Tag Archives: Sandy Dennis

Eric Roberts, Sandy Dennis, And Westport’s Cat House

Vanity Fair recently ran a long story on Eric Roberts. In a career spanning over 40 years, he’s amassed more than 400 credits. No wonder the magazine calls him “the hardest-working man in Hollywood.”

Back in the day, he worked pretty hard in Westport too. The article describes what happened in 1966 when Sandy Dennis — nearly 20 years his senior — first saw him. She thought he could be the Next Big Thing. 

Vanity Fair says: 

What first impressed Eric when he walked into Sandy Dennis’s house in Westport, Connecticut, was her 2,500-book library. Even when he was a boy, disappearing into books was one way Eric handled his social isolation.

Eric Roberts (Photo/Sam Jones for Vanity Fair)

“So I go over to Sandy’s house and we start talking about books. After about a month, I’m over there in the afternoon, just me and her in the house, and we’re having a talk about cats. How many cats on this property? She goes, Probably 30. And her house had 12 rooms, so you didn’t feel cats were an issue. So I was fine with it. And I’m a cat person anyway. . . . The next thing I know we were rolling around together.”

They began “this little book affair,” which turned into a 4-year relationship, from 1980 to 1983. It almost ended, Eric says, after he had a brief relationship with another actress while Dennis was on the road doing a play. Sandy found out and forgave him, but there was another problem: “Too many cats. By now there’s a hundred cats. Not 30, there’s 100,” Eric recalls.

Sandy Dennis

He offered to start an animal shelter if she would agree to keep just 10 or 12, but Sandy refused. Neither would budge, so Eric asked for his engagement ring back. Over the years he had bought her an antique jewelry box and a lot of jewelry, but he wanted her to return only the ring.

“Sandy went upstairs and stood at the top of the winding staircase,” Eric recalls. “Here’s your engagement ring,” she said as she hurled the jewelry box and it crashed to the floor, smashing into pieces.

He never saw her again. (She died in 1992.)

In fact, she died right here in Westport, of complications from ovarian cancer. She was just 54.

(To read the full Vanity Fair story, click here. Hat tip: Susan Iseman)