SHE WROTE the book that inspired a generation
of feminists, and 30 years later branded her ex-husband a wife beater.
Now he's fighting back and says she's nuts.
Carl Friedan, who was married to feminist icon Betty for 22 years, says his ex-wife's
claim in her memoir, "Life So Far," that he beat her up and gave her black eyes
are "S&M fantasies."
"The charges are part and parcel of a streak of lunacy that permeates her
personality and came forth full-strength in episodes of uncontrollable hysteria and
physical violence during our marriage," Carl Friedan said in an exclusive interview.
He added that the only violence that occurred during their marriage was directed
against him by Betty.
He also claimed that the groundbreaking author of "The Feminine Mystique" was
clinically insane and that in the mid-'60s, a doctor prescribed Thorazine for her.
"She took [the drug] for a week or two," he said, "until she discovered
it was widely used at that time to subdue mental patients. She stopped taking it, insulted
that a doctor would consider her nuts."
Carl, now 80, said his wife often came at him with knives, and regularly kicked and
scratched him viciously until he bled. It was while he was fighting her off during these
tantrums that he said Betty got her bruises and black eyes.
"The day before we separated for good, she slammed shut a bedroom bureau drawer
with such force that a huge mirror attached to it shattered," Carl claimed. "In
her fury, she took huge pieces of sharp jagged mirror glass and came at me. For the first
time, I seriously believed she could actually kill me.
"I slept with one eye open until the next day, when I escaped forever. Or so I
thought. We've been divorced for 30 years, and Betty still haunts me."
Faced with Carl's claims - he has set up a Web site to contest her version of the
marriage - Betty has been trying to downplay her allegations of abuse.
"It's been sensationalized out of context. He's no wife beater," she told
"Good Morning America," and she's told other interviewers not to
"overdo" the wife-beating allegations.
But Carl Friedan said his ex-wife's atonement has been too little, too late.
"It's in her book," he said. "It's permanent. She's a historic figure
now, so it will always be there that her husband beat the hell out of her."
Scores of publications have printed Betty's wife-beating allegations as fact without
checking with Carl, he claims.
CARL says he had no idea what he was letting himself in for when he married
26-year-old Betty Goldstein in 1947.
Carl, a transplanted Bostonian, says he was lonely in New York, and a mutual friend
arranged the first date. Betty seemed smart, if homely, and had a lot of
"spirit," he said.
They eventually moved in together and, after several breakups, Carl said, he gave in to
Betty's demands for marriage.
"It was a common thing back then, where a guy moves in with a gal and he starts
having regular sex - before he knows it, he's married. It was a sort of gravitational
marriage," he said.
While Carl insists Betty was impossible to live with because of her tendency to act out
her anger, it's clear also that the marriage had other problems.
With a hint of regret in his voice, Carl, who owned a successful advertising agency,
told how the woman he vowed to spend his life with hardly knew him.
"She didn't know what I was doing," he claimed. "I won prizes and had
full-page ads in all the New York papers. She didn't care."
While Carl was bringing home the bacon, Betty tried to be a housewife. But according to
Carl, she was no stay-at-home mom.
"We had a full-time maid during our entire marriage. That's who took care of the
kids, cooked - everything," he said.
"I would say as a housewife, on a scale of 0 to 10, she was a 2."
In the "Leave It to Beaver" "happy housewife" times of the '50s and
'60s, Carl said had to fend for himself.
"I used to keep all my suits at the dry cleaners. They kept them for me and I'd go
in and change them," he said. "One day, the gal there said, I have a nice
lady for you.' I said, But I'm married.'
"She thought because my clothes were there, I was a bachelor," he chuckled.
Once "The Feminine Mystique" was published in 1963 and the National
Organization for Women got off the ground, things only got worse.
"All of the big NOW meetings, where they drew up the charter, that was all done in
our apartment in the Dakota," said Carl, referring to the couple's tony Manhattan
"By then, I didn't come home much. But when I did, the meetings were still going
"Somebody told me that they heard I came in about 11:30 one night and said, OK,
you can all get the f- - - out of here.' I don't remember saying it, but if I didn't, I
Carl admits to having extramarital affairs, starting as early as the '50s. He says he
and his wife led virtually separate lives. She had her cause, and he spent many late
nights at work, discos, clubs or the Dogwood Room, Manhattan's hot spot at the time.
But, he concedes, there were some good times - including a great sex life. And, of
course, he was proud of her work.
"I was the person she turned to and said, I want to start an NAACP for
women,'" Carl said. "She changed the course of history almost single-handedly.
It took a driven, superaggressive, egocentric, almost lunatic dynamo to rock the world the
way she did. Unfortunately, she was that same person at home, where that kind of conduct
doesn't work. She simply never understood this."
Since the marriage broke up, Carl Friedan married twice more, and retired to Sarasota,
Fla., where he lives with his two Jack Russell terriers.
"In one sense, it had to be interesting," he said of his marriage to Betty.
"If I was married to a gal who was a housewife, it wouldn't have been as exciting.
"I may have been happier and I may have gone further in the world, but it wouldn't
have been as exciting. She was exciting."