By Michael Astor
Guy Wiggins remembers the song that he and his wife Dorothy first danced to. It was Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young.”
“Nobody dances anymore. Back then, any time of the day, you just put on a record and danced. And that’s how you began to make love—one move led to another. I don’t know how kids do it today,” muses Guy, a third-generation painter and long-time Greenwich Village resident. “Maybe they smoke pot?”
As Guy’s 100th birthday approaches in August, the secret to such a long life would seem an obvious question. But a better one might be, how the couple, who in their heyday were likened to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, have kept the fire burning over 61 years of marriage? The short answer seems to be to find a doting and devoted wife. The long answer is somewhat more complicated.
Dorothy became fascinated by Guy before she even met him. His father, the noted American Impressionist, Guy Carleton Wiggins, would come over and read the letters his son sent home from his travels to exotic places like Afghanistan and Persia, as part of a Ford Foundation grant that found him driving from London to New Delhi.
Then one day she discovered a man who seemed like a combination of Cary Grant and Leslie Howard—her two favorite movie stars—sitting on her mother’s sofa.
“When he saw me he said in a mellifluous sort of English accent, ‘that’s the most beautiful dress you have on,’” Dorothy recalls. “My husband never complimented me and Guy was the culmination of every man I’ve ever dreamed of. And it hasn’t changed.”
That meeting led to a torrid affair—lots of good sex and an enormous round bed somewhere in a clandestine Greenwich Village apartment. Of course, Dorothy’s husband found out and while he was kind enough to offer her a divorce, Guy, not wanting to split up the marriage, would have none of it. Guy, dashing as he was at 39, was also an inveterate bachelor.
“Dottie was the most attractive woman I ever met, but I guess I was just being the egocentric artist, even though I hadn’t started painting yet,” explains Guy, who retired from the State Department at 55 to take up painting full time.
Still Dorothy would call, every year on Valentine’s Day, to ask if he’d gotten married, figuring that as long as he remained single she had a chance. This went on for three years before fate intervened and her husband Bill was killed in a plane crash.
“It was a very high cost for getting rid of Bill,” Guy demurs about the twist of fate that cleared their path to matrimony. Yet, he seemed in no rush to change his ways.
Dorothy meticulously planned a romantic week on Fire Island, where she pulled out all the stops, lots of terrific sex, fabulous food and splits of champagne.
“How ‘bout that, lovey? I remember those splits,” Guy says dreamily, sitting with his wife on a sofa in their West Fourth Street townhouse decades later.
Still, he didn’t take the bait. The week ended and he left her to wait by the phone for three days before asking to meet her under the clock at the Biltmore Hotel.
But rather than the marriage proposal she had been waiting for, he just said he was returning to Washington. Out of desperation, she invented plans to visit a friend in Japan. She told him she was finally free, she had nothing better to do. That seemed to be the kick in the head Guy needed.
“So I said let’s go down to Washington and get married,” Guy remembers. “I don’t think that week in Fire Island hurt either. That was a nicely programmed thing. She always takes care of me. To this day, my favorite phrase is Dottie’s in charge of that.”
You just finished reading a story from WestView News.
We need YOU to help WestView survive.
Please consider donating to keep our shoestring operation alive so we continue to bring essential news to West Village residents.
PLEASE DONATE! or SUBSCRIBE.