Authors: Joe Eszterhas
For Naomi, Sunlight
Love is like a cigar. Once it goes out, you can't light it again. It's never the same.
âRICHARD M. NIXON
Act OneÂ Â HEARTBREAK HOTEL
1Â The Whole World Is Watching
2Â Monica, Andy, and Handsome
3Â The Uproar Is Deafening
4Â America Gags, Hollywood Swallows
5Â Hillary Lives, Tammy Wynette Dies
6Â Hillary, Barry, and Nixon
7Â The President Shrieks and Shouts
8Â The War on Acid Reflux
9Â Kenneth W. Starr Confesses
10Â Sharon and Bill
11Â Hillary and Bill
12Â Monica, Andy, and Butt-head
13Â Monica Feels His Pain
14Â Kathleen and the Ratwoman
15Â Nixon Impregnates Monica
Act TwoÂ Â MYSTERY TRAIN
1Â The Ratwoman and the Bag Lady of Sleaze
2Â David Geffen Is Angry
3Â Ross Perot on Drugs
4Â Bubba and the Burrheads
5Â Mark Fuhrman and the Navy Blue Dress
6Â Jay Leno and the Cigar
7Â Billy Can't Help It
8Â Bob Dole's Johnhenry
9Â Billy Likes Doing It
10Â Better Than a Lava Lamp
11Â Bubba in Pig Heaven
12Â The President's Piece of Cake
13Â Bob Packwood's Reptile Tongue
14Â The Scavenger from Cyberspace
15Â Hillary Loves Eleanor
16Â The Sorceress from Hell
Act ThreeÂ Â SUSPICIOUS MINDS
1Â The President Is Black
2Â Al Gore and I Want to Be Black
3Â James Carville Kicks Ass
4Â Larry Flynt Saves the Day
5Â The Ace of Spades
6Â Al Gorf Loves Tipper Galore
7Â Hitler's Whore
8Â The Ugliest Story Ever Told
9Â John Wayne McCain Chickens Out
10Â The Man with the Golden Willard
11Â George W. Bush Defines Himself
12Â Billy Comes Out to Play
13Â Hillary Bares All
14Â Willard Comes Clean
15Â The Comeback Kid's Last Comeback
Thank you to ...
Acclaim for Joe Eszterhas's
About The Author
Nearly three years ago, afraid that my public persona as a screenwriter was overwhelming my creative life, I went to the island of Maui with my wife and our three children, shut my phone down, stopped doing interviews, and pretended I wasn't a public man.
I played with my wife and played with my kids, let the sun beat me up, and thought about things. About values and success. About the sixties. About my past relationship with the women I'd used and my present relationship with the wife I adored. Somehow or other, those thoughts about my life inevitably led me to Bill Clinton.
I thought I recognized and knew Bill Clinton and what made him tick. I understood the ambition, the success, the political duplicity, the Hollywood charm. I understood the mad priapic obsession that had always fuel-driven his lifeÂ .Â .Â . because it had driven mine until I met Naomi. I understood the fierce boom-box rhythms of his inner life the same way I understood and loved the demons shrieking in the darkness inside the Stones, the Doors, the artist now known again as Prince, and Dr. Dre.
I started reading everything ever written about Bill Clinton when we finally came back to Malibu, our phone still shut down, living a near-reclusive life now, not even calling agents, lawyers, and friends back, still refusing all interview requests. I was lost in a mirrored sea of my own creation, in snorkeling pursuit of myself and Clinton, swimming through his past in search of my own soul.
As the impeachment psychodrama began, I watched every minisecond of it, bleary-eyed, haggard, and grizzled, maniacally flicking channels, indulging gluttonously in the national bacchanal of information and bulimia of rumor. I read everything, I saw everything, digested whatever I could, and learned a lotÂ .Â .Â . about myself and Bill Clinton and about America, the country I love as only an immigrant who grew up in the ethnic ghettos of Cleveland can love her.
I wasn't just thinking of Bill Clinton anymore, but about a generation,mygeneration, which, in some ways, even though it was entrenched in power, creeping up on sixty, was still struggling to find itself. I was thinking about the state of the union and the state of our hearts and privates as we tried not to stumble and slide on the treacherous Internet ice of the new millennium.
The book you are holding in your hand is filled with everything I thought about and learned. Ah, yes, except it's not that simple. If only it wereÂ .Â .Â . but it never is.
I am loath to confess that I have had a writing partner who has cursed my career from the time I was in the sixth grade at Saint Emeric's School and published a class newspaper, thanks to the toy printing set that I had received as a Christmas gift. I wrote some of the stories in theSaint Emeric's Heraldand my writing partner wrote others. I wrote childish investigative reports about the river in the valley below the school, in the smoky part of the city known as the Flats, a river so polluted with industrial chemicals that it burned your eyes as you watched it from the bluffs above. (Many years later, the river literally burst afire!) My writing partner wrote sensational exposÃ©s about which girls in our class were kissing which boys. (Hot off the press! AHeraldexclusive! Frances Madar and Robert Zak!)
By the time I got to Hollywood, I knew my partner well enough to acknowledge him condescendingly in interviews as “the twisted little man inside me.” We wrote about different things, you see, but it all came out under my name. I wroteMusic Box, Telling Lies in America, F.I.S.T.,andBetrayed.He wroteBasic Instinct, Showgirls, Sliver,andJadeâalthough sometimes he even intruded his back-alley homunculus self intomywork: Why, after all, was there a need for lengthy, sexually graphic courtroom descriptives in a movie as aesthetically ambitious and as morally lofty asMusic Box?
And as I wrote this bookâabout a cultural shadow war that resulted in the figurative assassination of a president (Bill Clinton)âI realized that the Twisted Little Man was writing feverishly, too. And hallucinating. Daydreaming. Wet-dreaming. Projecting. About Kenneth W. Starr's secret lust. About George W. Bush and Tricia Nixon. About Hillary and her forlorn, intimate relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. About Al Gore's heartbreaking, cuckolded fears. About Bob Dole and his electable missing shoulder. About “John Wayne” McCain's painful broken promise and his love of identical Long Tall Sallies. About Monica and her spoiled-princess extortion of the president of the United States. About Bill Clinton and his eternal true love, his Willard.
Are the things the little lowlife wrote about true? Well, as a matter of fact, no. But that's also not so simple. Because in the little scuzzball's cockeyed, fun-house view, they are. He uses facts wickedly to shape his outrageous fictional perspective. He is a contortionist and a juggler of the historical record. No mere imposter, he is an abysmal, excrescent python who swallows his subjects, spits them back out, and spewshisvenom fromtheirmouths. Is this little vermin a liar? Well, you know, in Bill Clinton's mind, oral sex isn't sex. Is the little slime, as Mark Twain defined himself, “a professional liar,” making up fictions to reveal truths? Well, he is certainly supporting himself in Hollywood by professionally dressing up his tawdry, realistic lies.
I have decided, finally, after all these years of living with him as my writing partner, that it is time to distinguish what is his and what is mine.
If you are reading this typeface, the writing is mine, sometimes interpretive but based on well-researched facts.
If you are reading this typeface, the writing is fictional and his, starting with well-researched facts but blasted through and transformed by his hallucinatory dreams.
I'll put it another way, too. If you get angry while you're reading this brazen book, blame it on the crude, insulting little prickâLord knows, he's gotten too many people terribly angry through the years. If you find things in this reflective book that frighten you, or if you find yourself laughing against your determined will, blame it on a little boy endlessly watching a sun-kissed river that makes him cry.
Writing my book about Bill Clinton, his political peers, and our national ethos has had a pronounced personal effect upon me. Now I want to play with my wife and childrenall the time!I want to pretend permanently that I am not a public man. Our phones, while not shut down, have gatekeepers with disembodied voices to safeguard our family's bliss. Me, my wife, our boys, the massive pinheaded bulldog we call Rep. “Mud” Nadler, the anti-impeachment Democrat from New YorkÂ .Â .Â . and the Twisted Little Man.
The little devil and I had a nerve-racking, maddening, revolting, hilarious, and climactic time writing this book. We hope that your time reading it will be similar.
Point Dume, California
[ Act One ]
From my own voice resonant, singing the phallusÂ .Â .Â .
The President with pale face asking secretly to himself,Â Â Â What will the people say at last?
âWALT WHITMAN, Leaves of Grass
The Whole World Is Watching
“We gotta get you laid,” Monica said.
“Oh, God,” Linda Tripp said, “wouldn't that be something different? New and different. I don't know. After seven years, do you really think that there's a possibility I'd remember how?”
“Of course you would.”
“No,” Linda Tripp said.
My friend Jann Wenner, the editor and publisher ofRolling Stone, the rock and roll bible, called me excitedly the day after Bill Clinton was nominated for the presidency. He had spent the previous night at a party, celebrating with Clinton. “He's one of us,” Jann said. “He'll be the first rock and roll president in American history.”
I had come to the same conclusion. He was one of us. Even if, on occasion, he tried to deny it.Of coursehe had dodged the draft, just another white Rhodes Scholar nigger who agreed with Muhammad Ali and had no quarrel with them Vietcong.Of coursehe had smoked dope, inhaling deeply, holding it in, bogarting that joint.
Bill Clinton, Jann told me, had always readRolling Stone, so I smiled when, shortly after the election, he was photographed jogging in aRolling StoneT-shirt, the same T-shirt I had worn to my son's Little League games. Well, this really was a cosmic giggle:Good Lord, we had taken the White House!After all the locust yearsâafter Bebe Rebozo's boyfriend, after the hearing-impaired Marlboro Man, after that uppity preppy always looking at his watchâAmerica was ours!In the sixties, we'd been worried about staying out of jail. Now the jails were ours to run as we saw fit.
Carter had given us false hope for a while, but Bill Clinton was the real deal: undiluted, uncut rock and roll. Carter, we had discovered, wasn't one of us. Oh, sure, Jimmah allowed his record-mogul pal Phil Walden and Willie Nelson to smoke dope on the White House roof, and he had toldPlayboyhe had “committed adultery in my heart many times,” but the unfortunate, terminally well-intentioned dip was such a cheesy rube, definitely not rock and roll, with his beer-gutted Libyan-agent brother, his schoolmarm wife, and the Bible-spouting sister who was secretly having sudsy, lederhosen romps with married German chancellor Willy Brandt. No, definitely not rock and roll, proven forever when he fell on his face jogging, claiming breathlessly that a bunny rabbit had jumped in front of him, falling on his face while wearingblack socks.
His Secret Service agents nicknamed Bill Clinton “Elvis,” but we knew better. Elvis had been Sgt. Barry Sadler's ideological sidekick, a slobby puppet on a carny barker's strings, in love with his nark badges, informing on the Beatles, toadying up to Nixon, The Night Creature. Those wet panties hurled onstage at his concerts were size 16 and skid-marked. Bill Clinton wasn't Elvis. With his shades on and his sax gleaming, Bill Clinton looked like a pouchier Bobby Keyes playing backup for the Stones. No, that wasn't quite right, either. Not Bobby Keyes, but a pop-gutted Jumpin' Jack Flash and graying Street Fightin' ManÂ .Â .Â . Bill Clinton was Mick on cheeseburgers and milk shakes, Taco Bell, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti.
