By Xavier Muhammad
The Huxtable marriage crumbled after Cliff (center) realized daughters Denise (far left) and Sandra (far right) weren’t his.
(BROOKLYN) She was an inspiration to working mothers everywhere, expertly juggling her husband and five children even as her career flourished. But in her new autobiography, powerhouse attorney Claire Hanks reveals there was someone else also in the picture. She had a white lover who fathered two of the children she raised with her ex-husband, obstetrician Heathcliff Huxtable.
“After our first child was born, Cliff thought my postpartum depression was a normal thing,” Hanks writes in Let’s Be Claire. “But I was really just so worried he would start asking questions about why the baby was so light. He never did.”
That first child, Sandra, was followed by a second daughter, Denise, also by the same lover. One longtime friend said the girls’ light complexions made it awkward when Huxtable proudly showed them off.
“I remember looking at Sandra and just being shocked,” says Sanford ‘Tailwind’ Turner, who ran track with Cliff in college. “I mean, Claire is a beautiful caramel and Cliff is a rich brown. There was just no way they could have had a little girl so light-skinned she practically glowed. And then when Denise was born, I looked at Claire kind of sideways from then on.”
Huxtable, on a speaking tour in Rocky Mount, N.C., had little to say about his ex-wife’s revelation.
“Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe,” he said. “That just about sums it up, don’t you think?”
For years, Huxtable had no idea the girls weren’t his. He and Hanks became one of Brooklyn’s power couples, rubbing elbows with bold-faced names like Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie. Yet, early in their marriage, while Hanks was in law school, she was secretly carrying on an affair with her mentor, an older white attorney named Perry Mason. Hanks reluctantly ended that relationship only after she got pregnant a third time, this time with Cliff’s child.
“Cliff was always making these ridiculous faces and telling these same anecdotes again and again and again. Perry was a man,” Hanks writes. “But for the sake of Theo, who looked just like my husband, and my sanity, I had to commit myself.”
However, Hanks’ sister noted that around the mid-1980s, the Huxtable marriage began to crumble.
“They would see each other maybe once a week, and then in the summertime they wouldn’t be together at all,” says Sarah Hanks. “And when they were together, it was like it was just for appearances.”
That was also the time Huxtable’s suspicions emerged. Sandra dropped out of medical school and Denise left Hillman College after only two years.
“Cliff couldn’t see how two kids from his gene pool could be so cavalier about education, especially after seeing how hard Theo struggled with his dyslexia,” Hanks writes.
The end was near. The couple had a highly publicized separation in 1992. A 1996 reconciliation didn’t last, and they quietly divorced in 2000. It was for the best, say friends. The stress of living a lie made Hanks and Huxtable somewhat eccentric.
“They got weird. Started calling themselves Hilton and Ruth and pretending Cliff was a retired bus driver,” says Turner. “Maybe it was meant to be a joke, but no one thought it was funny.”
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© 2010 The Peoples News