Once Engaged, Gitte and Her Football Hero Fumble at Love

updated 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

At best, their affair now looks like it will wind up as merely a blurb in the book of love. After months of engagement bliss, Brigitte Nielsen and pro football's beefy Mark Gastineau, who have split and regrouped in the past, seem to have arrived at a final parting of the ways. In a classically formulated statement, Brigitte's publicist announced that "conflicting career demands" had doomed the love-happy couple, and that "the stable, long-lasting relationship both were seeking was not possible." And by the way, the spokesman pointed out, Nielsen has returned to Hollywood from Italy, where she finished shooting Domino, due in December. And, added the publicist, Gastineau is about to depart for the New York Jets training camp.

Ah, what might have been: the hottest jock-actress matchup since DiMaggio and Monroe. But then again, Gastineau, 31, an NFL strikebreaker who will be playing in his 10th season with the Jets, is no Yankee Clipper, and Nielsen's beauty seems a bit less eternal than Norma Jean's. From the beginning, the pairing had been viewed as somewhat, well, unusual. The 6'5" Gastineau and the 6' Nielsen, 25, who had just won a reported $6 million in a divorce settlement from Sylvester Stallone, met last year. Nielsen spotted him draped in a towel during a postgame interview on TV. Her people called his people, and the two quickly became inseparable. Gastineau, too, was recouping from a failed marriage; he and wife Lisa had broken up in 1986, though they have not yet divorced.

Rumors had been circulating that Mark and Brigitte were not getting on of late. One pal speculated that he was smothering her with love, trying to take control of her life. Then, last May, she reportedly suffered a miscarriage. Things seemed to go downhill from there. Gitte held a press conference in Italy last month to plug Domino and read some original poems, including one titled The Man I Loved the Most, translated here from an Italian magazine, in which she seemed to long for Stallone: "We sacrificed our love to mean people./ Oh, God, darling, it's so sad." (Yo! Dante!) Not reading, she said of Sly: "We still love each other, even if it is impossible to live together." Then, in answer to rumblings that she and Gastineau were unraveling, she said, "No, it's not finished, but I don't know. I keep finding myself a step ahead, or a step behind." But no emotion can still Gitte's urge to plug. "This is also," she added, "the dilemma in the film Domino."

In New York, meanwhile, Lisa Gastineau, 28, a model who has watched her husband's romantic romp from the sidelines, was bemused by the breakup. Said Lisa: "Brigitte is obviously an intelligent girl."

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