By: Barbara Bedway
“There’s a lot of power in simple ideas,” says Denver Post features writer Douglas Brown. He credits his wife, Annie, for the idea (and of course, the shared follow-through) chronicled in Brown’s new book, Just Do It: How One Couple Turned Off the TV and Turned on Their Sex Lives for 101 Days (No Excuses!). Given the topic, Brown spoke to E&P via phone from the newspaper’s lobby: “With the newsroom wide open, I don’t feel comfortable blabbing about this there.”
Reporters everywhere may be feeling under siege from increased workloads and the unsettled economic climate, but the 43-year-old Brown has a compelling reason to love his job.
Three years ago he returned from a Poynter conference dedicated to sex, pop culture, and the media, and told his wife about the phenomenon of “100-day clubs” formed by men involved in relationships who haven’t had sex in 100 or more days. She surprised him by proposing that the couple ? married for 14 years and the parents of two girls, then ages 7 and 3 ? reverse the idea and have sex for 100 straight days, no matter what.
Brown knew he had a challenge, possibly a blog, and most certainly a book, “if it all worked out and was worth it.”
It did, and it was. The blogging didn’t happen, but each kept copious notes. “That was the kicker,” he notes ruefully. “You work a full day, come home, cook, clean up and get the kids to bed, and have to get in the mood. Then after it’s all over, you couldn’t just go to sleep. You had to turn on your laptop.”
At the marathon’s end, Brown started going through their notes, outlining the book. Annie, who works part time for a company doing media analysis, had veto power over anything that made her uncomfortable. “Finding the balance was difficult,” he admits. “I wanted to push the limits on full disclosure without going too far.”
Full disclosure at the office presented a different challenge. “As soon as we had the idea, I told my editor,” recalls Brown. “He was laughing about it. I encountered no roadblocks at the paper.” In fact, editors and co-workers generally cheered him on. (The idea for adding Day No. 101 was suggested by Brown’s colleague, columnist Bill Husted, who insisted they needed “to do one for good luck.”)
“Unsurprisingly, men, both colleagues and friends, would kind of treat it in a very joking manner,” he says. “Women weren’t joking and punching me in the arm ? they were more, ‘How are you doing this?'” The paper’s food editor would wish him “good luck tonight.” One boss briefly acted “as if I’d morphed into some hellion driven by fierce, feral loin power,” he reports in the book.
After their appearance on the Today show in June, the ribbing increased. “I got, ‘Oh, here comes the sex god,'” he allows. “Obviously, comments steeped in irony.”
Being a lifestyle reporter in Denver certainly had its advantages for the book’s in-depth research. A story on herbal libido enhancements and another about a visit to a sex shop yielded much practical information for the marital experiment. Additional reporting involved visiting a dungeon with a dominatrix, a porn convention, a stripper school, and the obligatory reporting about the state of sex on college campuses.
Brown ? whose memorable newspaper stories in the past include running with 700 free-range turkeys around Thanksgiving (and eventually eating one he named Nathaniel) and an in-depth look at that highly fraught greeting ritual known as the “man hug” ? has long realized what a good gig reporting can be. After college, he got his first job in newspapers after answering an ad for a writer in his hometown Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa.
“I walked into the newsroom, my first time ever, and said, OK, this is a fun environment, this is what I want to do,” he recalls. He went on to work at the Albuquerque Tribune and for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and freelanced for a few years for The Washington Post and other publications before settling in at the Denver Post. Now he has gone national with the “sex book,” which has been optioned for a movie by Twentieth Century Fox.
Many memoirs these days run into fact- checking problems. Brown observes, “We kind of realized, short of having a notary public perhaps with a video somehow time-dated, it would be a difficult thing to ultimately prove.” But the book’s acknowledgements page surely enhances the author’s bona fides: it includes heartfelt thanks to the couple’s yoga teachers, as well as the makers of incense, massage kits (“with feathers!”), India Pale Ale, thigh-high stockings, and Viagra.