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[Love & Sex Issue]

Famous first dates, Vegas-style

Even celebrity couples have to start somewhere

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Apparently, Emily was “stalking” Penn.
Photo: Bill Hughes

Penn and Emily Jillette

Penn Jillette first met Emily at his show at the Rio, but apparently she had been “stalking” him way before that. “She saw our show Off Broadway, and then later, we did a show in Orlando, and she was a PA on that, and then when I went with Lou Reed to see one of the shuttle launches, she was there in the VIP section,” Penn recalls. “After our Vegas show, she hung around and did the best name-dropping possible, saying that a few nights earlier she had been out with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Amazing Randi, and they were talking about me. Right after she asked me out.” Their first date was at a Starbucks, “and she did all the work.”

Holly Madison and Pasquale Rotella.

Holly Madison and Pasquale Rotella.

Holly Madison and Pasquale Rotella

Holly Madison met Pasquale Rotella at the first Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, but they didn’t really click until meeting again at Marquee at the Cosmopolitan. “We just started talking. Neither of us was drinking that night. We were just lost in conversation.” Due to their hectic schedules, Holly isn’t sure where their first date was, “but I’m betting our first dinner together was at the Peppermill,” where those huge sundaes became a tradition. Now, they celebrate their anniversary on the 13th of each month—the day they met at EDC—but gone are the sundaes. “We went on a health kick and cut out a lot of dairy.”

Oscar and Carolyn Goodman

Oscar and Carolyn Goodman could be a comedy team. They play off each other perfectly, swapping straight man roles depending on who’s doing the talking. It’s banter born of a lifetime of communication, trust … and just a bit of chutzpah. Nowhere is this more evident than when they tell the story of their first date and the inevitable first meeting with the future in-laws.

Oscar was a student at Haverford College when he first saw Carolyn, then a student at Bryn Mawr: Oscar: “There was nothing about her that I did not dislike. Then I saw her at the library over at her college, and she was wearing a kilt, and her legs were the nicest-looking legs I had ever seen on a college campus.”

Despite Oscar’s reputation as a ladies’ man up to that point, his first attempt at contact did not go well. “At that time, in her dorm they had what was called a smoker, so they had the phone in the smoker, and I said, ‘Can I speak to Carolyn?’ and they put the phone down, and they were calling her, and she said, ‘Who is it?’ They said, ‘That guy from Haverford,’ and she said, ‘I’m not going to talk to that jerk!” And I heard that, so I hung up.”

But something made Oscar persist, and Carolyn finally agreed to their first date: a friend’s party, preceded by Carolyn’s first drink of alcohol. Oscar didn’t exactly make a great first impression, however: “I came to her dorm room inebriated.”

“Because he was nervous,” added Carolyn. “All his roommates told me he was scared out of his mind.”

Carolyn’s first drink was a bullshot—a beer with a shot of whiskey. They took a fortuitous detour before heading out to the party, however. “We stopped at his home, I met his younger sister, and then I knew he was normal,” Carolyn said.

Oscar scored more major points at the party, demanding the hosts stop playing a record of then-risque comedienne Belle Barth. “I said to them, ‘I'm with a lady here, and you'd better shut that record off. I’m not going to let her hear that filth.’ She was very impressed with that.”

“I was,” Carolyn nods.

Despite Oscar losing his glasses on the way home, “wearing sunglasses that weren’t prescription,” the two were almost inseparable after that. And Carolyn was the first to talk about marriage. “I went home to New York City, and he said, ‘What are you doing New Year’s?’ and I said, ‘I have a date.’ His mother told me later he was an absolute mess the whole time, pacing and upset, what's going to happen on the date, blah blah blah. When I got back to the college and he came over, I said to him, ‘I was shocked. For heaven’s sake, I’d marry you if you’d just ask me.’ And I thought, ‘Who said, that?’ I'm not forward in that way. But that finished that whole process.”

Oscar and Carolyn Goodman.

Oscar’s first meeting with her father was a memorable one, and then some. Carolyn, who watched the scene through a crack in a door in another room, remembers it this way: “My father was sort of casually sitting, and at the point Oscar said asked for my hand, he sat up very straight, and he said, ‘How do you plan to support my daughter?’ And Oscar said, ‘I’m glad you asked, because I'm not going to be, she’s going to be supporting me.’ And my father stood up, and he said, ‘If you do not take care of my daughter in the style to which she has been accustomed, I will kick your behind from here to 76th street,’ at which point Oscar stands up, walks right up to my father, and he says, ‘If you're big enough.’ And walks out of the room.”

Carolyn’s father had little faith in Oscar at first, she says. “He said, ‘No way. This boy is never going to amount to a hill of beans,’ and I said, ‘I love him, we’re really going to get married, and we would like your permission.’ Her strong stance convinced her parents to help support the couple if she would wait one year before marrying him. “Their hope was that over that period, that would be the end. And they grew to love him, of course.”

Both have widely varying stories as to when they knew they had found the one.

Carolyn: “I have to tell you, all my life, it was just love, love, love. So I kept falling in love with different guys and was very fickle, because I’d get just so far and then I’d find out, ‘My gosh, this guy is an absolute moron.’ When I met Oscar, I thought to myself, ‘Eh, like everybody else, just give me a little time and the infatuation will disappear.’ It never happened.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I wanted to be zipped inside him. I knew from the first time, the first date, and I just had so many friends in my dorm wanting me to dump him because he’d had so many girlfriends at Bryn Mawr. And the more I got to know him, the more I respected him and thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s a whole big buffoon on the outside, excitement and energy, but he’s brilliant, he’s artistic, he’s tender, he’s caring.’”

Oscar: “My story is very very quick. I didn't like that story, by the way. I mean, I didn't even know you had other infatuations in your life.”

Carolyn: “Oh, of course not. Go ahead.”

Osacar: “My story is very brief. I saw her legs. That's when I knew I had to marry her.”

Carolyn: “Oh, please. You make fun all the time. You really need to be truthful.”

Oscar: “All right. The reason I fell in love with her is I thought she was very rich.”

Carolyn: “Had I know that before, we would not be married 51 years.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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