Friday 26 May 2017

The fairy-tale divorce

Breaking up is supposed to be hard to do, so why are Jack White and Karen Elson throwing a divorce party? And what's with Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson? Fran Cosgrove reports

Bruce Willis and his ex-wife
Demi Moore with their children Rumer and Tallulah and Ashton Kutcher
Bruce Willis and his ex-wife Demi Moore with their children Rumer and Tallulah and Ashton Kutcher

Tanya Sweeney

It's a fairly safe assumption that White Stripes frontman Jack White has long had a, well, idiosyncratic approach to divorce. Rock lore suggests that fellow White Striper Meg White is not his sister, as the pair have been claiming for years, but rather his ex-wife.

Mystery still surrounds this particular nugget of rock urban myth, as the two have never publicly commented, yet in 2005 it seemed as though Jack was to find his happy ever after, for keeps.

After meeting flame-haired model Karen Elson in 2005 on the set of the video for their single 'Blue Orchid', the two married mere months later -- with Meg as maid of honour. Like we said, idiosyncratic.

Yet, after years of marital smooth sailing, Karen and Jack announced their divorce last month. Instead of citing irreconcilable differences or bandying about thinly veiled platitudes about their soon-to-be-ex, Jack and Karen are splitting up in style. The two are hosting a party in their hometown of Nashville to "re-affirm (our) friendship and celebrate the past and future with close friends and family".

The official invitation promises that the shindig will include "dancing, photos, memories and drinks with alcohol in them" -- though it cautions recipients: "This is only for close personal friends and family. So please no plus-ones or dead beats."

Added the pair, who have two children -- Scarlett (five) and Henry Lee (four), "We remain dear and trusted friends and co-parents to our wonderful children, Scarlett and Henry Lee. We feel so fortunate for the time we have shared and the time we will continue to spend both separately and together watching our children grow".

In an age where the fandango that was the Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards divorce barely merits a raised eyebrow any more, it's the fairy-tale divorces that are now grabbing the headlines.

Seemingly, we've come a long way since the old-school maxim of "don't get mad, get everything". And with a vicious battle in the divorce courts now as passé as a Juicy Couture tracksuit, splitting couples are coming through their divorce with surprising grace and dignity.

Where the tit-for-tat goings-on of Jordan and Peter Andre seem shrill and hysterical, there are countless other couples who have elected to behave like adults for the sake of their children.

Scratch the surface, in fact, and you'll find no shortage of former couples who are positively flourishing in their post-divorce regime.

Last month, 26-year-old Avril Lavigne greeted her ex-husband Deryck Whibley with no end of affection aboard a St Tropez yacht -- while wearing a purple bikini, no less.

Elsewhere, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline have evidently put the unsavoury episode that was their split well behind them. A regular fixture at their sons' Little League baseball games, the two even brought their respective partners along for the ride one afternoon recently (hers, agent Jason Trawick; his, pregnant girlfriend Victoria Prince).

In fact, sports day appears to be the backdrop against which these cosy scenes of familial modernity are played out. The endlessly stylish Elle MacPherson is no doubt the bane of any civilian mum forced to share the school run with her. Yet the supermodel showed even more élan than usual by sharing her two sons' sports day with ex-hubby Arpad Busson and his on-off girlfriend Uma Thurman.

Despite the pain both encountered in their 2006 split, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe are also making it work. Phillippe recently told US DJ Howard Stern that he and Witherspoon are actually "great friends and great co-parents" of their children, Ava and Deacon.

Of course, both parties appear to have moved on -- Witherspoon to her second marriage (to agent Jim Toth), while Phillippe is dating Amanda Seyfried.

At a recent soccer game of Deacon's in Los Angeles, Phillippe and Toth even shook hands and had a few laughs along with the actress.

And when Witherspoon announced her engagement to Jim last year, Phillippe was quick to publicly send his congratulations, then stepped in to take care of the children while their mother enjoyed a short honeymoon.

