The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, September 26, 1994             TAG: 9409240029
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   90 lines


IT'S NOT AS IF Cyndy Garvey needs more inspiration.

Her own tale of an abusive father and being an ``emotional hostage'' in her marriage to baseball all-star Steve Garvey is enough for Cyndy to be a public speaker against domestic violence. Her 1989 autobiography drew national attention to the issue.

But it was a chance encounter with an acquaintance last November that pushes Cyndy even more.

``I was Christmas shopping when someone called my name. It was Nicole Simpson,'' Cyndy said in a phone interview.

``She told me that she liked my haircut, but I knew it wasn't about my haircut. I'd had the same style since 1986. But she told me she liked my book.''

As they were about to end the conversation, Nicole grabbed Cyndy's sleeve and leaned closer.

``He's so charming and people think he's so wonderful,'' Nicole whispered, ``No one would believe me. If they didn't believe you, they won't believe me.''

Cyndy's book was later found by Nicole's bed after the slaying.

Cyndy says Nicole's farewell look - ``that sad face with a half-smile'' - is something she will never forget. The superstar, the wife, the life no one knew about are all too familiar to Cyndy, and she'll talk about all of that Tuesday evening at Lake Taylor High school, a kick-off to Domestic Violence Awareness month in October.

``For a long time, people would tell me `I can't understand how you could leave him,' `You're nothing without Steve Garvey,' '' she says.

Cyndy - born Cynthia Truhan - has often been labeled a California girl because of her summer smile and blond looks that complemented the Dodger first baseman. Cyndy was born in Detroit in 1949, one of three kids in a military family that never stayed still. The instability was compounded by her father's abuse.

``It meant that in the house, when he was home, we were quiet,'' Cyndy says in her book, ``The Secret Life of Cyndy Garvey.''

``No playing, no fighting, no running, no shouting. It meant that when we walked through the hallways, we shrank back into the doorways, out of his sight. . . . The beatings were painful. . . but the worst part was the awful knowledge that he was always there, that the sight of us could set him off at any moment.''

Cyndy left home at 16 with no intention of returning. She enrolled in Michigan State where she met a budding sports athlete, Steve Garvey, her freshman year. Cyndy and Steve were married when she was 20.

By her 22nd birthday, Cyndy says now, ``I knew something was wrong. There was a lack of consciousness, remorse. There was an emotional lacking.''

Her plans for entering medical school were pushed back so she could be available for Steve. Yet, Steve was rarely home and rarely called, she said. Cyndy gave birth to their first daughter, Krisha, while the Dodgers were in the 1974 World Series. Their second daughter was born 18 months later.

Cyndy had hoped children would bring her and Steve together. It didn't.

``My husband was so controlling,'' she said. ``He'd say things like, if you don't get everything straight here, the house, I just might not come home after this road trip. . . . It might not have been a beating, but the isolation, a look in the eye. It's not always a bruise.''

The couple divorced in 1981, but it wasn't the end of Cyndy's troubles. Stories of her husband's affairs began to surface. His girlfriend moved in the day after Cyndy moved out. Cyndy had problems finding work and wasn't getting much child support. Everywhere she went she got the ``How dare you leave him!'' look. She couldn't eat; she couldn't sleep. In one attempt to fall asleep, she overdosed on pills and almost killed herself.

Cyndy began seeing a therapist and pulling her life together. She began working as a host of a morning television program, something she had done occasionally while married.

But in 1986, a man stopped her and Krisha in a dry cleaners in New York and said, ``So you're the bitch who left Steve Garvey.'' She was so upset, she went home and began to write. In 1989, she released her autobiography.

The book's release - and Cyndy says it's completely coincidental - coincided with her ex-husband's paternity problems with two other women. Steve Garvey has renounced the book, saying it is ``vicious criticism, lies and innuendoes.''

Cyndy continues her work as a broadcaster and spends her free time sharing her life, which she admits despite the glamour and publicity, isn't all that unusual.

``I never think of myself as a public figure, but a person in the know,'' she said. ``The book became very important to me. I want women to know that they can make it, too. ILLUSTRATION: Photo

Cyndy Garvey

by CNB