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AS COREY EXITS, THE REDHEAD ENTERS

As badly as I felt about the disintegration of my relationship with Corey, things were happening so fast in my life that I didn’t mourn very long. In fact, I didn’t mourn much at all. Instead, I stripped to my shorts and did a swan dive into the dating scene.

A record executive from Los Angeles had been flirting with me for several months. Soon after Corey left for school, she flew into New York on business and I wasted no time in returning her flirtation. I also reconnected with Ivory, a teacher and ex-girlfriend, from New Jersey who I most certainly looked at with the animal passion about which Corey spoke.

Ivory had a beautiful chocolate brown complexion and a playful brilliant smile that she flashed often.  She was both wonderfully and frustratingly silly and her appetite for whoopie matched mine. Even after we broke up, we found it difficult to keep our hands off one another.  The two of us were opposites in the way that Denise and Martin were opposites:  Ivory grew up in Newark, in the “hood” and I was the son of a pediatrician, from a Jewish neighborhood in Denver.  Our intimate friendship confused quite a few people. I was often asked, “Isn’t she a bit unsophisticated for you?” She too was queried, “What are you doing with that ol’ square?” The answer we both gave was that we enjoyed each other’s company, even when we weren’t chasing each other around naked.  We genuinely liked each other and had fun when we were together. So when Corey left, we renewed our relationship with an exceptional vigor. But even Ivory couldn’t settle me down. I was on a tear.

One afternoon, I was shopping in Macy’s with my buddy Cliff, a singer/ songwriter who was helping me put together my wardrobe. Cliff was a sharp dresser and he was determined that I also be sharp from head to toe. Cliff told me, “Now that you’re on television, you need to look the part.” In other words, I could no longer walk around looking like a bumpkin. I’m not sure if Cliff knew what an enormous task he was undertaking. I’m not altogether sure he was successful.

While Cliff moved in and out of the racks, pulling shirts and slacks for me, talking to me about matching patterns and colors, I was approached by a young woman with bright red hair and freckles. She was five feet tall, with an athletic build and a huge smile. I thought she was one of the most remarkable women I had ever seen.

The redhead was not a complete stranger. I had actually first met her a year and a half earlier, at the gym where we both had memberships. I thought then that she was beautiful. It turned out that we lived in the same neighborhood. From time to time I would see her on the avenue and we would say hello. She moved and I hadn’t seen her in almost a year. When we last chatted, she had told me that she worked in retail, but I hadn’t realized that she managed the men’s department at Macy’s. To my surprise, she recognized me and had come over to say hello. As we began to talk, I looked down into her smiling face and realized that I wasn’t sweating. Not only wasn’t I nervous, I was overflowing with swagger. I spoke to her with ease and confidence, talking and laughing and making her smile. At one point, I had to shoo Cliff away. He was focused on putting together my wardrobe and didn’t notice that I was talking up a pretty girl. We chatted and smiled at one another for a time and then she hurried across the floor to find a business card to give me.

I have a theory about first dates: first dates should always be a lunch. Lunch lasts an hour. If things go well, you can always extend the date or make plans to see each other again soon. If things don’t go well, you’ve only invested an hour, and you aren’t forced to drag on a disaster all night.

So my first date with the redhead was for lunch on a sunny afternoon on the first Sunday in October. She had turned 22 the week prior. Things went well during lunch, so afterward we spent another couple of hours walking around SoHo. I gave her a kiss on the cheek when we said goodbye. The next day, yellow roses arrived with a note which read “I had a wonderful time.” We were soon on the phone, making plans to see each other again.

The next time we met on the Upper West Side. I was still looking to improve my wardrobe and she new some stores in which she thought I could find a nice pair of brushed silk slacks. (Don’t ask!) We talked as we window shopped, and finally made our way to Central Park. We found a nice patch of grass by the lake, sat down, and shared a long passionate kiss. Unfortunately, I had to cut our date short because I had to pick Corey up from the airport. Yes, even as I was dating like a mad man, I still felt someplace in my heart that Corey and I were going to be together. We had spent three years dreaming and talking about a life together and I guess there was a certain comfort in the dream. At any rate, I wasn’t ready to give up the dream completely, even if I was slowly and certainly pushing her to the back of my mind and my heart. So, she had asked to come for the weekend and I had agreed. 

That weekend with Corey was our death song. It was also the birth of my relationship with the redhead.

Being on The Cosby Show meant that free stuff began to flow my way. That week, I had been offered free tickets to a midweek performance of Siegfried and Roy at the Radio City Music Hall.  I had wanted to take the redhead, but she couldn’t get off from work, so I accepted tickets for the weekend and took Corey. All in all, save for my coming down with a bad cold, it wasn’t a bad evening. The two of us laughed a bit, we even held hands, but it was clear that something was missing. It was like living the lyrics from a Carol King song: “Something inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it.” The Sunday morning she left, we lay together in bed, silent, neither one speaking. The prior evening, she had found the card from the redhead’s flowers on my desk and it had naturally upset her. I heard her tears fall on her pillow and felt sick in my stomach. I didn’t know what to say. I was flooded with guilt, sorrow, remorse…But I was also tired and ready to move on. I didn’t look at her. I didn’t know how to save even a small part of what we had. I rolled over.

I began to see the redhead regularly, but not exclusively; I was simply meeting too many people.

At a party, I met Sheila, an advertising executive who was quite pretty, with a wonderful spirit and a terrific gift of conversation. She was leaving the party when we met and began chatting. Again, I was brimming with confidence, and before long, we were holding hands and jumping into a taxi to go to another party together. After that evening, we began dating. And I wasn’t finished. In between, I began dating a former Miss America, a radio DJ, a marketing manager, and on and on. Life was getting complicated. And this was only October! Without much effort, over the next several months, I would manage to complicate my life even more. I made the unfortunate decision to begin dating a woman who worked on the show.

Next…Dipping my nib in the office ink.


About Author

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips was born on January 17, 1962 in Denver, Colorado, USA as Joseph Connor Phillips. He is an actor, known for General Hospital (1994), The Cosby Show (1984) and Strictly Business (1991). He has been married to Nicole since 1994. They have three children.

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