This Senator Saved My Love Life

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This is me with Senator Alan Simpson and his wife, Ann, at their home in Wyoming. (Death, Sex & Money)

You have to give it to some elected representatives — they really will respond to the letters you send. Or at least, Alan Simpson did when my boyfriend Arthur sent a plea for help. We were in love, but I was a reporter in New York and he studied wildlife in Wyoming. I didn’t think it could work. He did. And he thought that if a U.S. Senator intervened, the relationship could turn around.

That’s how I wound up in the kitchen of Alan and Ann Simpson, getting advice on maturity, commitment, and of course, sex.




On sex and intimacy: 

Ann Simpson: The hardest thing for all couples to talk about is sex. And it’s hard to believe, but it is. And the big issues in all marriages, that hang it up, is your sexual relationship.  Whoever is the most aggressive, the other one is in control. 

Sen. Simpson: Then when you talk about that, you think, well there's a couple of horny people. No, that's not the point. It's called intimacy. Scratch my back. Give me a hug. Just a hug. I’d say, ok [pant-pant-pant]. Just a touch, you know, a whack on the fanny in the kitchen.

My boyfriend Arthur and me with Sen. Alan Simpson and his wife Ann at the ball that changed it all.

On dating and drinking:

Sen. Simpson: I got arrested one night, got in a fist fight, got in a fight with a cop, slugged the cop. Ended up in jail, called her. I said I need $300 bail. She said, are you kidding? I’m working my way through school, I don't have $300 bucks bail. Maybe you oughta just stay there -- and I thought Jesus, you know, it would be good if I linked up with her. She could be a helpful ally in this continuing battle for maturity.

On couples counseling:

Ann Simpson: We had the good fortune of getting some outside help when we needed it. Through our church.  Uh, we had been married probably 10 years at that time, and it was not a good time for us. Three children, busy life and just a feeling that I needed help. Our minister, he came to see us, to call on us. And I said -- what a great life I had, as I burst into tears.

Sen. Simpson: The secret is, you both try to control each other, and you both fail. And it's critical that you both fail. And you do it in the most skilled and manipulative ways. 

On questioning Anita Hill in 1991:

Ann Simpson: I said you all came across like a bunch of bullies.

Sen. Simpson: I’d had a wife who'd had much more harassment than Anita Hill. And that's when I lost my marbles. I thought, what is this? I mean, for god's sake, what did he do? Well, nothing. “Did he touch you?” “No.” “What is it?” “He wanted to talk about Long Dong Silver and pubic hair and coke cans.” “Is that it? Is that it?” “Yes, it is.” I wanted you to be aware of his behavior.  And so I was a monster. I was just pissed to the core.

Correction: During the Clarence Thomas hearings, Anita Hill testified that Thomas described porn movie scenes to her. They did not watch pornography together as former Sen. Alan Simpson said in our interview. We regret the error. 

This episode is included in the Death, Sex & Money #smartbinge podcast playlist at


Alan Simpson and Ann Simpson

Hosted by:

Anna Sale

Comments [38]

K Yau from Brooklyn, NY

23 Years Later, Senator Who Interrogated Anita Hill Still Doesn’t Understand Sexual Harassment

Anna, Perhaps you could attempt to interview Professor Hill and offer her a forum to talk about the pain and hurt she suffered during the confirmation hearing? How it affected her views of sex, sexuality, power, and corruption? (That is if you can persuade her. I fully understand Professor Hill's reticence about discussing her experience over the years, except for the documentary about her and the confirmation that was released earlier this year.)

It has been 23 years. Many young women, even lawyers and law students, do not know about the specifics of that confirmation hearing (and allegations that as the very head of the federal agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, Justice Thomas might have harassed a junior colleague, in addition to having to defend his under-qualifications as a Supreme Court justice), the conduct of the Senators, and Professor Hill's responses.