Rolling Stonecalled his inauguration “the coming of a new age in American politics.” Fleetwood Mac was playing “Don't Stop.” ThatwasFleetwood Mac up there, not Pearl Bailey or Sammy Davis, Jr., or Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. That was rock and roll we were hearing, not the Sousa Muzak the big bandâera pols in the smoky back rooms had forced on us for so long. Dylan, our messiah, was there. And that was Jack Nicholson at the Lincoln Memorial, Abe's words brought to life by our lawyerly Easy Rider. Bill Clinton's White House was rock and roll, too, full of young people, full of women, blacks, gays, Hispanics; a White House, as Newt Gingrich's guru, Alvin Toffler, said, “more familiar with Madonna than with Metternich.” That was just fine with us. It looked like Bill Clinton was continuing what he had begun in Arkansas, where he'd been criticized for having a staff of “long-haired, bearded hippies” who came to the office in cutoffs and patched jeans. The boss himself had been seen in the governor's mansion barefoot, in jeans and a T-shirt.
He had a Yippie-like zaniness about him we could identify with. Out on the golf course in Arkansas, one of his partners noticed that he could see Bill Clinton's underwear through his pants. “They weren't bikinis he had on,” the partner said, “but it was some kind of wild underwear.” Bill Clinton's favorite joke was one he had told over and over on the Arkansas campaign trail, a joke closer in spirit to Monty Python than to the Vegas lounge meisters favored by so many other presidents: “There was a farmer who had a three-legged pig with a wooden leg. And he bragged on this pig to everybody who came to visit. The farmer would tell how this pig had saved him from a fire. People would be amazed! And he'd say, âWell, that's not all; this pig saved my farm from going bankrupt.' And the folks would be amazed. And the farmer would say, âThat's not all; this pig saved the entire town once when the dam broke.' Then somebody said to the farmer, âWell, gosh, it's pretty amazing that you have this pig, but you never did explain why it only has three legs.' And the farmer said, âWell, hell, you wouldn't want to eat a pig this special all in one sitting!'Â ”
He certainly was a rock and roller. The light blue eyes, the lazy, sexy smile. The lips that were called “pussy lips” in Arkansas. Girls loved him. At age twelve, a classmate said, “Little girls were screaming, âBilly, Billy, Billy, throw me the football.' All the girls had crushes on him. He was the center of their attention.” A reporter covering one of his Arkansas campaigns said, “You could see the effect that he had on people in the eyes of the teenage girls who came to see him. Their eyes would light up. You would think that a rock star had just come into the Wal-Mart.” He had rock and roll habits, too. Gennifer Flowers remembered the time he told her, “I really got fucked up on cocaine last night.” There was even a Jagger-like androgyny he allowed some of his women friends to see. He put on girlfriend Sally Perdue's dress one night, high on grass, and played Elvis on his sax. He asked Gennifer to meet him at a bar dressed as a man, and he liked her putting eyeliner, blush, and mascara on his face. Underneath it was a rock and roll restlessness, what Gennifer called his feeling that he was “bullet-proof,” which allowed him at times to flaunt his relationship with her.
There was no doubt he loved the music. Janis's “Pearl”Â .Â .Â . the Seekers'Â “I'll Never Find Another You”Â .Â .Â . Peter and Gordon's “A World Without Love”Â .Â .Â . “Here You Come Again” (which reminded him of Gennifer)Â .Â .Â . Steely DanÂ .Â .Â . Kenny LogginsÂ .Â .Â . the Commodores'Â ”Easy” and “Three Times a Lady”Â .Â .Â . Joe CockerÂ .Â .Â . Jerry Lee LewisÂ .Â .Â . anything by Elvis. He had his own band when he was a kid, called The Three Kings, which the other kids called Three Blind Mice because they all wore shades. A high school friend said, “I remember driving down this road and Bill singing Elvis songs at the top of his voice. He loved to sing. He just liked music and he was always playing music. I think that was one of the reasons he went to church so much as a kid. To hear the music.”
One of the things that attracted him to Gennifer was that she was a rock singer with her own bandâGennifer Flowers and Easy Livingâat about the same time that his little brother, Roger, had his bandâRoger Clinton and Dealer's Choice. Roger was like Chris Jagger to Mick: He wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't very good. Roger's taste leaned to Grand Funk Railroad, REO Speedwagon, and Alice Cooper. But Roger shared his love of the music. Bill Clinton's memory of his first appearance onThe Tonight Showwas that Joe Cocker was there. “He was telling me about the show,”Arkansas Democratcolumnist Phillip Martin said. “He was telling me about Joe Cocker's band. He said âMan, they were bad; they were just a kick-ass band, man!' You know, he really wanted to play with Joe Cocker rather than going out there and playing âSummertime' on his sax. But he was afraid to ask. He was really in awe.” And when Stephen Stills asked Roger up onstage once, he said, “I was so excited, I thought I would pee my pants.”
He was one of us, it became apparent, in another special way, too, the classic sixties child in love with, addicted to, the pleasures provided him by his penis, which he called “Willard.” There was even a cartoon flyer circulated around Arkansas early in his political career that showed Bill Clinton looking down and saying, “Dick, you kept me from being the President of the United States.”
He was asouthernrock and roller, a hillbilly cat like Elvis and Jerry Lee, growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a neon-lit haven of gamblers and whores, once patronized by Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, and Lucky Luciano. Bill Clinton may have been born in Hope, but he grew up in Sin City, with a mama who painted her eyebrows, pasted on false eyelashes, loved the racetrack, and helled around in her convertible, drink in hand, from the Vapors to the Pines to the Southern Club, with or without her husband. A ripe peach of a woman, there to be tasted.
He developed a lifelong yen for those ripe peaches, for rock and roll, and for convertibles. It all came together in August 1977, the perfectly realized, transcendent Bill Clinton rock and roll moment, when he was already a married man, the attorney general of Arkansas. Dolly Kyle, a ripe-peach girlfriend he hadn't seen for a while, now also married, came to see him in his office. He introduced her around the office as an old and good friend and then walked her out to her car and heÂ .Â .Â . just flipped out! It was a brand-spanking-new turquoise Cadillac El Dorado convertible, 500-horsepower, nineteen feet long, eight-track tape player, AM/FM radio. It was the ultimate hepcat thing, a chrome-plated, poke-your-eye-out, southern gothic Elvismobile, hotter even than the Caddy convertible Chance Wayne (and Paul Newman) drove inSweet Bird of Youth.
He asked if he could drive it, and Dolly said sure, so Bill Clinton got behind the wheel and took her out on the freeway and juiced her up over a hundred, veering, skidding a little, laughing like a kid. He took his foot off the pedal then and let her drift, just gliding along, grinning. Elvis was singing on the eight-track and he sang alongÂ .Â .Â . “Treat me right, treat me good, treat me like you really should.”
Bill Clinton pulled off into a field, with no houses nearby, and got out and popped the hood open and looked at her motor. Then he looked into her trunk and found some blankets and got back in the front seat and started kissing Dolly. He put the blanket over the front seat and pulled the convertible's top down and told Dolly to take her dress off. He took off every stitch of his clothing, including his cuff links, and put his clothes neatly into the backseat. The sun was shiningÂ .Â .Â . it was a radiant, warm dayÂ .Â .Â . the Cadillac was gleamingÂ .Â .Â . and they got it on. He put his finger into the sweat inside her belly button and he licked his finger. He reached into the backseat, put his pants back on, and walked back to the trunk for some water. He drank, offered her some, and took his pants off again. He moved her hand to Willard and said, “Touch it.” They got it on again. They got dressed and started driving back to his office. He put the Elvis eight-track back on and he started humming along to the song.
“Today's my wedding anniversary,” she told him.
“Are you happy?” he asked.
“Are you?” she said.
He said nothing until they got to his office.
“Good-bye, pretty girl,” he said, and walked away. She got behind the wheel and popped the tape out to put in another one and she heard the disc jockey on the radio say that Elvis Presley was dead in Memphis. She started to cry and drove away, the tears streaming down her face.
The transcendent rock and roll momentÂ .Â .Â . and it ended with a crash and a burn. Roaring down the highway in a brand-new Cadillac, rock and roll blasting, the sun shining, a beautiful girl with her legs up on the dash, a little water to slake your thirst, getting it on again, and thenÂ .Â .Â .death.
A slice of life at Altamont, only four months after Woodstock, love and peace and beads splattered by blood, the beauty of naked bodies at Woodstock obliterated forever by an obscenely naked fat man with a knife plunged into his mottled, greasy flesh. Oyez, oyez, darkness once again at the heart of rock and roll. Darkness and danger and sex. Knives and guns and Cadillacs careening into the pitch-black night. Forget the Beatles and their “good day sunshine.” Rock and roll was about sex, not about love. It was about excess, not about romance. Bill Clinton understood that. It was exactly why he loved it. Bill Clinton was a rock and roll hog.
So was I. I knew it, too, having seen it, even tasted it, firsthand. As a writer forRolling Stone, I had helicoptered into a crowd of 100,000 drunken, naked kids in Darlington, North Carolina, with Alice Cooper and Three Dog Night and watched as Alice guillotined chickens onstage, spraying blood over these sunburned and sweaty, naked kids, who'd rub the blood into one another's privates. I'd sat, afterward, around the pool of a Holiday Inn with the bands and a hundred local groupies as everyone got naked and the night blazed into a chlorine-smelling human blur of contorted wet bodies.
As a screenwriter, I'd waited in the living room of a Denver hotel suite at eight one morning for Bob Dylan to emerge from his bedroom. A half-full quart of Jim Beam stood on the living room cocktail table, along with three or four broken lines of coke. A pair of black silver-toed cowboy boots was under the table. One girl came out of Bob's bedroom, then another, then another. They looked tired and sleepy and were scantily and hastily dressed. They said hi in a shy and embarrassed way and then they left. Five minutes later, Bob came out, bare-chested and barefoot, wearing jeans, his hair an airborne jungle, his complexion graveyard gray. He sat down at the cocktail table, took a long slug of the Jim Beam, did a line of coke, smiled, and said, “Howya doin?”
That's what rock and roll was about! Brakes screeching, knives flashing in the moonlight, bodies aswirl in a lighted pool, blood spraying naked flesh, Mick with a whip in his hand, Keith's skull ring gleaming, a bottle of Jim Beam, silver-toed cowboy boots, a girl in a Cadillac with her legs up, a finger being sucked clean of the juice in her navel.
Rock and roll was Elvis doing “One Night” and “Mystery Train” before Colonel Parker and Hollywood tried to turn him into the Singing EunuchÂ .Â .Â . Jerry Lee Lewis spraying more lighter fluid on his already-burning pianoÂ .Â .Â . Otis Redding running down a fire escape as an irate husband shot at him from a window aboveÂ .Â .Â . Chuck Berry videotaping himself as he urinated on a hookerÂ .Â .Â . Little Richard getting a backstage blow job as the curtain went up from the groupie whom Buddy Holly was doing doggy-style at the same timeÂ .Â .Â . the Stones passing that catatonic naked blonde over their heads inCocksucker Blues.
Rock and roll was a young Jerry Lee sneaking over to Haney's in Natchez and watching an old black man play boogie-woogie piano. It was a young mascaraed Elvis sneaking down to Beale Street in Memphis, watching an old black man with a tin cup singing a Robert Johnson song. It was a young Billy Clinton watching the curvy, ripe-peach painted women taking their tricks into the Plaza or the Parkway or the Ina Hotel in Hot Springs.
All three learned to play their instruments in proximity to that corrupt, exhilarating, and life-giving red neon glow. Jerry Lee had his piano, Elvis had his voice, and Billy Clinton had a silver tongue.
