Trading his guy card for happily ever after

Special to The Times

Ladies, sheathe your daggers. Rick Marin, the budding Howard Stern of the literary world, is out of the cad business.

He was pretty good at it for a while, judging from his new tell-almost-all memoir, "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor" (Hyperion), which offers women an entertaining day pass into the scary minds of smarmy single guys. And now he's demonstrating one of his techniques of seduction, which, against all odds, involves his thick-rimmed glasses.

This move is called the Pensive Nibble, which follows the Earnest Swipe. It starts with Marin whipping off his glasses like an amorous librarian and looking soulfully, albeit a bit bug-eyed, into the eyes of his quarry as his lips slowly enclose the tip of an earpiece.

The woman at his side bursts into laughter. "That's what you did to me when we met," she says, and turns to an observer. "Wouldn't you have thought that was a joke?"

Ilene Rosenzweig certainly did the first time Marin tried it on her in real life -- and meant it -- six years ago. And it's no coincidence that the two are getting married in Italy in May. Because when it came to beguiling Marin, Rosenzweig did those girls behind "The Rules" tome one better. She didn't just pretend she wasn't interested.

She really wasn't interested.

Ironically, Rosenzweig thought he was too nice. "I never knew he had any of that side of him until the book," she says. "I never would have believed it in a million years. He always treated me like gold. We were good friends, but I didn't think there was a spark in a romantic way. There was intellectual spark, but it really took me a while to mature in the friendship to realize this was love."

If Marin can't help but give away the happy ending to his tale of male misdeeds, it's because his ending comes with him pretty much everywhere he goes. On a recent week, they're sailing through Los Angeles on a whirlwind his-and-hers product promotion tour. One night there's an author reading a deux at Book Soup, with Rosenzweig reading her own dialogue from the book. Later, they celebrate with friends at an intimate party in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont, where Ileana Douglas sings along while a guitar player serenades a cluster of revelers.

The previous night, Rosenzweig was a guest of honor at a launch party for the new line of hip housewares she and Cynthia Rowley have designed for Target.

Fashionistas streamed through a Hollywood Hills home outfitted in brightly hued dishes, sheets and towels from their Swell line, while Tatiana von Furstenberg's husband, Johnny Fava, entertained the crowd with his cheesy lounge singer act that ended with him stripping down to a wig, gold chains and G-string. As the drizzly evening waned, the house was stripped too. Stragglers hauled garbage bags stuffed with oven mitts down the driveway.

For all their "It" couple festivities, the two former journalists are still peering at their shiny new lives through a looking glass. "I'm a long way from the all-access laminate to the VIP room of fame that I fantasized in my book," Marin tells an interviewer. "I still feel much more like a journalist. I think, 'Why are you asking me questions? Shouldn't it be the other way around?' "

But all this could be just the beginning. Could the happy couple give birth to that Holy Grail of the fashion and media worlds -- an actual trend?

Even as the New Yorkers stump around the U.S. promoting Marin's take on high-stress sex and the city, they're saying that it's hip to be wed, that the single life is so, well, passe.

"Ilene was just reading David Niven's memoir, 'The Moon's a Balloon,' and the guy was with only the most fabulous, glamorous people," Marin says, "and they're all happy couples having a good time together."

"Larry Olivier and Vivien Leigh," Rosenzweig adds. "It was all about glamorous couples and the way they'd socialize then."

"As couples," he says.

"As glamorous couples," she says.

Marin and Rosenzweig are already in training. As Marin, 40, slouches on a couch in the Chateau Marmont's lobby, good-naturedly confessing to sins that are safely in his past, he looks like any ordinary guy with thinning hair and dark, bushy eyebrows. (When he appeared on NBC's "The Other Half" last week, host Danny Bonaduce told him, "Lookin' at you, I don't see it." "I think he didn't buy me as a cad," Marin says later. "I don't have his raw, savage good looks.")

But look beneath the surface -- and read the labels. Those double-duty glasses of Marin's are Armanis, after all. And when it comes to sizing up the ladies, Marin is merciless. In the book, he dutifully records each Belgian loafer and Loro Piana cashmere sweater of the prospects who pass muster. But heaven help the fashion-impaired, such as the date who showed up in a "pilly V-neck sweater, jeans tapered and faded where they shouldn't have been, and heels that didn't really go," he writes. "That she was no fashion plate shouldn't matter, I told myself. I can get past it, not be so superficial. But I didn't really believe that. Vogue was as erotic a publication to me as Playboy."

