How Brooke shook Andre's world
by MIKE AGASSI
December 4, 2004
ANDRE Agassi began dating US actor Brooke Shields in 1993 – a relationship that caused a media frenzy wherever they went.
But, as Andre's dad, I had his reservations about the beautiful star right from the start.
Despite plenty of opportunities, by the time he was 24, Andre had been interested in only three women in his life: Amy Moss, a member of the hospitality team at a tournament in Memphis; Wendi Stewart, a neighbour of ours on Tara Street in Las Vegas who, for a time, travelled with Andre on the tour; and Barbra Streisand, who . . . well, you all know who she is. For the record, as far as I know anyway, Barbra and Andre really were just good friends.
And then he met Brooke Shields.
She wasn't as flashy as many Hollywood types. She was sweet natured, well mannered, reserved, sensitive, and rather bright.
Both Andre and Brooke are very spiritual people. Both were child prodigies. Both were powerfully motivated – some would say browbeaten – by their parents to succeed, Brooke by her mother and Andre by me. Both had high-profile careers, ones that had experienced serious bumps over the years. However, those high-profile careers limited their time together; Andre was a slave to the tour, and Brooke had movies – mainly of the direct-to-video variety – to shoot.
As nice as Brooke seemed, I did have reservations about the relationship from the very beginning.
In particular, the media frenzy their union had spawned concerned me. When their relationship became public, even Andre, hardly a stranger to the press, was stunned by the circus that followed Brooke's every move. Any time Brooke was in the stands while Andre played a match, the camera focused on her at least as much as it focused on him.
Even though Andre had decided beforehand to take it easy in 1993 it had wound up being a lousy year. He'd been left by Bollettieri. He'd endured a string of bitter losses. He dropped to No. 24 in the rankings and ended the year laid-up and overweight after wrist surgery.
In 1994, Andre proved my fears – about his game, anyway – unfounded. After five months away from the tour, during which he'd done some hard thinking about his future, he blazed back.
In April of 1995, amid a 26-match winning streak, Andre squeaked into the No. 1 spot for the first time in his career. Even better, thanks at least in part to Brooke's influence, he drastically improved his training regimen and eating habits. By clocking in 2½ hours of gym time a day (he could bench press nearly 300 pounds!) and eschewing Taco Bell and Big Gulps, Andre shed the weight he'd gained.
Perhaps most amazing of all, he cut his hair off. In one swift motion, the over-processed rat's nest that had come to symbolise Andre's flash, his flamboyance, was gone. He'd started balding anyway, so he decided it was time to bite the bullet.
In 1996, Andre called home and told us he was planning to propose to Brooke. "If that's what you want," I said, "you have my blessing."
I wasn't happy about it, but then again, it wasn't my life. And who knew? Maybe I'd be proven wrong about Andre marrying Brooke.
The wedding was to be in Monterey on April 19, 1997, 10 days before Andre's 27th birthday.
At the reception, I sat down for dinner with my family – except for Andre, of course, who was with Brooke. We ate an obscenely expensive meal after which I felt sick. Not sick physically, but sick. The stress of the day, my misgivings about Andre's marriage – it all rumbled in my gut like fish.
So I left.
In retrospect, I see that leaving your own son's wedding halfway through the reception isn't the greatest move a father could make. But I just had to get out of there, to breathe a bit. I think Andre viewed my early exit as some sort of protest statement, and maybe it was. I've never been great at hiding my feelings, especially when I see a problem. One thing I do know is Andre was terribly angry and hurt afterward, and I was sorry about that. Really I was. But it was done. I couldn't undo it.
Andre tanked in 1997.
It didn't take a brain trust to figure out the problem: Andre was torn. He loved Brooke. He wanted to be with her. Chasing the tour meant spending weeks, even months apart. He just didn't want it.
As for Brooke, she was busy with her show, with other acting jobs. She wasn't about to sacrifice that for Andre. After all, if history was any judge, she might never find work again. And so Andre made the sacrifices, following Brooke from location to location.
Andre, sometimes referred to as "Mr Brooke Shields" by the press, was not happy.
Finally, after bottoming out at No. 141, Andre had had enough. With Brooke's blessing, he re-dedicated himself to tennis in late 1997. But by then, his confidence was so shattered, he opted to play the satellite circuit instead of the ATP tour. Andre took a lot of guff for that in the press, but I was proud of him. A lesser man would have retired. Through hard work, through steady effort, Andre turned things around in 1998.
One night, in April of 1999, the phone rang. It was late. As always, Betty picked up. It was Andre.
She listened, nodded as he spoke, and then hung up the phone. "He's filing for divorce," she said, her eyes wide. The next day, just 10 days shy of Andre and Brooke's two-year anniversary, it was final. Just like that.
Andre never told us what had happened, why he'd wanted a divorce, why he'd wanted it so quickly. I had a few suspicions; at my job, I occasionally heard things about Brooke that weren't exactly favourable, but I never passed those stories along to Andre. The fact the couple had barely spent more than a week at a time together during the course of their 2½-year marriage couldn't have helped.
In any case, as far as I was concerned, the divorce was good news. Very good news.
Not long after the papers were filed, he called me. "You were right," he said. He sounded sad. "You had the vision. I didn't have it. I didn't see clearly."
"I'm sorry," I said. I knew he was hurting. "I did know." "But it's over now," he said. "It's done."
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Andre Agassi forever