February 13, 1995 12:00 PM

A famous sex researcher believes in late-life romance

He is more interested in holding hands than heavy breathing. She boasts of their “quiet, calm kind of love.” Granted, he is 79 and his bride 77. Then again, he is also renowned sexologist Dr. William Masters. But Masters’s days researching human sexuality are over. Since marrying his third wife, Geraldine “Dody” Oliver, 18 months ago, he has closed the famed Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis that he ran for 40 years with his former spouse Virginia Johnson. Now he and Dody savor life at their homes in Tucson and Upstate New York. “We want to enjoy the years we have left,” he says.

The newlyweds are making up for lost decades. They were college sweethearts in the ’30s. When Dody was hospitalized briefly in Rochester, N.Y., where he was in medical school, he came by after visiting hours and left two dozen roses. But the messenger failed to deliver them, and “five weeks later,” says Masters, “she called to tell me she was engaged.”

It wasn’t until 1990, when he telephoned his condolences to Dody on the death of her second husband, that the couple resumed their courtship. He writes her poetry, just as he did when they first dated. Not that sex isn’t important too. “It goes on until we die,” Masters says. “But what’s romantic to me is to sit across the breakfast table and look at her—she’s a beautiful woman.”

One San Francisco couple play a game of love—and money

Fourteen years ago, Michael Jonas returned from a business trip on New Year’s Eve to find candlelight, champagne—and a romantic board game that his wife, Barbara, had created for him. “The game,” she recalls, “did exactly what I wanted it to do.”

And then some. Last year the couple celebrated not only their 30th wedding anniversary but also the 600,000 sales mark of An Enchanting Evening, the lovers’ diversion born of their own hard-won romantic expertise. When they first met, says Michael, a former bank executive who quit his job to market the game full-time, he and Barbara, 52, got along “like oil and water.” But the experience of living in Ghana as Peace Corps volunteers and as workers on an Israeli kibbutz had a dramatic impact. “Living in a foreign culture can make or break a relationship,” says Michael, 53, and it’s obvious which way the Jonases went. The rules of Barbara’s game call for players to advance around the board following directives like “Toast your partner by dabbing whatever you’re drinking on his/her body and tasting it.”

“A lot of people,” she says with a smile, “never make it to the end.”

Two Colorado profs make a career of fighting fair

His Ph.D. dissertation was “a longitudinal study of couples planning to many.” Hers explored “the role of friendship patterns and social support in marital satisfaction.”

So when these two authorities in conflict resolution, Dr. Howard Markman, 44, and his wife, Dr. Fran Dickson, 39, lock horns about who should do the dishes, do they come armed with graphs and statistics? Not quite. Says Dickson: “What Howie and I try to do is not bring our work home with us.”

Instead, the pair, who are both professors at the University of Denver, put a priority on quiet dinners à deux and spectacular vacations, such as the two-month trip to Australia they took last summer with their son Mathew, 9, and daughter Leah, 4. Also, as fun-loving eggheads, Markman and Dickson delight in simple literary pleasures. Dickson recalls how, when the book her husband coauthored, We Can Work It Out, was published in 1993. “the kids went to sleep, we drank a whole bottle of champagne and Howie read his favorite parts to me.” They were, she says, “the funny parts.”

A Chicago columnist finds something in nothings

When Jeffrey Zaslow and Sherry Margolis were introduced by a mutual friend at a dinner party in 1982, their planets were not aligned. “We hated each other,” says Zaslow. “We argued the whole night.” But three years later, when they met again—at the wedding of the same friend—something in the galaxy had shifted. “We laughed through the whole thing,” says Margolis. Over the years, they’ve needed the humor. Zaslow, 36, is a syndicated columnist who replaced Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun-Times; Margolis, 37, is a TV news anchor in Detroit, where the couple, who are expecting a third child in August, live with their daughters, Jordan, 5, and Alexandra, 3. When he’s traveling, Zaslow makes a point of remembering his wife. “Six weeks ago I sent her flowers for no reason,” he says. But the toughest challenge is caning out time at home. There they follow the advice from one of Zaslow’s readers, an 81-year-old man. “He said, ‘Marriage, like life, is made up of ordinary moments,’ ” says Zaslow. “Sherry and I celebrate them.”

This Seattle author takes her work home

Pepper Schwartz sees no reason to be bashful about her love life. “When you write about relationships,” says the 49-year-old author, columnist and professor of sociology at the University of Washington, “it seems ridiculous to say, ‘Excuse me. You can’t know about mine.’ ”

For the past 14 years, the main subject of Schwartz’s open book has been husband Art Skolnik, 50, an architect and county planner. They live with their son Cooper, 11, and daughter Ryder, 9, on a 25-acre horse and llama ranch on Vashon Island, three miles from Seattle. “As a longtime single person, sexuality has always been important to me,” says Schwartz, whose brief first marriage ended 22 years ago. “I decided that I’d be damned to see that go down the tubes. I don’t want a life of vanilla sex.”

To that end, the pair get away at least three times a year for adults-only vacations. They also arrange private dinners during the week, at which they agree not to talk about the kids. They even admit to having cuddled up with a soft-porn video. “Living with Pepper,” says Skolnik, “is always a bit of a lab course.”

A Salt Lake City answer lady stays afloat without frills

Every Thursday afternoon, Donna Sparks Williams, host of Naked Lunch, a radio call-in show in Salt Lake City, shocks her mostly Mormon listeners with chat about orgasms, fetishes and the secrets of great sex. Recently she could be heard over the airwaves chomping away to test the merits of a product called Love Gum. “There must be something to it,” she announced. “I’m a happily married woman, and my producer is starting to look pretty good to me.”

Away from the studio, Donna’s nine-year marriage to Rod Williams, 38, a regional manager for an auto-parts company, is sustained not by novelty items, but emotional basics. “Rod goes to work very early,” says Donna, 37, “and when his alarm goes off, I reach over and make sure we hug for at least five minutes.” At the end of the day her compassion is still burning—especially when Rod has stayed up late, doing important household projects such as making Halloween costumes for their kids, Cameron, 7, and Caroline, 4. “Some people marry for money,” says Donna. “I looked for a man who could handle a glue gun.”

Atlanta’s Love Doctor is on call with his wife

By night he plays guitar in jazz clubs all over Atlanta, but by day 32-year-old Jacques Lesure is known as the city’s radio Love Doctor. As host of a daily call-in program on WRFG-FM, it is Lesure’s job to dispense advice on everything from sexual technique to love gone wrong.

How did he get to be the voice of authority? “I’ve always been known to work my mouth,” says Lesure, who picked up his style from listening to Pentecostal preachers during his boyhood in Detroit. “You can ask my mama about that.”

Or, closer to home, his wife of two years, Abby Gail, 34, who’s something of an expert herself. Five years ago, Abby and her sister self-published a guidebook, Romance 365 Days…365 Ways. Tip No. 64, “Monogram Your Outfit,” calls for erotic embroidery. No. 148, “The Tingling Rinse Cycle,” suggests pressing against the washing machine during lovemaking for an amorous thrill. The Love Doctor appreciates a taste of his own medicine. “What enthralls me about Abby.” he says, “is her ability to express herself.”

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