Singles' pillow talk with author and Hagerstown export Anka Kiss and Tell EVERYTHING


New York --One man announces that he wants to marry her. "Who are you? No, really, who are you?" he persists, proceeding to tell her who he is. As if she cares. Another man comes by to enthuse about . . . her writing. This is in a nice bar, dark and downtown, of cool-once-again martinis and the drift of an occasional Euro accent, and these are men who appear to be on dates with other women.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you're Anka, soon if not already famous enough to drop the Radakovich part and go single-label like Cher or Madonna. It's what happens when you make your living writing about sex for twentysomething men -- the hip and hormonal audience of Details magazine -- and invite those readers, as she does in the current is sue, to win a date with her. It's also what happens when you're displaying your 36Cs in a 36B slipdress.

All this would be a bit much if she weren't rather funny and charming in a Holly Gowildly sort of way. The single girl -- from Hagerstown -- in the big city, circa 1994, trying to find love or lust or something somewhat akin to it in this era of being scared sexless. AIDS, date rape, sexual harassment -- what's a girl to do?

Write about it, raucously and first-personally. Anka has written in her column about testing the female condom ("like an amoebic Ziploc freezer bag filled with antifreeze"), aphrodisiacs ("I had a compelling urge to ride the Maytag during the spin cycle") and male escort services ("much more exciting than ordering Chinese food").

"You can't make this stuff up," says Anka.

At 30 -- the odometer just turned over yesterday -- she's a jaded veteran of the single life. She's dumped and been dumped. She's wondered where all the good men her age are. But unlike the rest of us who have looked, found, lost, looked some more, cursed and otherwise thrown our hands and our condoms up into the air in abject frustration, Anka gets paid for her troubles.

After three years as Details' resident sexpert, her columns and other ruminations have been collected in a book, "The Wild Girls Club: Tales from Below the Belt," which Crown has published. The book, whose official publishing date is today, is already in its third printing. (It's $18 -- less than your basic night at a singles bar and probably a good deal more titillating.)

Starting to be recognized

And with all the attendant publicity -- she's proven irresistible to journalists in search of a vicarious thrill -- she's starting to be recognized on the street, at the gym, at her cousin's drive-up bank in Atlanta.

Which is all a little heady for someone who only escaped Hagerstown nine years ago for the wilds of New York, wanting to be a writer and instead getting the usual doors slammed in her face. Now she's hit the proverbial right place at the right time, when young, sexy, outspoken women are all the rage. She's a riot grrrl in a Wonderbra, a do-me feminist with an agent. She's on her way to becoming one of those pop cultural reference points.

"Everybody has to label you. I've been called the new Tama [Janowitz]," she says of the last downtown diva with a byline, a just-outa-bed mane of tousled black hair and red, red lips. "And Camille Paglia on Ecstasy."

What she actually seems to be, at least on this recent evening, is busy and a little tired. She's been on the Conan O'Brien show, had the requisite book party that drew everyone from club kids to publishing honchos and will leave for Los Angeles on Monday for more book-flogging. She has a column due at Details, a movie that she's trying to write and all those win-a-date entries to cull.

"There's the cross-dresser, who sent me a picture wearing a cowboy hat and heels. Then there's a virgin who wants me to deflower him," she says. "After the mail I'm getting, I'm considering lowering my standards -- anyone somewhat normal. So far, I would describe the entries as pathetic."

Male mail melee

Just about as bad as the prospects she's met through the personals -- home to straight, white losers, she's decided -- are the singles cruise and the matchmaking services that she's also tried out, all in the name of research. Her burgeoning celebrity has provided more possibilities -- and, face it, writing about sex in a magazine with a circulation of 465,000 is a pretty good personal ad.

"Oh sure, I get dates. I meet guys," Anka says. "But it's hard to find the someone with the right chemistry."

It's nothing you haven't heard before, if you are of the right age and gender to engage in girltalk, but to the mostly male readers of Details, it's a voice from across the divide. She gets tons of mail, which, considering her subject matter and the frank and humorous way in which she treats it, is no surprise.

"It's kind of flattering that I'm affecting them. I guess there's nothing wrong with titillating and making someone laugh," she says. "Now if I could only find someone to do that for me."

All her openness in talking about sex leads some to believe that she's willing to try it with anyone. Not! She's had to change her phone number -- rather obsessed fans were going to the library and finding old phone books from when she was listed -- and some have even resorted to calling her parents in a desperate attempt to reach her.

Luckily, they're fairly non-plussed by their daughter's openly lived life.

"I play bridge with a lady who asked me the other day, 'Is your daughter still writing those dirty stories?' " says Ann Radakovich, a former opera singer. "I said, 'What's wrong with sex?' That irritated me. Why can't you talk about sex?"

Still, she wouldn't mind if her daughter found a nice guy. (Anka FTC says her Conan O'Brien appearance prompted a how-about-him sort of mother-query.)

Louis Radakovich, a former corporate executive who now owns a movie theater in Waynesboro, Pa., once joked that he'd have to change his name. But, he, too, is proud of his daughter's success.

"The valet at the hotel took the car, looked at my name and said, 'You're not Anka's father, are you?' " Mr. Radakovich says of an experience he had last week while in New York to attend his daughter's book party. " 'Would you put in a good word for me in the contest?' "

'Just a little wild'

Anka says she was a rebel growing up, getting arrested for the occasional "minor in possession of alcohol" sort of thing.

"We were just a little wild," she says of her high school circle. "Bored kids living in a small town." So bored, in fact, that she raced through North Hagerstown High in three years, going on to study literature and graduate from the University of Maryland. She took some graduate courses at Georgetown, but eventually heeded the familiar call to go to New York and write.

She free-lanced, even waitressed a bit, but always found herself being fired. She wrote for Details when it was still a downtown, club-oriented magazine, and stayed with it as it turned into a more general-interest monthly for Generation X men. An essay on bachelor pads -- they're either aspiring Playboy mansions or cootie central -- so tickled the editors, they gave her a monthly forum to address the never-ending subject of the mating game. Having a hand in shaping Details' evolving attitude over the years, she takes a rather proprietary attitude towards the readers, calling them "my audience" or "my demographics."

And, boy, do they need her.

"Men are so inept," she says. "Girls, from when they're 13 on, are learning about how to seduce men, how to be appealing to them. Boys are sitting around looking at centerfolds."

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