Rather a much-wed lothario than a Scrooge who has never said ‘I ...

Ideas

Rather a much-wed lothario than a Scrooge who has never said ‘I do’

Some of the kindest and most attractive men march under the much-married banner - we should treasure them

Rowan Pelling


“Much-married” is one of those terms that is almost inevitably yoked to women. As soon as it’s uttered someone will cite Liz Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor, who made eight and nine trips to the altar respectively.
There’s a general sense that the female concerned is notching up millionaires and diamonds, perhaps not helped by Gabor’s declaration: “I’m a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.” Rather less is said about men who appear to be addicted to matrimony. So I’m delighted that Nicolas Cage has reminded the world that men can be as keen to get spliced as the most yearning of women. And they can change their minds even more rapidly.
Liz Taylor divorced Nicky Hilton after 205 days of wedlock, but Cage filed for annulment a mere four days after his fourth wedding ceremony to makeup artist Erika Koike. In fairness, the omens didn’t look good: observers said Cage was saying, “She is going to take all my money!” even as he applied for a marriage licence at a Las Vegas courthouse.
Some commentators have viewed the wedding as another sign of Cage’s legendary quirkiness (a pair of otters witnessed his first wedding and he once embarked on a hallucinogenic trip with his cat after it ate some of his magic mushrooms). But I’d say the compulsion to marry – and marry again – is actually indicative of a deeply embedded romanticism. It takes a Bronte-esque chap in the age of alimony to keep committing to the institution of matrimony. A man who marries a lot displays a generosity of heart, soul and spirit that is only to be commended in our cynical age.
I find few things more dispiriting than the kind of bloke who refuses to wed his long-term partner, even though she’s the mother of his children, because he would go to any lengths to avoid sharing his assets. It’s like the kid who has a clutch of expensive toys but won’t let any other child play with them.
In my own circle some of the kindest and most attractive men march under the much-wed banner. What’s remarkable is how hard they have all worked to make reparations to the previous wives and older children: admitting to bad behaviour and never grudging the frequent stream of payments their ceaseless quest for wedded love has cost them.
One well-known writer told me that he owed his fortune to the fact he had to work ceaselessly to do right by his wife, three exes and four offspring. A banker pal has just married gorgeous Mrs Five and was supported in this initiative by at least two of his previous wives, as well as his children.
What links them – and is also true of five-times-wed Sean Bean – is the fact they come from working-class families where you’d be seen as a right tight-fisted old Scrooge if you just sat on your wealth. On the council estates where they were raised, big-time success comes with the obligation to be munificent with your love and loins.
Of course, you can overdo things. The US Baptist minister Glynn “Scotty” Wolfe was married 29 times and fathered 40 children. Wolfe died just before he turned 90 in 1997 and was buried in Los Angeles. None of his wives attended the service and only one child was present. To misquote Lady Bracknell, to annoy four wives is a misfortune, to annoy 29 looks like carelessness. I trust Cage won’t be so cavalier.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.