7

“Julie! Ed! There you are.”

Out of the throng stepped Dar’s husband, Todd Gardner, a computer wizard who could never explain to Ed what he did. Todd kissed Julie’s cheek and shook Ed’s hand with an iron grip.

“Some shindig, huh?” Todd polished off a flute of champagne and turned to Julie. “You look lovely, as always. That dress is a knockout.”

Every time the four of them got together, Todd always complimented Julie on her outfit, her smile, hair, accessories—something. Either he’d earned straight A’s in charm school or he had the hots for his wife’s best friend. Julie beamed and then tossed Ed a look suggesting that a certain husband hadn’t gushed sufficiently about the new dress.

Todd leaned into Ed’s ear and confided, “Ted’s dropping half a million tonight.”

Five hundred thousand dollars. On a party. Ed made a mental note to mention the figure to Tim.

“Dar’ll be out after the speeches,” Todd explained, grabbing a chicken skewer from a passing woman in white. “Then we shake some booty. Santana’s playing.”

So it was Carlos.

Up on the screen, a slide proclaimed: “Silhouette of the Month.” It dissolved into a black-and-white photo series showing a man and woman clearly naked and making love. They were illuminated from behind, their silhouettes projected on a sheet. The effect was surprisingly erotic. Then the screen showed the couple dressed and smiling cheek to cheek. He was a fifty-two-year-old Houston realtor. She was forty-six, a kindergarten teacher. They’d been married twenty years. An interview explained how they’d adjusted to growing older while maintaining a fulfilling sex life. Another piece that piqued Ed’s interest.

The next slide introduced the “Gallery.” Every month
Loving Couple would invite a prominent photographer to explore some aspect of sensuality. This one took off on a survey that had asked couples: What kind of intimacy would you like more of? The top response: more snuggling while watching TV. The photos showed a broad mix of couples—including a man in a wheelchair—cuddling close in the reflected glow of a television screen. The effect was remarkably tender. Ed decided to sit closer to Julie the next time they clicked the remote.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed. The crowd quieted. Tim and Kim joined Ed, Julie, and Todd. The slide show reverted to a static image of the premier issue’s cover. Two spotlights crossed beams and settled on the podium. Over the public address system, a rich baritone boomed, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the mayor of San Francisco.”

Applause erupted as a tall, Kennedyesque man stepped into the spotlight. He took in the whole room with a big boyish grin and exclaimed, “Is this a great event—or what?!”

A roar from the crowd signaled assent. The mayor held up two hands and the ballroom quieted.

“For those of you from out of town, there’s one thing you should know: This city loves to party!”

Another lusty cheer.

“That’s one of the many things I love about San Francisco,” he continued. “And today I have something
new to love. My good friend, Ted Calderone, is launching Loving Couple magazine. It has great articles about enhancing relationships. My wife’s been telling me I should read a few—especially the one about giving a good massage.” Laughter with scattered cheers and applause. “Loving Couple also has incredible photography. Really incredible photography. Photography that’s both tasteful and so hot that you might burn your fingers turning the pages. Best of all, my wife loves it. She says she’s happy to have it on our coffee table!” More laughter and cheers.

Ed’s eyes snapped toward Julie just as hers found his. Either Dar had fed the mayor that line or he’d spontaneously christened Calderone’s new baby with a big wet kiss of a tag line: The sex magazine for your coffee table. Calderone could be an ass, but there was no denying the guy’s vision. His odd little plane might actually fly.

“And now,” the mayor intoned, “it’s my great pleasure to introduce our host. He’s a publishing phenomenon and a great San Franciscan. He’s the winner of seven coveted National Magazine Awards. He serves on the board of the San Francisco Arts Commission. And he helped put the F in the First Amendment. Please welcome Ted
Cal-derone!”

A quick handshake and a big bear hug, and the mayor was replaced in the spotlights by the shorter, stouter, oilier editor-publisher, who beamed at the cheering reception.

Tim found Ed’s ear. “Arrogant fuck.”

This was the typical newspaper editor’s reaction to anyone who was rich, successful, and brash—and always had a babe on his arm. But in Calderone’s case, it was also true.

“Nothing like free champagne to loosen up a crowd,” Ed observed.

Tim nodded.

“Tonight,” Calderone boomed, “we bid a fond farewell to one era—and launch another that’s even more exciting. First, the farewell.” He leaned into the mic and emphasized each word. “
Full Disclosure is folding, effective immediately.”

An astonished hush fell over the room. Ed, Julie, and the
Horn contingent already knew, but this was a shock to just about everyone else. Here and there someone shouted, “No! Don’t!” Others picked it up and suddenly the room was shouting, “No! Don’t! No! Don’t!” It reminded Ed of Giants-Dodgers games with the crowd chanting “Beat LA!”

Calderone held up his hands, but the chant, now deafening, continued. “No! Don’t! No! Don’t!” He hadn’t expected this. He looked to the side of the stage, where Dar was standing. He shrugged with his palms up, silently asking,
What now? Dar returned the gesture: Got me.

Calderone waited, but the chant continued, “No! Don’t!” Finally, he leaned into the mic and said, “Hey, you want to hear Santana or what?”

That brought the crowd up short. The surprise musical cat was now out of the bag. All around, Ed heard people murmur, “Santana—wow.”

“I know, I know,” Calderone continued. “Folding
Full Disclosure pains me, too. For twenty-two years, it’s been my baby. It’s had a great run—as the mayor said, seven National Magazine Awards. Dozens of groundbreaking stories. And photography hot enough to melt glaciers.” Calderone smiled. “That’s the real cause of global warming—the Darlings of Full D!”

Wild cheers. Calderone was in heaven.

“But times change. The world has changed. And believe it or not,
I’ve changed. It’s time to move on. But I’m not just moving on. I’m moving up. To a whole new concept. A magazine that breaks the tired mold of traditional men’s and women’s magazines. A magazine that presents innovative, fine-art, erotic photography. And a magazine with cutting-edge investigative reporting on subjects that matter to couples. That magazine is Loving Couple. The premier issue you hold in your hands carries more advertising than any issue of Full Disclosure ever had. And mark my words: I predict that Loving Couple will be the most successful new launch in magazine history!”

Ed squeezed Julie’s hand. They both rolled their eyes. Calderone’s hubris was beyond belief. There was now no doubt in Ed’s mind that Ted had given away half those ads. His ego was a runaway train and Ed wanted a front-row seat for the inevitable wreck.

“But
Loving Couple is not just my magazine!” Calderone shouted over the boisterous crowd. “This baby also has a mother, the finest mother any new magazine could possibly have. So without further ado, I want to introduce you to the remarkable woman behind every word in Loving Couple. She is without a doubt today’s smartest, most creative magazine editor. My editorial soul mate: Valerie Kurtzen!”