Creators and Shapers: The Women in Dave's Life
August 22, 2021
Episode 5: Jennifer Sklias-Gahan
Jennifer Sklias-Gahan is Dave's third and current wife. For over 20 years now, Jennifer has been Dave's rock and life partner, having been with him during some of his lowest lows and highest highs. She is also the mother of James Rogers-Gahan and Stella Rose Gahan. So, who is she? How did she and Dave meet? We attempt to take a closer look in this article.
1. She cared nothing for Dave's fame when they met
Jennifer in 1996.
"She'd heard of the band [Depeche Mode] but didn't care. She was younger than me, more into stuff like Billie Holiday, which influenced me later on." -Dave Gahan2
According to Dave, the pair first met at a "spa" in Arizona in either 1994 or 1995.1 Other sources narrow the date and place down to around the end of 1994 in the city of Tucson.2 3 In case you're imagining Dave and Jennifer meeting in a place where people soak in mineral water or get massages and beauty treatments, that's not what the term "spa" means here. It is actually referring to a drug rehabilitation facility. And Dave confirmed this in a later interview, saying that Jennifer was at the same facility "for a different reason," which was not disclosed.4 She could've been a client, herself, an employee, or volunteer perhaps, but that's not important. So, for those of you who are still searching for The One, that's something to keep in mind...you just never know when or where you will eventually meet them!
Anyway, something to remember is that while Dave was at one of the lowest points in his life when he met Jennifer, it seems that he still retained some humor, some of which may be what won her over. "Being the English lad, I made her laugh," he says.4 And so, what was it about her that won him over, in particular? Apparently, he "saw something in her that [he] wanted" and that she "really inspired" him. She managed to capture Dave's heart, and she is credited as being instrumental in his full recovery effort, as well. In fact, I believe the song, "Bitter Apple," is a poetic description of their first meeting. Going with that interpretation, I believe the person with the "halo bright with dark brown eyes" who "walked into [Dave's] life," causing him to "remember love again" was Jennifer, herself. How beautiful is that? Anyway, Dave also mentions that Jennifer had no idea how famous he was or that he was the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world...It was either that or she didn't care. "She...didn't give a crap about the band I was in or any of that stuff. She just genuinely cared about what I was doing to myself and I saw that right from the beginning."1
So, Jennifer was one of very few people who truly saw and treated Dave as a regular person. And remember, he was a very broken and hurting person who was struggling both physically and mentally during this time, so the fact that she wasn't immediately put off by any of that and stuck with him through it all says something about her and their relationship.
2. She played a significant part in Dave's recovery
So, let's recap...By the end of 1994, Dave was in a really bad place physically and mentally. He had been regularly using heroin and by that point had attempted suicide at least once. He was also still married to his second wife, Teresa Conroy, which if you remember, was responsible for getting him into heroin...not for the very first time, of course, but it was a reintroduction of sorts. And being a dabbler of the drug, herself, who refused to stop using even after Dave expressed a desire to quit, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for their marriage. Thus, Dave had to fight a long and difficult battle without much support- a battle that lasted almost 2 full years before he finally became successful. In a March 1997 Q article, Dave credits 2 people for giving him the will to finally kick his drug addiction once and for all. One of them was Jonathan Kessler, DM's manager, and the other was an anonymous "friend" he had met in his "first rehab" who, in his words, "I could ring and who would tell me what I didn't want to hear."5 Strong evidence points to that "friend" being Jennifer. You see, Jennifer was described to be a "reformed heroin user" herself who showed genuine concern over Dave and his condition.2 We can quickly see how he became attracted to her. She was basically everything that Dave strove to be. They were friends at first- long-distance friends, as after their bout in Arizona, Dave went back to Los Angeles and Jennifer went back to her own home on the opposite side of the country in New York. They regularly kept in touch with each other on the phone, though. Later on, they began dating (by that time, Dave's marriage to Teresa was all but over). So, with help from friends like Jonathan and Jennifer, Dave earnestly began his own journey to recovery.
That road was not without its bumps, however, and it wasn't all roses for Dave and Jennifer, at first. Remember that even a year after his first visit to rehab where he met her, Dave was still relapsing numerous times and in 1996, overdosed on a speedball and flatlined for two minutes. Well, what's interesting about this event in particular is that during the time Dave had blacked out, he alleged that he saw Jennifer. "She was calling me back," he says. "I had this feeling that she was a light, a good thing in my life...I found out later that Jennifer, who was in New York, felt at the time, 4 A.M., an overwhelming feeling that something terrible had happened to me."6 Dave was not the only one going through a rough time, though. Jennifer also had her fair share of troubles, as Dave relayed in an April 1997 Arena article.3 Not only was she dealing with Dave's constant drug shenanigans and close calls with death on the other side of the country where she couldn't do anything to help him, but her own ex-boyfriend and father of her son had committed suicide and she was the one who found him. Thus, because it was an "emotionally raw time for both of them," she and Dave had to stop talking to each other for a while. But they eventually began talking and visiting each other again and in 1997, Dave moved to New York to be closer to her. Of this move, Dave claims, "I can't say I moved to New York for her but, looking back, I think I was definitely hoping that something more would come of it."1 Well, fortunately for Dave, more did come of it...
