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My Missus, My Muse

This business has taken me to  many wonderful places, all of them made more special with Carol by my side.  (That’s her standing by the door at a Diet Rite Cola shoot in Paris in 1972.) She was the girlfriend I took to an Alka Seltzer shoot that launched the line,  “Try it, you’ll like it.” A good luck charm, perhaps?

She was with me in an Italian restaurant in London when I leaned back in my chair and said, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”  Carol said, “There’s your next Alka Seltzer commercial.”

When she’s not making me look good, Carol is a psychologist with a PHD, a focus group researcher, a mom to 3 wonderful grown kids and, just recently, a proud grandma to beautiful Zoe.

Would I be the man I am today if she were not in my life?  Impossible.  And it all began so unexpectedly.

There was a newly married couple at Wells, Rich, Greene named Julie and Gary who decided to make me their matchmaking project.  I think they felt I was just too eligible to be single.  And since they had found wedded bliss, they thought that I, too, should experience the joys  of matrimony.  (Never mind that they got divorced two years later.)

Of course, I had no interest in helping them fulfill their project.  I was perfectly happy pursuing the mindless, hedonistic, semi-decadent life of an advertising bachelor in the Big Apple.  I was 27 years old, cute and free.  Wells, Rich, Greene was paying me far too much money and I was putting it to terrible good use.

When most of my friends were renting apartments for $250 a month, I was the first one to break the $400 a month barrier.  I found myself a gorgeous one bedroom apartment in a classic 1930’s building on 56th Street and 1st Avenue.  My bachelor pad was on the 17th floor with two balconies, a fireplace and a floor to ceiling bookcase built into the wall that actually swung open to reveal a hidden bar.  Since the building had been erected during prohibition, the bookcase was a great place to hide illegal bottles of liquor. And, since there was still prohibition against marijuana, it was a fabulous place to hide my weed.

If I needed to get anywhere fast, no problem.  I kept a red, 1964 TR4 convertible in the building’s garage, right beside my 650cc BSA motorcycle.  I was having fun, and the last thing I was looking to do was get tied down in a “meaningful” relationship.  To me, partying was meaningful, drinking was meaningful, getting stoned and having sex was meaningful.  Then this couple came along and ruined it all.  They introduced me to Carol Trifari.

It wasn’t an actual date.  We hadn’t met or talked to each other on the phone.  It was sort of a semi-fix-up.  They had told her about me and they had told me about her.  What they said to me was, and I quote:  “She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she comes from a famous costume jewelry family, she’s got a winner kid – and she’s a little fucked up.”  Now I was intrigued.  This didn’t sound like most of the girls I had been dating to that point.  Carol Trifari was “complex.”

In a devious semi-fix-up plot, the couple invited Carol and me to a screening of an MGM movie at a little theater in Manhattan, but neglected to tell us that the other one would be there.  So, there was no primping, no posing and no pressure.  When I arrived at the theater, there were about fifty people schmoozing outside as we waited to get in to see the movie.  That’s when I saw a pretty brunette in a red jacket and black mini-skirt.  Hmmm.  As she stood there talking to a big dumb guy, I sauntered over to join the conversation and that’s when we found out we had been “semi’d.”

Carol told me that she was working in the research department at BBDO, but really wanted to be a copywriter.  She told me she had put together a portfolio of spec ads and had an appointment the next day with a guy named Nat Russo at Gilbert Advertising.  “Nat?”  I said.  “I know him very well, I used to work at Gilbert and he was my copy chief.”  Acting like a big shot, I said, “Be sure to mention my name.”  Then she said she had another interview the following week with a guy named Leon Meadow at Doyle Dane Bernbach.  “Leon?” I said.  “I know him very well.  DDB was my first job in advertising and he’s the guy who hired me.  Be sure to mention my name.”  I was pretty confident I was making a big impression on Ms. Trifari.

But as the group began to file into the theater, she drifted away from me.  And when I sat down, I noticed she was sitting next to the big dumb guy.  I turned my attention to the screen as the movie started and quickly realized it was some kind of experimental “art piece”, shot entirely on a seamless white background, with young overacting non-actors.  It was the most boring movie I ever saw (and it was never released).  As I fought to stay awake, I subtly glanced back at Carol who was sitting three rows behind me.  She was staring straight ahead looking mortified.  The big dumb guy was out like a light, snoring his head off, and drooling all over her lovely shoulder.

When the movie was mercifully over, we were all invited back to Julie and Gary’s apartment where we were treated to cocktails and canapes. That’s when I innocently asked Carol for her telephone number and, dammit, she gave it to me.  What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the beginning of the end of my perfect bachelorhood.

Over the course of the next few months, we got to know each other very well, and I got to know her daughter Cristina, a vivacious little 6-year old girl.  We became a threesome, and as the Fall arrived in New York with a bracing chill, I loved driving the three of us up to the country with the top down in my TR4.  Carol would rest her head on my shoulder and Cristina, huddled in the back seat, would squeal with glee as my car scattered the leaves of crimson and gold.

But the seminal moment in our relationship arrived with Winter.  Carol, who had skied all over the world in exotic places like Chile and Davos, Switzerland kept telling me, “We have to go skiing together.  You’ll love it, I know you will.”  I had never skied before and I really didn’t like the cold, so I would always change the subject.  But she kept pressing me.  “Please, can we go skiing…you won’t be sorry.”  Finally, I relented.  We reserved a room at a ski lodge in Sugarbush, Vermont, packed our bags, and began the long trek to ski country.  In the middle of a raging snowstorm with temperatures dropping to 26 below zero (no exaggeration), I cautiously drove my car, creeping along the winding roads, desperately trying not to skid off the embankments.

Finally, we arrived at our destination in the middle of the night.  I schlepped our bags up to the room feeling grubby, grumpy, and dog tired.  Determined not to ruin our getaway by being a whiny Jewish guy, I jumped into the shower to wash away the day.  When I came back into the room, Carol was already in bed, looking warm and toasty under the covers.  And then came the special moment I will never forget.  As I climbed into bed and sidled up next to her under the covers, Carol put her arms around me and said, “Don’t you just love skiing?”


Like my stories?  Please comment here or send questions to  And if you like it, spread it.  © 2011 Howard Cohen, All Rights Reserved


Comment from Curvin O’Rielly
Time November 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Another great story. But I’ve got a question: Did you go skiing?

Comment from Judy Wald
Time November 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm

You’re one lucky guy with a winner of a wife/muse.Loved your story since I knew everyone mentioned. Can’t wait for more. I recall those days fondly & you, very fondly too.

Comment from linda Chandler
Time November 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

I love this story so much. I can feel the sheets and the warmth of a relationship beginning with great sex and a punch line.

Comment from Mad Mensch
Time November 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Good sex, great punchlines.

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