What Can Cause a Marriage to Wobble—Hookers, Coke, or Stars?

‘What kind of girl do you like? Blonde, brunette, redhead, French, Spanish?’ Unsplash/Swaraj Tiwari

The sculptor Dane Peen returned to his SoHo loft at noon. He stumbled into the kitchen where Sonya, the Brazilian nanny, was cooking his 2-year-old son, Sting, a hard-boiled egg.

“Oh, Mister Peen,” Sonya said, as Dane sat down at the kitchen table and put his head in his hands. “Everybody been looking for you. Mrs. Peen go to find you.”

“Where Mrs. Peen?” Dane asked.

“She went to some funeral.”

“Funeral. I’d like to go to funeral. My own.” He jumped up. “Oh, shit—get out of the way!” he said, rushing to bathroom. Sting started screaming.

Maria Kydd-Peen came in the door.

“Oh, Dane,” Maria said. Dane emerged, panting, no tie, his shirt soiled and unbuttoned. “Now are you going to tell me you weren’t doing coke?”

“None of your business,” Dane said.

“Fucking liar. I am so sick of this fucking lying. What else are you lying about, you fucking bastard?”

“Fuck-ing…” said little Sting.

“Forget it, Maria,” Dane said.

“You forget it,” Maria said. She slapped him across the face. “Get out. I want you out of my house.”

“Fine,” Dane said. “But just remember, it’s my fucking house, too.”

“And don’t come back,” Maria said. “You’re fucking up our kid.”

A Bloody Nose

In the king-size bed in the penthouse at the Morgans hotel, the actor Tyler Kydd rolled over, having just woken from a small nap. “Yoo-hooo….love cakes,” he called. “Where aaaare you?”

Evie came to the top of the stairs. She was wearing one of Tyler’s English custom-made shirts (which she planned to steal) and her high heels from the night before. “Yes, darling?” she said.

“Let’s have some fun.”

“We’ve just had lots of fun.”

“I want more fun. Bring me a bloody, will you?”

“A bloody nose?”

“No stupid chick wisecracks, O.K.? Get down here and make me happy.”

“Make yourself happy,” Evie said.

“Honey,” Tyler said, “just remember one thing: If you won’t rock me, somebody will.”

“Oh, Tyler.”

“I’m calling another girl. Toss me my book, will you?”

“Are you serious?” Evie said.

“On top of the TV.”

“You scumbag,” Evie said. But she handed the phone book to him.

Tyler yawned. “I’m horny, a horny old toad.” He grabbed Evie by the shirt and pulled her down on top of him.

“What kind of girl do you like?” Tyler asked. “Blonde, brunette, redhead, French, Spanish?”

“Stop kidding around,” Evie said. She tried to kiss him on the mouth.

“Why not? I want a threesome,” Tyler said. He began pawing through the book and then started dialing. Evie sat back on her haunches. “But what if I don’t want a threesome?”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Tyler said. “All women want to sleep with other women. They just don’t admit it.”

“Excuse me,” Evie said.

Tyler put his hand over the receiver. “Where are you going?”

“Leaving.”

“Suit yourself. Hi sweetheart,” he said into the phone. “I’m baaaaaack.”

Ten minutes later, Evie was riding in a cab going home, flipping through the Post, when she saw an ad for Tyler’s new movie. It suddenly came back to her that Tyler really was a movie star, a movie star whom other women would kill to be with. She thought about returning to his hotel room and having the damn threesome, but she knew that he might not let her back in, and she couldn’t face the embarrassment. “I’ve lost him,” she thought. She began crying quietly, in spite of herself.

‘What If We Get Caught’

The Big Apple town car pulled up in front of a corrugated metal warehouse in Brooklyn, and TV journalist Nico Barone and magazine writer James Dieke got out of the car.

“What if we get caught?” James asked.

“So? They’ll arrest us. I’ve got a great lawyer. We’ll be out in 24,” Nico said.