It was easy to forget now, in the nineties, when we were parents or grandparents so busily reshaping our pasts to become role models for our children or our junior executives, that behind the idealism and the social commitment and the herbal experiments related to self-awareness, the sixties were about sex.
Even the drugs were tied to it: grass made us ecstatically sensitive to the slightest flick of a dry-mouthed tongue. A little bit of coke on our willard or her labia was a marathon stuntlike sex act. Quaaludes tranced us into an endless stretch toward orgasm. The sixties were, in a world without the lethal dangers of AIDS, a sexual smorgasbord. No small talk, no courting, no foreplay, just “Do you wanna fuck?” Or, if you wanted to be a little Jane Austenish about it, “I'd really love to ball you.”
I spent the years from 1971 to 1975 as a senior editor atRolling Stonein San Francisco, recently arrived from the Midwest, and found myself dining at this pink smorgasbord quickly and heartily. Some of the women atRolling Stonewere going to Braless Day rallies, where they hurled girdles, bras, and panties into a “Freedom Trash Can.” All theRolling Stoneeditors, all of us male, expressed fervent solidarity with the gesture.
The women atRolling Stonewere young, nubile, attractive and liked the phrase “I really want to ball you.” And theydid. Goodness knows, I did, tooÂ .Â .Â . with Deborah and Kathy and Shauna and Sunny and Robin and Leyla and Janet and Deborah again, realizing quickly that they were balling the other editors on alternate nights, that this was about nothing, really, but a little bit of exercise and lots of pleasure. It was about having fun. It was a combination of athletics and theatrics, intimate communal performance art, best exemplified by the staffer who took his girlfriend into the parking lot each noon while other staffers lazily watched from the windows upstairs as she fellated him. (We named the show “Clarabel and the Zit Queen.”) When Jann went out of town, some of us borrowed his office for our couplings, but he came back from one trip, enraged to find “coke and come” all over his desk, and started locking his door.
As I watched Bill Clinton with Hillary and heard Gennifer's account of how Bill wanted to have sex with her in a rest room while Hillary stood outside, a few feet away, I remembered that during those years atRolling Stone, I was marriedÂ .Â .Â . and so were many of the other editors. And after those office or parking lot or backseat or Van Ness Avenue motel couplings, I'd go home to my wife, still smelling of sex, with Acapulco Gold coursing through my blood, and she and I would talk about Watergate or the price of not-yet-taboo abalone at Petrini's.
My wife wasn't one of the hot and willing young sweetmeats atRolling Stone. She was, in fact, sort of like Hillary: smart, poised, responsible, a partner in most ways, except the sexual ones. I didn't marry my wife for sexual reasons, and it became obvious to me that Bill Clinton didn't marry Hillary for sexual reasons, either. You could call Hillary many things, but not sexy. Drawn to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Bill Clinton had married Judy in Disguise with Glasses.
Was it possible to imagine Bill wanting to take Hillary into that rest room while wife Gennifer was standing out there? But there was another deadly flip to that question: Would Bill Clinton have felt the need to take anyone into that rest room had he been married to Gennifer instead of Hillary? No one was saying that Bill and Hillary didn't have a sex life, but the whole world knew by now that it didn't amount to much.
So our rock and roll president started having what the press called “affairs,” although, except for Gennifer, the euphemism didn't bear scrutiny. These weren't affairsâthey were backstage exercises, Mick cutting a swath through groupies, the political rock star run amok at the sexual smorgasbord. All women were Connie Hamzy to him. Connie was a rock and roll groupie whom he'd met in Little Rock. Not just any groupie, royalty groupie, made famous as “Sweet Sweet Connie” in Grand Funk Railroad's smash hit “We're an American Band”: “Sweet sweet Connie was doin' her actÂ .Â .Â .” Connie had done singers and drummers and managers and roadies and bus drivers by the time Bill Clinton spotted her by a hotel pool, and the first thing he said to her was, “I want to get with you.”
He was using women's bodies still, the way he and we had callously and selfishly used one another's bodies in the sixties. The point was a pair of lips, a pair of tits, a nice ass. The point was skin, flesh, meat. The point was a hole. And was it any wonder that he hadn't matured? That, simply due to age and wisdom, he hadn't learned to treat his fellow human beings with more humanity? Well, look at Mick Jagger, who was pushing sixty. He was just a rock star, not even the most powerful man on earth, the president of the United States. Mick still wasn't interested in women. He was still interested in holes.
The trouble with holes, if you were a politician, was that you couldn't run on them. The public smirked when Mick knocked up a new honey, and they said, “Look at that Mick! And he's almost sixty!” But you couldn't run for president and say, “Listen, people, I'm married and I love my wife, but I've got this thing about vaginas and fellatio and if I don't get enough, I'll sit around the White House masturbating.”
If you couldn't say that, and if you were a career politician whose only talent was to collect votes, you had to lie. You had to become a practiced and constant world-champion liar. And if you saw yourself getting away with this lie for many years, and continued collecting votes in the statehouse and in the White House, then why not lie about everything? If your whole inner dynamic was structured on a fundamental lie that you were getting away with, then why not adopt the same successful strategyâlyingâabout everything? You dodged the draft? Lie and say you didn't. You smoked dope? Lie and say you didn't inhale. You were humping Gennifer whenever you could? Lie and say it never happened. A White House intern? “I want to say one thing to the American people. I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
A semen stain on a blue dress? DNA?What? Hoo-boy! Jesus God!We didn't need the National Center for Atmospheric Testing to tell us there was a skunky odor in the air. America felt like it needed a psychic disinfectant. We were Grossed Out, Pissed Off, and Ready to Throw Upâa nineties twist on “Tune in, turn on, drop out.”
It was the stain that got him, of course. Technology. Who would have thunk it? Exposed as a liar forever, impeached, red-faced, jabbing his finger, lying. In the same boat as Nixon. “I am not a crook.” The same boat as Nixon! Nixon the Night Creature! Devil incarnate to us in the sixties! Not Nixon at the end, sneaking into Burger Kings in New Jersey for a forbidden cheeseburger, but Nixon at full bore: lying about Pat's cloth coat and Checkers and Ellsberg and the break-in at the Watergate. Exposed, too, as gutless as Nixon, which was why Nixon lied too. Nixon could have admitted it, could have said the break-in was wrong and a mistake, but he didn't have the guts to do that or to burn the tapes. (“If he had destroyed the tapes,” former House Speaker Tip O'Neill said, “he could have remained in office until the end of his second term. Not to destroy them was irrational.”)
Clinton could have admitted it, could have said, Yes, I've always had a problem with sex. My marriage has never fulfilled me. I'm a horndog, dadgummit! But no, it was impossible for him. He had lied from the beginning about everything because he had lied aboutÂ .Â .Â . the holesÂ .Â .Â . and gotten away with it. (“It's not a lie,” former Reagan secretary of state Al Haig said, “it's a terminological inexactitude.”)
Oh boy, a sad, sad story. A sixties kid, waging the good fight against the forces of racism and intolerance, against Nixon and the Marlboro Man and the right-wing pentecostal nutbags possessed and held in thrall by the unborn fetus and the Confederate flag and the Protocols of the Elders of ZionÂ .Â .Â . and then this happened! In the same leaky boat as the Night Creature, way up shit creekÂ .Â .Â . revealed, disgraced, and all this after a landslide victory over Bob Dole, an old man who had EDâerectile dysfunction. (Everyone sensed something, but no one knew.) Bob Dole couldn't even get it up, at the same time Bill Clinton was frolicking with Willard on aide Nancy Hernreich's couch. Oh boy. Sad.
Only Hunter Thompson, our mad prophet, had had any reservations about Bill Clinton, claiming that Clinton made him uncomfortable, that he didn't have a sense of humor, that he hogged the french fries. When Bill Clinton said he hadn't inhaled, Hunter wrote, “Only a fool would say a thing like that. He's just a disgrace to an entire generationÂ .Â .Â .Â . Bill Clinton doesn't inhale marijuana, right? You bet. Like I chew on LSD but don't swallow it.” Hunter didn't like Bill Clinton from the first time he met him. “He treated me like a roach from the get-go. Like maybe he had such a pure, clear goddamn nose from never inhaling that he could actually smell what he thought was some kind of drugs in my pocket. Or maybe it was me that was actually responsible for what happened to his brother. Sure! Like it was me that told the cops to go ahead and put the poor despised little bastard in a federal prison. For his own good, of course. Nobody would have Roger locked up for their own political reasons, would they?” But Hunter endorsed Bill Clinton anyway, despite his reservations, just like he'd endorsed Jimmah, because he thought Bill Clinton would be the first rock and roll president in American history: one of us.
So he was one of us and now many of us couldn't wait to get him out of sightâwhat the hell, a lot of us had seen too much of Mick's tired circus act, too. Eighteen months before his final term ended, America had already turned to the next election. The news shows were covering it as if it were next week. Why so early? Why were we so caught up with an election eighteen months away? Because so many of us wanted it to be over already, because so many of us wanted Bill Clinton gone. He was the first rock and roll president of the United States and he had become the first elected president to ever be impeached. Impeached for lying about his ripe peaches. He should have been infibulated instead of impeached.
It sure wasn't supposed to end this way. Our first rock and roll president was supposed to rock the worldÂ .Â .Â . but not like this. He was supposed to put our kick-ass primal inner beat into the Oval Office. He was supposed to tell the truthâfinallyâafter all the White House liars we'd grown up and grown older and grown more cynical with.
He made us feel queasy now. We saw a freeze-frame of a fifty-three-year-old man, tired, red-faced, overweight, a father, sitting alone in a plush office, his fly open, Willard in hand, staring, coming. Bill Clinton was the literal nineties realization of that mythical moment in the sixties: Jim Morrison onstage in Miami, unzipping his fly, showing off his dick, and simulating masturbation and oral sex in front of thousands of people. Bill Clinton was the wet spot on America's bed.
It had gotten so tawdry in Washington that even the reporters, as they were asking their questions, seemed shocked by their own actionsâas shown in an exchange between White House correspondents and Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry.
A reporter: “Does Clinton have a sexually transmitted disease?”
Another reporter: “Jesus!”
McCurry: “Good God, do you really want to ask that question?”
Another reporter: “Mike, are you saying the President does not now have and has not since he entered the White House been treated for a sexually transmitted disease?”
McCurry: “Boy, I tell you, I'm astonished you're asking that question.”
The reporter: “I don't want to.”
McCurry: “Look, I'm trying to keep some level of dignity here.”
Another reporter: “We really have reached a new low.”
Walter Lippmann, James Reston, and Joe Alsop had been replaced in the press corps by Xaviera Hollander, Dr. Ruth, and Stuttering John Melendez.
I saw Bill Clinton wearing his shades in the summer of 1999 on his way to lunch with Barbra Streisand near my home in Malibu, just around the corner from Kenny G's and a few doors down from a convicted drug dealer's. Most people in Hollywood knew he and Barbra had a special friendship, though a lot of years had passed since the night she'd stunned the world by letting us see her derriere through her Scassi pajamas on the Oscars. Even Gennifer had said, “She went so overboard while Bill was campaigning, gushing over him and buddying up to his mother. She seemed like a woman hypnotized.”
They held traffic up now as the big Secret Service Suburbans came barreling through. For a moment, Bill Clinton's limousine stopped and he glanced at the row of cars waiting there. He saw a group of us watching him. He looked quickly away in the other direction. Those of us watching said not a word. Nobody waved.
