TO MARRY JAMES BROWN IS TO EMBRACE a heightened version of for better or for worse. Still, even by the standards set by the hardest working man in show business, Adrienne Brown had a rough run. The former hair and makeup artist filed assault charges against the soul singer four times and was arrested or hospitalized for prescription drug problems even more often during their 11-year marriage. She stood by her husband when, starting in 1988, he spent 26 months in prison after leading Augusta, Ga., police on a high-speed chase. But the couple was entering a loving on-again period when tragedy struck on Jan. 6. The 45-year-old Adrienne collapsed at Beverly Hills' posh Hidden Garden guest house, where she was recuperating after extensive cosmetic surgery, and died soon after. The official L.A. County coroner's word: "Signs of early heart disease," apparently unrelated to the surgery.
Stunned, her husband flew to L.A. from their 62-acre spread in Beech Island, S.C. Says his publicist Sheryl Northrop: "He is distraught." The couple, who met on TV's Solid Gold in 1981, had just done some patching up. In October a bruised and bloodied Adrienne told Aiken County police that James had beaten her; then she recanted. He claimed drugs had prompted her tall tale, and, no stranger to drug trouble himself, said he would divorce her unless she sought treatment.
A 10-day stay at the Betty Ford Center in December left Adrienne seemingly eager to start anew. "She told me she was going to concentrate on getting her life right," says Larry Fryer, her pastor at Augusta's Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Dancing cheek-to-cheek at Brown's New Year's Eve concert in Greenwood, S.C, the two were clearly getting close. As Brown has said: "It's love between us."
On Newsstands Now
- The Little Couple: A New Mom's Fight to Live
- Remembering Nelson Mandela
- Princess Kate's Style Secret!
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine