If you refer to Barbara Rose Brooker as a senior, she bristles. “I don’t like labels, I don’t like labels. I don’t like to be defined by age, I hate the word senior, hate it,” says Brooker, who at 76 calls herself a “boomer hottie.” “It isn’t a label, it’s a lifestyle.”
“The Viagra Diaries,” a formerly self-published romp about a San Francisco boomer hottie battling ageism, has been reissued by Simon & Schuster, with a sexy cover she designed herself: A filmy black bra, rose petals and oversized reading glasses are strewn over plush bedding.
The book is as outrageous as Brooker’s “Boomer in the City” columns in j. and the Huffington Post. A 65-year-old divorced columnist and artist named Anny Applebaum, informed by her editor that “there’s no market for seniors,” decides to revamp her life by going on JDate. There she meets Marv Rothstein, a serial JDater and diamond entrepreneur, who becomes the Mr. X of a column that goes viral.
Is Anny based on Barbara? Is there a real Marv who wouldn’t leave home without Viagra?
“Yes to both,” Brooker said during a phone interview from her San Francisco apartment. “All seven of my books are based on me, my life and my observations. The characters are all people I know.” While succumbing to a “torrid affair” with the so-called Mr. X, she knew “early on he was a louse.” Nonetheless, he was material, so she kept going. “When he would bring me home, I’d quickly run upstairs and write a scene.”
Such scenes are lavish. Marv’s post-divorce pad, shared with a puffball-size dog, is a Nob Hill penthouse with opulent furnishings, a well-stocked liquor cabinet and a spectacular panoramic view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Pretty good for a boy from Toledo,” he says. “He turns on a switch, and recessed lights shaped like stars drop a low, pink glow, and Frank Sinatra softly plays.”
With scenes like that, it’s no wonder the “Sex and the City” folks had optioned “The Viagra Diaries” for an HBO series.
The HBO project may be on hold for now — Goldie Hawn, initially cast as the lead, exited by mutual agreement, according to news reports — but Brooker is zooming full speed ahead, and her book is scheduled for publication this spring in 13 foreign countries.
Meanwhile, Brooker’s calendar is chock-a-block with TV appearances and book talks, not to mention her work as an artist and as a performer in a one-woman show. In addition, her agent recently sold Brooker’s next novel, “Should I Sleep in His Dead Wife’s Bed?”
Brooker always wanted to be a writer, but her path was circuitous. Like many women of her generation, Brooker, who grew up in San Francisco and attended Lowell High School, married young and had children young. Her first husband left when her daughters, now 48 and 50, were babies, and she spent most of her life as a single mother. Her second husband died 28 years ago. She admits remarrying because she needed help with the children, wanted to write and needed to go back to college.
Did she love him?
He was a good man. “To be very candid, as Prince Charles said, ‘Whatever love means?’ I was also a desperate mother. … Women without money and education in the ’60s might as well be in the street.”
Achieving a degree of financial security enabled her to complete a Bachelor of Arts and an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she now teaches in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It also enabled her to develop a career as a columnist and artist, as well as complete books on topics ranging from the AIDS crisis (“God Does Not Make Trash”) to her insights about the writing process (“Oysters and Angels and Writing Aerobics”).
An anti-ageism activist, she founded the first Age March, which took place in 2010 in San Francisco, and would like to expand the march “around the world. I want to do something that will make a difference.”
Brooker continues to protest ageism wherever she encounters it.“If one more jerk calls me ‘Sweetie’ on the bus,” she said, “I’ll slap him.” Her basic message: “Everything is possible at every age.”
Would she marry again?
“Yes,” she said. “I’m interested in having a loving, monogamous relationship. Who knows? I would love to be able to love somebody who loved me back.”
“The Viagra Diaries” by Barbara Rose Brooker (278 pages, Simon & Schuster, $16)
Brooker will hold book signings 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera and 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1 at Books Inc., 601 Van Ness Ave., S.F. www.barbararosebrooker.com.