Countdown to Bliss

Jeffrey Laurence and Susan Paley

Met: June 9, 2002

Engaged: Dec. 24, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: April 2003

Ladies and gents, we present long-legged entertainer Tommy Tune as … Cupid!

Jeffrey Laurence, 50, is a New York City oncologist, head of the Laboratory for Aids Research at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell, and former Rhodes Scholar with a weakness for showbiz. (His “medical detective comedy,” Many Happy Returns , ran Off Broadway for a couple of weeks in 1982.) Two years ago, he divorced the mother of his two young daughters, an intellectual Ph.D. type, and decided he wanted someone a bit more Liza-esque. “I was a lot more Broadway than people were giving me credit for,” said Dr. Laurence-a strapping 6-foot-2 with graying sideburns and a large philtrum. To prove it, he threw a “Coming Out Chansonnière” in the ballroom of his 12-bedroom mansion in Greenwich, Conn. This got him invited to a franks-and-beans gathering in Manhattan the next week-hosted by Tony Awards’ head Isabelle Stevenson-honoring the cast of Private Lives . Mr. Tune showed up there with a tub of cole slaw and his personal assistant, Susan Paley.

Ms. Paley, a six-foot-tall former Chanel model with a platinum pixie haircut, had also been married before (at age 18, for five months, to a man she’d met at Studio 54 when she was in her aspiring-actress phase) and was in the midst of a self-imposed dating hiatus. “I was on a spiritual journey, getting to know myself,” she said. Accustomed to dating muscled blond he-men, she didn’t even speak to Dr. Laurence that night. “He wasn’t my type,” she said. But her boss thought otherwise, using his Texas friendly to get the physician’s number and then insisting she call. “He said, ‘Just keep an open mind and run with it,'” she said.

That open mind came in handy when Dr. Laurence took Ms. Paley to his all-male monthly book-club meeting at the Harvard Club, followed by belly-dancing at Chez Es Saada. “I was just bowled over,” he said. “I’d dated a few models before, and it always became a chore. There was always the idea that they’re better-looking than you are, and you’re almost an appendage. But with Susan, it was different.”

Ms. Paley didn’t warm to him physically until their fifth date, dinner at “92,” a restaurant near the 92nd Street Y, after a lot of torrid correspondence from the AIDS 2002 Conference in Barcelona. “I think I used to look at a man the way men look at women,” she said. “But with Jeffrey, I went straight to the core. He’s charming, he’s funny, he’s an incredible father, he’s trying to save the world. He’s a quality man. The more I got to know Jeffrey, I was very attracted to him and found his look to be incredibly handsome …. Tommy said, ‘Hang on to this one.'” Mr. Tune proclaimed him “a saint.”

Within months, they were each other’s one and only, and Ms. Paley began making preparations to move from her studio apartment across the street from Mr. Tune’s Upper East Side penthouse to the ‘burbs. After asking both her father’s and Mr. Tune’s permission-the latter cried-Dr. Laurence proposed at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif., where the bride-to-be’s mother is hospitalized with lymphoma. Ms. Paley took one look at the classic-cut diamond with two baguettes set in platinum from Harry Winston and promptly called her surrogate grandmother, Carol Channing.

The wedding will be a modest affair for 20 guests at Las Brisas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Calif., but Dr. Laurence couldn’t resist a flamboyant “Going Back in Chansonnière” party on Feb. 14. Ms. Paley wore a low-cut red silk frock from Saks picked out by Mr. Tune, who did a touching rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

Amir Bronstein and Jackie Silver

Met: Fall 1999

Engaged: Jan. 2, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 25, 2003

“I loved her since the day I laid my eyes on her,” said Amir Bronstein, 26 (and no relation to Sharon Stone’s Komodo-dragon-dodging newspaperman hubby, Phil; he runs his family’s electrical-contracting firm). The lucky young lady is Jackie Silver, a voluptuous brunette in her final year of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice’s forensics program. Cue the Crossing Jordan theme music, please ….

They met on Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus. Ms. Silver, then a sophomore, kept noticing the slim, muscular, spiky-haired Mr. Bronstein lurking around in a manner that seemed almost stalkeresque. “I was very strategic about it,” he said. “I would stay in a place where I knew she was going to pass.”

Chatting, they discovered they were both of Russian-Jewish extraction. “I was 18 years old, and I said to my mom, ‘I met my husband,'” Ms. Silver said. “And she said, ‘You’re crazy!’ And I said, ‘ No! You don’t understand!'”

Ma Silver could be forgiven: It seems Mr. Bronstein, while thoroughly enchanted with her daughter, wasn’t quite through with his collegiate skirt-chasing career. “I knew what was good for me,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down and start my life. But I knew that when I was ready, I’d want to start it with her.”

