John Cleese's mysterious divorce settlement

Published October 19, 2010

A couple of days ago, I went to the Cirkus theatre here in Stockholm to watch John Cleese on his Alimony Tour. As he bluntly informs the audience, he wouldn't be doing the tour if it wasn't for a costly divorce from his third wife, Faye Eichelberger, the terms of which seem excessively punitive. I have to admit that until I first heard about this tour earlier this year, I had no idea that Cleese had divorced his wife, nor that the terms of the divorce actually awarded her more of his money than he himself was left with. If I got this right, the gist of it was that she was awarded $20 million plus yearly payments of $1 million for seven years.

One can't help wondering: What on earth could Cleese have done that was so awful that she had to be consoled by so much money, or what did she contribute to the marriage that gave her the moral right to so much money, or what career opportunities did she give up during their time together that needed to be compensated by so much money? Curiosity got the better of me, and after a little googling I found some articles that informed me of what was apparently the main argument put forward.

According to the Daily Telegraph, "In her divorce testimony, [Faye Eichelberger] claimed Cleese was a 'world-renowned celebrity' and she was used to 'being entertained by royalty and dignitaries in castles'." This need to go on pursuing a life-style that she's become accustomed to is, as far as I've been able to find out, the only reason the judge saw fit to award her so much money.

It's not for me to pass judgment on Faye Eichelberger, even less so since I don't have all the details, but I have to wonder at this strange world we live in. Not least what a case like this says about what a marriage is supposed to be about. Only a small part passion and romance, apparently, and mostly a business arrangement wherein, if you happen to get "fired" from your "job", you are entitled to a hefty severance fee.

By the way, the show was fantastic, and although I'm sorry that John Cleese had to go on this tour for those reasons, I'm glad I got the opportunity to watch him talk at length about his life and career. It's only rarely that there's any onstage entertainment in this town that I want to take part of, but for a long-time Monty Python fan, this was a dream come true.