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NEW YORK — Donna Hanover is proof that life takes interesting twists.
Hanover, the first lady of New York City from 1994 to 2001, lived though a high-profile marriage and divorce to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and has learned some lessons on the road to her first book, “My Boyfriend’s Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love With a Long-Lost Sweetheart” (Hudson Street Press, $13.95).
Hanover, 55, forged a career as a news anchor, talk-show host and actress during her marriage, while raising two children, Andrew and Caroline. But her bitter and public divorce in 2002 left her wondering about her life’s direction.
A month after the divorce became final, Hanover was trying to adjust to being a single, working mother. She wasn’t expecting to remarry. Then the phone rang on a hot August day.
“I really anticipated that I would have some lonely times because I know so many fabulous women who have had trouble finding a good guy,” she said.
The person on the phone said, “Donna, it’s Ed. Ed Oster. I was wondering if you’re planning to go to the Stanford reunion?’’
Oster “was my high school love,” Hanover recalled in the book and in a recent interview. “He was also my college love until he broke my heart. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped it wasn’t a call about fund-raising.”
It wasn’t. Oster had read about Hanover’s divorce and curiosity took over. He was also divorced, had three grown daughters and was living in Newport Beach, Calif, where he practiced law. After a few dates their love was rekindled and they married Aug. 3, 2003.
Hanover said the idea for the book came from David Shanks, chief executive officer at Penguin Books, after he saw Carol Channing interviewed on TV about how she had reunited with junior high school sweetheart Harry Kullijian, when they were in their 80s. He also knew about Hanover’s marriage and about her experience as a broadcast and magazine writer.
Hanover said she decided to write the book because “I know so many fabulous women, they’re smart, they’re funny, they’re high achievers and they’re alone. I thought ‘I want people to know about this.’’’
The book is organized journalistically: interviews with a lot of people who rekindled old loves, analysis and conclusions about what was learned. The approach was natural for Hanover, who has spent most of her career in the media. She was a news anchor for WPIX-TV in New York from 1983 to 1990, then moved to Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” and “Good Day Sunday” shows, and has been the host of “In Food Today” on the Food Network and “House Beautiful” on A&E.
Hanover noted that she met the couples in different ways, including going on the “Joan Hamburg” radio show and asking listeners to contact her if they had a story of reunited love.
“I also used the girlfriend network,” Hanover said, noting she contacted friends around the country and asked then to get the word out. “That’s how I found a lot of the couples. Plus, I wanted it to be geographically diverse.”
Among the couples in the book are actors Suzanne Pleshette and Tom Poston, sportscaster Scott Clark and junior high flame Heather Lynn and designer Nicole Miller and husband Kim Taipale.
Hanover believes there are psychological and biological forces at work when couples reunite.
“There’s a sense that you can trust this person, the fact that you have kind of an entwined identity” that helps bring people together. And the Internet is making it easier to find lost loves.
A complication that many reunited couples face is geographic incompatibility, which is the case with Hanover and Oster. Their marriage is bicoastal.
“We have long weekends every weekend and sometimes he’s able to stay for a week,” she said. “Vacations you’re together. You’re constantly looking at the calendar and figuring out flight times. Once in awhile it’s a little arduous. There’s a lot of e-mailing and lots on the phone.”
Hanover is continuing her career, aiming for a sixth season on the syndicated TV show “Fine Living: Famous Homes & Hideaways.”
She has also set up a Web site, myboyfriendsback.com, so the process can continue to be documented and to inspire people to pursue an old flame.