03/20/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
"I WORKED ALL MY LIFE TO KEEP MY husband in good shape," Iolanda Quinn is saying, her thickly accented Italian erupting into sobs. "I gave him every day his vitamins, his pill." She did a remarkably good job, as the world learned 18 months ago, when Anthony Quinn fathered his 12th child, Patricia, by his 32-year-old secretary, Kathy Benvin. Today the macho, 79-year-old Zorba the Greek star is staying with his mistress and baby girl in Paris while Iolanda, 60, rattles about in the couple's spacious Manhattan apartment, where, she says, "I wake up alone and very sad." But Quinn insists he has "not abandoned Iolanda. My life took a detour."
Claiming she is too old-fashioned to seek a divorce after 29 years of marriage, Iolanda has nonetheless taken a thoroughly modern approach to settling her grievances. Retaining famed New York City divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, she filed in a Manhattan court on Feb. 24 for a formal separation from Quinn and sought to restrain him from squandering their estate on the woman she calls a snake. (As long as the two are not divorced, Iolanda retains her rights of inheritance, and, for now, Quinn is under court order not to dissipate the marital assets.) In her sworn affidavit, Iolanda charges that Quinn not only was unfaithful but also beat her. "He raised his hand many, many times," she claims. Quinn says he is "horrified" by the charges. "It may be the allegation du jour," he says. "It just didn't happen."
Iolanda, a Venice-born wardrobe assistant, met Quinn on the set of Barabbas in Rome in 1961. "I gave him a new life," says Iolanda, who claims Quinn had just been abandoned by first wife Katherine de Mille. But the couple were still married when Iolanda bore Quinn two children, and she was pregnant with a third when she and Quinn finally wed in 1966. Though he continued fathering children here and there (he has four illegitimate offspring in all), Iolanda forgave all his affairs—until he took up with Benvin. "She's ugly," Iolanda exclaims. "Ugly! This is what is upsetting me."
Just seven months ago, Iolanda pleaded with Quinn to "come back and live a normal life." Quinn, however, seeks not a reconciliation but, he says, "peace," and he pledges "to support Mrs. Quinn like a queen." Though a woman scorned, Iolanda harbors few illusions. "I still love my husband," she says. "I also know he's the greatest liar alive."