Monica, Andy, and Handsome
“Why don't you just fuck your father,” Linda Tripp said to Monica, “and get it over with.”
She told her second-grade teacher she would be the president of the United States. She made it into the Oval Office, butÂ .Â .Â .
Monica grew up in Beverly Hills, 90210. Her father was a doctor, a cancer specialist. Her mother wrote for a newspaper,The Hollywood Reporter, which chronicled the lives of movie stars. Her father called her his “little noodle.”
She got good grades, but she was physically clumsy. It took her a long weekend to begin to learn how to jump rope. She was fat. The other kids called her “Big Mac” and “Pig Mac.” She called her father “Dr. No.” He wouldn't let her get a Snoopy phone. He wouldn't buy her a Minnie Mouse dress at Disneyland. Dr. No wasn't all bad, though. He bought her a pink bike with a banana seat.
Her mother was her soul mate. She looked and talked like her mother. She reached puberty early. She hated being fat. The summer before she entered the eighth grade, her mother enrolled her in a fat camp in Santa Barbara. At fourteen, she met her first boyfriend, Adam Dave. She went to his baseball games; she spent hours on the phone with him; she let him touch her.
Her mother and father weren't getting along. She ate more and got fatter. She was hurt and upset that her parents were arguing most of the time; she'd grown up watchingThe Brady Bunch. Her mother filed for divorce. Her father was telling a woman patient that she was dying of lung cancer when his secretary interrupted to tell him there was a process server outside. Monica's mother told her that the reason she'd filed for divorce was that her father was having an affair with a nurse at the office.
She was often in tears. She spent whole days alone at the movies. She gained more than fifty pounds in her freshman year at Beverly Hills High. Her nicknames had followed her. “Big Mac!” The kids laughed. “Pig Mac!” While she was skipping her classes at Beverly Hills High, she was spending a lot of time in the drama department. She sewed costumes for the school plays. She got a tiny part inThe Music Man. The drama department was her sanctuary. Often she'd eat lunch by herself there.
Her mother transferred her from Beverly Hills High to Bel Air Prep, where there was less emphasis on physical perfection. She fell in love with poetry, especially that of Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot. She wrote a poem that began:
I crouch in a corner all by myself fighting the war of emotions,
Battling againstFEAR, ENVY, DEPRESSION,andREJECTION,
Although no longer a student there, she still went back to the drama department at Beverly Hills High. She made a little money now sewing costumes. That's where she met Andy Bleiler, the school's new drama technician. He was twenty-five, eight years older, involved in a relationship with a divorcÃ©e eight years older than he. She knew he had a reputation as a lothario. He walked her back to her car one night after a play. He kissed her good night and he touched her breasts. Andy was good-looking and slim.
When she graduated from Bel Air Prep, she applied to Boston University. Dr. No said no. It was too expensive. She enrolled at Santa Monica College instead. She got a job at the Knot Shop, a place that sold neckties. She loved working with the ties, dazzled by the fabrics and colors. But she was putting weight on again.
Her mother sent her to a psychotherapist. Dr. Irene Kassorla was known as “the psychologist to the stars.” In 1980, Dr. Kassorla had written a book calledNice Girls Do. The book advised women to get in touch with their “magical push muscles.” Dr. Kassorla advised women to go to the bathroom, sit on the toilet, and begin to urinate. Then to stop in midstream. Then to hold it for a few seconds. Then to start urinating again. Stopping and starting this way, Dr. Kassorla said, would enable women to find their “magical push muscles.” Her book talked about “plunging into a passionate ride,” “turbulent, fleshy moments,” “sensual storms,” “romantic electricity.” “Your body swells with expectation,” Dr. Kassorla wrote, “your flesh is rosy with excitement and warmthÂ .Â .Â . soon the hot juices will flow through you.”
As she was seeing Dr. Kassorla, Andy Bleiler, the drama technician at Beverly Hills High, now married to the divorcÃ©e Kate Nason, started hitting on her again. He told her she was sexy. He told her she was beautiful. He asked her to give her panties to him. They started spending afternoons together at local motels. She wouldn't have intercourse with him at first. She felt guilty he was married. But she went down on him. She felt she was in love with him.
She told Dr. Kassorla she was sleeping with Andy. Dr. Kassorla warned her about having an affair with a married man, but the author ofNice Girls Dodidn't tell her to break it off. On the other hand, Dr. No said no. Her father told her to stop seeing Andy immediately. Her mother was furious. She thought Bleiler “a piece of garbage” for hitting on a woman so much younger.
When Andy's wife was four months pregnant, Monica told Andy she felt bad about what she was doing, and she ended the affair. Two weeks later, when he made another pass at her, she started having sex with him again. She wass-o-o-oin love with him. She got him a birthday cake shaped like an iguana. She made love to him in the lighting booth of the school auditorium. She sang “Happy Birthday” to him the way Marilyn had sung it to JFK.
Just before Andy's baby was born, Andy told her he was breaking up withher. He wanted to be a good father to the baby, he said. But weeks later, he started seeing her again, and she thought she understood now that this was the way married men behaved. They felt guilty; they wanted to stop, but they couldn't.
When she finished Santa Monica College, she opted to attend Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, because it felt like Bel Air Prep to her. She knew there wasn't a chance she could end the relationship with Andy in L.A. She didn't have the strength to say no. He was hot, good-looking, sexy. She felt herself to be none of those things.
She shared a house with two guys near campus. She went to flea markets to decorate her room with floral patterns (she loved roses) and embroidered pillows. “She was a slob,” a friend said, like most kids in college. She called her mother to ask how to clean the bathroom and always had her hair done and her legs waxed when her mother visited.
There was a Knot Shop in Portland, too, and she got a job there, working with the ties that she loved. She helped out at a meeting place for the mentally ill, the Phoenix Club, and tried to make matzo ball soup for the members, but the soup she made was inedible.
Her new friends noticed that she talked a lot about sex and a lot about her weight. Some described her as larger than life. Some said she was too loud. Most, though, liked her directness and sense of humor.
She went out with a few guys casually, but she badly missed Andy. So she called him in L.A., and, back home for Thanksgiving, she slept with him again. She slept with him again and again in L.A. during the winter and springâwhen she discovered that he was cheating not only on his wife but on her, too.
In late spring, Andy called to tell her that he, his wife, Kate, and their baby boy were moving toÂ .Â .Â . Portland. She was excited and distressed. She felt she still loved him, but she knew that if he came up to Portland, she wouldn't be able to break it off.
Andy came up in June, but he came up alone. He told her he'd have to find a place to work and a place for his family to live before they could join him. He told her he was in love with her. He said she was sexy and beautiful. He stayed in Portland without his family the entire summer. She and Andy were together all the time, intimate every day.
When Kate and the baby came to Portland in the fall, Andy told her, once again, that he felt so guilty, they had to stop being intimate with each other. She tried, but she couldn't do it. When she met Kate, she liked her. She and Kate became close friends. She felt that her feeling for Kate was partly the result of how much she loved Kate's husband. She started baby-sitting for Kate and buying clothes both for the baby and Kate's older daughter. And she slept with Andy at her apartment.
When Andy kept flying to L.A. on “business,” she became suspicious. She made some calls to friends in L.A. and they told her Andy was sleeping with a teenager at Beverly Hills High. She got the teenager's number and called her. The teenager was angry that Andy wasn't seeing her enough. The girl felt abused and said she was thinking about calling Andy's wife and telling her everything.
Monica confronted Andy and told him the teenager was thinking about calling his wife. Andy cried like a baby and said he was going to kill himself. He begged for her forgiveness and begged her to help him. She called the teenager back and convinced her not to call Andy's wife. In return, Andy agreed that he wouldn't just sneak away from Kate for a few hours to have sex with her. He'd take her out for a drink or dinner and treat her like a woman he loved. She still kept baby-sitting for Kate. And, to get back at Andy, she slept with Andy's younger brother, Chris. Andy had said Chris would never like her because he “only liked tall and willowy women.” Chris liked her. She made sure Chris liked her.
She schemed with Andy to provide excuses to Kate so he could get out of the house to see her. Whenever Kate left the house, Andy told her that David Bliss, shop foreman of the Lewis and Clark theater department, had called to offer him a few hours or a full day's work. Kate became suspicious of these calls coming exactly when she wasn't there. Andy was panicked about Kate's suspicions and came running to see Monica at her apartment. She knew what to do. She went down to the theater department and stole a piece of stationery. She wrote a letter to Andy, offering him work, and forged David Bliss's signature at the bottom.
While she was seeing Andy, she was also a teaching assistant in a course called Psychology of Sex. She was the group leader in a “sex lab.” When the others were shy about discussing their intimate lives, she charged boldly ahead, talking honestly about her weight problem and its effect on her sexuality. At the same time, she and a girlfriend paid forty dollars to hear a lecture entitled “How to Find a Mate.”
The day after she graduated, she accompanied two friends who were going to do a bungee jump. At the last moment, without even giving it a thought, she jumped as well.
Her father encouraged her to think about a career in the public defender's office in Portland. Her mother, who knew about her continuing relationship with Andy Bleiler, had a better idea, an idea that would get her out of town, away from Andy.
Her mother had a friend named Walter Kaye, a friend of Hillary Clinton's, a big Democratic contributor, whose grandson had been a White House intern. It would, her mother said, only be a six-week summer job, unpaid, and she'd be one of two hundred interns, but it sounded like fun, didn't it? What a thing to have on a rÃ©sumÃ©!
Her mother was already living in Washington, to be near her sister, Monica's aunt Debra. Monica could move in with her mother at the Watergate and have Bob and Elizabeth Dole for neighbors. Monica told her mother that itreallydid sound like fun. And her mother said she'd call her friend Walter Kaye, who perhaps would call his friend Hillary Clinton.
.Â Â .Â Â .Â Â
She made out an application andÂ .Â .Â . she was accepted! She would be working at the White House! She spent one final night before she left Portland with Andy Bleiler. She knew she still loved him.
She had a couple weeks before her job at the White House began, and she and her mother spent it at her aunt Debra's big, sprawling house in Virginia. Her Aunt Debra also had a small in-town apartment at the Watergate, so Monica was seeing a lot of her. But she couldn't get Andy out of her mind. She called him and then decided, after only two weeks away from Portland, to fly back to see him on the Fourth of July. He was only able to sneak away from Kate and the baby for a few hours, but they enjoyed the little time they had together.
On July 10, 1995, in room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building, she was given her White House assignment. She'd deliver sorted mail from the Old Executive Office Building to the West Wing, where the Oval Office was located. The first time she passed the Oval Office's mahogany door (a Secret Service agent standing guard), her pulse raced. She called Andy and breathlessly told him about what she'd felt as she'd passed the mahogany door.
The women at the White House, she soon discovered, were in awe of the forty-second president of the United Statesânot just as the president but as Bill Clinton, the horndog. She knew his reputation with women, but here she heard the gossip about specific women working at the White House: Marsha Scott, an old Arkansas girlfriend, an administrative assistant, who reportedly had spent the night with Bill Clinton when Vince Foster killed himself; Cathy Cornelius, young and stunning, Cybill Shepherdâlike, who accompanied him on many of his trips abroad; Debbie Schiff, former stewardess on his campaign plane, now a White House secretary. She didn't get it. From what she'd seen on TV, Bill Clinton had a big red nose. His hair was gray and lusterless. He wore geeky sunglasses. He was old.
