Encore

Trash of the Titans

The self-described ''white trash with money'' enjoyed a tumultuous, short-lived union

Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold | YOU BIG LUGS Roseanne and Tom were always so...demonstrative
Image credit: Roseanne and Tom: Mark Sennet
YOU BIG LUGS Roseanne and Tom were always so...demonstrative

It was a match made in trailer-trash heaven. She was the brash, overweight, in-your-face 37-year-old star of America's top-rated sitcom, and he was the brash, overweight, in-your-face 30-year-old stand-up comic on the rise. Together, Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold, who hitched their trailers on Jan. 20, 1990, made a team whose no-bull attitude gave Hollywood a run for its money.

Aside from the rifle-toting FBI agents called in after Arnold got a death threat that morning, the wedding was a low-key affair -- surprising for a couple who had mooned a World Series crowd to show off tattoos bearing each other's names. At their Beverly Hills villa, the lovebirds exchanged secular vows and toasted with mango juice (Tom had just completed rehab). At the reception, Tom bellowed, ''We're America's worst nightmare: white trash with money!''

The defiant duo met in 1983 when Tom opened for Roseanne at Minneapolis' Comedy Gallery, and quickly became friends. Despite their different backgrounds -- she grew up Jewish in Mormon Utah, he was raised Methodist in rural Iowa -- the couple seemed cut from the same cloth. In 1989, shortly after Roseanne was legally separated from her first husband, Bill Pentland, they became lovers.

After the wedding, Tom went from being a guest star on ''Roseanne'' to exec producer -- heaven for Roseanne, hell for staffers fed up with his manic personality. In 1993, after a string of public displays of wackiness, People dubbed them ''The Terrible Two,'' and with good reason: In 1990, Roseanne performed a crotch-grabbing ''Star-Spangled Banner'' at a baseball game; she faxed nasty letters to critics who'd slammed Tom's 1992 sitcom, ''The Jackie Thomas Show''; and, in 1993, he left an offensive note on Julia Louis-Dreyfus' car, which was parked in his spot on the CBS lot.

By 1994, however, the merry pranksters weren't so merry. On April 15, a reportedly vulgar blowout ended with Roseanne firing Tom and his 24-year-old assistant, Kim Silva, rumored to be his mistress (which he denied). Three days later, Roseanne filed for divorce. It was granted Dec. 9.

On Valentine's Day, 1995, Roseanne wed Ben Thomas, 34, her beefy bodyguard-chauffeur and father of their son, Buck, 6. At 49, she divides her time between her website, screenplays in progress, and her roles as mother (to her five kids, none of whom are Tom's) and grandmother. As for Arnold, he went on to star in films including 1994's ''True Lies,'' 1997's ''McHale's Navy,'' and 2001's ''Exit Wounds.'' This past fall he returned to TV to cohost Fox Sports' ''Best Damn Sports Show Period,'' and he's planning his third marriage, to girlfriend Shelby Roos. On how life's changed since the '90s, Arnold says, ''I'm clean, I'm sober, and now I bring home the bacon.''

Originally posted Jan 22, 2002