From the San Francisco Chronicle:
In a tale rich in lost love, closeted secrets and acrimonious divorce, it turns out that famed local writer Terry McMillan -- whose celebrated romance and subsequent marriage to a man 23 years her junior became the subject of her fictionized best-seller "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" --
actually got her groove back with a man who now says he's gay.
The story is spilling out in made-for-Hollywood detail in Contra Costa County Superior Court, where McMillan has filed for divorce from her Jamaican- born husband of six years, Jonathan Plummer.
McMillan, 53, said in court documents that the marriage was based on a "fraud'' because Plummer lied about his sexual orientation -- and married her only to gain U.S. citizenship.
"It was devastating to discover that a relationship I had publicized to the world as life-affirming and built on mutual love was actually based on deceit,'' she wrote in her declaration. "I was humiliated."
Plummer, 30, countered in court papers of his own that McMillan has turned on him with a "homophobic'' vengeance and is trying to force his return to an uncertain future in Jamaica. He wants to void the couple's prenuptial agreement that would keep from him most of the millions she's earned as a writer.
He also claims he was denied his full share of royalties, as spelled out in the prenup, from "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," the fictionalized account of a single mother's torrid relationship with a Jamaican young enough to be her son that very much parallels the lives of McMillan and Plummer.
Plummer's attorney, Dolores Sargent, said her client has no interest in embarrassing McMillan or extorting money from her.
"All I want to do is settle the case in a way that's fair to both parties ... and that allows Jonathan sufficient funds to re-establish himself,'' Sargent said. "And we have been blocked.''
In court papers, however, McMillan leaves little doubt that she believes Plummer was always motivated by money.
"Jonathan has manipulated me from the very beginning in his scheme to come to the United States, become a citizen and get rich through someone else's effort,'' McMillan wrote in one of her filings.
In fact, McMillan says Plummer zeroed in on her precisely because of her celebrity status as an author whose earlier books included "Waiting to Exhale, '' which sold some 4 million copies and was made into a movie.
In an interview, Plummer insisted that he didn't know he was gay when he met McMillan in June 1995 at a Jamaican resort. Nor, he says, did he seize on the author's fame.
"I was a 20-year-old kid when I met her and had no idea that she was anybody other than an attractive, older woman,'' he said in court papers.
For her part, McMillan, who was then 42, said she worried when she first met Plummer that he was interested only in her money. "But Jonathan was very charming and made me believe that he was crazy about me,'' she told the court.
The two eventually married in Maui on Sept. 8, 1998 -- but not before Plummer signed a prenup that waived his rights to everything should they ever part, including "temporary and permanent spousal support and attorney's fees, '' according to court papers filed by McMillan.
The couple settled in McMillan's $4 million Danville home and, at least according to Plummer, enjoyed a happy life -- until the last few years when the marriage started coming undone.
"He became less attentive, less charming, more distracted and absent from the home,'' McMillan wrote in her declaration.
Plummer said he was spending long hours with a dog-grooming business in Danville that McMillan had set up for him a couple of years ago in apparent anticipation of a split.
It wasn't until just before last Christmas, Plummer says, that the two finally split -- after he revealed he was gay.
"I was kicked out of the house in December right after I told her,'' he said in the interview.
In court records, however, McMillan says Plummer confessed to being gay only after she confronted him about all his hours of phone calls to a male friend living in Jamaica. She also says she later learned that Plummer was participating in online gay chat sites.
In any event, judging from the court filings, the disclosure quickly turned ugly. McMillan obtained a restraining order to keep Plummer from their house, and she claimed she recently discovered that Plummer had embezzled at least $200,000 from her bank accounts before and during their marriage. (He admits in court papers "a gross error of judgment" in taking $62,000 without her knowledge, but said that he was financially dependent on her during the marriage and that he intends to pay it back.)
Plummer obtained his own restraining order against the author, alleging that McMillan constantly harassed him for coming out of the closet, and at one point walked into his dog-grooming business and tossed a ceramic object across the room.
"She kept calling me, saying nasty things about me being gay, calling me a fag,'' Plummer said in an interview.
In a Jan. 14 letter written by McMillan and filed with the court, the author told Plummer, "The reason you're going to make a great fag is that most of you guys are just like dogs anyway. ... You do whatever with whomever pleases you and don't seem to care about the consequences."
Plummer also says McMillan came into the dog-grooming shop and left him a bottle of Jamaican hot pepper sauce on which she wrote, "Fag Juice Burn Baby Burn,'' and that she also scrawled "Jonathan's Fag boyfriend Fag'' on a photo of a friend.
"She is an extremely angry woman who is homophobic and is lashing out at me because I have learned I am gay,'' Plummer declared in a court filing last month.
McMillan's attorney, Jill Hersh -- a divorce lawyer who has handled civil rights cases involving gay couples and their children -- says her client "is anything but homophobic.''
"However, she feels betrayed and disappointed ... that her husband is gay, '' Hersh said. "And anything you have seen in the pleadings emanates from how she is experiencing the end of her marriage, and it doesn't have to do with anything else.''
Hersh also disputes Plummer's contention that McMillan was seeking an annulment as a way to get him deported, as he alleges. In pressing her claim of fraud, however, McMillan told the court that Plummer waited to tell her he was gay until he knew his application for citizenship was going to be approved.
Plummer says he understands that McMillan felt betrayed by his coming out. "But I was being truthful to myself, and didn't want to hurt her anymore,'' he said.
On June 17, a Superior Court judge handed Plummer a minor victory -- ordering McMillan to pay him $2,000 a month in spousal support, plus $25,000 in attorney's fees -- until a full trial on the validity of the prenuptial agreement and the annulment request is heard in October.
Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They can also be heard on KGO Radio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil Matier can be seen regularly on KRON 4 News, and also on Sunday night at 9:30 on his own show, "4 the Record." Got a tip? Call them at (415) 777-8815, or e-mail them at email@example.com