35 Years Ago: Pat Benatar Marries Neil Giraldo in a Secret Ceremony
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have been bandmates since 1979, lovers since a little while after that and husband-and-wife since 1982. The romance between them remains one of rock’s great love stories, as the married couple celebrates another wedding anniversary on Feb. 20.
Over the years, the duo has often talked about how they met. Benatar, then 26, had been signed to a record deal, but she needed a band to record and tour her debut album. Giraldo, then 23, was playing guitar with Rick Derringer, but didn’t have a recording contract.
“I hear him say he didn’t bring a guitar, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God,'” Benatar told Dan Rather in 2015. “What an ass. He comes here, he’s, like, coming for a meeting. Doesn’t he think I want to hear him play? He doesn’t even bring his axe? So I turn around ready to just [glare at] him, and then I see him, and I’m just, like, [sharp intake of breath].”
Giraldo felt the same spark and the two began working together on In the Heat of the Night, which included the hits “Heartbreaker” and “We Live for Love” (a song written by the guitarist). Although Benatar and Geraldo were drawn to one another, the problem was that each was still involved with another person. She had married her high-school sweetheart in 1972 and was going through a separation (and eventual divorce). He was dating The Exorcist actress Linda Blair.
While on tour, Giraldo confessed to Benatar that he was pretty sure Blair was cheating on him. The singer consoled him, but was also excited that a split could allow their relationship to begin. “This is a done deal,” she was thinking. “You. Are. Mine.”
Even though management wasn’t crazy about the bandmates flaunting their relationship (better for Benatar’s sex appeal if fans thought she was available), the lovers didn’t seem to care. They even wrote a song, the 1981 hit “Promises in the Dark,” about their personal feelings for one another.
In winter 1982, the couple was in Hawaii, where Giraldo was mixing John Waite’s solo debut, Ignition, which the guitarist had also produced. While driving around Maui, they decided to get married on the spot, in a secluded ceremony.
“I’m sort of impulsive that way,” Giraldo admitted to Malibu Times. So impulsive, actually, that the pair had to persuade strangers who were walking by to serve as the wedding’s witnesses. The judge who married them was the only other person there on Feb. 20, 1982.
The newlyweds announced their big news to friends and family, with Benatar even letting the media in on the nuptials. “I’m really happy,” Benatar told the press a few days after. “The setting – and the privacy – were just what we wanted.”
The honeymoon, although in an ideal location, was quick. Benatar was due back in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards on Feb. 24. It was worth returning to the mainland. That night, the singer bagged her second (of four) Grammys, this time for Best Female Vocal Performance for “Fire and Ice.”
Benatar and Giraldo have been, by all accounts, happy musical and life partners ever since. For decades, they’ve continued to write, record and tour together, all while building a family that includes two daughters. It was reported that a Broadway musical, inspired by the married couple’s long musical and romantic relationship, was even in the works. “Touring for us is like breathing,” Benatar said in 2015. “It’s an amazing life. But when we’re home, we’re home, with big Italian dinners on Sundays. Familia – that’s the focal point.”
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