Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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backstage manning the rheostats. He appeared sporadically on Broadway, and became part of his wife's TV production company, which had been formed to package shows for the networks. Elliott learned a lot about the business, but did not sell a single show.

A good portion of his time was spent bolstering Barbra. "He did help me a lot when we were married," she says now, "but mostly he kept my feet on the ground. At the same time, I wasn't considerate enough of his problems." Those were considerable. Explaining his struggle to deal with ego damage during the years of his failure and Barbra's tremendous success, Gould says: "First of all, I came to those years with a minimum of ego. I was fighting. The first time I saw Tarzan get stuck in quicksand, I got anxiety and used to walk around locked to make sure there was no quicksand. My analyst said I was a masochist."

A Bath of Lava

The strain became too great, and after seven years together, the two separated. "Marriage to Barbra was a fantastic experience," says Gould. "It had a lot of chocolate souffle and things like that, but it was also like a bath of lava." Says Barbra: "It must have been very difficult for him. Marriages between people who are self-involved is hard. It's safer for actors not to be married to one another."

Gould's surge of success followed closely upon his separation from Barbra, and analysis has also seemed to add to his self-confidence. "It wasn't until the day before yesterday that I stopped being a tortured individual." he says. Curiously, both he and Barbra still cling, however tenuously, to each other and to their 31-year-old son Jason. They have not yet filed for divorce. "That technicality," Elliott says mysteriously, "can evoke a great many inhibitions." It does not inhibit him, though, from camping in his Greenwich Village town house with a quietly attentive 18-year-old girl who has no show business aspirations.

Vestiges of his childhood and his manic adolescence remain. He can still be persuaded upon occasion to do visceral and sometimes appalling routines like "Cow to the Slaughter" and the "Wolf Man." The days when gambling had become so compulsive that he would place bets on both competing teams are well behind him, but he still takes a shot at the Las Vegas slot machines now and again. Gould remains an energetic sports freak, and a picture of New York Knickerbocker Star Willis Reed is Scotch-taped to his bedroom wall. His conversation is salted with sports slang and four-letter words. He has taken up karate and given up many of the rich foods that he and Barbra used to enjoy (particularly Chinese food and coffee ice cream). He constantly munches sunflower seeds. Director Dick Rush swears that he could track Gould on the set of Getting Straight by the trail of sunflower husks he would leave behind. At one point the prop man heard about a bargain in sunflower seeds and presented Gould with 1,000 bags that he had bought cheap.

Fun in the Tub

The joy of Gould's personality, part whimsy and part neurosis, does not manifest itself to everyone. "He has the capability for great warmth," says M-A-S-H Co-Star Sally Kellerman, "but just when you think you've found yourself with him, he turns off. It's

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