Famous Couples Hulton Archive/Keystone
By Amy Phillips Penn

“Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates explained how much he depends on his wife Melinda’s opinion.
Melinda and I would brainstorm about [the company],” He said.
“You always benefit from your key confidante telling you, ‘You think so-and-so stepped on your toes?
Well, maybe he didn’t mean to. Maybe you’re wrong.'” — Fortune Magazine


Double your pleasure, double your power; hyphenate it, marry it, collaborate with it, and do your best not to divorce it.

I was at a public relations dinner that was the kickoff to a kickoff of an event yet to be planned at its Machiavellian society finest.

In walked a couple: he was the owner of a major department store, she was a B+ beauty.

My dinner partner took a cursory look and commented, in a nonchalant New York tone, ”I wonder who has the money?”

Enough said.

He returned to his steak tartar and a new topic.

While hostesses often labor about finding extra men for dinner parties (they need not be dazzling, often simply ambulatory will do), the power couple is on the top of everyone’s dance or dinner card.

There are variations on the theme: Hillary and Bill are a social coup, but one without the other works as well.

Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols were an “A list” power couple. Nichols died recently, but Diane Sawyer was, and always will be, a power player on her own. Nevertheless, Nichols, and a “marriage to remember” remain.

Partners of all makes and blends are eternally linked.

Jack and Jackie, Lennon and McCartney, Woodward and Bernstein, Bogie and Bacall, Felix and Oscar, along with variations, combinations, and permutations, may have  passed on or no longer make an entrance, but are immortalized in golden Velcro.

Who said that memorable couples have to be Disney characters, with baby birds hanging up their perfectly white laundry, as if they ever soiled anything?

Think Oscar and Felix.

Oscar Madison said, “I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!”

Marriages and liaisons take on different requirements as age wrinkles in and life does a serpentine without the “twist.”

In our twenties, comments about marriages often merge or harmonize:

“They make such a handsome couple; they come from good families: she did really well for herself (one rarely hears that “he did really well for himself“); “the families are over the moon about this marriage,” and occasionally the hard to resist; “I can’t imagine what he sees in him or her.”

How to lose power without really trying? Marry someone that your friends absolutely abhor, but will never let on. They’ll Cuisinart the arriviste, aka the newly acquired spouse, and moan, groan, text, and phone if they feel compelled to include the pair in an otherwise eagerly anticipated event. The truth usually makes an abundant appearance, chorus and batteries included, if and when the couple divorces.

For those of us who admire the power couple from up close and personal to supermarket tabloid lines, we can only imagine what having a power soul mate is like.


“You see, to be a straight man you have to have a talent,
you have to develop this talent, 
and then you gotta marry her like I did.”
— George Burns, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950)


“Good Night Gracie.” But then again, you never, ever really went away.

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