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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 04/11/2011

Carol Joynt, former Nathans of Georgetown owner, and the men in her surprising new memoir

Carol Ross Joynt in D.C. last year. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Carol Joynt is a well-connected woman. It’s how she thrived as a TV producer, booking top newsmakers and celebrity guests for Larry King through the ’90s. And it’s how she survived — using her talents for networking and promotion — when her husband’s abrupt 1997 death forced her to take command of his landmark but debt-ridden tavern, Nathans of Georgetown.

So what will the many people in Joynt’s orbit make of her new memoir? Not only does “Innocent Spouse” expose betrayal upon betrayal by her late husband, Howard Joynt — a sad story whose outlines are already known to many Washingtonians — Joynt also surprises with some amazing kiss-and-tell dish:

• Her affair with a married NYC chef.

• Her dates with ex-MLB star Keith Hernandez.

• Her marriage proposal from none other than Walter Cronkite.

Will her friends be shocked? “I guess I hope so,” Joynt, 60, told us. “What I’m saying is, this is what it was really like, and if you’ve got secrets, don’t be afraid of them.”

(Crown Publishing)
Joynt’s book is set for release next month and a big push by Crown Publishing of Random House, but we perused an advance copy. Joynt chronicles her battles to convince the IRS — poised to swoop in on Howard before he died at 57 — that she had no knowledge of his massive tax fraud, and to keep her house and the restaurant, which she ran until it closed two years ago. “It was just like peeling away the layers of an onion,” she told us of discovering his lies. She hopes the book holds lessons for other women about understanding the finances of their relationships.

(Read the Washington Post Style section 1999 profile of Carol Joynt and her struggles running Nathans.)

But, ah, the glamorous namedrops, thick on the ground in this book. Elvis Presley, the Princess of Wales, Tariq Aziz, Monica Lewinsky and Mark Walhberg all play cameos. Unnamed but well-described: “Paolo,” her pseudonym for the married, motorcycle-riding, wire-rimmed-glasses-wearing French-Italian chef she fools around with in her first year of widowhood. If we knew more about hot Manhattan restaurants of the late ’90s, we could probably ID him. Does that worry her? “I don’t know! It’s a risk. My lips are sealed, and I know his are too.”

Joynt interviewing Dan Rather in a "Q&A Cafe" hosted at Nathans in 2007. (Ellen Schreiber)
The book bolsters the ladies’-man rep of Hernandez, who hits on Joynt during a chance meeting in NYC — but then stands her up for their first date. He’s charming, handsy and super-persistent when they go out later, but they never hook up. “He was in a league so far beyond what I was ready for,” Joynt laughs now: She wishes she’d met him five years later. (Hernandez, through a rep, told us he doesn’t remember the details.)

More poignant is Cronkite, Joynt’s former boss and longtime friend and protector, who, a couple of years before his death, unexpectedly proposed, offering to take care of her and her son, Spencer. Joynt describes it as “an overture of friendship,” not romance. “Since he lost [his wife] Betsy, he thought we were in the same boat.”

Joynt and her son Spencer at Nathans’ closing night in July 2009. (Amy Argetsinger/The Washington Post)
What, no D.C. guys in the mix? “There are people that I’ve gone out with, and I keep it quiet,” she said. Plus, during those long years as a saloon operator, “I was not a hot date. A man would say to me, ‘tell me about your day,’ and after a few minutes he was looking for the door.”

Searching our Post gossip archives — hey, wait, she dated Fred Thompson! Why isn't he in the book? Because, Joynt said, the ex-senator just wasn’t really part of The Journey. “You talk about everyone, and then it does become a tell-all.”

By  |  10:00 PM ET, 04/11/2011

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