The latest episode in Meg Ryan’s love life may have found Gladiator heartthrob Russell Crowe in the starring role, but a decade ago she chose a different leading man. On Feb. 14, 1991, the 28-year-old actress made a one-woman man out of notorious lady-killer Dennis Quaid, 36, by consenting to marry him at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.

Some eight years before, according to Quaid, he first spied Ryan strolling along a Manhattan street — but he didn’t actually meet her until they both starred in 1987’s Innerspace. At the time, Ryan was a little-known actress coming off a minor role in Top Gun and dating the movie’s costar Anthony Edwards. Quaid, whose marriage to actress P.J. Soles had fizzled in 1983, was involved with Lea Thompson. The twosome hooked up again in 1988 on the Texas set of D.O.A., and one summer night in a rowdy bar Quaid put his arm around Ryan. ”It was like a thunderbolt,” Quaid said. ”Both of us felt, ‘This is it. We’re going to be together.”’

At first, it seemed it would be a harmonious trip to the altar. She once hired a plane to fly a banner reading ”Happy Birthday, Dennis” over a concert where Quaid and his band, the Eclectics, were playing; on her birthday, he had a marching band parade onto the set of her 1988 film The Presidio. But following a well-publicized argument at an L.A. club in 1990, Quaid confessed to Ryan he was addicted to cocaine, and they postponed their wedding while he went through rehab and she attended support meetings.

Several months later, as they celebrated Valentine’s Day at the Bel-Air, a drug-free Quaid suddenly told Ryan ”today’s the day.” The concierge tracked down a minister, and the couple were married in their hotel room. ”I was laughing and crying at the same time,” Ryan was quoted as saying in the New York Post, ”and I realized I could’ve never gotten married in front of a whole group of people.”

Ryan gave birth to their son, Jack Henry, on April 24, 1992, and the family seemed to enjoy a happy, low-profile life — until last June, when reports of a romance between Ryan and her Proof of Life costar, the hard-partying lady-killer Crowe, made tabloid headlines (the couple has since split up).

On June 28, Quaid and Ryan announced their separation and shortly after filed for divorce. According to Ryan, neither plans to publicly discuss the reasons for their breakup, but in a magazine story two years ago, the star of When Harry Met Sally … pointedly noted that real life seldom unfolds like a romantic comedy: ”There’s so much mythology about getting together, and there’s none about staying together, and staying together is what’s so hard.”


Time Capsule/Feb. 14, 1991

At the movies, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs slays ’em at the box office, grabbing the No. 1 spot in its first week. On television, CBS’ retrospective The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show is the toast of the town after finishing at the top of the Nielsens. In bookstores, Robert Bly’s masculinity missive Iron John is a New York Times best-seller. And in the news, as the USSR’s hold on Eastern Europe continues to crumble, Poland demands the withdrawal of 50,000 Soviet troops from inside its borders.