Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (2024)

Music

Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (1)

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ByAnna Papachristos/

Fans of singer Bruce Springsteen know the New Jersey native has always been a dedicated family man. However, in the nearly three decades since The Boss married E Street Band member Patti Scialfa, many have forgotten than Springsteen was briefly married to actress Julianne Phillips in the 1980s.

Phillips got her start as a model in the early 1980s when she signed with Elite Model Management. Her success in the modeling industry ultimately launched her acting career and by the time she met Springsteen in 1984, Phillips had already been cast in a couple TV movies, including Summer Fantasy.

While the two seemed head-over-heels in love when they wed on May 13, 1985, the honeymoon stage didn't last long and Phillips filed for divorce in 1988, citing "irreconcilable differences," per The Washington Post. Phillips continued to act after their divorce was finalized in March 1989 and, in 1991, she found primetime success as Francesca "Frankie" Reed Margolis on NBC's Sisters alongside Swoosie Kurtz, Sela Ward, and Patricia Kalember.

However, after Sisters wrapped in 1996, Phillips only continued to act for one more year before she left the business in 1997. While she's made the occasional public appearance, including a Sisters reunion on Today, Phillips continues to fly under the radar. But, of course, she could afford to put her career on the hold, as she's worth an estimated $30 million– $20 million of that came from her divorce settlement alone. After living life in the public eye for nearly two decades, we can't say we blame her!

Julianne Phillips didn't want to see her private life splashed across the tabloids

When Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips separated in 1988, their relationship was splashed across the tabloids for all to read. By the time their divorce was finalized and they'd become yesterday's news, Phillips was in the midst of promoting her film Skin Deep with actor John Ritter. However, she was prohibited from speaking about the relationship, per her attorney's advice. She also agreed not to write a tell-all about their three-year marriage. However, for someone who wished to keep said personal matters private, this demand wasn't an issue.

"I have set rules. My private life is my private life and I hold it very dear to me," Phillips told The Morning Call in 1989. "I know the public wants to know about things, but that's my private life. I don't read a lot of stuff. And I try to tell my family not to. And a lot of it is not true. A lot of that is made up."

"It's difficult sometimes. You walk into a grocery store and see your picture all over the place," Phillips continued. "I know people say, 'Look, that's the price you pay for fame.' I say, 'No. Where did I sign a contract that says I have to [reveal my private life]?' I don't think anyone has the right to take that away from me." Less than a decade later, Phillips left show business entirely.

Julianne Phillips was accused of having an affair with Harry Hamlin

Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (3)

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In recent years, Julianne Phillips was dragged intoReal Housewives drama when fans of the show's Beverly Hills iteration accused her of having an affair with Lisa Rinna's husband, Harry Hamlin. Phillips and Hamlin appeared together in 1997's Allie & Me shortly before the actress left show business and Bravo diehards had been perpetuating the rumor for years. However, in 2019, when the drama reached its peak, Rinna asked Phillips if she'd like to "weigh in" on the matter — and she did.

"Mary, sweet girl.. you obviously are a very angry, sad person, and that makes me sad FOR you. Does it bring you joy to perpetuate a 1000% untruth?!" Phillips wrote on Instagram (viaTwitter). "I know I'm going down the Rabbit Hole by even RESPONDING to this, but it truly blows my mind and leaves me mystified, because I just don't work that way, that there are folks out there, you, who get their roofs off by TRYING to hurt people that have done nothing to you, except live a full and happy life. I truly wish you peace Mary, you obviously need some."

Rinna later defended Phillips when she tweeted, "Julianne Phillips did nothing leave her alone." Now we really understand why Phillips wanted to escape Hollywood all those years ago!

Bruce Springsteen regrets how he handled his divorce from Julianne Phillips

Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (4)

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In Bruce Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run, the singer admitted that his marriage to Julianne Phillips was plagued by anxiety. In one excerpt, Springsteen noted that he was often consumed by suspicion. On an evening out with Phillips, Springsteen wrote (via Soap Hub), "a part of me tried to convince myself that she was simply using me to further her career or to get... something." But "nothing could've been farther from the truth," he added. "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."

Springsteen added that, while Phillips was still in the early stages of her career, at thirty-five, he seemed "accomplished, reasonably mature and in control." Inside, however, he "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," he noted. "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."

Springsteen went on to confess that he left Phillips for another woman, but that he "regret[s] to this day" how he handled the fallout from their marriage.

Bruce Springsteen left Julianne Phillips for bandmate Patti Scialfa

Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (5)

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Although Bruce Springsteen married Julianne Phillips in 1985, the singer had an obvious connection with his bandmate Patti Scialfa. "Patti was a musician, was close to my age, had seen me on the road in all of my many guises and viewed me with a knowing eye," he wrote in his memoir, Born to Run (via ShowBiz411). "She knew I was no white knight (perhaps a dark gray knight at best), and I never felt the need to pretend around her."

Once Springsteen and Scialfa became serious, he "came clean to Julie as soon as [he] knew how serious [he and Patti] were, but there was no decent or graceful way out of it." He knew he was about to hurt someone he loved. "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," he added. "It made a tough thing more heartbreaking than necessary. I deeply cared for Julianne and her family and my poor handling of this is something I regret to this day."

For Springsteen, everything worked out in the end. He and Scialfa moved in together shortly after he and Phillips separated and 2020 marks their 29th wedding anniversary. "She was stable enough and strong enough and she brought a lot of love," Springsteen said on an episode of Sunday Night (via the Daily Mail), "so those were very healing things over a long period of time."

Bruce Springsteen was a "different person" with Julianne Phillips

Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (6)

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As we noted earlier, Bruce Springsteen felt like he didn't have to "pretend" with his now-wife,Patti Scialfa. This seemed to be the opposite situation from what he had with Julianne Phillips, as his music engineer, Toby Scott, described in Peter Ames Carlin'sbiography, Bruce."Juli was a lovely girl, but he just seemed like he was trying to be a different person," he explained. "I think he was trying to develop a way of being on a social level. And Julianne wasn't anywhere on his train of thought."

Although Scott wasn't sold on the couple's romance, it didn't mean he thought it was a disaster either."They were very domestic," he said. "She liked to stay in, make popcorn, watch TV, and have some dinner. People kept asking if they had a problem, and I always said no. I thought Bruce and Juli were doing great."

Springsteen's childhood friend, Bobby Duncan, echoed this sentiment, stating, "Juli was very down to earth and nice. She was trying to get her acting career going at the time. But mostly she was outgoing and warm and seemed like a really kind person."

Bottom line? Sometimes things just don't work out, and that's OK.

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Whatever Happened To Bruce Springsteen's First Wife? - Nicki Swift (2024)
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