The way Joe Wilson tells it, the first time he met the woman who would become his third wife the world went into slow motion. He smiled at Valerie Plame at a reception at the Washington home of the Turkish Ambassador.
"Suddenly I saw nobody else in a throng that must have numbered 200 people," he recalled.
Yet if their first meeting was the stuff of fairytales, the last four years of their lives have been anything but. Rather the couple have found themselves at the centre of a bitter controversy linked directly to the American and British Governments' use and manipulation of faulty intelligence to make the case for war against Iraq.
The backdrop to the controversy were "the 16 words" included in President George W. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address. In that speech, Bush said: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Wilson, 57, knew that claim to be false. In 2002, the former diplomat had travelled to Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate "intelligence" that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from the West African nation to develop a nuclear weapons programme.
The "intelligence" was based on documents the CIA had obtained from Italian intelligence agents - documents that were quickly proved to be forgeries by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Wilson, who had once served as a United States diplomat in Niamey, took less than a week to conclude the claims were false.
Because of the structure of the country's uranium industry and its control by an international consortium, there was virtually no way Niger could have exported more uranium without drawing attention. He had reported as much to the CIA.
Yet neither the Bush nor Blair Governments took any notice. In September 2002, a British dossier on Iraq claimed Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa and then four months later came Bush's speech. Wilson started hinting to journalists that this was an area worthy of investigation.
In late June 2003, speaking on the understanding that he not be identified by name, Wilson told the Independent on Sunday that not only had the Administration misled the American people but that his report debunking the claims had almost certainly been passed to London.
A week later he wrote a signed piece in the New York Times entitled "What I Did Not Find in Africa". He wrote: "Questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history" as Mr Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security."
The White House was furious. Led by Bush's special adviser Karl Rove and the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, it tried to discredit Wilson. It did so by going after his wife.
A week after Wilson's article appeared, a piece written by conservative columnist Robert Novak claimed the former diplomat had been sent to Niger at the suggestion of his wife, whom he named and identified as a CIA officer - potentially a federal crime. Novak's offence was potentially much greater; Plame was not just a CIA employee, she was apparently working as a non-official cover, considered among the most covert.
It was Novak's column and the effort to discover who had been its source that led federal prosecutors to investigate and ultimately charge Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Ironically, while it emerged Libby did indeed speak to several journalists about Plame, it was Richard Armitage - then the Deputy Secretary of State - who was Novak's primary source.
If Plame, 43, once kept a necessarily discreet profile that has now changed. The couple, who have two young children, have become fixtures on the liberal party circuit in Washington and made the most of their fame.
Wilson penned a memoir, The Politics of Truth, while the couple famously posed - she in sunglasses and scarf - for a Vanity Fair photographer. Plame also secured US$2.5 million ($3.7 million) deal to write her own book, Fair Game, due to be published this year.
And the couple's exposure is set to continue. This week, with uncanny timing, it was revealed that Warner Bros studios is developing a feature film based on the lives of Wilson and his wife. Reports suggest that Richard Gere and Sharon Stone may be in line to play the couple.
When contacted as the verdict in the Libby case was announced, Wilson was heading out to lunch. No longer a stranger to publicity, he declined to comment. "I'm not saying anything else," he said. "At least until tonight."