Valerie Bertinelli pays tribute to her ex-husband of 20 years Eddie Van Halen

The year was 1980, and Valerie Bertinelli had firmly cemented her status as America's Sweetheart.

The fresh-faced 20-year-old was playing good girl Barbara Cooper on the 1975-1984 CBS sitcom One Day At A Time; she was the kind of girl every American mother would like their chino-clad, plaid-wearing son to marry.

Into her life swept, someone quite, quite different.

Bertinelli, born in Wilmington, Delaware, but having a nomadic childhood thanks to her General Motors executive father, went to a Van Halen concert with her brothers.

They encouraged her to meet the rock god who was the band's guitarist, Eddie Van Halen - eight months later, in April 1981, they were married.

Valeri Bertinelli posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night, after Eddie Van Halen died

Valeri Bertinelli posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night, after Eddie Van Halen died

Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli in July 2001, shortly before they separated for good

Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli in July 2001, shortly before they separated for good

On Tuesday Van Halen died, at the age of 65 - Bertinelli by his side, despite having separated two decades ago. 

'40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you,' said Bertinelli, 60, on Tuesday night, paying tribute on Instagram. 

'You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang.

'Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin.

'I'm so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments. 

'I will see you in our next life my love.'

Their headline-grabbing relationship was as wild as it was unexpected.

Bertinelli, despite her squeaky-clean image, had tried cocaine for the first time as a teen with her troubled One Day co-star Mackenzie Phillips, born into celebrity as the daughter of John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.

At the time they were on one of the most popular Saturday night shows of the decade, with Phillips revealing she was earning $50,000 a week (around $240,000 today). 

Van Halen and Bertinelli are pictured in October 1981, six months after their wedding

Van Halen and Bertinelli are pictured in October 1981, six months after their

Van Halen in the Netherlands, where he was born, with Bertinelli in August 1984

Van Halen in the Netherlands, where he was born, with Bertinelli in August 1984

Bertinelli said that she really got into the drug after getting together with Van Halen, who by that point had just released the band's second album, Women and Children First, cementing his status as one of the world's biggest rock stars.

In her 2008 book Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, Bertinelli confessed that drugs were part of the marriage from the start.

'The priest we tapped to perform the ceremony gave us questionnaires so he could get to know us better and offer more personal words,' she wrote. 

'As we filled out the forms at home, we each held a little vial of coke.'

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