Santa Rosa- Hollywood romances have a terrible track record, the vast majority end in a split. But one local couple, who's romance began among the glitz and glamour of show business, beat the odds. The two now live in Santa Rosa Beach and are celebrating 35 years together. On this Valentines Day they share their secret to success.
When Francois and Joann Benard met on a blind date in New York, it wasn't love at first sight. "I was 59 minutes late and she was mad," said Francois. But it was love at first touch. They were crossing 5th Avenue when he grabbed her hand and "I knew instantly she was my wife. And i didn't like her," he said. "I was blackmailed," said Joann. "ABC set me up with him. I had no choice! The producer said "we have a date and you are going to go out with him."
At the time he was working for Salvador Dali and she had a starring role as "Julie" on "One Life to Live" "She was married to Tommy Lee Jones (on the show) and kissing him everyday on the set. I hated it! I was there behind the scenes saying "Don't get any closer to my wife!" said Francois.
The two married and moved to Hollywood, working in many roles over the course of 14 years. But at a high cost. "There were many things about Hollywood, the greed the lust, I don't want to be negative about it, but it really effected us," said Francois.
A move to Colorado brought healing and a fresh perspective. After caring for Joann's aging parents in Atlanta, just one visit to Destin sold them on a permanent move. "It was beautiful it was calming, it was a sleepy town 12 years ago," said the couple. So what's the secret to their success? "She is a saint," said Francois, "To put up with you!" said Joann. "She is the worst but I love her, I am still in love with my wife, that is the key."
Francois recently released a collection of autobiographical poems which include ones written for his wife, it's titled "The Dream of Life."