The rocker wed in 1984, but the union (and the straight guise) wouldn't last

Out of all his outlandish getups in all his thousands of public appearances, this one was perhaps the most eyebrow raising. Costumed as a bridegroom in lavender and white, flamboyant, bisexual rocker Elton John startled his fans by doing something very conventional: getting married. On Feb. 14, 1984, in an Anglican church in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, John, 36, wedded German sound engineer Renate Blauel, 30, after an engagement of exactly five days.

As collaborator Bernie Taupin later explained, ”I always knew that if Elton suddenly got a bee in his bonnet about wanting a family, it was likely to happen pretty suddenly.” Actually, John and Blauel had met in mid-1982 at London’s AIR studio while he was dubbing vocals for his 1983 album, Too Low for Zero. The unassuming Blauel told the press she was unfazed by John’s bisexuality, which he had publicly declared in 1976. For his part, said John, ”I simply want to be a family man — and I’m not getting any younger.” Nevertheless, in April he left for a European tour without her. And despite his desire for fatherhood, there would be no children.

The pair grew increasingly distant, emotionally and geographically. They lived on separate continents for months at a time, and the London tabloids’ relentless references (sometimes blatantly false) to his ”gay past” strained the marriage even further. In January 1987, when Elton, in Sydney again, underwent throat surgery, Blauel remained in L.A. In March, at his lavish 40th-birthday bash in England, she was absent again, said to be home with the flu. Not until Nov. 18, 1988, however, was the couple’s no-fault divorce officially announced. Blauel promptly withdrew to the 17th-century Surrey cottage she received in the settlement (along with a sum reported to have been as much as $45 million).

Meanwhile, Elton moved on, up — and out. In the early ’90s, as he undertook 12-step programs for alcoholism, bulimia, and drug abuse, he also informed an unsurprised public of his homosexuality. In a 1992 Los Angeles Times interview, he blamed the marriage on his addiction-addled haze: ”Even though I knew I was gay, I thought this woman was attractive and that being married would cure me of everything wrong in my life…. When you take that amount [of drugs and alcohol], you can’t have any relationship.” These days, clean and sober, he has a three-year relationship with Canadian filmmaker David Furnish, whose documentary about him, Tantrums and Tiaras, recently aired on British TV. His four-year marriage notwithstanding, it seems that John is just not one of those who can easily hide.