Whenever a celebrity couple proclaim their love for each other in People magazine, it seems, they’re soon releasing a statement about irreconcilable differences – only to get even more publicity for their divorce than they did for their extravagant wedding.
"Hollywood" marriages aren’t exactly known for their longevity. Heidi Klum and Seal (seven years), Katy Perry and Russell Brand (14 months), Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (72 days) – such breakups hardly even shock anymore.
But what about the high-profile husbands and wives who have been together for decades? You rarely read about them.
And so, as Valentine’s Day approached, we asked three such North Jersey couples what the secret of their success has been. And what advice would they give?
"I think you just have to love each other first, and dedicate your life to each other. No playing around," says Carmen Berra, who has been married to Yankee legend Yogi Berra for 63 years. They’ve long lived in Montclair. The couple have three sons and 11 grandchildren.
Last week, at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, she chatted near a new display that honors the couple’s relationship. It includes love letters Yogi wrote to Carmen from different cities during their courtship. In one, he gave her this promise: "Darling, I love you very much. I will always love you as long as I live. There never will be another girl but you."
From the start, Carmen says, one thing she loved was that Yogi "was very funny all the time."
Laughter is very important to Wyckoff’s Kathy and Steve Doocy, who have been married for 25 1/2 years – the last 15 of which he’s been co-anchor of Fox News Channel’s popular morning show.
"I think you have to have a sense of humor," says Kathy, who with her husband wrote "The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook," a best-selling 2006 guide to love and marriage. "I mean, sometimes you really have to cry, but laughing is better. Sometimes people just take themselves way too seriously. And it might take a day to see the humor in the situation."
Now that the youngest of their three children is away in college, the empty-nesters spend a lot of time with just each other.
"When you’re around your significant other a lot, you could get under each other’s skin," Steve says, adding with a chuckle, "but that would never describe us."
His words of wisdom: "Whatever your wife says, you just agree with it. Men should always say, ‘Yes, dear.’ And one real smart [long-married] guy I know … said the secret is separate bathrooms."
Rap pioneer Darryl "DMC" McDaniels (from Run-DMC), who lives in Wayne with Zuri, his wife of 20 years, thinks that "the most important thing is to respect each other as individuals. You’re two different spirits put here on the earth trying to make it through life. Any relationship is about respecting each other as a person and [focusing on] things that you love about that person."
Zuri McDaniels’ advice: "Be friends first. I met Darryl when I was young, and he allowed me to continue to be who I am and figure out what I want to be in life. So I think friendship is the key.
"We definitely have ups and downs. I mean, that is life," Zuri says. "For me personally, I like to think that we both haven’t fallen out of love at the same time. When I was over it and I wanted to call it quits, Darryl didn’t. And vice versa. So I think that helped us continue to stay with each other and want to work it out."
Couples are often advised to never go to bed angry. Yogi and Carmen Berra took a similar approach to away games during his playing years. "We certainly had disagreements, but before he went on a road trip. Whatever disagreements we had, we always made up before he left," Carmen says.
Carmen and Yogi Berra
In 1947, Carmen Short was a waitress at Biggie's in St. Louis, and Yogi Berra dropped in to eat.
"He came in from playing golf and I served him his lunch, and then he asked about me, and we started dating," says Carmen, adding that his most famous feat to that point had been driving in 23 runs in a minor-league doubleheader.
"I thought, if he's that good, I better go after him. So, that's what I did," she says. They've been married 63 years.
As a young New York Yankee player (1946 to 1963), Yogi wrote love letters to her from wherever he was (including the one above). The St. Louis natives married on Jan. 26, 1949, and moved to Bergen County, living in Woodcliff Lake and Tenafly, then settled in Montclair in 1959, where they raised three sons.
When she was a bride, the Yankees won the World Series – the first of five straight World Series wins. Says Carmen, "It was a fabulous period."
Steve and Kathy Doocy
Steve Doocy and Kathy Gerrity met at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., where they were junior members of the news and sports teams, respectively. He made his move on the commissary line. "I, trying to make contact with a pretty girl, made some small talk about the ketchup on her french fries being plasma," he says.
During another such chat, Kathy recalls, "I had a cheeseburger and he said, 'You eat like a truck driver.' What a charmer." Eventually, they went on what he calls "the world's worst double date." The other couple kept arguing, and Steve spilled red wine, then coffee, on Kathy's new designer suit. Yet, she later invited him in for champagne.
"We talked until 7 or 8 in the morning. And at the end of the first date, I said, 'You're gonna think I'm crazy, but we are gonna get married someday,' " says Steve. "We were engaged five weeks later. We got married six months later. And that was 25 1/2 years ago."
Darryl and Zuri McDaniels
In 1991, Zuri Alston was walking down Broadway in Manhattan, when one of her friends saw someone she knew – deejay Jam Master Jay. He was with rapper Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, a fellow founding member of Run-DMC.
"We were talking and Darryl looked at me and asked me my name," Zuri says. "I was 17 and was not thinking of anything serious. He was a nice dude."
For Darryl, then 27, it was different. "Something in me just said, ‘That’s my wife.’ It was that instantaneous."
A week later, they went on a date. "I actually fell in love with him when he went [on tour]," Zuri says. "He would call me all the time, send me letters. Very sweet."
The couple married in 1992 and have a 17-year-old son. With her son soon bound for college, Zuri is ready to figure out what she wants to do next. "The best part is bouncing ideas off Darryl, because he’s just so open-minded, so willing to help me. We’re going to our next chapter."