For Marin, a former writer for the New York Times Sunday Styles section and Newsweek, style is an aphrodisiac. Not surprisingly, his union with Rosenzweig, 37, could have been a match made at Barneys.

A former deputy style editor of the Styles section, Rosenzweig has crossed over to the other side, from chronicling style to creating it with her close friend Rowley. Her wardrobe is brimming with Rowley's lighthearted designs, and today she's wearing Rowley's white pants topped with a sparkly, striped sweater along with Sergio Rossi's oyster eelskin motorcycle boots, bought in Italy. She wears only a bit of makeup, some sparkly stuff on her eyes, and her dark-blond, chin-length hair is tousled around her face.

Marin deconstructs her style on request. "She likes sparkly," he says. "She'd always have something askew, some imperfection. I tended to like the perfect package. Ilene is a little more unconventional, but I like that. Ultimately, Ilene's style reflects her personality, which is more quirky and unpredictable."

And funny, much like Marin's. Because a huge component of their style is wit. Swell's muse could have been the love child of Martha Stewart and Cole Porter. The line includes striped gift bags emblazoned with the reassuring line, "If you don't like it, you can return it." A trio of bathroom towels is alternately embroidered "Good," "Clean," "Fun." The line of 700 exuberant home products sprang from Swell's successful series of insouciant girls' guides to life, love and home co-authored by Rosenzweig and Rowley, which includes such handy dating tips as: "Not every affair ends up at the Elvis Chapel, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth the trip to Vegas."

With a party book in the works, the Swell empire has also grown to include other media -- Showtime's eclectic series "A Girl's Guide to Swell Movies," hosted by Rosenzweig and Rowley, as well as a sitcom in development at ABC and a how-to-be-Swell daytime reality show.

Rowley, who has watched Rosenzweig's suitors come and go, says she knew right away that Marin was a keeper. "I was Rick's big cheerleader. Intellectually, they're perfectly matched."

So why not a Tracy-Hepburn for the '00s? Here's the concept. Cad boy meets bad girl at a party, only the cad, who's used to calling the shots with women, is totally ignored. Later, the girl, who's also an entertainment editor at Allure, calls him with a "celebrity emergency." She needs a quick profile of Andie MacDowell, which he whips up in a weekend. They celebrate at lunch, where he tries the glasses move. She nearly spits out her wine. "That's great!" she says. "That thing with your glasses. Austin Powers, right?"

That scene may actually come to a theater near you if the "Cad" script Marin is writing for Miramax has its own happy ending. The book ends at the couple's beginning, which came to fruition because of Marin's relentless but skillful pursuit.

"It was really over the top," Rosenzweig says. "It was like a cartoon of a guy chasing a girl and it was so funny and so comfortable, we just laughed about it all the way through. As I said to him in the book, 'I feel like a big tuna and I'm just watching you reeling me in.' "

He's asked to describe what makes her different from the nutty girls he bedded and abandoned between his first marriage and pending second. Rosenzweig's eyebrows shoot up and she looks at him expectantly. "I always find that difficult to do," he says, "because I'm reminded of Ben Hecht, the screenwriter, who said in his autobiography that he can't describe his current wife because he feels that she's the ink that he writes with."

In their relationship, that's virtually the case. In the book, Marin lists the type of women men will marry: the High School Sweetheart, the Trophy/Sexual Obsession, the Organizer, the Nurturer and the Collaborator. Rosenzweig, he says, is a hybrid, a happy blend of nurturer and collaborator. He credits her with giving him the gumption to do the book, and they're batting around ideas for a show based on a couple like them.

"Much of our relationship is about being creative together," Rosenzweig says. "We really believe in each other and it's great to have someone close to you who's so encouraging. That's why we've been crazy busy in the past year, because we've been egging each other on."

So as the reformed cad marched off into the sunset with his cadette, keep an eye out for the sequel -- "Cool Married People," a show with, as Rosenzweig says, "a new attitude about marriage. I think it's important to be able to show in pop culture better pictures of marriage, of commitment, that it can be fun and not dark and cynical and sexless and 'Married With Children.'

"Maybe it's just that we're into every trend we do but we think it's sexy and cool to continue on after you've found somebody you want to be with. It's not just the hunt that's exciting."

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