Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the Dark Side

When I was in Reno in July, I had lunch with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the Queen of Romantic Comedy because I have lunch with Susan Elizabeth Phillips whenever I can, but this time I did it mainly because she wanted to scope out the guy I’m a writing a book with.

“This is Bob,” I say as we sit down.
“Wonderful to meet you, Bob,” Susan says.
Bob nods. Bob is not verbal. In fact, he will not be heard from again in this blog entry.
“So how’s Charles?” I ask her.
“Who’s Charles?” she says.
“Your husband.”
“That’s Bill,” she says, with that Crusie-you’re-hopeless look.
Okay, I know this guy, he’s darling, and he looks like a Charles. I wonder briefly how many times I’ve called him Charles over the ten years I’ve known Susan.
“Then who’s Charles?”
“I have no idea who Charles is,” she says and turns to smile at Bob. “So, Bill.”
“That’s Bob,” I say. “Bill’s your husband. Although I still want to know what the hell happened to Charles.”

And it goes downhill from there.

I’m thinking that’s why she turned on me later that afternoon at the Bravo documentary filming.

They’d asked Susan, Jayne Ann Krentz, and me to talk about romance so Jayne Ann and I show up at an empty restaurant in the hotel right on time. Jayne Ann, who never has a bad hair day or a bad outfit, looks wonderful in black jersey. I’m holding my own in a navy blazer (we won’t talk about the hair, I’m hair challenged).

Then SEP walks in.

She’s wearing this top that, as God is my witness, is made out of multi-colored neon bubble wrap. I think it came with a battery. While Jayne Ann and I are shielding our eyes, she looks us over and says, “I knew it. Look at you, you’re going to be on TV and you’re wearing dark colors. What were you thinking?”
I say, “Well, we weren’t thinking you were going to show up as the Rainbow Connection. And now you’re going to be sitting in the center getting all the attention because you’re wearing an electric nipple shirt.”
She says, “I’m going to tell Charles you said that,” and then she leans closer. “Are you wearing make-up?”
“Yes.” I flutter my lashes. “See? Mascara.”
“That’s not enough,” she says, “I knew you wouldn’t be ready for this.” And she whips out a make-up bag and paints my face right there in the restaurant, right after she pins Jayne Ann to a booth and paints hers. Then she plunks herself down in the middle of the banquette with Jayne Ann and me flanking her and proceeds to dominate the interview, flaunting her bubble wrap, until Jayne Ann and I begin to talk over her, just to annoy her.

Plus I have this insane urge to start popping the bubbles. The fabric is made of silk or something so it won’t pop, but I’m just dying to poke my finger in the bumps. I try it once and she bats my hand away, but the temptation is something awful. If they ever show this documentary, she’ll be sitting in the middle looking professional and I’ll be frowning at her, stabbing my finger into her arm.

I should probably mention here that she looks great in this shirt. Odd, but great. And her hair is perfect.

By the end of the interview, SEP has won hands down. We never had a chance.

But then, I never have a chance with Susan. She looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but I always end up holding the metaphorical baby as she sails off, triumphant, into the sunset.

There was the time we were doing a bookseller’s panel and I said, “I’m so happy that St. Martin’s is using the same cover for the Welcome To Temptation paperback as the hardcover because it means I get to keep my cherry,” and she said, right there in front of God and everybody, “Crusie, you lost your cherry so long ago you can’t even remember it,” and everybody looked at me like I was the slut who’d said “cherry” in that connotation. Not to mention that this joke later became the name for my online community, perpetuating her slander. (I do so remember it.)

Or there was the time we were in that fancy restaurant in New Orleans, and I was in a completely different ROOM, and Rod Stewart walked in, and a roll hit her on the back of the head, and she turned around and said, “CRUSIE!” only the waiter had dropped it on her and I was innocent, but still, my name gets yelled across the room, and forget me ever bonding with Rod Stewart now, he thinks I throw rolls.

I have more stories, but you get the idea.

All I can say is, I know why Charles left.

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