“I suppose it was inevitable that I was going to have a serious affair at some point,” writes composer Andrew Lloyd Webber of his romance with singer Sarah Brightman in his book Unmasked. The candid new memoir hits stands on Tuesday, the same month as the theatrical legend’s 70th birthday.
What made the affair complicated? They first met during Brightman’s audition for Cats in the early 1980s, a time when they were both married. Lloyd Webber also had two young children with his first wife (also named Sarah) of 12 years.
“[The affair with Sarah Brightman] is one of the parts of my life that I have been dreading writing about the most,” Lloyd Webber writes. “What you are reading is the umpteenth rewrite. That is the best I can say.”
In the chapter titled “Miss Sarah Brightman,” Lloyd Webber details how his famous musical Phantom of the Opera came into existence — a show that brought both Lloyd Webber, the composer, and Brightman, who starred as Christine Daaé, great success. With their professional relationship thriving, their personal lives became much more complicated when Lloyd Webber realized he was in love with Brightman, who is 13 years his junior, in March 1983.
According to his memoir, Lloyd Webber’s relationship with Brightman was “sealed” during a trip together to Northern Italy.
“Sarah wore a white miniskirt that elicited whistles from windows of houses that I swore were uninhabited,” he writes, “I was somewhat embarrassed, even more so than I had been by the astonishing white fur coat that she had worn on the plane over which La Bohème aficionados might say was more Musetta than Mimi.”
He adds, “But I loved talking music with Sarah and yes of course I loved the vicarious looks I got from the waiters in our deserted hotel and of course I loved the sex.”
Lloyd Webber writes that by the time they arrived at the Splendido Hotel in Portofino, Italy, he had no other option than to propose to Brightman.
“Well, in truth it wasn’t so much a proposal as a ‘we’re in love, we’re both married, what the f— do we do about it?'” he writes. “We decided that Sarah would meet my mother, I would meet her parents and if we survived that test I would break the news to my first Sarah.”
After they shared the news of their relationship with their parents (his mother was surprised, Brightman’s parents “were a bit nonplussed”), it took Lloyd Webber “two false starts” before he was able to break the news to his first wife.
“If someone can be both devastated yet resigned at the same time, that’s what Sarah was. There were moments when I wavered,” he writes. “Sarah even suggested that she turned a blind eye and let me lead a double life to keep the marriage intact. But I couldn’t lead my life like that.”
The composer thought it best to release a press statement about their relationship.
“It wasn’t our fault that Sarah and I fell in love,” he told the Daily Express. “We talked and talked about what we should do about it. In the end I drew a line down a piece of paper and put on one side the ‘pros’ and on the other side the ‘cons’ of us trying to get free to marry. The ‘pros’ came out only just ahead, but it was from that moment that I decided to tell my wife.”
According to Unmasked, it was a “horrible year” for Lloyd Webber, who moved out of his house and saw his kids every third weekend.
“Imo was just 5 and Nick 3; Imo certainly understood something of what was happening,” Lloyd Webber writes. “Thank goodness Imo never blamed herself for what happened as some children do when their homes are smashed. Sarah B was great with the kids…”
Both Lloyd Webber and Brightman were each divorced by mid-March 1984. The couple then married secretly at the registry office in Kingsclere, England on March 22.
That same night Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana came to see the opening of Starlight Express.
“Afterwards the Queen said she’d enjoyed the show, although when someone asked if she preferred horse racing to actors racing on roller skates she didn’t demure,” he writes. “Sarah B was with me in the pre-show line to be presented to the royals and someone had put it around that mistresses couldn’t be presented to the Queen.”
After the composer and the new Mrs. Lloyd Webber were introduced to Queen Elizabeth, “rumors of our marriage were swilling around backstage,” Lloyd Webber writes.
As dramatic as their romance was, it only lasted six years.
By January 1990, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman were divorced — Lloyd Webber was in love with someone else.
Brightman said that the end of their six-year relationship “is not something I either wish for or have sought,” adding, “I believe I can continue to have a professional association with Andrew.”
“I don’t think Sarah was expecting the whole thing to be over,” a source close to the couple told PEOPLE in July 1990. “From what I understand, there have been lots of problems, and she thought Andrew would issue a statement acknowledging that. She didn’t realize he would publicly humiliate her in the way he did. She’s behaving very well, but it is anybody’s guess as to what is going on.”