Moreover many people today continue to decline to acknowledge the important role that Professor Hill and the confirmation hearing played in the American consciousness of sexual harassment in the workplace. All Americans, especially women, have benefited. Yet in a conversation with a self-identified active and progressive female law student at a local law school about the documentary about Professor Hill (, she know little about this major episode of American history.

And it is a part of American history worth telling and knowing.

Oct. 08 2014 06:02 PM
scabs from az

Just listened to this story on this American life and I was fascinated. Price, love, talking and how we work things out or not always fascinates me. Great storytelling. Thanks

Jun. 21 2014 11:37 AM
Cara Braun

This was really interesting. It made me wish all young couples had an older mentor couple.

Jun. 12 2014 08:00 AM
Angela S. from San Luis Obispo

Great Show!

Jun. 03 2014 04:49 PM
Anna Sale

Thank you for all these comments and stories. A few things to follow up: you can email us anytime at our new show email address:

Also, Ms. Pogrebin is correct – Anita Hill did not watch porn movies with Clarence Thomas as Al Simpson said when he was summarizing her testimony. Please see the correction above and the link to the video and transcripts from C-SPAN. Thank you for pointing this out – we regret the error.

May. 19 2014 12:49 PM
KC Poehlman

I am in an impossible husband won't talk about whatever is bothering him. I really appreciated what the Simpsons said about talking it through and I'd just like to get a transcript...maybe nudge my husband along...

May. 17 2014 06:16 PM
Don Hardy from Red Lodge, Montana

I am Simpson's biographer and author of Shooting From The Lip, The Life Of Senator Al Simpson. Anna, you did a great job of presenting Al and Ann Simpson as they truly are -- open, honest and disarmingly human. He knows his anger during the Thomas hearings represents the darkest period in his professional life. His history is spiked with examples of a tendency to defend people he believes in. Did he go too far in this case...absolutely. Not even I could talk with him during that period. But if you look at the man's entire life, if you delve deeply into the core of his life, you find a person who, on balance, you cannot help but find fascinating. My book opens with a young man landing on federal probation for blowing up, shooting up, and messing up much he spectacular fashion. But the real story of Al Simpson is of someone brutally honest about his mistakes and humble about his victories....a man uniquely human. Your story is a recent example of that. Mine dates back to 1961, when he shocked me -- a young man on district court probation for passing a highway patrolman who was in pursuit of a jail escapee, and doing that incredibly stupid thing in a stolen car -- by revealing that he not only was more irresponsible in his early years, he was, as an Army officer, very close to suicide. He said that -- after Ann said it was time to grow up, he decided to stop making excuses and take responsibility for his mistakes, and that I too could embrace "creeping maturity," that I too was a "salvageable human being." That changed my life, just as he has since changed many other lives for the better. So thank you for finding a way to bring the inspirational and disarmingly open and honest aspects of this man's unique personality to the public.

May. 17 2014 09:58 AM
carol Sanders from Big Horn, Wyo

I was a small child and a neighbor to Alan, Ann, Colin etc. My parents were lovely. I was in Cody till I was in first grade. I remember Colin and I were trouble makers (pyromaniacs) . I just know he remembers my father, my family...and that he and Ann and the family are wonderful examples of Wyoming. He is just someone that makes me smile...a, big, lovely, goofy, put that big foot in his mouth...honest, lovely man. Ann is so elegant. Wyoming is a such a weird culture...I call it a third can make you laugh and smile...and one thing I know. I am fifth generation Wyoming...and I can never leave, now that I am home. By the way...Alan and Ann, I am home. So far, I am not lighting anything on fire. I will wait for Colin to do that... Carol Sanders

May. 17 2014 12:19 AM
Gabriela from Sweden and Berlin

I tried to find a email to contact the show or Anna but I can't find any. You sad you like ideas for the show, but I prefer not to put it all here in the open. Let me know if there is a possibility to e-mail.
All the best