“I don’t think my wife is going to like it if I end up in jail,” James said.

“Who gives a fuck about your wife?”

“It’s just that the last 24 hours have been a bit…trying on her.”

“By the way, exactly what has happened to you in the last 24 hours?” Nico said.

“I’ve already been in the hospital,” James said, picking his way over the broken sidewalk.

“Ambulatory surgery? Chin liposuction?” Nico said.

“No, not exactly,” James said thinking, What would Nico Barone think if I told her I snorted too much coke with Tyler Kydd and I thought I was having a heart attack and my wife Winnie had to take me to the hospital? He knew what she’d think, so he didn’t say anything.

Nico pulled open the door to the warehouse.

“Are you just going to walk right in?” James asked.

Nico turned. “Excuse me, James, but I think that’s what doors are for?”

Inside, the light was dim, but James realized he would never forget what he saw: Hundreds of monkeys in a huge cage. Monkeys screaming, jumping up and down, fighting, pulling each other’s fur, scratching, biting. The bodies of bloodied, dead, mangled monkeys on the floor. Some with their eyes plucked out.

James screamed.

“Whoa. I …need a drink,” Nico said. She turned and ran out of the warehouse. James followed. They ran across the sidewalk and fell into the back seat of the car. They were both breathing heavily. “My place, please,” Nico said to the driver. And then: “That was…awful, James. Oh, James, that was really, really bad. I’m so sorry. I had no idea it was going to be…like that.” She leaned across the seat. He opened his arms, and the next thing he knew, they were kissing, and he was sticking his hand inside her red suit, and they were in her lobby and her elevator and her apartment, and he was on top of her, pounding away, and she was loving it, yes, she actually seemed to be at least liking it…

When they were finished, Nico got up and went to the top of her bureau. “D’you mind?” she asked, holding up a straw and then leaning over to snort up a line of cocaine. “I don’t usually do this, but I need this right now.”

“Do you have a phone?” James asked.

“Over there,” Nico said, gesturing with the straw. “Who are you calling? Office?”

“My old shrink.”

“Your old shrink?” Nico said. “If you need a shrink, you can call mine. But hang on a minute, I’ve got to call my producer to get a ca
mera crew over to that place.”

‘They’re Killers’

“Oh, good. I’m glad you’re finally home,” Winnie said as James walked in. “Dane’s here—Marie kicked him out this afternoon. She’s smart. Maybe I should kick the both of you out. On second thought, I should go to a hotel and make you pay for it. You spend the whole afternoon at a press conference, and I have to baby-sit somebody else’s husband.”

“Winnie,” James said. He grabbed her by her upper arms, and led her down the hall to the bedroom, passing by the living room, where James could see Dane lying on the couch watching TV.

“James. What is it? What is wrong with you? Besides everything else that’s been wrong with you in the last two days…”

James closed the bedroom door. “Winnie,” he said. “I saw those chimps.”

“So what?”

“Winnie, you don’t understand,” James said. “This is big—this piece could make my career. These chimps that they’re doing the experiments on? They’re killers. Winnie, don’t you get it, those chimps are homicidal maniacs.”

‘Better Fake Than Lactate’

That night, Maria Kydd-Peen had a dinner party for Tyler’s last night in town before he returned to L.A. She hadn’t wanted to—but he was her brother, and she had a sense of tradition.

“James has a great lead for his piece,” Winnie said, leaning against Maria’s kitchen counter. “You know. The piece he’s doing for Esquire on chimps?”

“Uh-huh,” Maria said. She carried some plates to the table.

“I think he could win another National Magazine Award,” Winnie said. “He needs it. He hasn’t really done anything of renown since he won the last one.”
“Really,” Maria said. She was conscious of putting the plates quietly onto the table, conscious of it because she felt like throwing them across the room. Couldn’t Winnie see that she wasn’t interested in her husband and his stupid, useless career?

“Is everything O.K. with Dane?” Winnie asked.

“No.”

