Change of Heart
09/04/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
The mother-daughter relationship," Naomi Judd once said, mulling her occasional family spats with singer Wynonna and actress Ashley, "is...even more complicated than the man-woman thing."
She may want to rethink that. On Aug. 14 the 54-year-old country crooner filed for divorce from her husband of 11 years—and Wynonna's manager—Larry Strickland, 54, accusing him of adultery. "She is devastated and shocked," says a friend, who claims that when Naomi, who had been touring with Wynonna, 36, for four months, returned to the couple's sprawling farm outside Franklin, Tenn., in July, she was tipped off by an acquaintance that her husband had been having an affair. (Calls to Strickland have not been returned.) "It was a total surprise," says Neil Pond, editor of Country Weekly. "They hid any internal problems they were having from the world."
Yet even from its start, their relationship displayed all the elements of a heartsick country song. The pair met through friends in 1979. On their second date Strickland told Judd he was still legally married, she wrote in a '93 memoir. On the third he said he loved her. But in 1982, she wrote, he cheated and she fired a shotgun over his head. Ashley, 32, who is engaged to race-car driver Dario Franchitti, once likened her mother's romance to "picking at a scab." Still, they married in 1989. The next year Strickland stood by his wife when she was diagnosed with the sometimes fatal hepatitis C. In remission since '97, Judd joined Wynonna in a comeback tour last March. Those who know her best say the six-time Grammy winner will come out on top. "After everything she has been through," says a friend, "she can get through this too."