Is There Still Sex? (1994)
Before the four female Musketeers of Sex and the City went on the hunt for men, money, and Manolos in Manhattan, there was the real-life party girl, Candace Bushnell, the inspiration for Carrie Bradshaw.
The It Girl of the 90s, Candace grew up in Glastonbury, a bedroom community in central Connecticut. The Bushnell family had impressive New England roots: her paternal ancestors arrived in America in the 1630s and fought in the Revolutionary War. The eldest of three daughters, Candace ran away at age eighteen. She described her hometown, “We used to call it Glastonboring. It doesn’t have a movie theater and everybody loves horses. It’s that sort of place.” Candace enrolled at Rice University in Houston, Texas, but she left before earning her degree, seduced by the siren call of New York City. Of her sow your wild roots life, she described herself as “every parent’s worst nightmare.” The legendary Studio 54 nightclub was her habitual haunt where she partied till the sun came up. Another arrow to her parents’ hearts was when their college-aged daughter had a relationship with a 64-year-old director. Her game plan was to support herself as an actress; however, the closest she came to a movie credit was a Burger King audition. Plan B was a career as a freelance writer, but it did not pay the bills. Unable to pay rent, her landlord evicted her from her sublet.
Serendipity paid a call when The New York Observer offered her a column where Candace would write about her flings and friendships. As a sexual anthropologist, Candace turned a spotlight on Manhattan’s dating scene in the mid-nineties. The column’s title, Sex and the City, was a play on Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 advice book, Sex and the Single Girl. To camouflage her amorous activities from her parents, she created a fictional alter ego: Candace Bushnell became Carrie Bradshaw. In 1995, Candace was at the Bowery Bar at midnight, accompanied by Ron Galotti, (Mr. Big), when she received an offer of $25,000 to turn Sex and the City into a book. What followed was a six-year HBO series in which Sarah Jessica Parker, as Carrie Bradshaw, portrayed Candace Bushnell. The television show was a runaway success that segued into a hit movie and a sequel. Sex and the City made Candace the possessor of a $40 million fortune that ensured an endless supply of Manolos.
Unlike Carrie who married Mr. Big—whose name was either a reference to his bank account or his appendage—Candace’s nine-year marriage to Charles Askegard, a ballet dancer ten years her junior, ended when he left her for a twenty-three-year-old dancer. To recover her emotional equilibrium, the woman whose name is synonymous with dating traded sex and the city for celibacy and the countryside. She walked her dogs Pepper and Prancer, rode horses, and wrote. Four years later, she girdled herself once more to battle for romance and returned to Manhattan.
Candace’s 2020 novel, Is There Still Sex in the City? revolves around the lives of women negotiating “Middle Aged Madness.” The book chronicles the struggle to feel sexy in a later life body. More than an examination of relationships, Candace explores the topics of divorce and bereavement, the failure of the fairy-tale ending. As for finding her next Mr. Big, the guru of relationships said, “Listen, I would be very happy to find a guy my age, reasonably successful who was once hot. A bit like me.” Or, as Carrie would phrase it, “And so I returned to my old stomping grounds. As I crossed the bridge into Manhattan, now a middle-aged, single white woman driving a sensible SUV with two large standard poodles in the back, I had to ask the obvious question. Is there still sex in the city?”