A Kiss Before Frying
Perkins, 33, met the loud and lumbering Jillette, 36, a year ago on a blind date in New York City, where they maintain separate apartments. Romantically, they sparked immediately, but she didn't become his firebug until last September, when he needed a beautiful daredevil for an NBC special, Penn & Teller: Don't Try This at Home. Isabella Rossellini had been the first choice, but she canceled to shoot a film.
"Carol learned to eat fire faster than anyone I've ever seen," says Jillette, who broke a two-man precedent (he and Teller have been performing exclusively as a duo on Broadway since 1974) when he cast her in the role, for which she gets paid union scale. When not eating fire, the model and the magician have a cracklin' good time scuba diving in Bonaire or going to movies and museums. "I dug Penn from the get-go," says Perkins of the unlikely pairing. "He's a kind person. It's not a heavy relationship. We're dating, but there's no commitment."
As for eating fire, she regards it with bravado. "You put the flame out so fast that it doesn't have time to really hurt you," she says. "But if I get burned badly, I'll live with it."
The Sarasota, Fla.—born Perkins, who left home to model in New York City at 16, is nonchalant about her career. "I've modeled everything from truckers' uniforms to girdles," she says. "Sears or Vogue—it doesn't matter. It's a job." But one that she won't give up, since it brings her a six-figure income.
Still, it's the part-time work that Perkins enjoys most. "It's intoxicating," she says. "Maybe I'll have to detox in Fire-Eaters Anonymous. I'm probably a fire-eating junkie."