Clean break for Jean-Claude


There's never been any doubt that Jean-Claude Van Damme knows how to kick.

His 360-degree spinning kick and his 180-degree splits are what made him a movie star and are what keep him there.

These days, Van Damme has added a few new kicks and splits to his repertoire. He's kicking a drug habit and he's trying to kick his career back into high gear. He's also split from his fourth wife.

"The truth is my private life was in a mess a couple of years ago. None of it was very fulfilling," admits Van Damme in a telephone interview from Miami.

It's the 13th American city he's visited in four days.

Van Damme is hyping Knock Off, his latest film that opens Friday. It's an action movie in which he battles international terrorists, but Van Damme knows which battles we'll be talking about first.

"I've never tried to be anything but honest and this part of my life will be no exception.

"(The drugs) got pretty bad about two years ago.

"I came here to find the American Dream. It turned into a nightmare. I thought I had a lot of good friends, but they really only saw me as their bankroll. I wasn't very smart. I listened to a lot of wrong people and I paid the price."

Van Damme checked himself into a drug rehabilitation clinic briefly in 1996, but this last time he did it on his own by going cold turkey.

"You don't kick a (drug) habit unless you're the one to declare war on it yourself. I was fighting against myself. It was harder mentally and spiritually than it was physically."

He credits his martial arts training for helping him.

"You learn so much discipline in martial arts training and I applied those principles to my personal battle."

He's not working completely on his own. Van Damme admits he is being treated for manic depression and is a little more cautious when he gets a little more personal.

"I don't want to shift the blame, but my private life wasn't very nice.

"I wasn't getting support from my wife."

Van Damme is referring to Darcy LaPier, his fourth wife who was a former Hawaiian Tropic suntan-lotion pin-up girl.

He describes their affair and marriage as "a fatal attraction. Nothing would do, but we had to have each other and we paid the price for that misguided passion."

Van Damme says LaPier was not there for him emotionally when he needed her the most and, in her divorce papers, she claimed the drugs had caused mood swings in Van Damme, so he was no longer the man with whom she'd fallen in love.

Van Damme has returned to his third wife, bodybuilder Gladys Portugues, who he divorced in 1993 to marry LaPier.

"Part of the problem with my last marriage was that I never really divorced Gladys emotionally. That strong connection with her is one problem I'm glad I had.

"Gladys was the woman who was there for me when I was a nobody and she was there for me again in my dark hours.

"She's there for me now. I have my family back again. This is what makes me happy and what motivates me these days."

Van Damme has two children with Portugues, Kristofer, 11, and Bianca, 7.

He has a three-year-old son, Nicolas, with LaPier.

Van Damme was married briefly as a teenager in Belgium to Maria Rodriguez and equally briefly to Cynthia Derdian shortly after he arrived in America in 1981.

Knock Off has taken almost two years to reach cinemas and Van Damme has not been idle.

"I made Legionnaire in Morocco and then I filmed Inferno with John Avildsen in the Mojave Desert.

"Legionnaire is a very personal movie for me because it was basically my idea and I like Inferno because it is like a Pulp Fiction western."

August 31, 1998

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