Tatum Weds John Under a Veil of Secrecy—and Leaves Her Dad Off the Guest List

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

To shield the bride and groom from 500 eager spectators and the hungry press, some 30 Pinkerton men were on duty, and the porte cochere over the driveway of the Oyster Bay, N.Y. church was draped with a screen of blue sheets. But there was no cloaking what was going on in the upper-crust suburb that Friday afternoon. Tennis' baddest boy, John McEnroe, 27, and Ryan O'Neal's little girl, Tatum, 22, were doing what no one really expected them to do—getting married.

"It was a nice sort of family gathering," said Ahmad Rashad, the sports-caster-friend of the groom, and "sort of family" was right. The couple's desire to wed quietly was blown by one whopping no-show: the bride's father. Absent too were Ryan's partner of seven years, Farrah Fawcett; Tatum's mother, ex-actress Joanna Moore; her actor brother, Griffin; and the pair's three-month-old baby, Kevin Jack. Ryan and Farrah, says an intimate, weren't even invited. They stayed behind in L.A. when John and Tatum flew East in a private jet from Van Nuys airport earlier in the week.

The marriage was sudden—the few friends invited were given just a week's warning. And everything about the wedding was small, from the turn-of-the-century stone church, St. Dominic's, to the number of people—no more than 60, most of them guests of the groom. The flowers were skimpy, and the Catholic ceremony, without a Mass, took a brisk 20 minutes. Nobody had expected a lot of formality, of course: Neither set of in-laws seemed to care much for the match, and John and Tatum themselves had expressed little public enthusiasm for wedlock. Even so, residents of the exclusive community were offended by all the secrecy. "This isn't necessary in Oyster Bay," sniffed one matron. "It's not like we have a lot of rowdies here." When John's black stretch limo arrived, the crowd booed his disappearance behind the sheets.

Inside the church, however, the wedding mood was blessedly normal. John and his best man, tennis pro and longtime buddy Peter Rennert, pranced nervously around trying to remember their steps and lines. Outside, guests mingled until the appointed hour; Rashad told actress Janet Jones, the girlfriend of guest Vitas Gerulaitis, about the bachelor party held the night before at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Manhattan. The elder McEnroes, having driven up in their own car, looked as cool as though this were just another match.

Most impressive of all, given her family concerns, Tatum was the picture of the happy bride throughout. Wearing a high-neck dress with puffy sleeves and a halo of roses, she walked smiling down the aisle to the strains of a wedding march. With John, who was sweating like the classic groom, she repeated the vows after Father Joseph Byrns, a 17-year friend of the McEnroes, and was unruffled even by a press helicopter that whirred overhead throughout the service.

"Tatum had a smile from ear to ear," Gerulaitis said later. "She was so happy." Added Rashad: "If you know John, you know he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do. I haven't seen him so excited in quite some time."

The reception was held at the McEnroes' nearby five-acre property, Bally-duff, a converted farm with three living quarters connected by terra-cotta-roofed walkways. A steak and lobster dinner preceded a musical evening. Mick Jones, guitarist of Foreigner, cut in on a local band, as did John, a basement guitarist, and Gerulaitis, jamming on blues numbers. Tatum even took a turn at the mike. The partying could be heard out on their street—Tennis Court Road—into the morning hours.

The following Monday, however, old Mac was back. Getting fired up for his return after a lengthy absence from the pro circuit, he played a practice set against Jimmy Connors in Stratton Mountain, Vt. McEnroe smacked a bothersome photographer in the leg with a ball and complained about invasions of his privacy. Then, right out in the open, without even a sheet to hide behind, the honeymooner went out and won his first pro match in more than eight months.

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