How trying it is, the endless search for that ultimate male. "I keep on thinking I've met the perfect man," signs Rosemary Rogers, who writes him into the pages of her passion-packed paperbacks, "but then" -- the tone is exasperation -- "I find another one."
Now, she says, there are two.
"Only two?" comes a voice from across the lunch table, a voice that knows her well and so keeps track of the inventory. "But you eliminated --"
"There's the German," says Rogers, pulling from the active file. "And the Italian."
"That's all?" The voice again.
"Well," gigles Rogers, and the glistening lips part sweetly, wickedly, "I don't count the others."
Most of the time, Rosemary Rogers writes books like "Sweet Savage Love," which are all about sighs, burning loins, bruises, whips, etc., and which are grabbed and clutched by millions of the world's women, who have in the process made Rogers a very rich lady. She is the superstar writer of romantic fiction or, if you prefer, the princess of passion pulp.
Yesterday en route from judging the Miss U.S.A. pageant in Biloxi, Miss ("The sticks," she moaned of her hotel in Ocean Springs, "They didn't even have room service") and also en route from reading galleys in New York of her latest book, "Lost Love, Last Love" one miscarriage, an attempted murder, a Turkish sultan and a happy ending, "in fashionable London, of course"), she stopped in Washington. To lobby, strangely enough.
But when in Rome . . .
Her cause, she said at first, was "to fight repossession of private land by the government," specifically those 700,000 acres of California coastline designated by pending Senate bill 2551 to become a federal scenic area. And most specifically, as it turns out a little later, those 4.2 acres she calls her own backyard. She seems to worry less about federal encoachment and quite a bit more about marauding tourists who will use nasty public bathrooms that, once built, undoubtedly will block her view of the crashing Big Sur waves.
"Why should I have people traipsing around on my land -- having picnics there?" she asks.
All of which she was set to hash out with Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (R-calif.) last night over dinner. Over lunch, the hashing out concerned the perfect male specimen, sexual fantasies, her nude sunbathing, champagne breakfasts, mirrors on the ceiling, and Clint Eastwood. Like her novels, this was decidedly more fascinating then the real world of Senate bills and galley proofs surrounding her.
As it happens, her sexual fantasies, at least the ones she'll talk about to people with notebooks, aren't nearly as good as those in her books. Her favorite: "Making love with the right man -- in a room full of mirrors."
Here's one she's trashed: Clint Eastwood. "I used to fantasize about him all the time," she says, "but then I met him. He seemed like the guy next door."
She looks exactly as you would expect: Mink-wrapped (black, by Chloe) and jewelry-draped (one bracelet, two earings, three necklaces and eight rings, one spelling "John," the name of the Italian, who prompts her to say, "If my Germany finds out, he'll shoot me"). She is 46, and twice divorced. She is tall thin, olive-skinned, with cascading dark hair and full lips she brushes with gold gloss after her broccoli and chicken crepe at Twigs. Joy Thompson, the friend and voice across the table who is married to a welding contractor and lives in Falls Church, has chicken too, keeping watch on the interview like a press agent. She takes part in it regularly, too.
"Oh, Rosie, what do you mean your life's not glamorous," she interrupts at one point. "How many people get up and have orange juice and champagne every morning?"
"Mumm's Cordon Rouge," Rogers adds helpfully. "I used to have Dom Perignon, but I thought that was an absolutely shameful waste. Dom Perignon should never be drunk with orange juice, but by itself." Maybe she got the idea from one of her characters.
Among the latest of them is Delight, an auburn-haired, green-eyed beauty who dashes among New York, Los Angeles and Sardinia in "Love Play," the novel that Rogers is working on now. Delight has quite a good time city-hopping, although Rogers is quick to point out that "Oh, I wouldn't call her promiscuous, poor thing. She's just sort of light-hearted. Flighty."
Whatever. As much as Delight escapes in her jets, Rogers escapes with Delight, bringing her to life during the eight, sometimes 10-hour stretches of typewriter-pounding as Big Sur looms around her. "It's a passion," Rogers says. "When life becomes too real, I can escape into a whole different dimension."
In the meantime, there's the search. For that burning love. For that perfect male she only knows so far from her books. For, as she says, "that extra-special man in my life."
But what about John, her Italian?
She sighs. "No," she says, matter-of-factly. John's married. Catholic, too."