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"Love Junkie" gives Robert Plunket fans another fix

The Sarasota septuagenarian's second novel has been republished just in time for summer reading season.

Robert Plunket relaxes poolside in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Sarasota, perusing what he hopes will be a summer best-seller.
Robert Plunket relaxes poolside in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Sarasota, perusing what he hopes will be a summer best-seller.
Monica Gagnier
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It's been a crazy couple of years for Sarasota author Robert Plunket, whom many know as a longtime local writer, including his tenure writing home stories for the Observer and as "Mr. Chatterbox," gossip columnist of Sarasota Magazine. In 2022, Hurricane Ian forced Plunket to evacuate his Englewood home, which was subsequently destroyed. Last year, his first novel, "My Search for Warren Harding," was reissued after 40 years, turning his world upside down.

Suddenly, the Sarasota septuagenarian was featured in profiles in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Paris Review and being celebrated at bookstore readings in New York, Sarasota and elsewhere. 

After the success of last year's "My Search for Warren Harding," Sarasota author Robert Plunket's second book, "Love Junkie," has been reissued.
Courtesy image

We'll take a victory lap here since The Observer was the first in town to notice that "My Search for Warren Harding" was about to get a second life. It's been a year since we did our first Q&A with Plunket.

We decided to check in with Plunket again after his second novel, "Love Junkie," was republished on May 14. In "Love Junkie," a housewife-turned-arts-volunteer finds herself slipping into a demimonde of porn stars and gay tastemakers. 

Unlike "My Search for Warren Harding," which was funny all the way through, "Love Junkie" is a mixture of humor and pathos. Although the book includes scenes of gleeful abandon, it ends on a somber note as AIDs is cutting down towering figures in New York's fashion, design and arts scenes in their prime.

Before heading off to New York to promote "Love Junkie," Plunket talked about how his life has changed in the last year and his plans for the future. Given that Plunket has a gift for satire, some answers should be taken with a grain of salt (or two). 

Sarasota author Robert Plunket's second novel, "Love Junkie," was reissued in May.
Congrats on the reissue of your second novel, "Love Junkie." But before we get to that, remind me how "My Search for Warren Harding" was reissued in June 2023. 

I have a small army of fans, and both of them got together and pestered this fancy publisher to reissue it. The publisher was appalled. The book is politically incorrect to an incredible degree. But they decided to take a chance. And guess what? There was an audience for this sort of thing!

How has your life changed since the reissue of "My Search for Warren Harding"?

Well, the biggest change is that I got enough money to paint my trailer, which badly needed it. I was getting warnings from the management. Of course, I could only paint the exterior; the inside will have to wait. Yes, I went to New York and I’m going again. One of the bookstores up there has made special "Love Junkie" hard candies, and they promised I could have a whole bag full.

Tell us about "Love Junkie." It was published in 1992, nearly a decade after "Warren Harding."

It’s the tale of a woman named Mimi Smithers, a lonely, naive housewife from a NYC suburb. While doing some volunteer work for the local arts council she meets the charismatic Tom Potts, who runs an arts marketing agency. She is soon working for him — for free — and finds herself falling down the rabbit hole into the glamorous fast lane of gay life in New York circa 1980. 

Soon she meets a famous porn star named Joe and falls madly in love. She becomes his administrative assistant and is put in charge of selling his “merch” — photo sets, used underwear, etc. When her clueless husband goes off to India on an extended business trip, she sells her jewelry to finance Joe’s new movie. Then on the day when they are shooting the lesbian scene, the actress they hired fails to show up. What are they going to do? All eyes turn toward Mimi…

What inspired you to write "Love Junkie"?

I was a part of that world during my thirties. I myself was no way cool enough but I “married” into it. My lover (that’s what we called them) was a charter member of the cool set, and what a set. Gay men were running New York — fashion, the arts, design. I got to watch it all — and take notes. What I didn’t realize (or maybe I did) was that the book is really about a civilization ending.

Can you tell us about the character Joe, the porn star in "Love Junkie"? He seems to inspire admiration among both women and men.

Porn stars were major celebrities of the gay world at that time, and I got to know my share. Joe is an amalgamation of several but by far the most important was Al Parker. He was a legend. He’s even had a book written about him. (Two books if you count "Love Junkie.") We worked on several projects together — some audio tapes, the soundtrack for one of his movies. Google him — if you dare.

Could "Love Junkie" be published today?

Sure. It’s not politically incorrect like "My Search for Warren Harding." True, it is tasteless and has far too much sex, but so does the evening news. So I’d say it’s amazingly contemporary. Stormy Daniels could be a character right out of the book.

When I was reading "Love Junkie," I mused that many people today don't understand the toll that AIDS took. Have people have forgotten?

Yes. But many of them weren’t even born so I cut them some slack. That particular generation of gay men has vanished from the world’s history. They were pre-internet, they had no children, they all died except for a few old geezers like me. So they’re mostly forgotten. It’s sad.

Is there any interest today in making a film adaptation of "Love Junkie" or "My Search for Warren Harding"?

The film rights to the Warren Harding book have been optioned and a screenplay is being written. Not by me. I’m no good at such things. "Love Junkie" is still available.

Are you working on any new projects?

Yes! I’m working on a novel about Sarasota. It sounds very farfetched, but here’s the plot: A young couple — charming, good-looking and very well-connected in the world of far-right politics — decide to spice up their marriage by having threesomes with attractive young women. 

The wife sends the husband to local bars where he scouts possibilities and surreptitiously takes pictures with his phone for the approval of his wife. They set up a hot date but the wife has to work late at the school board, so the husband goes alone. I’m not sure what happens next. My big problem: Is anybody going to actually believe this?

I recently saw your performance in Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" on the Criterion Channel. Have you watched the film lately? How do you think it holds up?

I saw it recently on TCM for the first time in years and I was surprised at how well it holds up. In the past year or so it’s been getting a lot of recognition, with special showings at the Film Forum in New York. There was also a screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Somehow my invitation got lost in the mail, but I hear it went very well.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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