Mr. Romance was not smiling when he told me about the woman who, on her 50th wedding anniversary, removed her clothes, tied a red ribbon around her old body and leaped naked into the bedroom.
We were sitting in the North Hollywood office of his press agent when the topic came up.
"Well," I said, trying to visualize a naked old lady with a red ribbon tied around her popping suddenly into sight, "that must have been, er, quite a demonstration."
I didn't know how to respond. Mr. Romance considered the nude performance a brilliant and innovative method of rekindling the passions of a husband who had grown understandably blase after a half-century at the same thing.
Mr. Romance loves stories like that because it's his business. But, while I can imagine a lot of things, some of them bordering on animalism and perversion, I cannot imagine anyone leaping naked at me with a red ribbon tied around her.
When I mentioned this to my wife, she backed away a little, fearful, I suppose, that I might try it. She needn't have worried. My body defies cheerful adornment and I absolutely never leap.
Mr. Romance is actually Langdon Hill, a nice little man from Tucson, who is in the San Fernando Valley looking for stories of love.
The reason he is looking for stories of love is that he writes a column about love, has a book out called "The Book of Love" and is shortly to begin a syndicated television talk show on love.
The man wallows in romance. Cupids flutter about his head as he talks. Violins play.
I met with him the other day for coffee and muffins. I believe it is the only time in my life I ever ate a muffin. I hate muffins.
Mr. Romance has the perky-kid face of a chipmunk rather than the misty demeanor of a lover, but you can't tell a stud by his freckles, I guess. Friends, he admits, sometimes call him Beaver Cleaver.
Hill began his column about five years ago in Arizona. He was a poor law student working part-time as a waiter and, to simultaneously save money and win a woman's heart, he set up a candlelit table in the desert and drove her out to a surprise dinner.
The local newspaper reported the incident. The response was so impressive, they asked him to do a Mr. Romance column. Well, it beat going to law school.
People write in and reveal how they inject hot love into otherwise tepid relationships, among them the naked old broad and the bright red ribbon.
Hill's book is full of stuff like that. Not everyone, however, need be quite so demonstrative in their efforts to jazz up hum-drum affairs.
"One quiet way, for instance," Mr. Romance said, "is to get up a little early and leave your mate's toothbrush out ready for her."
I waited for more. There was none.
"That's it?" I asked.
"Maybe her hair brush too," he said.
"Well, that's, uh, romantic all right. Saves a lot of time too when you're, you know, in a hurry to brush your teeth."
"I tried it on my girl once. She thought it was nice."
"That's the word I'd have used."
I asked wasn't there something between nudity and a ready toothbrush that would be an effective stimulant to romance?
"How about this," he said, leaning forward over the dish of muffins. "Your lover is in the shower. You sneak in, warm the towel over the furnace and, as she steps out of the shower, you drape the nice warm towel around her!"
He leaned back, smiling.
I'm not sure how my wife would react if I snuck up behind her with a warm towel. She might think I was trying to kill her.
"What're you up to, Martinez?"
"I've got a nice warm towel."
"To warm you."
"Get away from me!"
"Damn, woman, the towel's getting cold!"
"One more step . . . . "
"Well," Mr. Romance said, "what do you think?"
"I think maybe dinner at Beaurivage would be just as nice."
The mention of food generated another idea tucked away in the pink section of a brain where love smolders.
"One man," he said, "pretended he was going to take his girl to McDonald's for dinner. But what he had done was arrange it beforehand so that, when they ordered burgers at the drive-up window . . . .
"Big Macs, maybe."
"Well, yes, maybe. Anyhow, the person at the window handed them a bag supposedly containing the food and, when the girlfriend opened the bag, presto! a box containing her favorite perfume!"
"What about the burgers?"
"There were no burgers," Hill said, a little annoyed.
"Then I guess they went somewhere else for dinner? Some nice place?"
"Yeh, I suppose."
I was about to step on his cupid again, but then I stopped to think that maybe the guy is right, a little innovative romance wouldn't hurt.
I am going to get someone to help dangle me naked just outside the living room window. I will tap at the window and, when my wife opens the curtains, I will throw back my arms and ta-da!
She sure will be surprised.