ONCE IT HAD SEEMED LIKE A WILDLY OFFbeat romance—the intense, decidedly unhunky guy and the perfect Hollywood princess. Only last June, actor Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit 2), 28, and Michelle Pfeiffer, 34, Batman Returns' scene-stealing, whip-snapping Catwoman, seemed inseparable, showing up hand-in-hand at premieres and other Hollywood galas. Now a haggard Stevens finds himself alone and depressed, hunched over a table at Turtle Kraals, a fisherman's bar along the shrimp docks of Key West, Fla., where he is filming his new Fox TV series, Key West.

"I'm hurting. I'm a raw wound," he says of life without his former ladylove. "My nerves are jangling."

On this golden Saturday afternoon, Stevens is nursing a soda water and talking about his bruised heart. It was Pfeiffer's decision to end their three-year relationship. Though it may not have been a factor, Stevens had reportedly become involved this past summer with a high school senior who was working as an extra on his movie Super Mario Bros., then filming in Wilmington, N.C. One supermarket tabloid, the Star, even conjured up a scene in which Pfeiffer, paying a surprise visit to Stevens on the set of the Nintendo-inspired comedy-adventure film, walked into his trailer and discovered him and Jamie Golightly, 17, locked in a heated embrace.

Stevens emphatically denies any serious involvement with Golightly, a student in Wilmington. The actor says simply, "We went for one walk, I kissed her once. It was a mistake. I didn't have sex with her." Pfeiffer's spokeswoman Lois Smith doesn't disagree. "Michelle never opened a trailer door and saw them together," says Smith. "She didn't know a thing about this girl." Golightly herself, a part-time counter attendant at Mr. Chopstix Chinese restaurant in Wilmington, insists, "I never set foot inside his trailer."

Still, the stories about the actor and the schoolgirl weren't created out of whole cloth. Golightly admits that she and Stevens met in July at the Mad Monk, a local live-music club, and that he invited her and a few of her friends for a swim at his rented beach house a few days later. "We were attracted to each other, but not anything serious," she says. "There was kissing, but it was not that big a deal." In fact, she adds, "the first time I kissed him, he was like, 'You know, I've got a girlfriend, so don't say anything about this.' Right, there are a thousand people around us, and he's telling me not to say anything."

Stevens and Golightly managed one more swim-and-smooch session at a local rock quarry. But that apparently was the extent of their fling. "I don't think either [Stevens or Pfeiffer] were dumped for me," says Golightly. "I don't think I had that big of a part in it at all."

In fact, Pfeiffer and Stevens' problems seem to run deeper than some 9 PG-rated summer romance. "There were tensions," the actor says of life with la belle Michelle. Chief among them, he says, were the difficulties of living in the public eye and of carrying on a long-distance courtship. Only last June, the Los Angeles-based Pfeifler discussed the logistics of her relationship with her New-York City-based beau. "It's been OK up to this point," she said. "I don't think you should go more than two weeks without seeing each other. More than four is a disaster. But you just fumble along and hope everything works out."

The couple, who met while appearing in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, had been living together whenever they happened to find themselves on the same coast and tried hard to make their relationship work. After Pfeiffer's visit to Stevens' set in North Carolina, Stevens flew to Los Angeles in mid-July. It was then, he says, that they decided to break up.

It wasn't just the miles that came between them, though. According to Stevens' pal Richard Edson, an actor in Super Mario Bros., "It was a question of whether Fisher was ready to fully commit himself to Michelle, and he couldn't make; up his mind. I think she wanted a domestic situation, and Fisher might not have been ready for it. Now he might be re-evaluating that." Even Stevens hints about his unwillingness to settle down. "Relationships are difficult," he notes, adding, "I never had one before that lasted longer than nine months."

For that reason, Stevens might be something of an expert in post-affair depression. Not so. Sitting in Key West and staring at the bubbles in his soda water last week, he seemed sweetly desolate. "It's tearing him apart," says Edson of the breakup. Indeed, while Pfeiffer, who is taking a break from filming for the rest of 1992, is going to movies with old friends and spending time with her sisters, Deedee and Lori—and Golightly has hired a local talent agent to help capitalize on her moment in the limelight—Stevens seems to be grasping at some hope of a reconciliation. "I'm not dating. I don't know if she is," he says of Pfeiffer. "Nothing's over till it's over.

MARJORIE ROSEN
DON SIDER in Key West, BOB LANGFORD in Raleigh, LORENZO BENET and LYNDON STAMBLER in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Don Sider,
  • Bob Langford,
  • Lorenzo Benet,
  • Lyndon Stambler.