5


Ed’s hands went clammy. But Julie’s tone wasn’t tense. It was teasing. He flashed on her sitting two floors above in her office—larger than his—no doubt toying with a lock of hair. Tika was an exotic beauty, but so was Julie. She had caramel skin, feline grace, and thick hair that fell to her shoulders in bronze ringlets.

“What’s up?”

“The latest from Dar—and you’re
not going to believe it.”

Dar was Darlene Gardner, Julie’s good friend, and the longtime PR director of
Full Disclosure, the controversial men’s magazine. For twenty years, Full D, as in cup, had combined headline-grabbing investigative reporting with photos of naked women that made men in the eighteen-to-thirty-four demographic grab something else. But for a year, rumors had swirled around the magazine and its brash charismatic founding editor-publisher-cum-lothario, Ted Calderone.

Everyone knew Calderone’s baby was in trouble. Internet pornography had reduced it to a shadow of its former circulation—just like
Playboy, Penthouse, and the other men’s mags, Why pay good money for soft-core T&A when a billion X-rated images—video clips even—were just a few clicks away for free? Penthouse’s parent company was in Chapter 11. Playboy’s circulation had crumbled from six million to just one and a half. And Full Disclosure was down from four million to barely a million.

But unlike his competition, Calderone refused to settle his creation into a quiet senescence. Instead, he’d cranked the rumor mill into overdrive by hiring a high-profile New York magazine star, Valerie Kurtzen—a rampaging feminist, no less. She’d moved to San Francisco and had kept a very low profile while hunkered down with Ted, working on what Dar called “a secret project.” The first rumors said they planned to relaunch
Full Disclosure. Then they were developing a new magazine to complement Full D. Who knew? It was all PR anyway, little tidbits leaked on a timetable calculated to hold public interest—and keep the bees in the media hive buzzing.

Whatever Calderone and Kurtzen had cooked up, it was ready to serve. Invitations had gone out weeks earlier. That very evening, Calderone was hosting “a major magazine publishing event” in the Grand Ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel, complete with “surprise musical guest.” Ed and Julie were invited because of their jobs and their friendship with Dar, and because back when Ed was just another grunt reporter, he’d written his one and only piece for Calderone—and had won a National Magazine Award. Now, with the big event just hours away, Dar had finally spilled the beans.

“What’d she say?”

“Guess,” Julie said.

Ed imagined her curling a strand of hair around a finger, and smiling. She enjoyed tantalizing him.

“The center spread—Ted and Kurtzen doing the deed.”

Julie chortled. Ted was as horny as a goat on espresso and Kurtzen was attractive. But she wasn’t Ted’s type—no Barbie figure. Plus she was way too smart. She had worked for fifteen years at
Glamour, Redbook, and Vogue, and most recently was editor in chief of Today’s Woman, the raciest of the Clairol Sisters, from which she’d been suddenly—and very publicly—fired for reasons neither she nor her former employer would discuss.

“This is better than that.”

Julie wanted to prolong the suspense, make Ed beg.

“I give up.”

It’s folding. Full Disclosure is folding. Ted is betting the farm on a new magazine called Loving Couple.”

The dial on Ed’s bullshit detector flipped into the red zone.

Folding? No way.”

It couldn’t be true. Sure, Full D’s circulation was way down, but a million was still more than respectable. The magazine was the nation’s leading showcase for investigative reporting. Its articles had spurred legislation, become issues in presidential campaigns. It had a solid brand name. And it was still fat with ads. You don’t kill the goose just because golden egg production is down.

“I’m just telling you what Dar told me:
Full D is kaput.”

Ed liked Dar. She and Julie were close, and the four of them—Ed, Julie, Dar, and her husband Todd—socialized frequently. But Dar was still a flack, always putting spin on the ball. Could this be a PR stunt? It didn’t sound like one. It was too outrageous. Still, folding the franchise was hard to swallow.

“And what’s the new one again?”

Loving Couple.”

“Which is—?”

“A sex magazine for committed couples, with investigative features and service pieces. That’s all Dar would say.”

Ed’s meter jumped again. “There
are no sex magazines for committed couples. What is this thing?”

“According to Dar, all the flesh of
Full D with a focus on women’s health and relationship enhancement.”

“A women’s magazine with sex? Like
Cosmopolitan?”

“Much sexier than Cosmo. Pictorials and everything.”

“So some combination of a men’s magazine and a women’s?”

“You know everything I know.”

No one had ever tried such a concept. Even for a grandstander like Calderone, it was over the top. Hell, it was over the moon.

“Incredible,” Ed said. “Ted thinks he can invent a whole new category?”

“One last juicy detail,” Julie purred. “On the masthead, Ted’s the publisher. Val’s not just the high-profile consultant. She’s the EIC.”

“Editor in chief? Impossible,” Ed insisted. “Ted’s never shared power with anyone.”

“I’m just telling you what Dar told me. Think about it. It’s a smart move. If Loving Couple succeeds, Ted can take the credit. But if it bombs, he can blame Kurtzen and send her packing.”

One of the many things Ed loved about Julie was that she was as much of a media hound as he was. And she was right. Making Kurtzen editor was shrewd. Ed would have to tell Tim Huang, the paper’s Metro editor, and Marty DeVeer, the Business editor. Which, of course, was why Dar had called Julie in the first place. With so many media heavies attending, the party would get news coverage. And Calderone would get to play his favorite role—the nimble trickster who printed money by giving the world the finger. Ed had to hand it to him. But would this new kite fly?

“I got a sitter,” Julie said. She handled babysitters.

“Good—”

“But could you pick up Sonya this afternoon? I want to go to yoga. Can we meet in Union Square?”

“Sure.”

Then Ed had a thought, one he knew he should suppress, but couldn’t. “You know, if we—” He forced himself to shut up.

“If we what?”

“Uh—” This wasn’t the time or place, but Ed couldn’t help himself. “If we go for Number Two, what happens to yoga?”

Julie was silent for a moment, then said, “And if we don’t, what happens to our marriage?”