How We Met
Sometimes it’s fate that brings two people together; sometimes it’s a friend playing Cupid. But every pair of lovebirds has a cherished tale about how they met. From the art-school buddies who finally realized they had designs on each other to the college basketball player who offered a cheerleader a lift home, these Connecticut couples’ courtships all started somewhere. Here are their lovely love stories.
Gene & Karen Wilder
When Gene Wilder was first offered a script called “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” in 1987, he turned it down. “It was a great idea, but a rotten script,” he says.
Some months later he was offered the script a second time. He turned it down again.
The third time he was offered that script, he told his agent, “I’ve turned this down twice already, and I’m turning it down again.”
But his agent suggested they take advantage of the opportunity the script review provided to meet with people at TriStar. On the day of the meeting, Wilder explained to them “everything I thought was terrible about the script, and they agreed.” Then the studio execs turned around and asked if he’d take a crack at rewriting it as a vehicle for himself and Richard Pryor. Wilder agreed to give it a shot.
To learn more about what it’s like to be blind, as Pryor’s character was to be, Wilder visited the Braille Institute in New York. And to learn more about being deaf, as his character was supposed to be, he was advised to contact “a Ms. Webb” at the League for the Hard of Hearing, also in the city. She was a speech pathologist who knew all about lip reading and the like. “I thought, ‘Oh, no, this is going to be some old biddy who’s going to rip into me for making fun of the deaf,”’ Wilder recalls. Instead, when they first spoke over the phone, he found this Ms. Webb had “a beautiful voice. She said, ‘Hello, Mr. Wilder,’ and told me, ‘I think [the script is] very funny, and I think it will do a lot of good for the hearing-impaired. But it’s full of inaccuracies.’”
“That’s why I called you,” Wilder replied.
“We arranged for a meeting at my favorite Italian restaurant,” he says. “Twelve tables, low light, a very romantic restaurant—she brought her tape recorder with her.”
To help him sharpen the script, Karen Webb—in that romantic restaurant—began tossing out scenarios for Wilder to improvise around while she recorded him. “She took the tape home, printed it up and sent it to me,” Wilder says.
“We met again a week later—same restaurant, same tape recorder,” he says. “She gave me more improvisations to do.”
When they arranged to meet at the restaurant a third time, Wilder said, “I’ll pick you up. Leave the tape recorder at home.”
“That was how we had our first date.”
The couple married in 1991. “If I’d accepted the script in the first place and agreed to do it, we’d never have met,” Wilder says. “I’d never believed in fate, but I started to then.”
Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth
The story of how musicians Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth met isn’t quite as interesting as their haircut story.
It was 1971; the future drummer (Frantz) and bass guitarist (Weymouth) for the Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club were attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Frantz had a girlfriend; Weymouth had a boyfriend. “We were all good friends,” Weymouth says.
Before that, though, Frantz remembers “lazing around” outside with some fellow students one sunny day when “this really cute girl went by riding a bicycle. I asked, ‘Who’s that?’ and my friend said, ‘That’s Tina Weymouth.’” Apparently she hadn’t noticed him just yet.
Her boyfriend and Frantz later started a band, which the boyfriend really wanted Weymouth to join. “I said, ‘No, no, no,”’ Weymouth says. “But I finally saw they were going to need help. People just didn’t get them—the sensibility that we shared. I knew what it was.” Weymouth relented, signing on to play bass guitar.
Friendship morphed into more than friendship, and the two became a couple. They spent long hours playing music together, strengthening their bond all the while. Then came the turning point: the haircut.
“I had long hair, and I wished to have it cut,” she says. “I told Chris, I just want you to cut an inch off, as straight as you can across the bottom. He said, ‘I don’t know if I can do that.”
“I pulled my hair back,” Weymouth says, and as he gathered her mane to cut it, standing behind her, he said, “You know, this makes me think we could be married.”
“I said, ‘Yes, we could be,’” Weymouth says. “That was the first time I’d contemplated that I could be married to him, and it was good. It was the first time I saw us as a unit.”
Frantz remembers the episode well, too. “I was so nervous about it,” he says. “A pretty girl asks you to cut her hair—I felt awkward. But I did it with great panache.”
Faith Middleton & Fern Berman
Faith thought it was a business meeting. Fern knew otherwise.
Faith Middleton was the host of Connecticut Public Radio’s “Food Schmooze” and “The Faith Middleton show.” A “Food Schmooze” guest asked if she knew Fern Berman, describing her as “a legend in the food world in New York.”
