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Charlotte Rae's Husband Cheated on Her with Other Men – He Could Not Marry His Love after Their Divorce

Bettina Dizon
Mar 30, 2022
07:40 A.M.
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Charlotte Rae's life was filled with challenges and heartbreak, including her son's struggle with autism, alcohol dependency, and her husband's bisexual orientation revelation, which eventually led to their divorce.

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When Charlotte Rae's husband, John Strauss, betrayed her trust, the actress knew that their marriage would end. He broke her heart when he revealed his bisexual sexual orientation and extramarital affairs with other men.

Strauss' desire for an open marriage and infidelity also contributed to their divorce, leaving Rae devastated. Nevertheless, the former lovers remained good friends until his death.

Charlotte Rae attends the "Facts Of Life Reunion" at Universal Studios Backlot on February 12, 2016 in Universal City, California. | Source: Getty Images

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RAE'S MARRIAGE TO STRAUSS

Born in Wisconsin in 1926, the "Hello Down There" actress pursued higher education at Northwestern University in Illinois. Following graduation, she met the man she would later call her husband, composer and industry musician Strauss.

At that time, both were entertainers in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. One thing that brought them together was their love for having a drink. Rae recalled:

“He would say, 'Why don't we get a bottle instead of sitting by the bar? It's cheaper! We'll go up to your room and drink. And then I became very, very used to drinking. We were real drinking buddies.”

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Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett in "The Facts of Life," Season 1. | Source: Getty Images

In 1951, the couple tied the knot and had two boys, Andy and Larry. Their eldest son, Andy, was born autistic and mentally disabled, leading Rae to turn to alcohol even more than she did before. The boy also had epilepsy and was, at one point, deemed dangerous.

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Several years later, in 2018, Rae passed away in her Los Angeles home. She was 92 and suffered from bone cancer after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis seven years prior.

At 16, Andy was brought to a juvenile ward at Bellevue Hospital, New York, which his mother described as a "nightmare come true," as reported by Daily Mail.

Nancy McKeon as Joanne 'Jo' Polniaczek and Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett in "The Facts of Life," Episode 9. | Source: Getty Images

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STRAUSS COMES OUT AS BISEXUAL

A scarier reality came a few years later when her husband of 25 years came out as bisexual. To worsen the news, he also revealed that he had been cheating on Rae with other men. In her memoir, as told by the Daily Mail, she wrote:

“First came the shock of what he had done behind my back, then the sting of being deceived for years. [...] John's secret confirmed my feelings of inferiority… That I was less than a woman… That I didn't deserve to be loved and valued.”

Although Rae's marriage fell apart until their divorce in 1976, the pair remained good friends and supported each other in the years that followed. "We continued to be friends," she said. "It was very painful, but because of my support system and my admiration for him, I survived and went on."

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Charlotte Rae in a portrait for the television series "The Facts Of Life," circa 1980. | Source: Getty Images

LIFE AFTER DIVORCE

Strauss moved on shortly after their divorce and allowed his ex-wife to meet his new partner, Lionel Friedman. According to "The Facts of Life" alum, Strauss called and asked for her opinion about Friedman, to which she approved. He and Friedman would end up spending the next 23 years together.

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Strauss maintained a relationship with his son, Larry, who helped him move into a West Hollywood apartment despite the new chapter in his life. In 1981, Straus asked his son for a Father's Day present, the only gift he ever asked for – to march with him in the Los Angeles Pride Parade. Larry said:

“I don't remember much about the parade. What I do remember was that someone had made t-shirts that said “I LOVE MY GAY DAD,” and I refused to wear one.”

Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett in "The Facts of Life," Season 1. | Source: Getty Images

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According to Larry, his love for his father went beyond Strauss' sexuality. "I'm not wearing a shirt that defines our relationship so simplistically," he said. Strauss did not force his son to wear the shirt and was already happy to be in Larry's company during the event.

Sadly, Strauss never got to marry his long-time partner as he died in 2003, five years before same-sex marriage was allowed. He had been suffering from Parkinson's disease before his passing. Larry said of him:

“I'm grateful for his love and commitment to my brother and me. The man had no interest in basketball and didn't even understand the game, but he took me to one of the most legendary games in basketball history.”

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Charlotte Rae attends the "Facts Of Life Reunion" at Universal Studios Backlot on February 12, 2016 in Universal City, California. | Source: Getty Images

CHARLOTTE'S DEMISE

Strauss remained sober for a long time before his death and left a legacy in the music industry with a career that spanned nearly five decades. Throughout his life, Strauss won a Grammy for Best Classical Album in the '80s and an Emmy Award for Sound Editing in the '70s.

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Several years later, in 2018, Rae passed away in her Los Angeles home. She was 92 and suffered from bone cancer after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis seven years prior. At that time, she said:

“I'm not in any pain right now. I'm feeling so terrific and so glad to be above ground. Now, I have to figure out whether I want to go have treatment again or opt for life. I love life. I've had a wonderful one already.”

Charlotte Rae and Larry Strauss promotes her book "The Facts of My Life" at Sardi's on November 3, 2015 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Rae is survived by her son Larry, who became a high school teacher in South Los Angeles. Sadly, her older son Andy passed away in 1999 from a heart attack. According to Larry, his mom instilled many values and life lessons in him.

Meanwhile, Larry encouraged his mom to write a memoir, "The Facts of Life," in 2015, before she passed away. He also supported his mother in every way that he could and looked up to her while she furthered her acting career.

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