Sometime in mid-July, only a week or so after she'd started her internship, Walter Kaye invited her mother and her to watch an arrival ceremony for the president of South Korea on the White House lawn. It was a hot day. She was sweating. She wore a flimsy sundress and a straw sombrero-type hat. It was so hot, she was worried about fainting. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she heard over a loudspeaker, “the President of the United States, accompanied by the First Lady.” She heard military music from the Marine Corps Band. She saw him. Her heart skipped a beat. She felt short of breath. Butterflies circled inside her. She only saw him from far away, but it was enough. He wass-o-o-ohandsome.
She saw him up close a week later when the interns received permission to watch a presidential departure. He came down a roped-off path, shaking hands, smiling. When he got to her, she felt like air. She felt like a tree or a plant. He barely glanced at her.
A little more than another week later, on August 9, she went to another departure. She wore a tightly fitting sage green dress her mother had recently bought for her at J. Crew. Here he came again, walking down the rope line. He was talking to another intern's father as she stood nearby, and he suddenly glanced at herÂ .Â .Â . and held her gaze as he continued talking to the others. He was smiling at herÂ .Â .Â . and then he came over to her and shook her hand. His smile was gone now. He looked deeply into her eyes. She felt she was alone with him. She felt he was undressing her. He moved down the line, and, dazed, she bumped into a friend. She caught his glance again as he moved farther down the line. He was looking at her.
At work the next day, still reeling from what had happened to her on the rope line, she learned that the interns had been invited at the last minute to attend a surprise birthday party for the president that day. He was forty-nine. She was twenty-two. She drove home quickly to put her tight-fitting sage green J. Crew dress on.
It was a Wild West party. Vice President Gore arrived in an old woody station wagon. Some of the president's aides came in on horseback. And, finally, herehecame, down the line again, smiling at her as he approached. When he shook her hand, immersing himself into her eyes again, she said, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” repeating the Marilyn Monroe imitation she had tried out on Andy Bleiler. Everything was in slow motion and freeze-frame againÂ .Â .Â . and as he moved away, his arm casually brushed her breast. She watched as he walked down the line. He glanced at her at the end of the line and headed back inside the White House; then he stopped suddenly, turned, and looked at her. She blew him a kiss. He threw his head back and laughed.
When she got home, she told her mother and her aunt Debra what had happened. Her mother laughed and said she was getting a crush on the president of the United States. Aunt Debra said, “Maybe he's interested in you or attracted to you or something.”
She went out to a bookstore that was still open and bought a copy of Gennifer Flowers's book and spent the night reading it. Gennifer said that Bill Clinton called her “Pookie.” Monica read that he liked women who were “ripe peaches,” and she thought of herself in her sage green dress. She read Gennifer's account of “overheated eye contact” and “psychological foreplay” and thought about how he had looked at her on the rope line.
She was excited to see Pookie describe him as “a natural born lover manÂ .Â .Â . with more sexual libido” than Pookie had ever seen. Monica noted how much he liked sexy lingerieâlace and garters, tiny black teddies, little white nighties. She couldn't believe how kinky he wasâdripping ice on Pookie's body, asking Pookie to drip candle wax on him, dripping honey on her body, asking her to tie him to the bed, to use a dildo on him.
Everything that Gennifer wrote about him turned Monica on. “His stamina amazed me,” Monica read; “we made love over and over that night, and he never seemed to run out of energyÂ .Â .Â .Â . He proved he could go on all night.” Bill, according to Pookie, was a wild man who kept dope in his pockets and casually lighted up, who liked Pookie to meet him at a hotel wearing nothing but a fur coat, who loved phone sexâ“Bill loved to talk dirty and to have me say things back to him”âwho liked pouring catsup and milk all over her body and licking it off, who liked oral sex. “With Bill, oral sex seemed like the natural thing to do.” Pookie also made Monica wonder about his relationship with Hillary, whose friendship with Walter Kaye had gotten Monica her job. “Bill said he had known for a long time that Hillary was attracted to women,” Gennifer wrote, “and it didn't really bother him anymore. His first clue came from her lack of enjoyment of sex with him. He said Hillary was cold and not playful at all in bed. Hillary didn't like to experiment and insisted on the missionary position and nothing else. Because she wasn't enjoying herself, neither was he. Sex with Hillary became a duty, nothing more.” Bill told Gennifer, “She's eaten more pussy than I have.”
Monica laughed when she read that he called his penis “Willard.” Willard?Willard!What an odd name for a penis. Wasn't there an old movie calledWillard? About a boy and his rat? But she liked his explanation to Gennifer of why he called it Willard: “It's longer than Willie.”
She was off from work the next day, but she never left the apartment. She was sure she was going to get a call from the Secret Service telling her the president wanted to see her. She had heard that that was what the Secret Service had done for JFK. The phone rang a lot that dayâshe felt her heartbeat race each timeâbut it was never him.
Her six-week internship was nearly over and she went to her supervisor and asked to re-up for a second six weeks. She was, her supervisor felt, conscientious and enthusiastic, and so her second internship was approved.
She started reading everything she could find about him. Her heart broke for him. To have had to grow up in that awful racist state, where black people had been lynched as recently as the 1920s! To have had to be brought up by his grandparents for two years because his mom could only find work in another city! She could just see his mom as he had: kneeling on the ground and sobbing after a visit with him. And her heart broke for herself, too.Hewas the fatboy. The only pair of jeans that fit him in the waist were so long that he had to roll them halfway to his knees. He had a cute little Hopalong Cassidy outfit and the other kids made him jump rope in his cowboy bootsâhe couldn't jump rope, either!âand they pulled the rope out from under him. He broke his leg and the other kids yelled at him as he lay on the ground: “Sissy! Sissy! You're a sissy!” And he, too, had cowered alone in his room as his parents yelled at each other.
She remembered how, in grade school, she had said she was going to be the president of the United States, and she smiled when she read that when he was in grade school, a teacher said that he was going to be the president of the United StatesÂ .Â .Â . and now he was.
The moment of his life that touched her the most took place when he was a little boy and he was singing “Frog Went A-Courtin'Â ” with his music teacher.
He sang, “Miss Mousy will you marry me, uh-huh! uh-huh! Miss Mousy will you marry me, uh-huh! uh-huh!”
His music teacher sang, “Without my Uncle Rat's consent, uh-uh! uh-uh! Without my Uncle Rat's consent, I wouldn't marry the President, uh-uh! uh-uh!”
She held the image in her mind: a clumsy little fat boy with a crew cut, his jeans rolled up, his tummy sticking out, singing, “Miss Mousy will you marry me, uh-huh! uh-huh!” It made her feel close to him.S-o-o-oclose to him.
She went to another departure ceremony in August with a group of interns, and when he stopped and chatted with the group, she introduced herself and made sure to say that she was staying for a second internship term. He smiled and nodded. A week or so later, she was in the basement lobby of the West Wing, talking to a member of the Secret Service, when he came by with two women guests. He turned away from the two other women and turned to her.
“Hi, Mr. President. I'm Monica Lewinsky,” she said.
“I know.” He grinned, looking her up and down, undressing her with his eyes again. She sucked in her tummy. She was happy she was wearing black.
She went to her supervisor and applied for a paid White House job after her second internship was up. She didn't see him then for more than two months, but she thought about him all the time and told her girlfriends about him, too, describing the way the president of the United States had undressed her with his eyes. Her friends were wary. One of them, who worked at the White House, even warned her there were rumors he was leaving the White House late at night to meet someone at the Marriott downtown.
As she was telling her friends about the crush she had on the president, she flew across the country, back to Portland, to see Andy Bleiler again. He sneaked away from his wife to spend a few hours in bed with her, but then he told her once again that it was over, that he was feeling too guilty about cheating on his wife.
She was crushed and hysterical. She had flown all the way across America just to make love to himÂ .Â .Â . and now he was giving her the same old awful, hurtful, duplicitous song and dance. She sobbed her way back to Washington.
She got good news the morning she got back. There was a job opening in Legislative Affairs at the White House. She interviewed with senior officials and she got the job!
There was, though, a temporary glitch. Newt Gingrich and his Republicans were causing a budgetary impasse and there was going to be a government shutdown. It meant that senior staff were forced to go home, that the 430-person White House staff would be cut down to 90 while the impasse lasted.
But it also meant that interns, who were unpaid, could work and would have additional responsibilities. Since she had not officially begun her Legislative Affairs job, she would work during the shutdownâtechnically, still as an intern.
On her first day of work during the shutdown, she wore a navy blue pantsuit. She was working in Chief of Staff Leon Panetta's office, answering the phones, which kept ringing off the hook because Rush Limbaugh had given Leon's phone number to the dittoheads who wanted to complain about the shutdown.
She saw “Handsome” as he walked past her office in the hallway. She mouthed Hi at him while she was on the phone. He said, “Hi,” smiled, and kept going.
Later that day, there was an informal birthday party for another aide, and he unexpectedly showed up, smiling and looking at her as she kept dealing with the loony-tunes on the phone.
He went into Leon's inner office, and she got up from her desk and waited for him to come out. When he did, she turned her back to him and lifted the back of her jacket with her thumbs, letting him see the thong underwear showing above her waistline. From reading Gennifer's book, she knew how much he loved underwear and other lingerie. As he passed her, he looked at her and smiled.
Throughout the course of the evening, he kept coming back to Leon's office as she worked at her desk, looking at her every time, claiming he was trying to find aides who he knew weren't there. Going to get something to drink, she passed George Stephanopoulos's office and saw Handsome sitting thereÂ .Â .Â . all alone.
“Come on in here for a second,” he said.
She went in.
“Where did you go to school?”
“You know,” she replied, “I have a really big crush on you.”
He laughed and looked at her for a long moment, staring at her breasts. “Come into the back office,” he said.
In George's inner office, he put his arms around her and held her tightly. His eyes were “soul searching, tender, very needing, very wanting, very loving.” She also thought there was a sadness about him she hadn't expected.
“You're so beautiful,” he said. “Your energy just lights up a room.” And he asked, “Can I kiss you?”
He kissed herâ“softly, deeply, romantically.” He stroked her hair and her face.
“I've done this before, you know,” she said. “It's okay.” She was talking about her affair with Andy Bleiler, a married man. She wanted to put Handsome at ease.
“I knew when I saw you on the line out there that I'd kiss you,” he said. He looked at her a long moment, smiled, looked at his watch, then said he had to get back to work.
She was sitting alone in Leon's outer office three hours later, around ten o'clock at night, when he came in. She was expecting him. She had written her name and phone number on a piece of paper, and when he came in, she handed it to him.
He smiled and said, “If you'd like to meet me in George's office in five or ten minutes, you can.”
“Yes.” She smiled. “I would like to do that.”
She waited ten minutes and then walked down to George's office. She went into the outer office, where the lights were on, and he wasn't there. Then the door to the inner office opened and he was standing there in the darkness, aiming that slow, sexy smile at her. He gestured for her to come in.
He kissed her as soon as she stepped into the inner office. She unbuttoned her jacket and he touched her breasts, her bra still on. He lifted her bra up and he felt her breasts and he kissed them. He explored her body with his hands and moved a hand under her panties. A telephone rang. He picked it up and started to talk to a congressman about Bosnia while he kept moving his hand between her legs. She had an orgasm as he talked, and she knelt down in front of him. She tried to unbutton his pants, but, used to zippers and not buttons, she was having trouble doing it. He unbuttoned his fly for her, still talking on the phone. Willard was suddenly there. She began nurturing Willard with kisses while he was still on the phone, still talking about Bosnia. When he finally hung up, he stopped her.
