Sex and love after 60: Vibrant S.F. author of The Viagra Diaries says the desire is always

Sex after 60?

“Absolutely,” says San Francisco renaissance woman Barbara Rose Brooker, whose latest novel, “The Viagra Diaries,” became a hot seller after she was interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show in November.

Barbara Rose Brooker

“I think sex is fabulous. Sex is sizzling and the desire is always there,” says Brooker, an actress, college educator, painter and activist who is not only 73 years old, but also proudly proclaims it. “True sexual enjoyment comes from the feeling when someone really likes him or herself.

“I think intimacy is really important,” she adds. “It connects to being true to yourself. Even if you are in a wheelchair, it really doesn’t matter.”

Brooker recently developed a one-woman show, “Two To Tango: Monologues from the Viagra Diaries,” that she hopes to take national later this year. She has already performed it locally, including at the Commonwealth Club of California and at the JCC of San Francisco last fall.

And just over a month ago, she was interviewed by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kolb on the “Today” show, which helped lead to what Brooker says was a one-day sales total of 3,500 copies on Amazon.com.

“The reason this book has gone wild,” says Brooker, who has a master’s in creative writing from San Francisco State University, “is because people want to talk about these issues: love, sex and relationships for people over 60.”

In a world where Viagra has become a prop and people avoid intimacy and honesty, being able to find such openness is vital, she adds.

Brooker published “The Viagra Diaries” in September through a self-publishing firm called Llumina Press. It is the story of Anny Applebaum, an ambitious 70-year-old San Franciscan who writes a weekly column about love after 60 and interviews men she meets on JDate and other online sites.

After she has a torrid affair and falls in love with one of those men, 75-year-old Marv Rothstein, she discovers that Marv is a serial JDater who can’t face aging and is on the prowl for younger women.

Brooker herself was married years ago, but she has been single for more than 20 years. She has two daughters, and the family attended Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco.

“I believe in my culture, but I don’t believe in any organized religion,” she says. “But I know that God is Jewish.”

Brooker says she wrote the book for several reasons. First, she says that “media and society have made age like a disease. I tell my real age now. I used to lie. I believe that age is a spirit, not a number.”

Another impetus for the book, she says, is the fact that most dating services don’t do a good job of addressing the needs of older adults.

“They have a cut-off of 60. They don’t want you after 60,” she notes. “But how we age is who we are. It is about living life to the fullest, asking new questions and always forming new goals.”

Brooker’s latest goal is the Age March, a gathering of people to protest ageism and age discrimination, an effort that grew out of her writing “The Viagra Diaries.” Brooker says the march, in the works for later this year, will allow people to affirm their solidarity with everyone who sees 60-plus adults as those who are “flowers that bloom, grow, drop and age — but maintain the beauty of spirit.”

Brooker, who teaches writing classes at Fort Mason and SFSU, was unable to

convince large publishers that her book could sell.

“No one wanted it,” she says. “They said, ‘No one will read about a 70-year-old.’ ”

So she published it with Florida-based Llumina Press, but her literary agent is in the process of shopping it around to major publishing houses. Brooker is also excited about potential plans for a movie, as well as a sequel she currently is writing.

Although publishing the book was at times difficult, getting A-company comments was easy. Among the endorsers on the back cover are comedienne Joan Rivers (“… this book vibrates with razor sharp wit”) and actor Ed Asner (“This is a most timely read …”).

“Joan Rivers had liked my first novel, ‘So Long Princess,’ which I wrote in the ’80s,” Brooker says. “I sent her the galleys of “The Viagra Diaries” and she loved it.”

Asner’s highly positive blurb came in a similar way. Brooker met him a couple of years ago and asked him to read the book and respond to her only if he liked it.

The success of the book has given Brooker a national forum to share advice on love and romance for the 60-plus crowd. Not only was she interviewed on “Today,” but also by Leeza Gibbons on the “Hollywood Confidential” radio show.

Her overriding advice: “Don’t lie about your age. Believe in yourself. Love yourself,” she says.

“You don’t have to go out and get Botox. Just be yourself and celebrate your age. I believe in romance at any age. And we can change our society. The fountain of youth comes from what’s on the inside.”

“The Viagra Diaries” by Barbara Rose Brooker (282 pages, Llumina Press, $19.95)

For more information on the Age March, visit www.theviagradiaries.com.

Also visit the site to find out about a workshop on writing and publishing a book after age 50 on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 12 to 5 p.m. at Fort Mason, S.F.

Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is a freelance writer.