It's. nice to have a shoulder to lean on. When glitz rocker Elton John recently split from his wife, one of the first people he told was Fergie, the Duchess of York, at Prince Charles's 40th-birthday do. If Fergie was surprised, she was alone in the world of rock and royalty. After all, the self-avowed bisexual (known in gay circles as Sharon) and his bride, Renate Blauel, a German recording engineer, had spent more time apart than together during their 4½-year marriage. The couple met in 1982 while making John's Too Low for Zero album, agreed to marry over a chicken curry dinner in Sydney, Australia, 18 months later and exchanged I dos in a 1984 Valentine's Day ceremony. The romance gradually wilted. "Because of his work, Elton's just not around," says friend Ed Coan. "Their paths aren't crossing."

When announcing their divorce last month, Renate claimed that she and Elton were parting amicably "and genuinely intend to remain best of friends." Word is, they were never much more. According to the London tabloids, the marriage was never consummated, the couple had his-and-her bedrooms in John's $7,000,000 mansion in Old Windsor, and Elton, 41, met other men and women in high-priced hotel suites. Renate, 34, began spending more time recording and managing the career of protégée and close friend, singer Sylvia Griffin, 32. The union was rife with rifts and reconciliations. In March 1987 Renate blew off Elton's 40th-birthday bash (Fergie and Andy did not) but earlier this year climbed a ladder to his bedroom window when unflattering sexual profiles in the press drove him into seclusion. In March 1988 they played the happy couple at a $44,000 birthday party Elton tossed for Renate but have rarely been seen together since.

Renate's divorce settlement is rumored to be as much as $45,000,000. Elton has already bought her a $600,000 cottage in Surrey, and friends report she'll lay no claims on his fleet of Bentleys. Elton, currently recording in Denmark, is relieved not to have had the heir he once wanted. "I don't really think you will ever see an Elton Johnette running around," he told a London paper. Too bad. Would have been nice to hear him sing "Your Song."