“Please,” she said. “I want to make you come.”
“I don't know you well enough,” he said. “I don't trust you for that.”
He pulled on the pink intern pass around her neck and said, “This could be a problem.” She told him that she had just been hired as a legislative aide and would soon have the blue pass, which would give her access anywhere in the White House.
“That's great.” He smiled.
He looked at her and then he said, “Well, I've got to go, kiddo.”
She said, “Okay,” and he was gone. She felt that she had found her “sexual soul mate.” When she got home, she woke both her mother and her aunt Debra and told them the president had kissed her. She didn't say anything about Willard.
He ignored her the next day. The day after that, she waited all day for him, but he never came around Leon's office. She stayed late with some others, still waiting for him, among them the president's secretary, Betty Currie. They ordered a pizza. When the pizza arrived, she went down to Betty's office to tell her it was there.
She saw him then, finally, talking to some people. He didn't even glance at her. Betty came back to Leon's office, and so did the others who were working late. One of them bumped into Monica and smeared pizza all over her new red jacket. She went into the bathroom to clean it off, and when she came out, Handsome was standing in the doorway of Betty's office, as though he'd been waiting for her.
“You can come out this way, kiddo,” Handsome said, smiling, and he led her into the Oval Office, toward his private study.
He stopped her in the hallway, where there were no windows, and kissed her. He felt her body with his hands.
“You've got such a beautiful smile,” he said.
She asked him why he hadn't called her at home.
“What about your parents?”
“It's okay. I've got my own line. You don't have to worry. I told youâI've done this before.”
He kissed her again, feeling her, pulling her closer to Willard.
“I bet you don't even remember my name,” she said.
He grinned and said, “What kind of a name is Lewinsky, anyway?”
He started to kiss her again, and she said, “I'd better go. They're going to wonder where I am.” She wanted to show him that she was on his side, that she didn't want anyone to get suspicious.
He grinned. “Why don't you go get me a couple slices of pizza?”
She went back to Leon's outer office and grabbed two slices of vegetarian pizza. When she returned, Betty Currie was sitting at her desk outside the Oval Office. She told Betty that he'd asked her to bring him some pizza. Betty opened the door to the Oval Office and said, “Sir, the girl's here with the pizza.”
She went inside, and he led her back to the hallway and started kissing her again. He unbuttoned her blouse and he kissed her breasts. She unbuttoned his shirt and she kissed his chest. She felt him suck his stomach in. She said, “Oh, you don't have to do thatâI like your tummy.”
Betty Currie was suddenly at the door leading to the hallway. They froze.
“Sir,” Betty Currie said. “You've got that call you were expecting.”
He said, “Thank you, Betty.” His voice was hoarse.
He led her into the bathroom off the hallwayâit was dark in thereâand he picked up the telephone. He was speaking to another congressman about Bosnia. As he spoke, he unbuttoned his fly and Willard came out to see her. She knelt down andÂ .Â .Â . He pushed her head away and made her stop again.
“Please, just let me finish.”
“No. I told you. I don't know you well enough.”
She didn't understand the distinction; he knew her well enough to let her nurture Willard, but he didn't know her well enough to let her bring Willard to closure.
He told her again that she had “a beautiful smile” and “great energy.”
“I'm usually around on the weekends, when there's hardly anybody here,” he said. “You can come see me, kiddo.”
“Okay.” She smiled. “Call me.”
He didn't call her. She saw him in the corridors sometimes and he smiled and said hi, but he always called her “kiddo.”
Late in November, she went to see Betty Currie. She asked Betty whether she'd pass a necktie on to him if she got one. She explained about her jobs at the Knot Shops and told Betty how much she'd always loved ties. Betty said sure.
She bought a beautiful hand-painted, hand-stitched Zegna and gave it to Betty for him. A few days later, Betty told her he'd loved the tie so much that he'd had himself photographed wearing it and that he was going to give her a picture.
Early in December, she was walking through the West Wing, when she saw him with a group of people. He turned away from them when he noticed her and said, “Did you get the picture of me in that tie?” She told him no and walked away. Later that day, Betty called her at her desk and asked her to come over. Betty told her to go into the Oval Office so he could sign the picture for her.
As soon as she walked in, he said, “God, you look really skinny.” She knew she wasn't skinny. She'd never been skinny. She'd neverbeskinny. But she was tryings-o-o-ohard to lose weight and he wass-o-o-osweet to say it. He gave her the picture of him wearing the tie and signed it for her. Betty came in then.
Monica said, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
He said, “Okay, kiddo,” and then she left.
She told her mother and her aunt Debra and her friends that she was falling in love with him. They didn't take her seriously. If nothing else, she thought, Handsome was getting her over Andy Bleiler. Finally. She knew that women sometimes needed one man to get over another, but she'd never thought that it would take the president of the United States to get her over Andy.
The Uproar Is Deafening
“Every President,” Monica said to Linda Tripp, “every President we have ever had has always had lovers because the pressure of the job is too much. Too much! Too much to always rely on your wife, with whom you have too much baggageâwhich you inevitably will if you get to that point.”
The Comeback Kid knew this one was going to be tough. The uproar from this would hurt his ears. Turning down the new hearing aid he'd recently gotten at Bethesda wouldn't help. The uproar would be loud and painful, louder than the uproar overÂ .Â .Â .
O.J.'s acquittalÂ .Â .Â . Nixon's tapesÂ .Â .Â . Gennifer's tapesÂ .Â .Â . Carter's attempt to free the hostagesÂ .Â .Â . ChappaquiddickÂ .Â .Â . Ford pardoning NixonÂ .Â .Â . Bob Packwood's diaryÂ .Â .Â . Tyson biting HolyfieldÂ .Â .Â . Vince and HillaryÂ .Â .Â . Nixon and Bebe RebozoÂ .Â .Â . Ronald Reagan and Selena WaltersÂ .Â .Â . Bob Dole and Meredith RobertsÂ .Â .Â . Nelson Rockefeller and Megan MarshackÂ .Â .Â . Nancy Reagan's “three-hour lunches” with Frank SinatraÂ .Â .Â . Nixon and Bob AbplanalpÂ .Â .Â .
Jimmy Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, grabbing at the front of the dress of the wife of the Egyptian ambassador and saying, “I've always wanted to see the Pyramids”Â .Â .Â . Hamilton Jordan spilling a drink of amaretto and cream down a young woman's dress at a Georgetown barÂ .Â .Â . Elton John saying Keith was “a monkey with arthritis trying to go onstage and look young”Â .Â .Â . Tip O'Neill saying George McGovern was “nominated by the cast ofHair”Â .Â .Â . Donald Trump saying, “I have seen Darryl Hannah on many occasions and she is simply in need of a shower or bath”Â .Â .Â . Senator John McCain saying Newt Gingrich's poll numbers were “worse than mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer's”Â .Â .Â . Prince and Kim BasingerÂ .Â .Â .
Bush throwing up on the Japanese prime ministerÂ .Â .Â . LBJ saying, “Gentlemen, I've got a hard-on for the presidency”Â .Â .Â . Dukakis wearing that silly helmet in the tankÂ .Â .Â . Hugh Grant and Divine BrownÂ .Â .Â . Carter admitting “lust in his heart”Â .Â .Â . Nancy whispering into Reagan's earÂ .Â .Â . George Bush and Jennifer FitzgeraldÂ .Â .Â . Ford falling down all the timeÂ .Â .Â . Bob Packwood singing Sinatra songsÂ .Â .Â . George Bush commenting on his television debate with Geraldine Ferraro, saying, “We tried to kick a little ass last night”Â .Â .Â . Carl Bernstein and Elizabeth TaylorÂ .Â .Â . Bob Dylan and Elizabeth TaylorÂ .Â .Â .
Hustler's selection of Jerry Falwell as “Asshole of the Month”Â .Â .Â . J. Edgar Hoover and sixteen-year-old boysÂ .Â .Â . LBJ picking women out of crowds, his aides pimping for himÂ .Â .Â . Jimmy Carter's poemsÂ .Â .Â . LBJ stealing furniture from the White House and flying it to his ranchÂ .Â .Â . Eddie Murphy and the transvestiteÂ .Â .Â . George Bush saying, “Read my lipsâno new taxes”Â .Â .Â . Dick Morris and Sherry RowlandsÂ .Â .Â . JFK using Judith Exner as his bagman to the mobÂ .Â .Â . LBJ staggering drunk and cussing up a storm in the White HouseÂ .Â .Â . Jack Kemp's time-shared Lake Tahoe apartmentÂ .Â .Â . Joan Kennedy's lifeÂ .Â .Â . Eugene McCarthy's poemsÂ .Â .Â . Geraldo and Marion JavitsÂ .Â .Â . Ike and Kay SummersbyÂ .Â .Â . Vince Foster's suicide noteÂ .Â .Â . JFK and Marilyn in that loft above the attorney general's officeÂ .Â .Â . LBJ lifting his dogs up by the earsÂ .Â .Â . George Bush examining a price scanner at a grocery storeÂ .Â .Â .
Barney Frank and Steve GobieÂ .Â .Â . Ruth Carter Stapleton and Larry FlyntÂ .Â .Â . Paula Jones's noseÂ .Â .Â . Bobby and MarilynÂ .Â .Â . Dustin Hoffman saying about Carl Bernstein, “I understand why Carl did so well on Watergate. Carl is essentially a fuckup and he has to fail, and Nixon is a fuckup and he has to fail, so Carl could always understand Nixon”Â .Â .Â . the videotape of Peter Jennings blowing his nose onto the groundÂ .Â .Â . Jimmy Carter picking his nose in that photographÂ .Â .Â . Iowa senator Tom Harkin blowing his nose without a handkerchief on C-SPANÂ .Â .Â . Pat Buchanan saying, “Congress is Israeli-occupied territory”Â .Â .Â . Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams comparing bad weather and rape: “If it's inevitable, relax and enjoy it”Â .Â .Â . Bob Kerrey telling Bill Clinton that joke on C-SPAN: “Jerry Brown walks into a bar and sees two hot women. A guy in the bar says to him, âDon't waste your time, Governor; they're dykes.' Brown says, âHow do you know?' The guy says, âThey like going down on each other.' Brown says, âI like that, too. Does that make me a dyke?'Â ”Â .Â .Â .
LBJ ordering Marine Corps helicopters to herd the peacocks on his ranchÂ .Â .Â . JFK doing three hookers at a time in his hotel suitesÂ .Â .Â . LBJ saying, “I don't trust a man until I have his pecker in my pocket”Â .Â .Â . Spiro Agnew saying, “If you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all”Â .Â .Â . Ronald Reagan saying, “If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all”Â .Â .Â . the picture of Gary Hart and Donna RiceÂ .Â .Â . Barry Goldwater saying, “This country would be better off if we could saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea”Â .Â .Â . Dole falling off the stageÂ .Â .Â . Ford drunk onAir Force Oneon the way back from RussiaÂ .Â .Â . Ford saying, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe,” while Russian forces were stationed thereÂ .Â .Â .