May. 16 2014 03:48 PM
Jane Hughes Gignoux from NYC Upper Westside

I have enjoyed listening to some of the "Death Sex and Money" blogs you have posted recently on WNYC. I write today because I specialize in getting people to open up and talk about one of the subjects you have so rightly identified as extremely difficult for most people to address: Death. Helping people change their relationship to death from fear to acceptance has been my focus since 1998. For over a year I have been hosting "Death Cafés" here in NYC. These are open, informal conversations on any of the myriad aspects of death and dying. You may have heard of them, there are probably 10 or 12 monthly DCs here in the City, and they exist in many other parts of the world as well. People of all ages attend and report finding the wide-ranging conversations invigorating and deeply rewarding. Perhaps your listeners might enjoy knowing more of this grass-roots unfolding story. Jane Hughes Gignoux

May. 15 2014 01:47 PM
Letty Cottin Pogrebin from New York

Charming anecdote BUT in the process of telling your love story, you let Alan Simpson get away with a hurtful throw-away line that was a complete lie. You didn't challenge Simpson when he said that Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas watched porn movies together. Anita Hill never said that. A quick review of the transcript of the hearings would have established that. You, a journalist, should have fact-checked his statement and challenged him rather then allow him to re-open a deep wound for Anita Hill who, after twenty-three years deserves to be spared a loathsome, off-hand insult to her character.

May. 14 2014 06:23 PM
ellie from Portland, OR

I just, LOVE this. I hope to be as strong as Mrs. Simpson some day.

May. 14 2014 11:25 AM
Erica @ Erica Finds from Chicago, IL

I heard this story on this American Life. You have a new fan! LOVED it and I loved the openness and honesty of the Simpsons. Just a fabulous story and I enjoyed the telling. Thank you!

May. 14 2014 11:07 AM
Amy Gastelum from Queens, NY

Love love love the show! Anna, I feel like I'm talking with a friend while I'm listening to your new show. This is refreshing and feels unlike any other radio show I've heard. Just when I thought radio couldn't get any better you hit me with this. And I love that I can turn it on and still take care of the baby. Waaaay better alternative to grandma's soap operas! Well done. I can't wait to hear next week's.

May. 13 2014 06:58 AM
Diane McCall from Charleston, SC

What a wonderful story to listen to . . . .i thought as I drifted off to sleep on Mothers' Day. . . Except I sat up bolt upright when I recognized your boyfriend's voice! He's my son's dear best-friend from their youthful days. I'm pretty certain of this. You've got a very special fellow as your boyfriend. Please tell Arthur hello from our family.

May. 12 2014 12:01 AM

Hey! THAT is great radio -- thanks to all involved!

May. 11 2014 08:12 PM
Troy from Wyoming

It was fun to help you record this piece. Thanks for the chance to be involved in a great story!

May. 11 2014 02:38 PM
Francis from Lutsen Minnesota

Even though I don't share any of Senator Simpson's political views, I can't help but like him. How different his life might have turned out without the help of his wife Ann. Maybe if the senators stayed home and sent their wives to Washington we'd get something done! Thanks for sharing this story Anna -

May. 11 2014 07:40 AM
Beth Little from West Virginia

Hey Anna, I heard this last night on "This American Life" over xmradio, and I went "Anna Sale! I know her! She's from here! (West Virginia) So this is not as much a comment on the love life story (it was great, perfect for TAL) as a hail from the mountains (hills). Wish you were still here. Beth

May. 11 2014 07:11 AM
Kirk from Seattle

Hello Anna Sale! I heard this story on This American Life today; I can't tell you how fantastic it is! Such an unlikely hero, Sen. Simpson. It's wonderful people from across so many spectrums can connect and help and inspire each other. I'm so glad it all worked out!

May. 10 2014 10:36 PM
JS from MAss.

Well..that explains why Simpson was such an arse during the anita hill questioning...i think that his wife is brilliant and strong..he would be nothing without her (hitting a cop when they were dating would have snowballed to worse in life)..he made the right decision when he decided to hook up with her. He admits to it. His strategy paid off. Still think he was a jerk to anita hill..all those senators were. Hope your relationship works.