“You should know her,” the guest said, and set about making it happen. “I didn’t think any more about it,” Middleton says. Two weeks later, it was all arranged: a dinner meeting for five at Thomas Henkelmann in Greenwich. Middleton was pleased with the choice: “I’d wanted to review that place,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’ll get a nice little piece of business done.’”
The friend had let Berman in on the fact that she hoped the two might hit it off. Berman, who owns a New York public relations firm that represents many restaurants, wanted nothing to do with it. “I said, ‘I don’t think so,’” she remembers. She loved the city too much to consider getting involved with someone who was firmly rooted in Connecticut.
But as their group gathered that day, Middleton says, “I looked at her and thought, ‘Wow, isn’t she beautiful? Too bad, because she’s clearly straight.’”
Berman remembers thinking, “Ooh, who is that?” when she saw Middleton.”
Both enjoyed the meal and the conversation, enough so that Berman emailed Middleton to suggest they get together again. “For her, it was a pickup,” Middleton says.
Middleton was inspired to reply, “Ah, but I thought you were the enchanting one.”
“That was pretty bold,” she says, “since I still thought she was straight.”
She soon learned otherwise. Six months later Middleton and Berman were married, at Le Cirque 2000 in Manhattan. Berman has come to adore living in Connecticut. Middleton likes to point out that she was 53 years old and Berman 43 when then met, which she hopes will inspire others not to give up hope of finding love. “We are positive proof that this can happen to you at any age,” she says. “Just keep the faith.”
Geno & Kathy Auriemma
In 1972, Geno Auriemma, now head coach of the UConn women’s basketball team, was playing hoops for West Chester State College. Kathy Osler was a cheerleader. They were supposed to meet up with another couple after a game for a double date—Geno and Kathy’s half of which was supposed to be blind. But the other couple left without them, and when Geno arrived at the meeting spot, he found Kathy standing alone. It didn’t turn out to be a date exactly, but when Kathy asked him for a ride home, “I said, ‘Sure’,” Geno says. “That’s kind of how it all started.”
“It was an odd way to meet,” he says. “One of those weird things that happens on a whim. Sometimes that’s the best way for things to happen.”
“Here we are in 2011, still going strong,” Geno says of his 33-year marriage to the former cheerleader. “But I can remember that day as plain as if it happened yesterday.”
Jacques & Gloria Pepin
Let’s just say renowned French chef Jacques Pépin and his wife Gloria headed down a slippery slope.
“We met skiing,” at Hunter Mountain in New York, says Gloria. “I was on the ski patrol, and he was a ski instructor. I took private lessons just to meet him.”
“Of course,” she adds, “I didn’t need ski lessons. But he was correcting me, anyway. It took two weeks for him to figure out” that she didn’t really need his help, Gloria says. “It was very expensive.”
The two already knew each other. Jacques, who had moved to the U.S. from his native France in 1959, and Gloria were all part of the same crowd,” she says. “I took a shine to him.”
Why did she pluck him from the crowd of fellow skiers? “His sideburns and tight pants,” she says. “They weren’t very common at that time.”
That was the winter of 1965/1966, Gloria says. They were married Sept. 18, 1966.
But Valentine’s Day is a key date for the couple, too. “Our first date was on Valentine’s Day. We closed on our first house on Valentine’s Day,” she says. “And our dog, Paco, was born on Valentine’s Day, too.”
Wally & Christine Lamb
Wally and Christine Lamb go way back.
“We have known each other since we were 13 and in the same class at Norwich Free Academy,” Lamb explains. “I looked longingly at Chris when we were both elected homeroom representatives. I noticed her across the room. She had short bangs, her hair in a flip, a very nice smile.”
Alas, “We were pals,” says Lamb, author of the novels She’s Come Undone (1992), I Know This Much Is True (1998) and The Hour I First Believed (2008).
Both graduated from the academy—where, in the 1940s, Chris’s mom and Wally’s uncle had been campus king and queen—in 1968. But she was dating an out-of-state fellow, whom she soon married. Lamb went to their wedding.
“I waited patiently,” he says.
By 1976, though, Christine was divorced. “I was somebody else’s date for a wedding” that Christine was also attending, Lamb says. He had had other relationships, of course, “but when Chris reappeared, I was available.”
This time they became more than pals. The former homeroom representatives became husband and wife in 1978.