Wayne Hayes and Elizabeth RayÂ .Â .Â . Houston mayoral candidate Louie Welch saying the way to control AIDS was to “shoot the queers”Â .Â .Â . LBJ explaining to reporters why we were in Vietnam by unzipping himself, taking out his willard, and saying, “This is why”Â .Â .Â . Roseanne's crotch grab after singing the national anthemÂ .Â .Â . George Bush, with a guitar emblazonedTHE PREZ, jamming on stage at his inaugural ballÂ .Â .Â . Ted Danson in blackface at Whoopi's roastÂ .Â .Â . Gerry Ford, after a long martini lunch, skipping several dozen pages of a speechÂ .Â .Â . A Nancy Reagan aide, refusing to schedule a meeting between the First Lady and a child with muscular dystrophy, saying, “Absolutely not. The First Lady doesn't want her picture taken with some drooly kid on a respirator.”Â .Â .Â .
What Sally Field did to Burt Reynolds inPlayboyÂ .Â .Â . George Hamilton and Lynda Bird JohnsonÂ .Â .Â . Roger Mudd's interview with Ted KennedyÂ .Â .Â . Reagan saying, “Keeping up with my opponent's promises is like reading Playboy magazine while your wife turns the pages”Â .Â .Â . Dole on TV with his Exercycle, wearing shorts, a dress shirt, and French cuffsÂ .Â .Â . Betty Ford, drunk, being carried offAir Force OneÂ .Â .Â . Nixon and Kissinger kneeling together, prayingÂ .Â .Â . Melissa Etheridge, Julie Cypher, and David Crosby's spermÂ .Â .Â . LBJ turning to the side and taking a whiz at an outdoor press conferenceÂ .Â .Â . LBJ telling a tailor, “I need some more goddamn ball room in these pants”Â .Â .Â . Nixon walking on the beach with his wing-tip cordovansÂ .Â .Â . Reagan falling asleep during cabinet meetings.
Gerry Ford's flatulenceÂ .Â .Â . Pat Buchanan saying, “Women are less equipped psychologically to stay the course in the brawling arenas of business, commerce, industry, and the professions”Â .Â .Â . Gary Hart telling the media, “Follow meâI don't care if anybody wants to put a tail on me. Go ahead. They'd be bored”Â .Â .Â . LBJ displaying his gallbladder and kidney-stone surgery scars for the camerasÂ .Â .Â . Jimmy Carter holding Joan Kennedy's hand as Rosalynn kept her eye on hisÂ .Â .Â . LBJ's three Texan secretaries, none of whom knew how to typeÂ .Â .Â . Quayle using the spelling “potatoe” and “beakon”Â .Â .Â . Carter using the White House stairs as his jogging trackÂ .Â .Â . LBJ smoking cigarettes with the presidential seal on themÂ .Â .Â . Michael Jackson and his chimpÂ .Â .Â . Roxanne Pulitzer and her trumpetÂ .Â .Â . Alfred Bloomingdale and Vicki MorganÂ .Â .Â .
Wilbur Mills and Fanne FoxÂ .Â .Â . Dan Rather saying, “Courage”Â .Â .Â . Haldeman and EhrlichmanÂ .Â .Â . David Geffen and Keanu ReevesÂ .Â .Â . Ford examining the change cup at McDonald'sÂ .Â .Â . LBJ's nickname, “Bull Nuts”Â .Â .Â . Pat Nixon's four martinis for lunchÂ .Â .Â . Howard Stern's ass on prime-time televisionÂ .Â .Â . LBJ buck naked onAir Force Onewith his wife, his daughters, and his secretariesÂ .Â .Â . Jimmy Swaggart and the hookerÂ .Â .Â . LBJ watching a crowd and saying, “You dumb sons of bitches, I piss on all of you”Â .Â .Â . Jimmy Swaggart's apologyÂ .Â .Â . Dan Rather and “What's the frequency, Kenneth?”Â .Â .Â . LBJ discussing the Civil Rights Act: “I'll have them niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years”Â .Â .Â . Tricia Nixon wearing a cape and broad-brim hat when she went into the water to go swimmingÂ .Â .Â .
LBJ talking about Vietnam: “We're going to liberate those poor little boogers and I'll be known as the Great Emancipator”Â .Â .Â . Woody Allen and Soon-YiÂ .Â .Â . Hubert Humphrey in a cowboy hatÂ .Â .Â . Luci Baines Johnson looking for an assistant: “You go find my nigger! Right now! Find my nigger”Â .Â .Â . Jesse Jackson talking about New York City as “Hymietown”Â .Â .Â . Kitty Dukakis drinking her husband's aftershaveÂ .Â .Â . Ted Kennedy's testimony at the William Kennedy Smith trialÂ .Â .Â . Reagan wearing a USC Trojan helmetÂ .Â .Â . LBJ orderingAir Force Oneto land somewhere and buy some root beerÂ .Â .Â . JFK doing that blonde who could have been a Communist secret agentÂ .Â .Â . LBJ doing the same blonde who could have been a Communist secret agentÂ .Â .Â . Kissinger shoving vegetables off his plate onto the floor ofAir Force OneÂ .Â .Â . Bruce Lindsey saying to the press, “You all have been asses ever since we started”Â .Â .Â . LBJ stealing an electric bed from Walter Reed Army Hospital and flying it to his ranchÂ .Â .Â . Richard Gere and the gerbilÂ .Â .Â .Showgirls.
The Comeback Kid knew this would be more painful thanÂ .Â .Â .
Almost getting draftedÂ .Â .Â . the60 MinutesinterviewÂ .Â .Â . meeting Monica's parents at his radio addressÂ .Â .Â . being interviewed by WoodwardÂ .Â .Â . golf without mulligansÂ .Â .Â . a Sam Donaldson predictionÂ .Â .Â . sitting on a dais with Don ImusÂ .Â .Â . Hillary throwing things at himÂ .Â .Â . the way Monica's father looked at himÂ .Â .Â . watching Nixon on TV with his arms held highÂ .Â .Â . being breathed on by YeltsinÂ .Â .Â .
The way Monica's mother smiled at himÂ .Â .Â . Hillary yelling, “You stupid fuck”Â .Â .Â . Bob Dole's jokesÂ .Â .Â . shaking hands with NixonÂ .Â .Â . watching Al Gore danceÂ .Â .Â . watching Roger singÂ .Â .Â . Hillary yelling, “You dumb shit”Â .Â .Â . Harold Ickes bursting into the Oval OfficeÂ .Â .Â . Hillary yelling, “You fucking bastard”Â .Â .Â . Monica going “Da-da-da-da-da”Â .Â .Â . Hillary saying, “Get that whore away from me” at the Little Rock airportÂ .Â .Â . the way Hillary's mother looked at himÂ .Â .Â . a Helen Thomas birthday partyÂ .Â .Â . making a speech at the Vietnam MemorialÂ .Â .Â . hearing Monica making those Yoko Ono noisesÂ .Â .Â .
Hillary asking “How's Gennifer?”Â .Â .Â . Joe Klein writing a sequelÂ .Â .Â . Monica wearing boots identical to Chelsea'sÂ .Â .Â . Chelsea's spaniel, Zeke, getting hit by a carÂ .Â .Â . Hillary with her legs unshavenÂ .Â .Â . that condescending look on Blumenthal's faceÂ .Â .Â . Hillary moving away from his kiss at the inaugurationÂ .Â .Â . Vince holding Hillary's butt in publicÂ .Â .Â . Monica having her period that dayÂ .Â .Â . the way Betty Currie didn't look at himÂ .Â .Â .
Reading William SafireÂ .Â .Â . watching Al Gore campaignÂ .Â .Â . dinner with George and Mari WillÂ .Â .Â . talking to Monica about HillaryÂ .Â .Â . watching Tipper from the rearÂ .Â .Â . the broiled chicken breasts Hillary wanted him to eatÂ .Â .Â . Hillary saying, “Get your dick down! You can't fuck her here”Â .Â .Â . trying to find poor Web Hubbell some workÂ .Â .Â . meeting William SafireÂ .Â .Â . sitting on Nancy Hernreich's couch in a meetingÂ .Â .Â . dinner with Hillary's brothersÂ .Â .Â . reading about Chelsea in the tabloidsÂ .Â .Â . seeing Hillary naked.
America Gags, Hollywood Swallows
“Hey, there's a Barbara Walters interview with Barbra Streisand and James Brolin tonight,” Linda Tripp said.
“Oy,” Monica said. “I hate her! She's so annoying!”
“She gets prettier as she gets older.”
“Yeah. What do you think that's from?” Monica said. “Plastic surgery. She's probably had everything done but her nose.”
The only place where I'd ever seen a cigar inserted in related fashion was in grandly decadent movie producer Robert Evans's mink-rugged bedroom. And even in Bob's inner chamber of horrifying pleasure, it wasn't in real life; it was in a photograph up on the wall: a voluptuous young woman, one of Bob's collectible queen bees, stark naked, on her hands and knees, an English bowler on her head and a lighted cigar sticking out of her magnificent upraised behind. I had no idea whether Evans, or the photographer, Helmut Newton, finished smoking the cigar after the picture was taken, or if the young woman finished smoking it in her own special way.
I did know that as far as the Clinton-inserted cigar was concernedânow the most famous cigar in world history, more famous than JFK's, more famous than all of Winston'sâI'd heard no one raise the basic policy-wonk questions: Was it a Cuban cigar and therefore an Oval Office violation of the president's own Cuban embargo? Was it good battle judgment for the president to have a cigar in the Oval Office even as the big guns were blazing in America's war on big tobacco? No one wanted to know about the cigar, and the truth was, there were reasons to pretend it didn't exist, reasons that went deeper than parental need to avoid Pay-Per-View, Howard Stern dialogue at the dinner table.
We were the free-speech generation of the sixties, the generation of free love and communal sex, of one-night stands and no guilt, of bedroom experimentation and athletics, of laughing condescendingly at our poor parents, copulating away once a week, doing the old in-out, in-out, in the same boring missionary position. Dad grunted a few times and came too fast; mom lay there staring at the ceiling, doing her duty and thinking about tomorrow's discount on pork chops at the A&P; and foreplay consisted of a few sticky kisses and a dab of the K-Y jelly that was kept in the nightstand (mom applied it).
All that was trueÂ .Â .Â . many years ago. But now we were moms and dads ourselves and it scared the freaking bejesus out of us that our kids would act the same wild and crazy way we had acted in bed. We were shaping a better America, and our definition didn't include the things we had done in our youth: Wesson oil parties and body painting and stunt sex and drugs. We had gotten off in a thousand kinky ways, rubbing our privates red-raw, and we didn't want our kids acting like that in a better America. We loved our kids and wanted the best for them: We wanted them to be not like us, but like our parents, like grandpa and grandma sitting watching the sunset after fifty years of mostly monogamous marriage, talking about that long-ago, misty senior prom as they sipped their warming his and hers mugs of tea and honey.
We had read Bukowski and Kerouac and Henry Miller when we were our kids' age, but now we wanted them to read Tom Clancy and Tom Brokaw, or if they really wanted to go out there, then maybe Stephen King. Nothing too graphic, nothing too sexual, nothing that would jangle our kids' ganglia and innards so they'd wind up like some of us, on Prozac and hostage to shrinks.