May. 10 2014 08:29 PM
frances harlow from 11216

bravo, anna! thanks for giving us such a deft & brave interview depicting the ups, downs, and in-betweens of long-term partnership. truly excellent work. can't wait to hear more!

May. 10 2014 06:11 PM
Joe King from Westchester

I just heard this a few minutes ago & it just confirmed my long held belief of how Alan Simpson is a national treasure.

While it seems some here are immured to the Liberal/Conservative paragidm Simpson has always been above the partisanship. He is the real deal, genuine, outspoken & approachable.

Curious how Wyoming can spawn such polar opposites on the humanity scale..Simpson & Cheney.

May. 10 2014 04:59 PM
Anna Sale

You have to listen to find out -- it's too wild a story to sum up in an internet comment.

May. 09 2014 09:41 AM

Yes. How did he save your love-life?

May. 08 2014 12:40 PM
Anna Sale

Thanks for all these comments! Telling this story was...emotional, to say the least.

And Herb, I love how you put it: "I ended up liking him a lot more -- simply for being so darn human." That's what I loved most about talking to the Simpsons about their marriage. They were so open about their disagreements, and their flaws. It was a good reminder that none of us are all bad or all good in relationships, so the trick is figuring out how to maneuver around that "crap," as Al says.

May. 08 2014 10:05 AM

NYC is a garbage dump

May. 07 2014 05:28 PM
Herb from Westchester

Really nice touch with this. No surprise, since you do such a great job with everything. I couldn't stand Alan Simpson, so it was refreshing to gain an unguarded glimpse into his life, and on subjects beyond the usual (taxes, deficits, spending, etc.). I ended up liking him a lot more -- simply for being so darn human. (People are so often more complex than we give them credit for, or they care to show.) Now, if only I can get my significant other to listen. If you wouldn't mind giving her a call ...

May. 07 2014 04:24 PM
Susan Sizemore from Panama City, Florida

Anna, love your work! This is a terrific interview. Very personal and fearless. Takes me back to the Thomas hearings. I remember just how angry I was at all those men questioning Anita Hill. My husband, Ken, was not upset in the same way and our conversations were similar to those of Ann and Alan. Venus & Mars... Glad to hear that you and Arthur are working things out. He just might be a keeper!

May. 07 2014 02:45 PM
Sarah Reynolds

This podcast episode takes us into the intimate life of a politician - the feeling parts. The non-political parts. The real life that exists. Love, money, power, devotion. I've been looking forward to this podcast for months. Can't wait for more!

May. 07 2014 02:28 PM
Mia Lobel from Red Hook, NY

Exactly what great storytelling should be - personal, touching, honest, and unexpected. A fantastic inaugural episode - can't wait for more!

May. 07 2014 01:40 PM
Ralph Novy from Hillsboro, Wisconsin

What a punk!

I'd forgotten how slimy and dishonest he was, even back then.

Mainly I'd remembered Arlen Specter's dishonesty.

And then "serious" people asked his advice about economic policy?

Bizzaro World!

May. 07 2014 12:57 PM
Xtina from NYX

Wow, Alan Simpson and sex in the same sentence - that might put me off sex for the rest of my life. Yeccch what a creeped out creep, the last thing I want to hear is those two words in the same sentence.

May. 07 2014 11:16 AM

What a funny and charming discussion.

May. 07 2014 10:56 AM
Clare from London

But how did they save your love life???

May. 07 2014 09:52 AM
Audrey Quinn from Brooklyn

I had been looking forward to this show for months, and it delivers. So excited WNYC is supporting content like this.

May. 07 2014 09:09 AM
Julia Barton

So excited for this podcast and many more to come from Anna Sale.

May. 07 2014 08:27 AM
Fred M.

Not just saying this because she's a friend: this a riveting listen and a provocative -- in the best and rarest sense -- exploration of all that goes into relationships, including sex, power and love. Hats off not only to Anna, but to Emily, Chris, Dean and others who made this happen.

May. 07 2014 06:00 AM

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