“But you’ve taken him back.”

“I have let him back in the house,” Maria said. She wished Winnie would go away. She wished the whole lot of them—her brother Tyler and her husband Dane and boring old James (she often wondered how Winnie could be married to him, he was such a wimp)—would just leave her alone and get out of her apartment.

But of course, that was impossible. She had to keep up this front of providing her husband, the important sculptor, with the backdrop for his life. She had to police him. Make sure he worked, make sure that he didn’t get into trouble, make sure he gave the right interviews, turned down the B-list party invitations. And if she didn’t do her job, the whole thing fell apart.

“You set such a beautiful table,” Winnie said. “I wouldn’t even know where to get china like this.” Winnie looked at Maria and thought, Why doesn’t she get a job, no wonder her husband is always trying to get away from her. She’s like everybody’s mother. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dane was having an affair.

Meanwhile, Dane Peen was being very contrite. “Can I help you with anything, honey?” he asked Maria.

“The blue napkins,” she said.

“Right, the blue napkins,” Dane said, and this little exchange comforted him, reminding him that he was at home, in a place where he knew where everything was, including his bed with its familiar royal-blue Ralph Lauren sheets. As he brought Maria the napkins, he whispered in her ear, “Everything O.K.?”

“No,” she said.

James and Tyler were hovering and drinking (Winnie had only allowed James a half-glass of white wine).

Winnie’s sister Evie arrived. She was wearing a tiny black skirt and black over-the-knee boots, and her breasts protruded prominently from a scoop-neck black sweater. (“Those breasts!” Maria thought. “I am so sick of those breasts. She looks even more desperate than usual.”) Evie swerved around Tyler and went to the bar and poured herself a drink. Maria had seen this behavior a million times before, and she knew that Evie must have slept with Tyler, and now he was rejecting her and she was trying to get his attention again by ignoring him. But that wouldn’t work with Tyler. Nothing worked with Tyler. He had no need for women (except for sex) and never had. When they were children, he treated their mother like a maid.

Dane kissed Evie. “We missed you,” he said. “I was worried you weren’t coming.”

“Oh, I just got into a fight with a cab driver…” Evie said.

Every time Evie talked to Dane, she could feel Maria’s hatred, just as every time she talked to James, she could feel Winnie’s hatred. “For Christ’s sake,” she thought, “It’s not my fault they’re married and have kids and have lost their looks and their husbands don’t want to sleep with them anymore.

Winnie called Evie over. “Evie! Come here.”

“Why?” Evie said.

“I don’t,” Maria said.

“She should do something,” Winnie said, even though she herself was just standing there eating carrot sticks.

“What can I do?” Evie said, thinking, I thought she had like six maids.

Later, near the end of the meal, Tyler raised his glass. “I’d like to make a toast,” he said, “to my wonderful sister Maria and my fabulous brother-in-law Dane. To many more nights like the one we had last night. Those were some dancing girls, eh, James, Daney boy?”
James and Dane didn’t say anything Winnie and Maria exchanged glances across the table.

Tyler leaned back. “Anyone mind if I light up a joint? O.K. with you, Maria? Are you going to let the boys do what they want this time?”

“Do whatever the hell you want Tyler,” Maria said. “As long as you let me do whatever the hell I want.”

“Be my guest,” Tyler said, lighting up the joint. “Live and let live, sis. My motto.”

The joint was passed to James, who refused, then to Evie, who inhaled deeply while trying to catch Tyler’s eye, then to Maria. “Thank you, Evie,” Maria said. “I think I will have a hit. I think I will have several hits.” The joint went around the table again. James looked at Winnie—she shook her head, so he refused. The joint landed in the ashtray.

“Oh, go on, Winnie,” Maria said. Winnie looked at James. She picked up the joint tentatively, took a tiny drag and put it down, James picked it up, turned away from the table and took a large hit.

Tyler leaned his head back and sang in loud voice, “I’m a monkeeey. And all my friends are junkies…”

“So. Dancing girls, Dane?” Maria said.