With the dust fully settled on their nuptials, Reese has been able to wax philosophical about her first marriage:

"I was so, so young. I was, like, ridiculously young. I learnt a lot, though. It was an excellent opportunity for me to really find out what it means to be a partner and to be in a marriage and it's not anything that I thought it was."

As if things weren't complex enough in the Witherspoon-Phillippe arrangement, Phillippe is also still close to ex-girlfriend Alexis Knapp, who is expecting his baby (conceived during downtime with Seyfried) any day now.

Still with us?

Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet have also managed to put their differences aside to look after their two young children, Mia and Joe. While months of stormy arguments followed the filming of 'Revolutionary Road' (in which Mendes directed Winslet opposite Leonardo DiCaprio), the pair put on a united front and sent out a statement when they split in 2009.

"The split is entirely amicable and is by mutual agreement," it said. "Both parties are fully committed to the future joint parenting of their children."

Sounds like run-of-the-mill PR speak, but in fact the family are regularly spotted together, a vision of easy harmony, in their native new York.

Kate Hudson may have just given birth to her second child -- her first with her rock star fiancé Matt Bellamy. Yet she has, against the odds, managed to turn her divorce from first husband Chris Robinson into one of the most functional and amicable in Hollywood history.

The pair split in 2006 after six years of marriage, but enjoy a close relationship for the sake of their son, Ryder. In fact, the two were still "basically living together" as recently as 2008.

Even now, Hudson and Robinson regularly hang out together, and are often joined by Bellamy, Robinson's third wife, Allison Bridges, and their baby daughter Cheyenne.

"We've figured it out. I mean, obviously, nothing's perfect," said Kate recently. "[Our divorce] is the best thing that ever happened to us. We did it the right way, which is we knew it wasn't right [to stay together] so we wanted it to be great for Ryder and we got a happy, happy boy.

"We spend a lot of time together. We love our baby. With both of us working all the time and away and travelling, it makes it great for Ryder.

"I married Chris, I had a baby with Chris, Chris will be in my life for the rest of my life. No matter what is going on in my life relationship-wise, Chris takes absolute precedence. It's important for Ryder to hear me say how wonderful Chris is and how much Chris misses him", she added.

Of course, the First Couple in this new world order are Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, who command more attention for their functional relationship now than they ever did during their 11-year marriage.

In fact, the two -- often with new partners in tow -- are regular fixtures on the red carpet. In 2007, photographer Annie Leibovitz captured a remarkable image of the trio for 'Vanity Fair'. Willis, Moore and Moore's husband, Ashton Kutcher, were snapped in a boat; Moore and Kutcher canoodled in contentment, while Willis preferred to concentrate on his fishing.

By the pair's own admission, theirs is an unconventional, but wholly strong, family unit. "It's hard to understand, but we go on holidays together," says Bruce.

"We still raise our kids together -- we still have that bond. Demi is the mother of my children and Ashton is the stepfather of my children. I'm thrilled that Ashton turned out to be such a great guy. I love Demi, and I know she loves me."

What's more, their children are thought to call Ashton Kutcher 'MOD' -- 'My Other Dad'. "There is not a human being I could love more than those girls and their mom," Kutcher says. "I've been with my wife for eight years and we've had kids since the beginning -- we take that really seriously."

With the shrill mudslinging of couples past becoming a distant memory, the smart money says that Jack White and Karen Elson may well be blazing a trail with their divorce party. As to whether this is a trend that could take off in civilian circles, Lisa O'Hara from Relationships Ireland remains dubious.

"It's definitely a very rock 'n' roll thing to do," she surmises. "It's great that, out of what will often have been a pretty miserable time, something positive like a party can happen and the chapter can be put behind you officially.

"As to the idea of holding a party together, personally I wouldn't recommend it. Even though it's supposed to be a happy event, you may well find yourself having sad or mixed feelings if your ex is in tow."

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