Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Moving on from `Sex and the City'

The writer who inspired the popular show has written a novel that teaches using sex as a power over men doesn't work anymore

REUTERS , LOS ANGELES

Sex doesn't work anymore.

If this sounds odd, it's downright bizarre coming from Candace Bushnell, the witty, acerbic writer whose newspaper columns about being a single woman at large in New York inspired the hit TV series Sex and the City.

In her new novel, Trading Up, Bushnell, 44, provides a darker look at single life than in the giddy series by telling the story of anti-heroine Janey Wilcox, a Victoria's Secret model who sleeps with men to get ahead and befriends women solely for the same purpose.

"Janey figured she might as well use sex as a weapon and enjoys using sex as a power over men. But the interesting thing about the book is it shows that using sex as a power over men doesn't really work anymore," said Bushnell during an interview at the Ivy, a popular celebrity hangout in Beverly Hills.

"I think it works occasionally, but sex is not such a big deal anymore," said the blond, rail-thin, Prada-wearing Bushnell, who looks like she could be any one of the glamorous, high-fashion fictional characters she brings to life.

`Trading up'

Noting there are more opportunities for women now than ever before, Bushnell, whose own rise to fame has a Cinderella-like quality, says hard work, determination and even female bonding are what help women get ahead these days.

"Women need to help other women out," she said. "The thing about this character (Wilcox) is that she's a character who doesn't have a lot of female friends.

"But in these days, let's face it, you never know what's going to happen. Relationships don't last forever any more, It really is about female bonding," said Bushnell, whose own singledom ended abruptly last year when she married New York City Ballet dancer Charles Askegard after an eight-week courtship that was a fixture of gossip columns.

ABC and Touchstone Television, both part of Disney, have bought the rights to produce Trading Up and are considering it for a debut as a weekly primetime soap next year.

Born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, Bushnell grew up as the eldest of three sisters in a "very supportive family."

Discouraged by her parents from watching TV, she and her sisters would often create radio shows, using a tape recorder and props. She knew when she was eight that she wanted to be a writer, although she also briefly attempted acting.

Bushnell moved to Manhattan when she was about 19. After more than a decade of struggling and living in tiny apartments, she was tempted to abandon her dreams, but then got her "big break" in 1994 when in her mid-30s, she was asked to write a column in the New York Observer.

Called Sex and the City, it became an instant hit, drawing on her own experiences in the New York single scene, portraying the city as both glamorous, sleazy and fun.

Television came knocking, the series became a cult hit and Bushnell was christened a modern-day Dorothy Parker. Before marrying Askegard, who is 10 years younger, Bushnell dated several rich, powerful men, including GQ magazine publisher Ron Galotti, who was the inspiration for Sex and the City's Mr. Big.

Juggling a career

Bushnell said she has plenty of material to keep writing about women and the issues they face as they juggle career, marriage and motherhood. Bushnell is sad that this is the last year for the TV show but is sworn to secrecy about how it will all end, particularly for the character, Carrie Bradshaw, who is Bushnell's alter-ego.

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