“I cried so many tears over him,” said Ms. Silver, who resembles a prettier Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

After he graduated and she had transferred colleges, they reunited over apple martinis at Bliss Bar on East 49th Street.

“He starts telling me how he’s always loved me,” Ms. Silver said. “I was, like, stunned. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. I was like, ‘Oh, my God.'”

By last summer, she had moved into his large one-bedroom in midtown and they were wearing matching good-luck Kabbalah red-string bracelets (like the one Winona Ryder wore to court). But, said Mr. Bronstein, his girlfriend was “getting ‘itsy.'”

They visited the Bahamas over New Year’s and went to dinner one night at Graycliff, a five-star restaurant frequented by moneyed preppies.

“This would be a nice place to get engaged,” she remarked during the meal.

“I’d prefer to do it at a dance club,” he said. “With our friends around.”

Ms. Silver began to weep. “I’d known him to be so romantic!” she said. “A girl’s engagement is very important to her,” she told him. “It has to be really special-and if it’s not, that’s terrible!”

But Mr. Bronstein was just messing with her. As a phalanx of waiters descended with disposable cameras and a $1,000 bottle of Cristal champagne, he dropped to one knee and busted out a radiant-cut diamond with two yellow trillions (3.4 carats total; Russians like the bling-bling!) and a phone card. “Go call your mom,” he said.

They’ll be married at Oheka Castle on Long Island. “I’ve done a lot in my life when it comes to dating,” said the bride. “I basically partied myself out. It’s so done .” (Yes, dear reader, she’s 22. ) Instead, the pair likes to plunk themselves in front of the boob tube and watch American Idol .

She “understands me,” Mr. Bronstein said, “in terms of cuddling when it’s time to cuddle.”

Jonas Karp and Stefan Lehmann

Met: April 1999

Engaged: Dec. 28, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: May 31, 2003

J onas Karp, 29, is a hard-core employment and labor lawyer with a large collection of Ken dolls: Harley-Davidson Ken (has stubble, tattoos and chest hair), Movie Date Ken (comes with popcorn), Big Brother Ken (hangs out with “little brother” Tommy, a sort of male Skipper) and Earring Magic Ken (“The Holy Grail,” said Mr. Karp, with its purple vest, purple mesh T-shirt and earring). A city kid, he attended Fieldston and then Brown. “I was straight freshman year, celibate sophomore year, then by junior year I was gay,” he said.

He met Stefan Lehmann, 27, a tall, bespectacled Cornell grad and analyst at Morgan Stanley, through a mutual friend at G, a lounge in Chelsea. They exchanged numbers and went shortly thereafter on a date to Hell, a bar on Gansevoort Street, where they remained until 2 a.m. “Neither of us wanted to leave,” said Mr. Karp, who is 5-foot-7, with muscular arms, “but neither of us was forward enough to invite ourselves over.” The night ended with a tame smooch.

As they got to know each other better, an important contrast emerged. “I know every episode of Saved by the Bell and the lyrics to the Facts of Life theme song,” Mr. Karp said. “He knows nothing about 80’s culture. He was too busy, like, playing the violin and learning languages and being smart. That intrigues me … .He’s just a solid, traditional good guy, plain and simple.”

“It sounds trite, but he’s always smiling. He’s always in a good mood,” said Mr. Lehmann, who has green eyes and a wide, boyish grin. “We’ve had big disagreements, but even during those times, he’s been my best friend,” he added.

Although he held onto his West Village pad until 2001, Mr. Lehmann more or less moved into Mr. Karp’s Chelsea studio just weeks into the relationship. The Chelsea love nest was featured in the movie Election as the epitome of a “Small Manhattan Crap Hole.”

One cold morning, Mr. Karp announced to his surprised roommate that he wanted to take a little jaunt to midtown. “I thought he just wanted to go to the Toys ‘R’ Us there to hang out in Barbie’s Palace,” Mr. Lehmann said.

But they were bound instead for the bird sanctuary at the Central Park Zoo-where, amazingly, “there was no poop on the ground,” Mr. Karp reported. Mr. Lehmann was then handed a rolled-up computer printout detailing several styles of Cartier rings and asked to make the relationship official.

They later decided that Cartier was a little too pricey, and went to a jeweler friend for matching platinum bands engraved with a line from one of their favorite movies, Amadeus : “Uoy Evol I Tub.” (Read it backwards, you ninny.)

Their commitment ceremony will take place at the W Union Square Hotel with a female rabbi, lots of orchids and a Sylvia Weinstock cake trimmed in purple. Both men will wear Brooks Brothers tuxedos.

“It’s a good feeling to know that we’re formalizing our relationship,” Mr. Lehmann said, then gave his best attempt at a pop-culture reference: “We’re not just dating from here to eternity.”

“He’s my Ken doll,” Mr. Karp said adoringly. “But he’s cuter and smarter.”