Jenice Armstrong: Wife No. 2 unloads on Steve Harvey

Posted: February 01, 2011

I SPENT MORE than an hour

late at night last week listening to Steve Harvey's ex-wife Mary carry on about how her former husband should be nobody's relationship guru.

Harvey's book "Act Like a Lady: Think Like a Man" was No. 1 on the New York Times' best-seller list for 23 weeks and is being made into a movie. He has a nationally syndicated radio show with an estimated 6 million listeners and he's the new host of TV's "Family Feud. Yet I and others, can't understand why anyone would listen to him give relationship advice. After all, he has been married three times.

Mary Harvey, a/k/a wife No. 2, has the inside scoop like no one else, and up until now, she's been largely quiet. But in the last couple of weeks she has been stirring up a huge fuss in the blogosphere and again during an interview on yesterday's "Tom Joyner Morning Show." Before Mary Harvey posted three YouTube videos last month accusing her ex of keeping her son from her and of being all kinds of trifling, we hadn't heard much from any of the comedian's wives. "He turned my son against me, had me evicted from our house. I woke up and everything was gone," she says in the video rants.

When I caught up with her, she was still all worked up. It was as if a dam had been breached and years of bottled-up hurt and rage came pouring out. The gist of her scathing tirade? How can Steve Harvey give good advice to women about relationships when he wasn't a decent husband to her.

"Steve Harvey is about Steve Harvey. He's in love with himself," Mary told me. "Steve doesn't really respect women. That's his problem. Instead of him being able to pimp one, he's pimping hundreds of thousands of women and they are paying him.

"Grown women standing in line four hours in the cold, waiting on him to come and a sign a book," she grumbled. "He's sitting there pimping everybody.

"It is so idiotic. How are you taking advice from a guy that's been married three times? I don't get it. Steve Harvey is a master manipulator, and he has had years of success manipulating women," Mary said. "A lot of these women who he's attracting are women in the crosshairs of their life. The clock is running out. He's playing on people's emotions. He's playing on people's insecurities.

"People aren't even stopping to think. They are reading this dumb book like he's Jesus," she added. "And he is playing along. I promise you Steve is laughing all the way the way to the bank."

She can't believe that no one challenges his qualifications. "Dude is No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. That's unheard of. That is a joke . . . Steve Harvey needs to be held accountable. We, as women, need to stop giving these guys passes.

"This is garbage he's putting out there," she added.

My e-mail to Steve Harvey's publicist wasn't returned.

But his attorney, Bobbie Edmonds, released a statement: "We are appalled and aware of the videos and the other fabricated documents, which were placed on the Internet . . . by the ex-wife of Mr. Steve Harvey, which contained false, misleading, derogatory, disparaging, malicious, explicit and slanderous information about Mr. Harvey, his current wife and others.

"The ex-wife is fully aware of the court's current orders and permanent injunctions which prohibit either party, their lawyers or representatives from discussing and releasing information on the Internet and to the media. We are taking the necessary legal steps to rectify this matter to the full extent of the law and we will be seeking contempt and sanctions against her for such reprehensible and callous disregard for the court.

"We are saddened that the ex-wife has resorted to such devious and selfish behavior, with a reckless disregard for their minor son, her adult son and Mr. Harvey's other children."

Mary met Steve back before he was anything close to becoming a media superstar. Back then, he was barely getting by doing stand-up in Cleveland. He was the kind of guy women used to ignore, Mary says. The two of them became so close that if he went to the bathroom, she would follow.

Over the years, he perfected his comedy routines and as he did, his fame grew. Harvey snagged gigs as host of the long-running variety show, "Showtime at the Apollo," and starred in his own situation comedy, "The Steve Harvey Show." He toured with the Four Kings of Comedy, which Spike Lee immortalized on the big screen in the hilarious documentary, "The Original Kings of Comedy."

A publisher approached him about writing a relationship book after hearing his radio show. "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" sold gangbusters, and purports to show women what men really think. It's been gathering dust on my bookshelf since it was published in 2009 because although I like his man-on-the-corner style, I couldn't get behind the idea that the way for women to have a successfuly relationship was to think like a man. Since when? To attract a straight man, you have to act like a woman - not a man.

Meanwhile, his sophomore effort, "Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man," debuted last month at No. 1 on the best-seller list.

Which means his career as a relationship guru is on fire - which is why Mary is steaming. Fed up with Steve's alleged cheating, Mary, whose maiden name is Shackleford, divorced Harvey in 2005, after 10 years of marriage and six years of living together before that. She claims he was unfaithful during their marriage and had an affair with the former Marjorie Bridges - wife No. 3 - while she was still married to him. Marjorie denies it.

"I'm glad he's out of my head, out of my life," said Mary. "I lost my thyroid stressing out and arguing with him . . . it was like swallowing poison every day. It was about to kill me. I had to let him go. He wasn't worth my life . . . I loved him. I loved him [even] when I was sitting there getting that divorce."

It stung when she happened across the January issue of Essence featuring her ex-husband and his new wife all glammed up and hugging on the cover. "It was like someone lit a match and threw it inside of me," Mary said during our phone conversation. "Essence needs to be called out. Essence ought to be ashamed . . . What is this big deal about how to get a black man and how to keep him. That's not my job to keep him. Why do we have to keep them? What the heck do they do?

"It's not our job to keep them entertained," she said.

Mary makes a good point. I was troubled, though, about why she hangs on to Steve's last name, since they divorced in 2005.

"I earned my name. I paid my dues. I'm not going to drop my name and drift into the background to make Steve and Marjorie feel comfortable."

According to CNN, Steve Harvey has a Feb. 7 court date to stop Mary from publicly discussing their split and child-custody fight. I asked her if the rumors were true that she'd said something to Oprah Winfrey that might have prevented him from getting his own show, which Mary denied.

"No, Mary didn't have any kind of conversation with Oprah," she said. "I'm not trying to hide nothing. That's what Steve is trying to do. He's just mad because I won't go away.

"Steve has brought Oprah into something that doesn't have anything to do with Oprah," Mary continued. "She doesn't need any mess. She doesn't need this."

And, frankly, neither does Mary. I wanted to tell her just to let it go but it was clear she wasn't ready for that message to sink in.

Send e-mail to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: www.philly.com/HeyJen.

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