3. Dave and Jennifer married on Valentine's Day in 1999
Not much is known about the progression of Dave and Jennifer's courtship, but we do know that they were married on February 14 (Valentine's Day) in 1999. Of course, we do know what Dave was up to in DM leading up to that time- Ultra was released, the band did a little string of promos for it but not anything on the scale of a full world tour or anything like that, being that everybody and not just Dave, were still in too fragile of a state. However, they did eventually go that route with The Singles Tour in 1998, and Dave offered up this sweet little tidbit with regards to his relationship: "Just being able to tour again is a gift. And I feel fine, really I do...My girlfriend is more worried than me. But I'll pull through. I have to."7
The Singles Tour ended just before Christmas of 1998, and it was just a couple of months later when Dave tied the knot with Jennifer. They were married in the Greek Orthodox Church, and if you're curious about the significance of that, check out the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the main character, who is the daughter of Greek immigrants to the US, marries a non-Greek, and you'll get somewhat of an idea of what Dave and Jennifer might've gone through together. It's pretty interesting and eye-opening. Then later that same year, their first child together, Stella Rose Gahan, was born.
4. She is an accomplished actress, writer, and producer
It is not known exactly when Jennifer got her start in acting, but one of her earliest major acting appearances was in the "Suffer Well" music video in 2006 where she played both the angel and herself. By that time, she had been married to Dave for several years. "David wrote the song about his own addiction and the things that helped him to get healthy," she said. "It's a love letter to people who helped him through this time in his life."8 Pretty soon, she began to appear more in various shorts, TV shows, and movies, portraying everything from a mean and bossy sister in The Louise Log, to a brutalized sex worker seeking revenge in The Rise of Whore Betsy, to a fastidious, corporate boss in Data Management, and many more. She has also written and produced films along with her son, James Rogers-Gahan, and they have their own film production company called 18 Bleecker Films. Of particular note is the 2019 film, Matilda, an urban ghost story, which was directed by James, written by Jennifer, and also stars Jennifer, Drena De Niro (daughter of Robert De Niro and Diahnne Abbott), and Sean Avery. It also featured a soundtrack created by Dave and Kurt Uenala. That's right! Count 'em- that's 3 of the immediate Gahan family all contributing their talents to the same movie! To read more about Jennifer's work and find out more information on where you can watch them, you can visit her website. It's safe to say that the whole Gahan family has been a very busy bunch for the past decade or so!
5. Jennifer and Dave have now been married for over 20 years
Dave and Jennifer's marriage has now been going strong for a long while...22 years and counting as of the writing of this article! How many celebrity marriages- let alone marriages last that long? As with any marriage, Dave and Jennifer have had their ups and downs, with the public getting glimpses mostly from Dave's side of the story in the form of his songs. For example, "Black and Blue Again" was written after an argument between the two, "Take Me Back Home" expresses the longing of a husband to be reunited with his wife after being away for so long, and "Secret to the End" was written after finding out he had cancer and gaining a renewed perspective of his role as a husband. There are also plenty of themes mentioning love and interpersonal relationships littered throughout his songs that hint at the richness and complexity of a marriage relationship. Given this, how cool would it be if Jennifer could write a book about her side of the story and what it's like being married to Dave? Just think of all of the funny, sad, delightful, and infuriating stories she would have! Anyway, did you know that she refuses to call him Dave, and always calls him David?9 If you think about it, that really highlights the duality that performers like Dave tend to have, one that even he has admitted to having himself.10 On the one hand, we all mostly know him as the wild pop/rockstar who sings, dances and prances around lasciviously on stage, allowing himself to be fodder for suggestive fantasies...That is "Dave Gahan". On the other hand, David Gahan conjures up images of the loving and caring husband, father, and family man trying to make a living and trying to make his way through life just like you and me.
"You've told me that you think your wife Jennifer is a saint."
"She continues to be that! She hangs in there with me through thick and thin, and I owe her an awful lot." -Dave Gahan11
- "Facing My Monsters", Daily Mirror (June 27 - July 3, 2003)
- "Dead Man Talking", NME (January 18, 1997)
- "Dead Man Talking", Arena (April 1997)
- MOJO (May 2013)
- "Tears Of My Tracks", Q (March 1997)
- "Dear Superstar: Dave Gahan", Blender (December 2005)
- "Cleaning Up", Q (November 1998)
- "Jennifer Sklias-Gahan (WSC '95), Actress, Writer and Filmmaker", NYU Arts & Science Alumni Blog (December 4, 2019)
- "Peter Robinson vs Dave Gahan, Depeche Mode", NME (September 29, 2007)
- "The Spin Interview: Dave Gahan", SPIN (November 2, 2007)
- "11 Questions About Sex, God and Personal Demons With Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan", BlackBook (October 20, 2015)
So, what do you think about this article? Do you have any details about Jennifer Sklias-Gahan that I missed, or simply want to get something off of your chest? Who would you like to see featured in a future installment of "Creators and Shapers?" Please comment below!