• Why don’t we do it on the road?
• Yes, I’m going to go there
• From the sacred to the profane and everywhere in between . . . the sheets
I was interviewing Leonard Cohen in the studio at CNN’s New York bureau. It was around 1993. He was a personal favorite; I felt lucky to meet him.
“Your songs, ‘Suzanne,’ ‘So Long, Marianne’ – they were ubiquitous in the late ‘60s,” I told him, trying not to fawn overboard.
“Thank you,” he said. “I suppose they were.”
“I mean, there was a time, around the summer of ’68,” I said, “when, in any woman’s bedroom I was fortunate enough to find myself, on the record player . . there was your album.”
With a wink he replied, “And I was hiding in the closet.”
Now, what needs to be said right here is that I came of age in what was really – really – a different time. The advent of the birth control pill and a youthful rebellion against the buttoned-up culture of the ‘50s combined to bring about what sounds clichéd but was, truly, the sexual revolution. So, to reveal in a videotaped interview my – for lack of a better word – promiscuity in the ’60s was, I didn’t think, a big deal. (Although I did leave that part out of the finished Cohen piece, as I recall.)
And it shouldn’t be a surprise that during the ‘70s, while working at a number of local rock radio stations, and as a result finding myself as part of a small group of local celebrities, it wasn’t difficult to find companionship. Likewise, trotting around the globe in the ‘80s as a network correspondent, an unmarried, red-blooded American male with healthy appetites and a reasonable appearance, I was open to, and looking for, close encounters of the best kind. You know . . it gets lonely out there on the road . . .
In today’s social climate, I know better than to launch into a lengthy, detailed sexual memoir. While the term “wolf” used to be worn proudly by many a rake, roué or Lothario, yesterday’s “womanizer” is today’s sex addict, likely marinated in toxic masculinity. I don’t believe I’m any of those things.
What I will do is tell you about two assignations that I think represent, if nothing else, the breadth of my experiences. And each has no small share of irony.
In May of 1983 I was sent by ABC Radio News to Washington, DC, to cover the World Congress of Sexology. Sounded provocative, but this was a scholarly event put on by what is now the World Association for Sexual Health (formerly the World Association for Sexology). In between panel discussions of the latest research papers, I spotted a name tag identifying an attendee as belonging to the Adult Film Association of America, a trade group representing the porno industry.
She happened to be an attractive young woman and I asked her why someone from her organization would be at this academic conference populated by people in tweed, with elbow patches and sensible shoes – not exactly titillating stuff. She told me the AFAA, like any other trade group would, was keeping on top of trends and issues in sex. We talked some more and, well, we hit it off. Sex, after all, was in the air.
But we didn’t seal the deal right away. She was based in Los Angeles, and as luck would have it, I was sent out there just days later on another assignment. We arranged to get together on my last day in LA and met in late afternoon at a bar and restaurant in Westwood, where she was having margaritas with some friends. After a few (too many, probably, to get behind the wheel of my rental car), I did just that and she followed me in her car down the 405 to my hotel adjacent to LAX.
We went up to my room, had our own little sexual congress and declared it a productive and educational session. Then, as I was walking her through the lobby after midnight, headed for the parking lot, we ran smack into the Philadelphia 76ers. They were boisterously returning from the Forum, where they had just completed a sweep of the LA Lakers to win the NBA championship. Since I’d only left Philadelphia about two years earlier, I was tempted to join their celebration. But, like the Lakers, I was beat.
Almost exactly one year later, in May of ’84, I was covering the Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. It was a bust, the only world’s fair to go bankrupt during its run. Also a boring story to cover. For me, though, divine intervention came at the Vatican Pavilion. They had sent over some treasures from the popes’ art museums.
One of the Vatican pavilion’s public relations people was, wouldn’t you know it, an attractive young woman. She pitched the exhibit’s offerings. I offered her dinner. She wound up at my hotel. A minor miracle.
A papal publicist. A porno promoter. From the sacred to the profane, that’s how it went sometimes for the Reporter on the Road.
Speaking of roads, have I mentioned one of my favorite foreign films? “The Man Who Loved Women.” The Frenchman at the center of the 1977 film by Francois Truffaut is an inveterate “skirt chaser,” as the old term had it. Spoiler alert: at the end of a long string of trysts with a long string of women, he sees another pair of shapely legs across the street, steps off the curb and gets run over by a car.
The Reporter on the Road always looked both ways.