Joe & Hadassah Lieberman
“It may sound like the beginning of a joke, but the truth is I met Hadassah through my synagogue,” says the longtime U.S. senator. “Call it divine intervention or just good luck, but there was a woman in my synagogue in New Haven who said she had a girlfriend she went to Boston University with who I should meet. Months later she left me a note at my law office while I was out, saying the woman’s name was Hadassah and that she lived in New York but she was worth the trip, and left her number.”
“It was the year  I was running for attorney general and I was very busy. On Easter Sunday, there were no political events in Connecticut, so I went to the drawer where I kept names of women who people had suggested I date (I always tell Hadassah there were so many pieces of paper with names that I could hardly open the drawer—not!) and saw the note from her friend and thought to myself, ‘It would be something to date someone named Hadassah.’
“So, I called her and told her that I’d like to meet her. I added that I was running for statewide political office and ‘since it is Easter Sunday, I don’t have any events but I am afraid if I don’t meet you today, I won’t be able to meet you until November.’ (Today, I can’t believe I said this!) And she quickly replied, ‘That’s fine. I just bought a new dining room set and I need someone to help me move it in!’ It was a very lively first exchange.
“As I was driving to her place in New York, I got lost and almost gave up. Finally, I found my way, I knocked on the door, and when she opened it, well, my heart began to palpitate. Hadassah’s attractiveness, smarts, sense of humor and kosher-for-Passover apartment effectively put me in romantic flight.
“That evening, I returned to the apartment where I lived in a two-family house owned by my sister and brother-in-law, who lived on the second floor. I would typically report to them on my dates. I clearly remember on that night I said, ‘This one is a winner!’ And she was, and still is.”
Scot Haney & Paul Marte
Okay, so maybe meeting in a bar in New York in the wee hours of the morning doesn’t make for the most moving how-we-met story. But it worked for WFSB-TV meteorologist Scot Haney and Paul Marte, communications manager at The Bushnell in Hartford.
In 1993, Marte says, “We both were working as temps in New York City.” On this particular Saturday night, both were bar hopping.
“I was going from the East Village to Chelsea, and it was February. I decided to treat myself to a cab. That gave me time to stop in for a drink at a bar called The Break, a nightcap before last call.”
Once inside the bar, Marte started chatting with this guy who was sitting with friends. They exchanged numbers before Marte went home. Brunch, then a first nighttime date (during which Haney tried unconvincingly to pretend he liked wine, which in fact he hated, though Marte loves it) ensued.
Marte later learned that after he’d left the bar Haney’s friends had asked, “Do you know that guy?”
“Not yet,” Haney replied.
Two years later, in 1993, Haney and Marte moved in together. Looking back on their meeting, Marte muses, “Both of us are very, very cheap. In New York, we hate to take a cab. But that impulsive cab ride gave me the extra time to stop in for that drink.”
Jeanine & John Basinger
Watching John and Jeanine Basinger enjoy breakfast together, sitting side by side in a booth at O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown, you get the sense that they were put on earth expressly for each other. Their conversation is peppered with inside jokes; they finish each other’s sentences. After 44 years together, they still look upon one another with the fondest eyes. In 1967, Jeanine Deyling had moved to Middletown from South Dakota to work at a publishing concern at Wesleyan University. “I was walking to Wesleyan on Court Street, and I saw way down the hill a young man about my age,” she says. “He had flaming red hair and colorful clothing.” (It was the 1960s, after all.)
“I thought, ‘He needs help,’” says Jeanine, now a professor of film studies at Wesleyan University and founder and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
“He was very preoccupied. Then, all of a sudden, he started doing a little dance.”
“I said out loud, ‘This is the one. This is the man I’m going to marry.’”
But Jeanine and John didn’t actually meet that day—or for many days to come. She asked “everyone” if they knew this redhead, and eventually learned that he was from Minnesota and that he was known to hang around the theater. Today John is, among other things, an actor perhaps best known for having recently memorized the entirety of Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” which he’s recited in public performances.
“When I heard he was from Minnesota,” Jeanine says, “I thought, ‘This is correct. This is the man.’
“So my friend Nancy and I volunteered to serve cookies” at a theater performance. The redhead didn’t show up, not at first. But Jeanine didn’t waver. “I thought, if he’s a Minnesota boy, he’s going to want a cookie,” she says. And sure enough, “He did. I gave him a cookie. We went home together.”
“He didn’t know I’d been lying in wait for him,” Jeanine says.