When Love Story first became a pop culture phenomenon, women across the country wanted to be Jenny Cavilleri. What many people don't know, including Ali and Ryan, is a woman named Janet Sussman Gartner says she's the inspiration for this unforgettable character.
"I was born in Brooklyn, and I attended school with Erich Segal," Janet says. "I went off to college, and Erich wrote me love letters."
Despite Erich's romantic overtures, Janet wasn't interested. "I had absolutely no romantic feelings for him," she says. Still, Erich persisted. "He said, 'I predict in 10 years we'll be married.'"
Erich's prediction was wrong—Janet married another man. "I had been married for five years, and in the middle of the night, [I] was fast asleep and the phone rang," she says. "I picked it up, and all I heard was a raspy voice saying: 'I just wrote you my last love letter. It's about 150 pages long.' I didn't know what he was talking about until the next day when the book came out, and then the movie followed the book."
Although Jenny dies at the end of Love Story, Janet is alive and well and is the mother of three. "I think that his writing the book and killing her was killing me off the pedestal and acknowledging that he was never going to accomplish or get whatever dream he had," Janet says.
Erich passed away in January 2010, and he died without ever confirming or denying whether Janet was really his "Jenny." "Let's just keep the mystery going," Janet says. "It's something that I will always be extremely proud, grateful and astonished that this happened to me, and I'm glad my children can share it with me."