20 Years Ago

20 Years Ago: Roseanne Barr Marries Tom Arnold

The sitcom star's marriage to the actor was the beginning of a years-long media circus

It was the wedding that rocked Hollywood: Sitcom diva Roseanne Barr said ''I do'' to comedian (and Roseanne writer-actor) Tom Arnold on Jan. 20, 1990 — a mere four days after she divorced her husband of nearly 16 years, Bill Pentland. At the reception, Arnold famously bellowed, ''We're America's worst nightmare: white trash with money!'' The couple's tabloid-ready antics — out-of-control spending and tyrannical behavior on the Roseanne set, along with Barr's dabbling in plastic surgery — were chronicled meticulously by the press, and the public happily devoured every morsel of the soap opera.

Of course, fans were also eating up Roseanne, which was television's No. 2 show (tied with The Cosby Show behind Cheers) the week of the nuptials. The relationship drama actually seemed to fuel the series' top ratings. And although the union was undoubtedly tumultuous (they divorced in 1994), Barr remembers her nearly five years with Arnold — who had a recurring role on Roseanne and soon landed his own sitcom, The Jackie Thomas Show — as an especially creative time in her show's nine-year run. ''The one good thing about Tom was that he did push through my ideas,'' Barr told EW in 2008. ''I'd go, 'I want to do this,' and he'd say, 'I'll make sure it happens.' I was always trying to find the way to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. That was kind of my art, the thing that turned me on.''


Three Shows That Roseanne Made Possible

1. Grace Under Fire
Another stand-up comic on a show about blue-collar family life.

2. Malcolm in the Middle
Roseanne's rough-edged ribbing taken to surreal extremes.

3. The Middle
Midwestern family values with a working mom at the center.


The Charts For the Week Of Jan. 14, 1990

No. 1 Single
Michael Bolton's ''How Am I Supposed to Live Without You''
The soft-rock master co-wrote this weepfest, which had previously been recorded by Laura Branigan.

No. 1 Book
Danielle Steel's Daddy
Steel's 25th novel follows an ad exec whose wife abandons him and the kids.

No. 1 TV Show
Cheers
Eight years into its run, this Boston-based sitcom was America's favorite show. The series would come to an end just three years later.

Originally posted Jan 22, 2010 Published in issue #1087 Jan 29, 2010 Order article reprints
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