Before Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, before Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli, before Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips, J. Geils Band singer Peter Wolf made worlds collide (and gossip columnists’ heads spin) when he married critically acclaimed Hollywood star Faye Dunaway.
The glamorous Dunaway, already Oscar-nominated for her work in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde — and soon to pick up her second nomination, for 1974’s Chinatown — may have seemed like an unlikely match for Wolf, a harmonica-toting blues belter whose sweaty antics as the J. Geils Band’s one-of-a-kind frontman had helped the group earn an ardent live following even as their record sales struggled. But whether or not anyone in the press thought their relationship made sense, it worked for the newlyweds. For a while, anyway.
Eventually, however, the strain started to show: as Dunaway wrote in her book, “time, life, and the world kept wearing away at our relationship.” They separated in 1978, and their divorce was finalized in 1979 — the year before the J. Geils Band scored its highest chart showing in nearly a decade with the (allegedly) coincidentally titled Love Stinks. The band finally notched a No. 1 record the following year with Freeze Frame, but by 1983, Wolf had to face the reality of another severed union, as he parted ways with his bandmates to pursue a solo career.
“We were in a romance, she worked hard and was very dedicated to her work. I worked hard and was very dedicated to my work,” Wolf recalled when asked about his relationship with Dunaway. “We both shared each other’s worlds and we both respected the work. And, I might say, we made it a very assertive attempt not to become a celebrity couple. We turned down all these Barbara Walters-coming-to-the-house kind of things and yak, yak, yak. It was something that we really — I think — wisely avoided.”