Exes and Uh-Ohs

Salisbury native Bonnie Ashley's tale of her 11 marriages and 11 divorces takes the cake

June 24, 2008|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,Sun reporter

Bonnie Ashley has grouped together all seven of her ex-husbands. The Bethany Beach resident scanned their images on a sheet of paper that she often shows folks eager to know how she managed to get married and divorced 11 times - tying and severing the knot with two of the men three times each - and why the unions lasted anywhere from 45 days to just under five years.

To hear the author of the self-published book Ex-Husband in Freezer describe each man is to know that she can reallllly pick 'em.

Her marriage to husband No. 1 - she says as she pointed to the man in the upper left-hand corner - was doomed to fail. She only married him to leave the home of her father, a dictatorial, domineering Holiness minister. Husband No. 2 was a terrific companion but had weird ways about him; sexually, he would do unspeakable things but was virtually uninterested in intimacy with his wife. She married and divorced him three times, going through bouts of nonfulfillment with him and loneliness without him before giving up on hopes that he would change.

Husband No. 3? A consummate womanizer. No. 4 had a volatile temper; Ashley said she left him after he threatened her. She left No. 5 after finding nude photos of him and another man. No. 6 was a minister with an uncontrollable porn addiction. And No. 7 (whom she also married thrice) was good for passion and intimacy but little else.

And those are just the guys she married. It says nothing about the affair she had for about the first 10 years of her marriages with the man she wanted to be with all along.

"After being surrounded as a child and teenager by males who were always telling me what to do and when to do it," she writes, "I felt the need to have one around me at all times."

Meet the woman whose marital history is probably enough to make oft-married actress Elizabeth Taylor utter, "Whoa!" Ashley is a Salisbury-born, 53-year-old real estate agent with a warm smile, a free spirit, a charming demeanor and a woeful penchant for hooking up with the wrong guy.

She's also one of the most sought-after guests on the talk-radio and television circuit, delighting listeners across the U.S. and Canada about a marital life that began with her first marriage in 1974 and ended with her last divorce two years ago.

Since Ex-Husband in Freezer was released in February, Ashley has done more than two dozen radio and television appearances.

She'll be featured in a magazine in the United Kingdom. Two film producers have purchased her book. She says she's in talks with one about bringing her story to the big screen.

Ashley's stroke of marital misfortunes brings to mind celebrities known for their multiple spouses, including bandleader Artie Shaw (married and divorced eight times), actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor (nine marriages with seven divorces and an annulment), Taylor (occasionally parodied for her eight marriages, seven divorces) and actress Lana Turner (eight marriages, including one with Shaw, and seven divorces).

Yet it's not surprising that Ashley had to self-publish her story. Her compelling, often salacious page turner was released at a time when publishing companies have been much maligned for taking on high-profile autobiographies and memoirs that turned out to be fictional.

Colorado-based self-publishing company Outskirts Press agreed to help Ashley get her book to print, and they honored her agreement she made with a few of her ex-husbands (including one who edited the manuscript) and family that none of their real names would be used.

When reporters have asked her of proof that she's been married and divorced 11 times, she produces a plethora of legal documents: marriage license applications, licenses and divorce papers.

Ashley, who said she doesn't receive alimony from any of her husbands, is enjoying the newfound modicum of fame brought on by reliving her tempestuous life.

She's received favorable feedback from women who harbor secrets of multiple marriages. One woman, unsure about entering into a marriage, decided against it after chatting with Ashley via e-mail.

Across the airwaves, her message has receive mixed reactions.

"As soon as she finished up, we got a few calls from people who were divorced two or three times that said, 'Now I don't feel like such a screw-up," said Drew Savage, a morning-radio-show host at Vancouver, Canada, FM station 95 Crave. "I could understand why some people would feel offended or believe she takes marriage lightly. But I admire someone who lives life with such passion."

What's the one message Ashley hopes the book conveys?

"Don't make the same mistakes I did," she said. "Don't jump into marriage. Get to know people. Live with them if you have to, and try on the shoe before you buy it."

Ashley offers sordid details of growing up in close-knit, conservative church communities, mostly in Maryland and the South.

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