Until they weren't.

By Gabrielle Sierra
Dec 08, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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BUTBU: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins Were My Neighbors in Love — Until They Weren't
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle.com

My first bedroom in New York City was so small that it couldn't fit a door. Legally, it wasn't a bedroom at all, just the front end of a friend's living room in a tiny first-floor apartment in the heart of the West Village. My window was parallel to the sidewalk, and sometimes as I got dressed, I would wind up face to face with a grinning stranger.

It was 2006, and I was just starting my writing career. I accepted freelance assignments for pennies and ate day-old sandwiches my then-boyfriend would take from the restaurant where he worked. I'd bartend at night and walk home as the sun came up, exhausted but in love with the city. It all felt incredibly cinematic and romantic. Greenwich Village was the coolest place on earth and I was having the time of my life.

This feeling was reinforced every time I saw Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, my all-time favorite celebrity couple. The pair owned a duplex in Chelsea, and were fixtures on the west side. I would regularly spot Sarandon's red hair bouncing while she was running errands near my apartment, and I'd see Robbins playing roller hockey every weekend, easily noticeable in all his 6'5" glory.

BUTBU: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins Were My Neighbors in Love — Until They Weren't
Credit: Wireimage/Getty Images

They had been in the area since 1991, having met and fallen in love while shooting the 1988 romantic comedy, Bull Durham. The couple, who has two children together, was public about their decision to refrain from getting married. Sarandon is quoted as saying that she liked the idea of "choosing to be with somebody" and "thought that if you didn't get married you wouldn't take each other for granted as easily."

It wasn't that they were the only celebrities in the neighborhood. Ethan Hawke liked to pet my roommate's dog and Val Kilmer frequented the sushi place next door. But to me, Sarandon and Robbins were the perfect New Yorkers. They were A-listers who casually ran errands and played sports on cracked cement with locals. Their charm was woven into Greenwich Village and every time I saw them I pinched myself. I wanted it all to last forever.

But then, in 2009, my roommate sat me down and tearfully told me we had to move out; later the same year, Sarandon and Robbins released a joint statement announcing their breakup after 23 years together. It felt like the perfect bubble I had placed around my life in the West Village had been popped. I couldn't believe they were breaking up. I couldn't believe I had to leave. I was devastated.

Of course, life went on. Some friends and I found a great apartment in Chelsea. Sarandon began dating someone else. Things in my old neighborhood changed. More big buildings were built and more young professionals moved in. Restaurants and bars closed and reopened as something new, often with a little less soul.

In speaking about the breakup, Sarandon said that starring in the Broadway show, Exit the King had forced her to confront mortality and reexamine her relationship with Robbins. "You bring people into your life at certain times," she told the Daily Telegraph in 2010. "Maybe you have a relationship to have children, and you realize that it's fulfilled after that point."

BUTBU: Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins Were My Neighbors in Love — Until They Weren't
Credit: Wireimage/Getty Images

Her comments, while admittedly blunt, once again aligned the couple with my time in the West Village. I had fallen in love with the neighborhood and never took it for granted. I was heartbroken to move on, but in leaving my tiny room, I was able to get a bigger one with a door, and realized how much I enjoyed having light and a little more space. I realized some of the things I had thought of as scrappy and romantic while I was in my bubble, were actually hard to maintain and OK to leave behind. Much like Robbins and Sarandon's relationship, my first neighborhood had served me well, but ultimately, we did not marry.

Even so, I will always identify those West Village years as some of my favorite. I will always think of accidentally flashing strangers with a nostalgic fondness for a simpler time, when everything I was doing seemed rose colored and cool. A point in time when Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon could walk by at any moment and make me feel lucky as hell.

Breakups That Broke Us is a biweekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.