“Shall we tell them about the dancing boys?” Maria said to Winnie. “While you guys were out destroying your brain cells, Winnie and I went to a club and met some hot young 25-year-old guys.”

I will be your monkey man and you can be my monkey woman, too…!” Tyler’s voice scratched the air above the table.

James looked at Tyler—why was he singing that ridiculous Rolling Stones song? Did Tyler know that James had sex with Nico? If he did, James wouldn’t put it past Tyler to mention it in front everyone. If Winnie found out, their whole marriage—with its carefully planned intimacies, its public agreeability, its dovetail toward mutual success—would be over. And where would he be? Their friends would take Winnie’s side, surely. She was the smarter of the two. He’d be reduced to writing travel pieces. If that. Maybe medical textbooks…

“We went to Wax. Heard of it?” Winnie said, naming the club she’d written about but had never been to. “Packed with celebrities. I’m surprised you weren’t there Tyler.”

“I thought you went home,” James said to Winnie.

Winnie and Maria looked at each other. “We lied,” they said, collapsing into hysterical laughter.

“Winnie,” said James, “what’s wax?”

“It’s not something that comes out of your ears, James,” Winnie said. “You guys are such losers.”

“Evie missed all the fun,” Maria said. “You should have stuck with the girls, girl.”

“So you could complain about my breasts?” Evie said.

“But we love your breasts, Evie,” Winnie said. “Even if they are fake.”

“Better fake than lactate,” Evie said.

“I loooove your breasts,” Tyler said reaching across the table.

“Get your hands off her, you pig!” Maria said slapping his arm.

“Yeah—haven’t you caused enough trouble?” Winnie said. “You nearly killed my husband.”

“He was fine.”

“Was not,” Dane said.

“I have to admit, I’m not 18 anymore,” James said.

“You’re all a bunch of old farts,” Tyler said.

“Oh, Tyler, come on,” Winnie said coquettishly. “We’re married.”

“You boys are only fun when your mommies here aren’t around,” said Tyler.

“You’re damaging my whole family,” Maria said. “Little Sting is always going to remember his father puking in the sink. Lovely.”

“He’ll get over it.”

“You know, you’ve got a lot of attitude, man, but no real heart,” Dane said. “I’ve been wanting to tell you that for a long time.”

“So in the end, who cares, Tyler?” Evie said. “How do you even know if you’ve had good sex or not? You’ve slept with so many girls, how can one even stand out?”

“Oh, I could give you some tips on your technique,” Tyler said.

“Hey, c’mon, man,” James said. “You’re talking to my sister-in-law.’

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tyler said. “I forgot this was a family discussion. No monkeys allowed—just skeletons. I’m a monkeeeyyy…”

And then, at last, the party was over, and James and Winnie were back in their own kitchen. Winnie was pouring herself half a glass of wine. “Well, thank God that’s over,” she said. “I hope Tyler doesn’t come back for years. That he stays in L.A., screwing dumb actresses and making them miserable instead of us and our friends.” She took a sip and turned and looked at James. She moved toward him. She slid her hand down his pants front. “Let’s…go…to…bed.”

“O.K.,” James said, suddenly happy, remembering that he was getting more sex in the last two days than he’d gotten in months.

Years, maybe.

The phone rang. “I’m not going to answer it,” Winnie said.

“Don’t answer it,” James said.

“I won’t,” Winnie said, picking up the phone. “Helloooo?” she said. “Oh, of course. Yes, doctor. Hold on.”

She put her hand over the receiver and handed the phone to James. “It’s your old shrink,” she whispered. “Now why one earth is he calling?”

This article was originally published in the December 23-30, 1996 edition of The New York Observer.

Candace Bushnell began Sex and the City as a column in The New York Observer in 1994; it subsequently became a book and a series on HBO. 

What Can Cause a Marriage to Wobble—Hookers, Coke, or Stars?