLTL that saw Max’s son losing his hearing.

“We mourned for a week,” Kassie claimed. Afterward, the DePaivas dedicated themselves to learning about their son’s condition — and the various treatment options available for him.

Hearing aids were the first line of defense but when the boy was 18 months old, he was fitted with a cochlear implant. “Our son is still deaf,” Kassie cautioned a year and a half after the surgery. “This lets him hear, but it’s not the miracle some people may expect. But, it’s been a miracle as far as we’re concerned.”

The Hits Just Keep Coming – But Love Endures 
With his new implant, JQ thrived and was even enrolled in “mainstream” schools. But, with one crisis adverted, the DePaivas had to brace for more. First, James was let go from OLTL and a few years later, Kassie lost her job as well when the series was canceled.

With James’s support, Kassie accepted a role on Days of our Lives — a California headquartered serial — and the duo thrived as a bicoastal couple. Once dismissed, Kassie learned she had acute myeloid leukemia and credits her husband with getting her through the grueling treatment that followed.

“Jimmy was unbelievable, and never left my side. It was just really important to have such a smart, loving man beside me the whole time… When you say your vows… you don’t think that something bad’s going to happen. Jimmy really stepped up to be an amazing human being.”

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