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Sibling Styles of the Rich and Famous

Discusses the success of sibling relationships among celebrities. Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine; The Texan Bass brothers' family feud, the fourth richest family in America; Details.

As one-third of the nation's adults fight the riptides of hostile sibling relationships, some of the country's most famous brothers and sisters surf over life's more challenging ripples with nary a wash-out. Consider Academy Award-winning actress Shirley MacLaine and her younger brother, actor-director Warren Beatty. Despite Beatty's efforts to keep personal matters hush-hush, the sibs are famous for surviving Hollywood's vicious gossip circles and have been described as being thick as thieves by associates.

What's the secret to successful sibling sympathy?. For MacLaine, it's simple. Sweep aside differences, and what's left behind is the strongest bond of all: "We're blood." That might explain why MacLaine exploded in a full-fledged tantrum when Beatty ailed to garner an Academy Award for Reds a few years ago.

Of course, even celebrity sibs aren't perfect. Take the phone, for example. MacLaine says she's been "on hold" for three decades. And when they do talk? Despite having several big-sister conversations with Beatty, MacLaine's given up expecting he'll be "forthcoming about his emotional swirls." After all, other hen aren't either. Nonetheless, the 56-year-old sis is relieved hat her womanizing bro, 53, wed actress Annette Bening rather ban Madonna, a former flame. Beatty, who remains as closed as ever about personal topics, admits to reading only part of sister Shirley's latest book, Coming to Terms, which sifts out her feelings about the relationships of her life, including those with her brother. He says only, I'll see it very, very differently." Gossips attest that Beatty finds MacLaine and her metaphysical views "embarrassing."

Will Beatty one day reveal his heartfelt views about sis, family, relationships, and love? Probably not. MacLaine says she's not sure why Beatty closes off, but believes that may be why he's such a good director. Control, MacLaine says, was "his ticket to survival. Mine was expression."

Expression didn't work for members of the fourth richest family in America, where fraternal feuding split up the clan's fortune. After racking up assets worth $4 billion, the Texan Bass brothers--Sid, 50, Edward, 47, Robert, 44, and Lee, 36--split up the oil-based fortune in 1985 and went separate ways. Eight years later, they rarely work together and are seldom seen in the same room, despite the proximity of their offices in the family's 33-story skyscraper and their Fort Worth homes.

When the break-up occurred, the family explained that each brother wanted control of his own financial destiny. In truth, Sid and Bob had had an ongoing rift ever since Bob voiced interest in assuming a larger role in the family business--then led by Sid. Although the two were "cordial initially" when Bob joined the company in 1974, tensions quickly escalated, says the Basses' investment manager, Richard E. Rainwater. "Robert wanted to have control over his assets. [...He] couldn't get at his own money, and he should have had it."

Patriarch Perry Bass, who toiled to establish a business his sons could run as a family, has his own opinion. "Robert never really wanted to work with the brothers. He kept wanting to do things by himself."

But son number three, now head of his own successful investment firm, the Robert M. Bass Group, called his dad's dream "unrealistic." "1 have my own personality and approach," Bob says. "The press seems to want to impose a uniformity" that "just doesn't exist."

It certainly didn't exist for long in this Texas clan of oil wildcats, Wall Street wizards, and corporate raiders. As Bob became increasingly prominent in community affairs, his clashes with Sid and his father became more visible. In 1981, Bob led a lengthy public protest against the expansion of a freeway slated to run through downtown Fort Worth--a project vigorously supported by Sid and Perry. In 1991, even after the hoopla over the clan's denouement had all but faded, the intrafamily strife continued when Bob decided not to attend his parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. And what of the other brothers? The youngest, Lee, has joined forces with Sid, whose messy divorce has led him to pass responsibility for the family's investments to his young apprentice. Meanwhile, Ed, known for years by the media as the family "eccentric," has stayed out of the fray, busily overseeing the progress of Biosphere 2, the $150 million, 3.15-acre greenhouse in New Mexico that is supporting eight humans sealed inside for two years.

If sibling relationships are any indication of how to live on friendly terms with complete strangers, the eight bionauts will be taking their cues from MacLaine and Beatty, not Ed and his battling brothers.

PHOTO (COLOR): "He was always prettier than me, even at the age of three," Sirley MacLaine says of her brother, Warren Beatty.

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Bass brother Lee

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Bass brother Bob

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Bass brother Ed

PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Bass brother Sid