Married Life Begins at Prime Time for Anne Ford and the TV Anchor Who Snagged Her, Chuck Scarborough
03/07/1983 at 01:00 AM EST
Except that both are blond, once-divorced, and not pressed for carfare, the smooth anchorman and the shy auto heiress make a strikingly dissimilar pair. Consider: Chuck Scarborough, 39, appears twice each weeknight on New York's WNBC-TV before two million viewers and says, "I don't mind at all if people come up to me on the street"; the former Anne Ford Uzielli, 40, walks around Manhattan with her head down hoping that nobody will recognize her. She is terrified to give even a short speech and tells her mate, "You're turned on by the public—I'm not."
It goes on. He's from a middle-class family, doesn't care about clothes, and has let his job wreck his social life for years; as the younger daughter of Anne and Henry Ford II, she was born to both high fashion and high society. More? He's Episcopalian, she's a lapsed Catholic. He pilots small planes, she's petrified of flying. He's garrulous, she's quiet and blunt. He's evening, she's morning—so much so that when he goes on camera for the 11 o'clock news, she says, "I've already gone to bed." So what has marriage been like since these leaders of the most-eligible lists wed last October?
"It's been," says Anne Scarborough, "one helluva adjustment."
And yet adjusting is just what they've done. Because "I'm out of sync with the rest of the world," Chuck says, they have their own daytime and prime-time schedules. Anne is up at 7:30 in their sunny six-bedroom, two-story Park Avenue apartment to get her daughter off to school. When Chuck stirs at 9:30, they breakfast and read the papers on the navy-and-orange batik sofas in the living room. After lunch—often at home—he taxis to NBC's Rockefeller Center studios at 2:30 to prep for the hour-long 6 p.m. news. After the show, which Anne dutifully watches because "he likes me to tell him what he's doing right," it's home for dinner. "Nothing fancy—I do steaks, chops, chicken," she says. "Chuck will eat anything." If they dine out, he has to leave after cocktails to be in the studio by 9 for the 11 p.m. news. Their honeymoon was a weekend in town at the Carlyle Hotel ("Fun job," Anne smirks), and even now a Saturday movie is a big outing.
At a reported $500,000 a year, Scarborough is one of the top-paid local anchors in the business. With his half-innocent, half-sly smile and preppy appeal to women, who voted him New York's "sexiest anchorman" in one poll, he has helped lift WNBC news out of third place in the ratings; now it is often No. 1. With that success behind him, he is aiming for a network slot in TV news, which he finds an intriguingly "curious blend of journalism and showbiz." He also hopes to "write a bestseller"—which he has tried twice with thrillers titled Stryker and The Myrmidon Project.
Anne, by contrast, is happily ambition-free. She audits courses in politics and international relations three days a week at Hunter College, but purely for pleasure. What will she be doing in five years? "Probably still taking these classes," she says with a shrug. "I do what I want to do. I study piano, go to school and am on three committees for handicapped children. That's my life. I'm not a housewife or one who can sit in the park with other women."
With so little in common, at least on the surface, it is surprising Anne and Chuck ever met, much less fell in love. The first encounter was two years ago. Chuck, whose eight-year marriage to Linda Gross was on the rocks (they divorced last June), offered to take out for spaghetti a friend's daughter and her pal, Anne's daughter, Allegra. "Allegra had a crush on me," Chuck says, and when he showed up she was so overcome her mother had to push her out the door. "Anne was all gussied up, going somewhere," he recalls. "I found her immediately attractive. It was a marvelous, volatile romance, with a great deal of passion." She will say only that Chuck seemed "interesting and bright, and he liked children." But in fact, "Anne wasn't that cool about it," says her sister, fashion designer Charlotte Ford. "She was like anybody else in love." Today, a friend confides, "She puts notes under his pillow and things like that." Not long ago she sent him an anonymous mash note at WNBC—and was a bit annoyed when he never mentioned it. "It was a rude awakening for Anne," Scarborough says. "I get those things regularly. Even Frank Perdue has groupies. Everyone on TV does."
But for all their fervor, says Scarborough, "We didn't enter into this marriage with rose-colored glasses. Besides undying love, we promised to challenge each other intellectually. I was seeking someone who would stimulate me—I was slipping into lethargy and middle age." Early on, she got him jogging. "It was good for his head," she explains. "I also like to buy his clothes. He had all white shirts when I met him."
They live with her children, Allegra, now 11, and Alessandro, 16, from her nine-year marriage to Italian-born Giancarlo Uzielli, a Manhattan stockbroker turned restaurateur. Chuck's children, Chad, 6, and Elizabeth, 3, are in Florida with their mother, who has remarried, but they fly up every other weekend. "Two little ones were difficult for me to adjust to at first," Anne admits, "but I never forced myself on them. I don't try to be their mother." Initially, Chuck says, he urged her "to push more, but her method proved to be correct." Might there be more Scar-boroughs in Anne's future? She was rocked when her son told her, "Please don't have a baby." Says Anne: "Chuck would love it, but I'm too old. And when you have children who can finally do things, it's hard to think of going back."
There's a lot to think back on in Anne's charmed early life. Her 1961 debut, a $250,000 bash at the Ford home in Grosse Pointe, Mich., featured Ella Fitzgerald and some 50,000 roses; a crew of 70 mopped up the rain seeping through the turquoise roof of the outdoor pavilion. After Briarcliff, she studied fashion in Paris and made the Best Dressed List. When, at age 22, she married Uzielli, Truman Capote and the Douglas Fairbankses were among the guests. "All my friends were getting married," she says of that union. Of their divorce she says, "I was devastated when my own parents divorced, but I was 21 then. It's been tougher for my children; they hardly ever see their father." For five and a half years after the divorce she dated New York's (now ex) Governor Hugh Carey, but "that was over before I met Chuck," she says.
Scarborough's relatively modest background was no problem for Anne. "It would have made a difference if I were 21," she says, "but at our age you look for compatibility." Born in Pittsburgh, Chuck bounced around the Midwest with his mother and father, a GE manufacturer's representative, until they divorced when he was 10. "I was very hurt," he recalls. "I have been tormented by the notion of hurting my own kids that way." Spurning college after high school, he joined the Air Force, took pre-engineering on the side, and after his discharge worked as an electronics technician for ITT in California. Soon bored with that, he landed a $1.85-an-hour job doing "everything" on a TV station in Biloxi, Miss. Then, fascinated by TV news, he enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi to get a degree in broadcasting. After graduating in 1969, he headed for the Big Apple—and "found it a little unfriendly. They weren't about to hire this guy with the cotton still hanging on his jeans." He worked for CBS affiliates in Atlanta and Boston before being brought to New York by WNBC in 1974.
Besides their apartment, the Scar-boroughs share a 16-room mansion (hers) in Southampton. There they often joust on sister Charlotte's nearby tennis court. "We both have tempers, but I've met my match here," he says. "There are no surprises. Anne practices truth in labeling." And now that she has him jogging and in colored shirts, is there anything else she'd like to change? "Yes," she admits. "I'd like to get him off the 11 o'clock news."