06/24/2011 04:45 pm ET | Updated Aug 24, 2011

Peter Frampton Lost at Love But Won at Palimony

Ah, those irreconcilable differences just keep dogging Peter Frampton. The 6-time platinum selling artist, whose album "Frampton Comes Alive" was the top selling album of 1976, filed papers on June 24, 2011 to divorce his wife of 15 years, Christina Elfers.

This is Frampton's third divorce, but what most people don't realize is that Frampton is most famous for winning a palimony suit with former live-in girlfriend Penny McCall. In fact, McCall vs. Frampton was such a strong victory for Frampton that most family law attorneys in New York state still won't take on palimony cases -- to this day, more than three decades later.

Back in the 1970s, "palimony" suits became popular on the West Coast. Celebrity attorney Marvin Mitchelson won substantial "rehabilitation" settlements for girlfriends of the rich and famous, including Michelle Marvin (from her live-in boyfriend Lee Marvin) and Britt Ekland (from her live-in boyfriend Rod Stewart). Gloria Allred has continued in this tradition, representing high profile girlfriends ranging from Amber Frey (Scott Peterson) to Rachel Uchitel (Tiger Woods). But, on the East Coast, you gotta put a ring on it, if you're planning on any settlement after you split from your lover.

In 1976, Penny McCall asked for half of Frampton's earnings during the five years that they were together. According to McCall, she gave up her job as a rock promoter and devoted herself full-time to Frampton, right at the time that he achieved superstar status with his signature talk-box and songs like "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way." (The talk box is impossible to describe; download the MP3 files of those songs to listen.)

McCall's side of the story was that everything between them was always "us or ours." She claims that Frampton wrote those songs for her and that she did everything for him, including promotion, production and wardrobe design (in addition to being his muse). There are many photos of Penny at the soundboard beside Frampton during the mixing of "Frampton Comes Alive" and it is easy to see her signature style in his red carpet rock star look.

Frampton's side of the story was that it was just a "male-female relationship."

The judge sided with Frampton and dismissed the case. The judge was emphatic about protecting "the state of marriage" and not condoning "adultery." In his decision, the judge wrote, "By refusing to enforce such a contract and leaving the parties without a legal remedy for breach, society is protected by discouraging the making of contracts contrary to the common good." He further noted that in the Marvin case in California, "Lee Marvin was divorced from his former wife and the relationship between the parties ceased to be adulterous so that they could then have contracted a valid marriage."

So, on the West Coast, you're a companion, even without the ring, while on the East Coast, you could be just an adultress.

Even now. In 2011.

While the marriage didn't work out between Frampton and Elfers, at least it was a marriage, and she stands to walk away with enough to rebuild her life on her own. Which is a lot more than Penny McCall walked away with, after helping her boyfriend achieve his number one selling record.

About Natalie Pace:
Natalie Pace is the author of You Vs. Wall Street. She is a repeat guest on Fox News, CNBC, ABC-TV and a contributor to,, and As a philanthropist, she has helped to raise more than two million for Los Angeles public schools and financial literacy. Follow her on and on For more information please visit