In the 1970s, Captain and Tennille were the ultimate strait-laced, soft rock power couple. With a string of gently upbeat hits, a variety show that emphasized their yin-and-yang chemistry, and a seemingly happy musical and legal marriage (they wed in 1975), Daryl Dragon (the Captain) and Toni Tennille appeared to be achieving the promise of their signature hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
But as she writes in her new memoir, “Toni Tennille ,” the whole thing was a lie.
“Here I was a newly married woman with a hit record and a Grammy, living the dream that so many artists aim for,” Tennille recalls. But despite her success, she felt lonely and isolated from her husband: “The man whom I’d thought was my soul mate was in many ways just as remote as a stranger passing by through the fog.” In a turn of events so surprising that it captured tabloid attention, Tennille eventually divorced Dragon, but not until 2014, after 39 years of what had appeared to be a solid marriage.
Anticipating her fans’ desires to understand what actually happened in the relationship — and presumably eager to tell her unfiltered side of the story — Tennille focuses much of this autobiography on her professionally fulfilling but personally suffocating partnership. The result is a book that’s candid, unsparing and written with enough warmth and honesty to make the reader empathize with the author. But it’s also one that leaves questions unanswered about the rupture of the Captain-Tennille connection.
Tennille paints a portrait of Dragon that is not flattering. She characterizes him as emotionally closed-off, controlling, obsessive about maintaining his macrobiotic diet, self-conscious about the loss of his hair (that’s why he always wore that captain’s hat, she explains) and rarely, if ever, demonstrative toward his wife. “I can say without exaggeration that he showed no physical affection for me during our very long marriage,” she writes. Throughout the relationship, even while on tour, they slept in separate bedrooms.
Knowing all this, it’s puzzling that Tennille, who wrote the memoir with her niece Caroline Tennille St. Clair, stayed in the marriage as long as she did. She’s doesn’t fully explain why, nor does she divulge much about what transpired once she filed for divorce. In fact, she doesn’t get to that official marriage-ending moment until nearly the last page of the book. While the epilogue says that Dragon, who’s had health issues in recent years, is doing well and that the two still speak, it seems odd that she doesn’t devote more pages to the aftermath of the demise of the most significant relationship in her life.
In the end, it seems Tennille is happy to do the memoir-equivalent of inviting readers inside her home. But ultimately, she only allows us access to a few rooms.
Jen Chaney is a pop culture critic and writer and author of the book, “As If!: The Oral History of ‘Clueless.’ ”
By Toni Tennille
Taylor. 232 pp. $21.95