Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and key voice on the White House coronavirus task force, was the inspiration for a mysterious scientist character in a 1991 bestselling romance novel, author Sally Quinn has revealed.
Quinn’s “Happy Endings” spills the romance of her protagonist Sadie Grey, a widowed first lady, who falls in love with a leading government scientist named Michael Lanzer ― who had discovered a treatment for AIDS.
“I just fell in love with him,” Quinn said of Fauci in an interview published by The Washingtonian Tuesday.
She said she met Fauci ― who held the same position then as he does now, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ― when they were paired as dinner partners at a Washington function, sparking her inspiration for the character in her sequel to “Regrets Only.”
“Usually those dinners, you make polite conversation, and that’s it. But we had this intense conversation, personal conversation. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing.’”
Fauci was appointed director of NIAID in 1984 and was known by the 1990s for spearheading research in the fight against AIDS.
Quinn said she had been seeking a love interest in her novel who was not wealthy or from a well-known family but instead “really brilliant, and compassionate, and kind, and decent, and honest. All of those things — and sexy.”
Now, as Fauci graces television screens across the country almost every night as a leader in the battle against COVID-19, the expert has become somewhat of an unlikely celebrity, featured on everything from socks to a bobblehead to a petition to name him “sexiest man alive.”
Quinn, apparently nearly two decades ahead of the curve, recalled that Fauci was “so different from most Washington people…. He’s not in it for the glory of name recognition.” She decided to have her protagonist “fall in love with this doctor who does this amazing work, and doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”
And what does Fauci think of being part of this steamy plot? Quinn said he’s long known he was the model. “He just thought it was funny,” she told the magazine. “I think he was a little embarrassed.”