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Antony and Cleopatra! Romeo and Juliet! Liz and Larry!
In the grand tradition of those legendary lovers comes a newsome twosome determined to add their own names to that romantic roster. Meet Paula Grecco and Michael Modzelewski, the Valley newlyweds who dare to ask the question, "Can a Playboy bunny find happiness with Cosmopolitan magazine's Bachelor of the Month?"
Product of a blind date that blossomed into love at first sight, these sweethearts fancy themselves the "Most Romantic Couple in America." And if the rest of the country fails to agree with that superlative, it won't be for lack of trying on this pair's part.
Deeply, madly, head over heels in love, Grecco and Modzelewski believe they've discovered the secret of keeping a marriage alive. Not bad for a couple who has yet to celebrate its three-month anniversary. Now eager to share their message with the masses, these love emissaries recently launched a crusade to crash the syndicated TV talk-show circuit.
One tiny catch, though. Grecco reports that none of the shows is interested in booking the pair until the couple is able to produce newspaper clippings documenting its much-touted romantic lifestyle. And just in case anyone's wondering, that's why we've all been invited to the couple's north Phoenix love nest today. The conversation that follows can be best described as an episode of The Love Connection as staged by Allen Funt.
She's Paula Grecco, a 39-year-old flight attendant whose giddy demeanor is reminiscent of early Suzanne Somers. When not ballyhooing the benefits of her love-drenched lifestyle, the bubbly blonde enjoys chatting about her "wild and crazy" adventures as a "Sky Goddess" for Continental Airlines. (I had three passengers die on me this year," she confesses. "We had to drag their bodies back to the kitchen.)
He's Michael Modzelewski, a 38-year-old travel writer whose own exploits include swimming with killer whales, running a marathon on the Great Wall of China and climbing the third-highest mountain in North America. Several years ago, the adventurous scribe spent an 18-month stretch living virtually alone on an island off Alaska, an adventure he chronicled in Inside Passage, a well-received nature book published last year. As a result of the book, Modzelewski was named Bachelor of the Month in last November's issue of Cosmopolitan.
Giggling, Grecco recalls how that magazine brought the couple together. "My niece found an old issue of Cosmo in my closet and she said, 'Hey, this guy's pretty cute. You should write to him,'" Grecco remembers. "I said, 'No way, that's too queer.' But I threw the magazine in my flight bag and showed it to some of the other flight attendants. Everyone thought he was real cute. So even though I thought it was pretty queer, I wrote him anyway."
A smart move. Out of more than 3,000 letters that poured in from the Cosmo blurb (and a similar feature that appeared in Alaska Men magazine several months later), Grecco's communiqu‚ was the one that really grabbed him, Modzelewski says. This was no small achievement, considering that Grecco was vying for his attention with, among other colorful rivals, a convicted murderess who is serving time in Florida, a meddling mom who wrote an impassioned love letter on behalf of her daughter, and a former Miss Memphis who claimed to have dated John F. Kennedy eight times. Other correspondents reportedly attempted to curry favor with Modzelewski by mailing indecent propositions and perfumed panties.
"The Cosmo thing was wild," says Modzelewski. "Ladies were flying in on their own dime from all over the place. They'd come in for a few days or a weekend, we'd have a good time and that was it. It wasn't like they were looking to hook a husband or anything."
Not that Modzelewski took advantage of the situation. "Out of 3,000 letters, I think I only dated about 18 women," he continues. "And I didn't sleep with all of them, by any means. How empty and boring, just carving notches on your bedpost."
No stranger to short-lived liaisons herself, wife Paula bobs her head in agreement.
"When I first became a flight attendant, I was like a kid in a candy store," she confesses with a naughty grin. "Here I was, surrounded by hundreds of men all day. I'd date a guy from this state, then a guy from that state. I thought I was really something. But it quickly got so boring and so queer I just couldn't stand it."
In any event, the binge dating came to a halt when Modzelewski received the mash note from Grecco.
"Can this be one woman?'" Modzelewski remembers asking himself. "What came off in that letter was someone who was very successful at whatever she did. She was a feminine feminist who ran her own show. That's what I responded to."
Modzelewski still marvels over Grecco's incredibly checkered r‚sum‚, and one can hardly blame him. Featuring stints as a Playboy bunny, an actress, a Palm Beach master chef and, most recently, a flight attendant, the list reads like the early career path of a Sidney Sheldon heroine.
Grecco erupts in raucous laughter, something she does often, frequently for no discernible reason. "You know what I think attracted him?" she gasps, between guffaws. "You're gonna love this. After he read my letter, he probably thought I was going to wear my ears, cook the dinner, serve it, then say, 'Coffee, tea or me?'"