Urban Legends

An Expensive Separation

The Legend

A couple living in Bristol, Delaware, was having serious marital problems. The man complained that his wife never did anything but cook, clean, bring up their four kids, and spend his money. The woman complained that her husband barely had time to talk to her between business trips, late nights working, and rounds of golf, and that she didn't understand why they had to live in a one-bedroom rental when he made a good mid six figures.

It all came to a head one night just before the man was scheduled to go on a three-week business trip with his former Playboy centerfold secretary. The man demanded that "the money-grubbing little w***e" be out of his house with the kids by the time he got back from his trip.

Three weeks later, the man found the house in an awful mess. The front door was almost inaccessible due to a huge pile of milk bottles, boxes of uneaten pizza, and newspapers from all over the globe. In the house, the man found the phone off the hook -- he later discovered that it had been connected long-distance to the speaking clock in Australia for 20 days. All the faucets and the bathtub were running water down the drain, the gas burners on the stove were going full blast in competition with the also-blasting air conditioner, all the lights were on, and every electrical outlet was attached to a power strip jammed full of running electrical devices. The mail was full of packages from book and record clubs thanking him for joining, and more than 300 magazines were accompanied by demands for promised payment. And to top it all off, all of his clothing had been taken to the drycleaners in deplorable condition and it was going to cost thousands of dollars to get it back.

Behind the Legend

The incident described occurred in 1976, with Dianna Maxwell leaving her husband Edward Maxwell more than $80,000 in brand-new bills. What the legend doesn't mention is that Dianna managed to get to her husband's office before he arrived to pick up his secretary, and during a stolen moment she opened the secretary's travel bag and replaced her birth control pills with Chiclets.

Many months after the fateful business trip, when Mr. Maxwell was just getting his affairs in order, he was graced with a $250,000 paternity suit and a lifetime of additional child-support payments.

Dianna sold her story to Hollywood and, after touring the talk-show circuit, became the author of a lucrative series of bitter romance novels.

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