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Crazy Little Thing Called Love

When Black Dog Builders owner Michael Brosnan met his future wife, Joni (of Montauk’s Joni’s Kitchen), he knew she was the one. Here, he shares how their young love blossomed into a 28-year (and counting) romance.

Michael Brosnan and his wife, Joni, on their wedding day at Cavett’s Cove in Montauk in 1999

A photo of Joni and Michael from one of her first modeling jobs. The image ran on the cover of Modern Romances Magazine in 1989.

It’s my wife’s 44th birthday today. The first night that I met Joni, 28 years ago, I asked for her phone number. She said, “I don’t give out my number.” I said, “How am I going to find you?” She said, “You’ll find me. It’s a small town, you’ll be able to find me.”

The night we met I was working as the manager and doorman at a club called Scarlett’s, in Westhampton. My sister got me that job—she knew the guys who owned the club and asked them to get her brother out of Manhattan because I was too wild. I ended up running the show and had the keys to everything. I had all the concessions—it was twice as crazy as anything in the city. Joni came to the door with a bunch of girlfriends. The moment we saw each other, we locked eyes. She says the minute she saw me coming down the stairs, flipping my hair, she knew. I only paid attention to her. I put her in the VIP area and asked my bartender friend to take care of them, knowing full well she might get drunk. She was the prettiest girl I’d ever laid eyes on. I was going overboard to impress her.

The next day I saw Joni’s friend in Southampton and got her address. I went right to her house and knocked on the door. I was a city kid, so I didn’t think it was odd to knock on Mr. and Mrs. Huey’s door and say, “Hi, I’m here to see your daughter.” I had black leather pants on and a ripped shirt, and I put my hair in a ponytail because I wanted to look presentable. Joni’s father is a career Navy guy. He spent his whole life in the Navy, about 27 years, so I wasn’t really welcome.

Joni said, “What are you doing here?” We chatted outside by her pool for a while, and I told her I wanted to see her again. That next day, I gave her a ride to the city, and she had on gold loafers. She kept her shoes on the dashboard the whole drive. I was enormously proud of my car—it was brand new, the first thing I’d ever spent money on. I remember those gold loafers. I kept her in my Volvo 240 DL in front of her apartment building for four hours talking. We talked about what we thought we were going to do, where we wanted to go, what we expected, what we thought we were going to get out of life. This was a really profound conversation to be having with a young woman.

And it was in the moment when I was sitting with her in the car, refusing to let the ride end that I knew—knew we would be together.

I saw Joni the following week at a big party at my house. I was in a band, and we’d rented a house in Remsenburg. We were “big in Japan.” I had platinum blonde hair that went way past my shoulders. It was between me and Jon Bon Jovi as to who had the best hair back then. But Joni was completely unimpressed.

After the summer ended I went touring with my band, and when we came back to New York, I knew I had to find her.

It had been love at first sight. She was a very sweet, beautiful girl. So I decided this was something I was going to stick around for. It was real. I never got her out of my mind. Her eyes—they were the kindest I’d ever seen, and they made me really comfortable. I didn’t have to put on an act. I was able to be myself.

We got married 14 years later. We didn’t get to take a honeymoon because I’d lost all of our money in the stock market after I’d become a trader. She stuck with me. She said, “Who cares—I didn’t even know we had it, and we’ll get it back.”

The Internet crash came later and I got lucky and played it the right way and got all our money back. The day I cashed out, I called a travel agency and I said, give me two first-class tickets to Bali for tonight. I called Joni at work and said, “Hey, we’re leaving for Bali on our honeymoon—tonight.” Joni made me realize that I don’t need anything but my family. When I had Joni, I knew I was complete.

The little things we do together are important. We swim together, we bike together. And it’s not because we have to do it, it’s because we want to spend that time together. She knows I’m there, and every time we turn to take a breath we’re staring right at each other.

We built our house in Montauk in 1994 and moved out of the city for good.

There are challenges to a young relationship—so many things tested ours. We were riding bicycles in Southampton back off of Roses Grove. There are a couple of big hills back there where the power lines run, and we were riding down one of them, and I remember I was behind her because she was going so fast. Somehow she caught her wheel on something and went over the bike. Basically the blunt of the impact was on her face, on her nose and lip and chin. It was scary when I picked her up, I was like “Oh my God, this is a f**king mess.”

I’d never seen so much damage. I completely devoted myself to her, dropped everything to take care of her. She was this girl who was in the beginning of a successful modeling career. She was well-liked. She’d come home from doing a big thing in Japan, a bunch of ads for global companies like Sprite and Subaru—things that would really give her a foothold in the business. So I couldn’t imagine how she must have felt. It was her job, it was her career, but that could have changed the course of our relationship.

Backstory: Once, she was working on this independent feature with this director in Boston, and James Gandolfini was the lead. I thought something was going on with the director, and I woke up one morning and just drove to Boston.

I went to his apartment and I saw Joni walking on the street and she said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “What’s going on, sweetheart?” And she said, “Nothing.” I said, “Where’s your stuff? We’re getting out of here.” I discovered she’d moved out of the hotel where she’d been staying and into the director’s house just days earlier.

I finally convinced her to tell me which house it was, and I went up the stairs and opened it New York gang style—kicked in the door and beat the sh*t out of him.

I was doing the same thing she’d been doing, though. She wasn’t allowed to come on tour with me—I’d tell her it’s business. I was a schmuck. I still wanted both things. And I didn’t want to give up either. But I knew I had to.

She packed her bags and we left. She said, “You weren’t there—you were off doing your thing.” She was mature beyond her years. And I was a snake in the grass. I was trying to have it both ways and fool everybody, and it didn’t work. She forgave me—I would have held a grudge. But when you love someone, you have to forgive. You don’t have a choice. Other things I can control and I can fix and I can plan.

So, that day on this hills with the power lines, it was completely left up to God. I was pretty terrified. I flagged some guy down and he took us to the hospital. But what changed things was when the famous Southampton plastic surgeon John Anton said to me, “It doesn’t really matter what happens, because you’re never gonna look at anything but these blue eyes.”

Yes, the first thing you ever look at when you look at Joni are those eyes, because they’re so beautiful. They’re perfect. I’ve never looked in anyone’s eyes and seen the things—the reflections back—that I see in Joni’s. One of the things I see in those eyes is something as close to unconditional love as you can get from a human. The only place you get real unconditional love from is a dog. (You don’t even get that love from children, certainly not past the age of 4 or 5.)

It was like the moment we met. She tells me, “Mickey, as soon as you came down the stairs, we locked eyes and we didn’t take our eyes off of each other for 20 minutes. You talked to my friends, but you were looking right at me, and I was looking at you.”

The day we were getting married in Montauk, 14 years after we met, it was raining. We said, “Do we really want to do this today?” She said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to do it, we can just tell people we’re having a party and it will be cool with me—don’t worry about it.” I was terrified of commitment and marriage. I lived this nomadic life of a traveler, surfer, rocker, doing what I wanted, so I never really had to commit to anything. I didn’t have to commit to friends or let people know me too well. Everybody knew me just a little—I kept everyone at arm’s length, except for Joni.

So it was something I had to do. Something that I had to say to her, even though she knew it and I knew it. That we were there for the rest of our lives. It had to be that moment that I said, “I do and I will.”