Levendis didn't know the groom from Adam. Nor did most of the celebrated guests who attended the A-list party, held a week later in a friend's Beverly Hills home. A documentary filmmaker, Claessen met Goldberg while they worked together on a movie project five months ago, or so believes Goldberg's mono-monikered personal secretary, Marushka. Then again, they might have met during the making of Comic Relief. Marushka does know that "Whoopi knew the minute she met David that he was IT." Elliott Gould said he knew Claessen to be a "real sweet, sensitive guy," but many guests echoed Carroll O'Connor's mumbled remark: "Love her, don't know him." Producer Bob Zmuda recalls meeting Claessen at a Comic Relief press conference. "He's very handsome, very hip," says Zmuda. "I believe it was him I met."
Outside, fans and photogs were only interested in who they did know—a disparate celeb grab bag that included Barry Manilow, George Segal, Dolly Parton, Carol Burnett, Catherine Oxen-berg, Penny Marshall, Kenny Rogers, Robert Palmer, Mel Gibson and Cher. The verdict on the happy couple? "Blissed," said Robin Williams. "I've got a vibe they've got something great going," said actor James Woods. Summed up noted social observer Hugh Hefner: "They've got a serious case of the cutes."
Not even Church of Truth pastor Dr. John Peter Levendis knew the truth before he arrived at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas strip Sept. 1 to marry Caryn E. Johnson, 36, and David Edward Claessen, 27, the couple identified on the marriage certificate. But as soon as he saw the bride, Levendis recalls, "I said hesitantly, 'You remind me of an actress.' " Then Whoopi Goldberg "just smiled. I always considered her something of a rascal, but she was very dignified, a radiant lady."