The Author

Martin Marcus and Carol Durbin pursued their dreams with a tenacity so fierce they overcame all obstacles but one: Death

"It just seems my marriages didn't work," she concludes. "There's a learning process involved."

Now 53 years old, she was in her late thirties when her third marriage ended. She and that last husband were partners in a North Miami real estate office. Carol was okay at sales, though her heart really wasn't in it. She'd always been drawn to the arts, to dance and to song. As a girl she used to parade around her living room singing along to the cast albums from West Side Story and Oklahoma! It was quiet passion, unrequited. She never expected to get into that field. She had no experience. She knew no one in the business. All she knew how to do was sell houses. She settled into her job, assuming it was her fate.

Her third ex-husband had other plans, she says. With his majority control of their small company he gradually squeezed Carol out of power. She lost the ability to write checks. She held no say in any of the big decisions. She could stay on with the company if she wanted, but only as an employee.

Marcus and Durbin in Palm Springs (top) shortly after he was diagnosed with ALS; Marcus with one of his thoroughbreds (bottom)
Marcus and Durbin in Palm Springs (top) shortly after he was diagnosed with ALS; Marcus with one of his thoroughbreds (bottom)
Marcus is thrilled to meet Larry Bowa (top), manager of his hometown Philadelphia Phillies; skiing with Durbin in Aspen (middle); with his sister Sherrie, a Miami attorney (bottom)
Marcus is thrilled to meet Larry Bowa (top), manager of his hometown Philadelphia Phillies; skiing with Durbin in Aspen (middle); with his sister Sherrie, a Miami attorney (bottom)

Carol mulled this unattractive option during a lunch with her mother. As they ate in a coffee shop, she absently flipped through the classifieds of a weekly newspaper. She liked to eavesdrop on the romance ads. Desperately Seeking Susan. Woman in search of a man. Personally, she was in no mood to date. Why bother? What good could come of it?

"If there's an ad you like, answer it," her mother said, watching Carol's eyes scan the newsprint. One ad actually had caught her attention. She still has it, stored in an office she's set up in an empty bedroom.

"SEEKING AN AMBITIOUS CAPTIVATING WOMAN 20s - late 30s. Handsome fit writer/producer 42 (djm) commutes to London and NY and skis Aspen. Interests outside the theater include tennis and thoroughbreds. Seeking an alluring woman for serious romance who brings much more than uncommonly good looks to the table. Marriage and family possible. Short note, photo, phone, get same."

It was the word "theater" that spoke to her. Theater. Writer/producer. A life in the arts. At her mother's prompting, Carol mailed off her picture and phone number. Martin swiftly called her back. They arranged to meet at her work, in the real estate office.

The first impression left Carol underwhelmed. On the positive side, Martin came across as physically sexy, with an athlete's build. A few strands of gray wove through his dark hair and mustache. That was really it, though. He was officious, peppering her with questions. The meeting seemed more like a business interview than a stab at romance.

"I really didn't think anything," she recalls. "I just thought he was the first person I met when I was ready to start dating."

They parted with a handshake. Neither suggested they meet again. Yet that night at her gym, he was there. Unbeknownst to either of them, they'd been members of the same gym for years. When he saw her working out, he came over and said hello. A day later he invited her to play tennis. Soon after that, he asked her out on a date, but she balked. She wasn't sure. There was no spark. Even so, when a pair of tickets to a Miami Heat game came her way, she called Martin and invited him. They began sharing casual dinners after their workouts.

"That's how it really happened. That's how our relationship grew," Carol recalls. "I still dated a few other people, but I realized that they weren't for me and I probably wasn't for them, either. And Martin was always there. Every day -- it was almost like clockwork. After my workout I'd be blow-drying my hair. Martin would call and invite me to dinner. I didn't want to eat alone. We started learning about each other."

As she got to know him she got to like him. She liked how many friends he seemed to have. She liked his enthusiasm for horses, for tennis, for his work. He had the kind of personality that either attracted people or repelled them. One of her friends, after meeting Martin, called Carol the next day and told her to dump him immediately. Yet Carol stayed with him. Soon she started working with him.

It kind of blew her mind, actually. All those years she'd fantasized about a career in the arts. Making movies, producing musicals, it was too fantastic to even contemplate. Now to meet a man who shared her romance with the cinema. Who by sheer force of will had become a producer. He would stage the musicals she loved. He would write screenplays. He would produce films. And she would, too. Why not? You can do anything, he'd say.

Carol traveled with Martin to the Cannes film festival in France. In London they partnered with a man itching to stage a musical. When Martin suggested a move to Los Angeles to be closer to the film industry, she agreed to move with him.

The next few years unfolded in a whirlwind. A move to California. A bohemian apartment over a health-food store. A job in the back room of a producer's office. New friends. A new life. Screenplays and musicals and all that stuff they'd both always wanted to do.

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