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Dangerous Liaisons : Love Can Bloom Amid Intense Situations--War, Earthquakes, Captivity . . . or, Maybe, Prepping for the Trial of the Century

November 06, 1995|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

This isn't about love at first sight. It's about love at 72nd sight, and under some of the most stressful, adrenalin-pumping conditions imaginable.

Or it's not love, as the case may be.

But tongues and tabloids have been wagging with speculation about the supposed after-hours liaison between O.J. Simpson prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. In the Nov. 13 issue of People magazine, columnist Mitchell Fink reports that Darden says he'll marry Clark when her divorce comes through.

Clark quickly dismissed that motion. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous," the peeved prosecutor told reporters outside a New York theater. And the official word from the L.A. district attorney's office is, don't read too much into reports of a weekend getaway to Reno a deux, and don't make too much of a mere swing by San Francisco's DNA Lounge. Press reports have also linked Darden with yet another legal celebrity, Anita Hill.

Longtime Clark crony Roslyn Dauber told People that appearances of a D.A. office romance are deceiving: "They've just been through an incredible experience together, like going through a war."

Precisely. That's why experts in affairs of the heart nod knowingly at the romantic rumors. Let's just say that if they were true, no one on this bus would be surprised.

Indeed, pressure cookers could well be the ultimate aphrodisiacs. Mix in a little isolation for extended periods, and you have a potent heart grabber.

"It's almost the perfect crucible," says Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of "Anatomy of Love" (Ballantine, 1993). "Danger is very sexually exciting."

"They were in a fight-or-flight stress state," says Leslie Pam, co-host of the KMPC-AM (710) talk show "Sex and Relationships." "When you believe it's a struggle for life and survival and you're failing and the other person jumps in, how can that not be a turn-on?"

Free-lance photographer Mike Kubeisy certainly never thought he was getting in the mood for l'amour when he met his neighbor--and spouse-to-be--amid the detritus of the Northridge Meadows apartment complex destroyed by the 1994 earthquake.

"We each knew what the other was going through," says Kubeisy, who's coming up on the one-year anniversary of his marriage to Patricia Silden in December. "I have many friends who are active in our church and Lord knows there were prayers for us, but no one heard the cries like we did or felt the fear like we did."

In psychologese, it's "the two-factor theory of emotion," says Midge Wilson, a psychology professor at Chicago's DePaul University. "In order for a person to experience and label a feeling of love, there has to be arousal present as well as some reason to label the arousal as attraction. Situations of intense fear or jealousy can fuel arousal, or maybe too much caffeine. It heightens the chance you will misattribute that arousal to attraction."

A corollary love potion is "the Stockholm Effect," named after a Swedish bank robbery in which, Wilson says, captive bonded to criminal. That hostage's love for her captor could help explain why Patty Hearst bedded Donald DeFreeze, her Symbionese Liberation Army captor, Wilson says.

Experts point to a famous 1974 study conducted by two Canadian psychologists that called on an attractive woman to interview men on two bridges--a secure bridge and a dangerous bridge over a deep ravine. The men were significantly more likely to ask for her phone number on the scary--and arousing--bridge.

"They were more sensitive to all of the cues around them," Fisher says. "And both men and women naturally send out flirtatious signals. We were built to flirt with each other. We were not built to work in close proximity with each other."

Without things getting complicated, that is. Affection can bloom amid long, intense hours, such as one might spend, say, preparing for the trial of the century.

"The need to win was very strong," Fisher says. "And sex and aggression are very closely linked in the brain. Testosterone and the other androgens are associated with assertiveness and also with sexuality. More than likely, they were stimulated by the body's and brain's natural chemicals for assertive behavior--those same chemicals are associated with the sex drive."

*

Courtrooms can be cozy, but a more likely backdrop for romance is the sometimes exotic landscape of the film set, like Kauai's transformation into "Jurassic Park." There, love bloomed for Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern amid the arousing 130 m.p.h. winds of 1992's Hurricane Iniki.

Although that pairing appears to have stuck, some set romances are all intensity--and nothing else. Sharon Stone reportedly lured newlywed producer Bill MacDonald on the set of "Sliver" but later gave him the boot.

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