WASHINGTON — Washington
She did all the right things -- sat through her husband's three-month-long trial, stated publicly that she and their son would stand by him through his troubled days, prayed with him, danced with him, held hands with him, defended him.
But those who know Effi Barry, wife of departing D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who was sentenced in October to six months in prison for cocaine possession, say it was clear she did those things out of a sense of duty, commitment and caring. And clear, they said, that she would eventually choose to go her own way.
And, indeed, earlier this week, the city's private and reserved first lady moved out of the family's southeast Washington home with 10-year-old son Christopher to an undisclosed place.
The mayor's press office will say only that the move is not a legal separation, and neither of the Barrys will discuss the matter with the press.
"A lot of people in this town are not the least bit surprised," says one longtime friend who asked not to be identified. "It's been rather apparent that theirs has been a political marriage for a long time. Effi showed courage and fortitude to stick with him under pressure. Now she's decided to reclaim her right to independence. She's more than paid her dues."
"It was inevitable," says Cindy Adams, New York Post gossip columnist, who interviewed Mrs. Barry extensive ly this summer for the Fox Network's "A Current Affair" and has spoken with her recently. "All of the dirt that came to the surface as a result of the [mayor's drug and perjury] trial brought this to a pinnacle."
The "dirt" aired during the trial this summer included countless tales of the mayor's womanizing, most pointedly portrayed in the FBI videotape of Mayor Barry's hotel room meeting with Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore, in which he smokes crack cocaine and makes apparent sexual advances toward the former model.
Mrs. Barry attended the trial nearly every day, although she didn't always arrive and leave with her husband of 12 years. She sat stoically through the testimony, much of it about her husband's drug use and "girlfriends," often gazing down while working on a small pull rug, once shaking her head slowly at testimony that Mayor Barry and Ms. Moore used cocaine at Ms. Moore's mother's home on Mother's Day.
There was so much sympathy for the loyal, supportive wife that hundreds of women turned out for a tea held in her honor last July at the University of the District of Columbia.
"People were proud, surprised, grateful she stuck as long as she did," says a friend.
Adds Ms. Adams, "She was going to be a classy lady throughout it. You stay. You don't add to the pain and burden. You wait until things simmer down and then you go away."
Although the Barrys went together to the wedding of City Administrator Carol B. Thompson this past weekend, and even hosted a brunch for the newlyweds, Mrs. Barry didn't accompany her husband and Christopher on a vacation to Jamaica in September, saying she needed to spend time with a friend who was ill.
She hinted at the rockiness of her marriage in the few interviews she's given over the past year. When the couple was interviewed by a Washington TV station in June, Mayor Barry said, "We are going to be together. . . ." His wife said, "We are going to try."
One friend says Mrs. Barry has applied for a teaching position at her alma mater, Hampton University in Virginia, from which she has a bachelor's degree in home economics. (She also has a master's degree in health education from the City College of New York.) She is also said to be working on a book with a Los Angeles literary agent.
The longtime Barry friend said it was obvious the couple had had an "understanding" within their marriage, allowing them more individual freedom. "The marriage could not have existed otherwise," says this source.
In fact, Mrs. Barry told Ms. Adams in the July interview on "A Current Affair" that her husband had been home for dinner with the family only "six or seven times" during their entire marriage.
But when the mayor's lengthy trial ended this summer, says Ms. Adams, "It wasn't about to be business as usual for Effi."