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A Page From the Infidelity Handbook

June 14, 1998|Marshall Fine

Relationship fidelity is at a premium in the movies these days, whether it's a marriage on the rocks or just a couple in which one is straying.

And the professionals most likely to stray in the movies at this time? Magazine editors.

Not just any magazine editors: New York magazine editors.

Consider: In "The Horse Whisperer," Kristin Scott Thomas is a hard-charging Manhattanite who falls for the suave Zen cowboy played by Robert Redford. In "Six Days, Seven Nights," Anne Heche is a fashion mag editor (on vacation with her fiance, David Schwimmer), who succumbs to Harrison Ford, the pilot with whom she is marooned. In "High Art," Radha Mitchell plays a young downtown photo editor whose career advances when she has an affair with Ally Sheedy, playing a famous but reclusive photographer.

It's even bled over into books: "Here, but Not Here," by Lillian Ross, is the New Yorker writer's memoir of her longtime affair with New Yorker editor William Shawn.

They didn't teach about this in journalism school.

The editor is:

"The Horse Whisperer": Annie, a high-powered, Tina Brown type, consumed by her job at the expense of her personal life. Married to an attorney.

"Six Days, Seven Nights": Robin, a snippy assistant editor at Dazzle, an upscale fashion magazine. Engaged to an attorney.

"High Art": Syd, a recent college grad, now a mopey, slow-track assistant editor at a pretentious photography magazine. Living with someone.

"Here, but Not Here": William Shawn, the phobic, introverted editor of the New Yorker. Married, with children.

The editor's life changes when:

"HW": Annie's daughter and the daughter's horse are nearly killed in a freak accident that maims both of them.

"Days/Nights": While on vacation with her fiance in the South Pacific, Robin and pilot Quinn crash on an uncharted island, from which they must try to escape by teaming up.

"HA": Syd discovers that the reclusive lesbian heroin addict upstairs is actually Lucy, a famous photographer whose work she can exploit for her own career advancement.

"HBNH": Writer Lillian Ross comes to work for the New Yorker and, in short order, commences an affair with Shawn.

As a result:

"HW": Annie takes daughter and horse to Montana to work with hunky horse-trainer Tom, who is reawakened to life's romantic possibilities by her presence.

"Days/Nights": Robin and Quinn's initial antagonism turns to cooperation--and lust--when they are forced to battle pirates and save each other's lives.

"HA": Syd begins dabbling in heroin to ingratiate herself to Lucy, while enjoying an uptick in her stock at the photo magazine.

"HBNH": The Ross-Shawn relationship--with its long lunches and other conspiratorial get-togethers--becomes an open secret at the New Yorker.

Warning signs on the relationship home front:

"HW": After a tentative kiss, Annie and Tom dance a mite too close at the local grange hall--and in front of her husband, no less.

"Days/Nights": Quinn kisses her and pushes her off a cliff. Robin later tells him how much she liked the kiss.

"HA": Syd's boyfriend moves out when Syd and Lucy become lovers; Lucy photographs Syd, thus completely erasing the line between personal and professional relationship.

"HBNH": Ross takes an apartment within walking distance of the Shawn family residence; she adopts a child, which Shawn helps to rear.

Meanwhile, on the professional front:

"HW": Annie learns to focus on what's important--her relationship with her daughter--and gets fired as a result.

"Days/Nights": Robin never does make it to Tahiti to supervise photo shoot; her plane-crash story may get her off the hook.

"HA": Photos of Syd wind up as centerpiece of Lucy's spread in the magazine, further advancing Syd's career.

"HBNH": Shawn maintains iron grip on the New Yorker for the next three decades, turning Ross into one of the magazine's stars.

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