We had seen movies likeA Clockwork OrangeandEl TopoandMean Streets, movies that had purposely diddled with our heads, and we sure didn't want our kids' heads diddled with like that. Some of our generation, who became our most important movie critics, like Janet Maslin of theNew York Timesand Kenneth Turan of theLos Angeles Times,crusadedagainst movies with foul language, movies that were “vulgar” and “dispiriting,” campaigning for Jane Austen and Dickens and Shakespeare and Merchant and Ivory. (Some filmmakers were angry about what they called “the New Puritanism.” “Sometimes I have an overwhelming temptation to grab one of those critics by the throat, head-butt them, and leave them bleeding in the corner,” said English director Mike Figgis.) When we weren't creating our own personal, unfilmed porn movies in the sixties, we were watching the Mitchell brothers or Linda Lovelace or Marilyn Chambers or Ralph Bakshi, but we were terrified now about what our kids were watching as they surfed the Net.
And now, suddenly, to have all this hedonistic sixties stuff, the cigar, the blow jobs, the whacking, plopped down on the kitchen table at dinnerâby the man we'd voted for, by the man who shared our vision of a better Americaâwe didn't want any part of it. We didn't want to hear it; we didn't want to see it. Period! We were not nostalgic, at least not publicly, about those good old days of excess. Many of us, now Little League coaches and soccer moms, were downright ashamed. How could we possibly have acted like such little pigs and little sluts? Well, our kidsâDylan and Caitlin and Sky and Montanaâweren't going to act that way. We'd make good and damn sure of that, even if it meant blocking out what our president was very publicly teaching our kids.
Perhaps the masturbation part wasn't that bad, if you had pubescents. We weren't like mom and dad, who told us that if we did it, hair would grow on our palms and we'd go blind. We told our kids that masturbation was just fine, dear, that everybody did it, even mom and dad. Now we could expand and strengthen the argument. Everybody did it, dear, even the president. See? He didn't have any hair on his palms. So there was something nearly positive there, something almost role modelâlike in what Bill Clinton did. His habit might ease our kids' guilts. Though, hopefully, none of our kids would ask, “Am I still going to be doing it, Mom, when I'm as old as the president?” Or “How old are you, Dad? Do you still do it?”
Another reason why America didn't want to deal with these black billows of toxic smoke from this historic cigar was becauseâof all the bizarre, cockamamy things you could ever imagineâGloria Steinem and Jerry Falwell had climbed into bed together! The oddest mating, certainly, since Mick and David Bowie, since Portnoy and his piece of liver, since Marilyn Manson removed his rib to mate with himself. Gloria, always the hotchacha of the women's movement, classy and iconlike, and the Reverend Jerry Falwell, with his triple spare tires, his oleaginous smile, and his lechery for our Lord and Savior. But they were joined together on one issue: what they viewed as porn. As far as Steinem was concerned, it demeaned women. As far as Falwell was concerned, it was a sin and we'd burn in hell.
The Left and the Right had intertwined and the combined force of their moral fervor, their propagandists, and their media fellow travelers had already had a palpable, chilling effect on the motion picture and television industries. Those writers and directors who liked pushing the sexual envelope and who enjoyed being in battle with the Reverend Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Donald Wildmon and the army of Reverend Others found themselves coldcocked, not by the Right, but by the Left, by liberal editorialists of their own generation, who called them not free-speech warriors pitted against the armies of narrowness and night, but sleaze meisters and pornographers exploiting women for financial gain. In other words, sinners just like the Reverend Jerry Falwell said, but not sinners who would go to hell and burn.
Sinners whose movies would be picketed by angry women at the box office. The Reverend Donald Wildmon didn't even have to go out there with his placards. He could rest up at home, preparing next Sunday's fire-and-brimstone serving, while all those liberal, posthippie women did his job for him.
The climate for graphic and even not-so-graphic sex was so frostyâat the exact moment America caught its first suspicious sniffs of the Oval Office cigarâthat Hollywood actors who'd become stars by playing sexpot partsâSharon Stone inBasic Instinct, Julia Roberts inMystic Pizza, Annette Bening inThe Griftersâwere now putting “no nudity” clauses in their contracts, cutting their hair, dressing like Russian apparatchiks, and making themselves look as sexually unappetizing as they possibly could on-screen, thereby flooding the market with an awful lot of box-office clinkers. Stone even took it a step further: She told the world she'd found Jesus at Cecil Williams's Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. But it was possible Stone had good reason to take it further and find Jesus. Of the three, only Stone had showed the world her pubic hair.
Refusing to smell the smoke from Bill Clinton's cigar was symptomatic of something else, too. There seemed to be a tendency among many in our generation to want to sanitize, cosmeticize, and pasteurize life, to put a rosy spin on daily existence, to pretend some things didn't exist or happen. The attitude smacked of the kind of narrowness we were victims of in the sixties, when we were accused of un-Americanism.AMERICA, the bumper stickers said back then,LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.
I thought I heard echoes of that from the former victims, who were now crucifying Kenneth W. Starr for his report, who were now objecting to vulgar language and sex and violence on the big and little screens. Never mind that tens of millions of Americans often used vulgar language or that violence was rampant or that folks were having sexâsome people in our generation didn't want to hear about that any more than they wanted to hear Public Enemy or Snoop Doggy Dogg. They wanted to hear Yanni or music made by mating whales or theBeatles Anthology. They wanted to see movies that were touchy-feely and gauze-lit. They wanted to see Spielberg, not Spike Lee, and they absolutely did not want to hear that Hillary used the wordfuckmore times in one paragraph during meetings with the White House policy wonks than any president, including LBJ (who should have had the word, his favorite, on his tombstone).
And they absolutelydid not, did not, did notwant to hear about the cigar. Smoking was too sore a subject anywayâthe only thing some of us liked about Kevin Costner's woefully awfulWaterworldwas that the scuzzball, low-life bad guys were called “the Smokers.” Releasing theStarr Reportin this climate was like reading parts of Henry Miller, Terry Southern, Iceberg Slim, and Luther Campbell to the residents of a nunnery.
While the rest of America didn't want to sniff the cigar, Hollywood, it seemed, wanted to sniff it, lick it, inhale it, ingest it, digest it, and take a stool sample. This was the biggest Hollywood news (although no one said anything publicly, of course, of course, of course) since Ovitz left CAAÂ .Â .Â . since they almost killed Lew Wasserman at CedarsÂ .Â .Â . since Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy got in trouble withtheirblow jobs.
While it was the greatest dish, Hollywood wasn'tshockedby any of it. Hollywood, as someone said, had always been a big beautiful blonde with soiled underwear. I had heard most of the stories during a quarter century of screenwriting, told with the kind of booster's pride you might find at a place like the City Club in Kansas City. But these stories weren't Kansas City stuff; they were the windswept legendary grime that had encrusted in the cracks of the gleaming marble stars along Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood was the kind of place that appreciated the honesty of Bugsy Siegel's mistress, Virginia Hill, who said, “Hey, I'm the best damn fuck in town and I've got the diamonds to prove it.” Bill Clinton's excesses werebupkescompared with those of Marlon Brando, who decorated walls with his old girlfriends' Tampax and collected stool samples from his visitors while living on his private Fijian islandÂ .Â .Â . Robert Mitchum, who defecated on Harry Cohn's white rug during a contract dispute and bent over and passed gas into the face of a passenger who asked him not to smoke on an airplaneÂ .Â .Â . Errol Flynn, who unzipped his willard at parties and played the piano with it, who walked over to the house of his next-door neighbor, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and masturbated on it.
A blow job in the White House from a Beverly Hills airhead who looked and talked like a Valley Girlâoh, mama, the whole thing was s-o-o-o Hollywood!Hollywood was Blow Job City, an industry historically identified with this particular act. What did Marilyn Monroe tell the press when she signed her first studio contract? She said, “This means I'll never have to suck another cock in this town again.”
Way back in the pioneer days, the old guys, Cohn and Goldwyn and Zanuck and Thalberg, the founding fathersâall those cigar smokersâthey'd have a nice lunch at the Brown Derby or Musso's or, later, ScandiaÂ .Â .Â . and maybe they'd take a little steam afterÂ .Â .Â . and they'd go back to the office and light up a cigar while they got theirÂ .Â .Â .manicure. A nice little after-lunch, after-steam, during-cigarÂ .Â .Â . manicure. The manicure girls knew what they were doing. They knew how to do it so it didn't have to take too long. Beautiful young girls from the Valley (the best manicure girls were always from the Valley and always in demand), down there under the desk, so if the secretary or the wife walked in, she didn't even see her.
It was the perfect activity, this manicureânot too much exertion after a rich meal and all that hot steam; the ticker wouldn't stress. It was the perfect position, too, for a man of power, a titan, a founding father to enjoy. Down on her knees, her skirt hiked up, panties pulled down, taking it happily in her mouth, the same kind of well-kept mouth with which their PMSing, high-maintenance wives had driven them nuts for years. There was something satisfying, too, to the titans in the gagging and the swallowing. The highest paid Valley Girls always swallowed. Then they left and the titans finished their cigars and closed some important, boffo deals.
There was even a phrase for the sleepy condition of the willards of these men at this time of day as they underwent their routine daily manicures, not completely focused, distracted, but getting the manicure anyway because it was a perk and a part of the schedule, like getting the Bentley detailed on Monday. The willards of these semierect men were called “Hollywood loaves.”
And now here was this Beverly Hills Valley Girl of the nineties, this Lewinsky, a nice Jewish girl with big lips, her mother a little screwed up maybeâwhat was that business about the mother pretending to sleep with Pavarotti?âand the titans oftodaygot it, instantly understood even what the rest of America didn't get: Yes, she blew him, but they didn't have sex.
Because a blow job in Hollywood wasn't sex. A blow job was a little break in a busy afternoonÂ .Â .Â . the traditional way to aid the digestion after a long lunchÂ .Â .Â . better than Mylanta, better than TumsÂ .Â .Â . a blow job was almost like a different way of taking a pee, for God sake!Â .Â .Â . A blow job wasÂ .Â .Â . amanicure.
So what was the big deal? Bill Clinton was a good president building a better America, a dream that many of today's titans, sixties kids, shared. Other presidents had had manicures. Bill Clinton was Hollywood's president anyway, in a town with deep liberal Democratic roots.
People here still talked about Mark Rosenberg, the late former head of production at Warner Bros. and one of the heads of the Students for a Democratic Society in the sixties. People here still talked about Gary Hart and how his binding friendship with Warren destroyed him. Gary, the joke was, wanted to be Warrenâthe greatest Hollywood swordsman since Milton Berle, and Marilyn had once said Uncle Miltie had the biggest willard she'd ever seenâand Warren wanted to be Gary, the serious social thinker.
At least Bill Clinton didn't have any destructive friendships like that, except for the smarmy pollster, Morris, who liked sucking hookers' toes. Bill Clinton's pals in town were Steven Spielbergâsexually, Steven was Saint Steven; Jeffrey Katzenbergâdevoted to money and his wife, Marilyn; and David Geffen, who was gay.
Oh, sure, there had been some Hollywood buzzings about Bill Clinton through the years. Bill and Sharon, who had dinner together while some people prattled about Stone engaged with the president in the same kind of yipping, leg-elevated positions we saw her faking with Joe Pesci on-screen. And Bill and Barbraâbut Barbra was almost dowdy now, older than Hillary even, no longer what producer Jon Peters once called “the nicest ass in town.”
Bill Clinton even had a family connection to Hollywood, although it was awfully low-rent. Barbara Boxer's daughter married one of Hillary's brothersÂ .Â .Â . and Boxer's daughter used to work for the producer Rob Fried. The connection got Rob some golf with the president at Burning Tree, but little else.
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While godless and immoral Hollywood had been amusing itself with manicures for nearly a century, the blow job, we felt, was our generation's gift to American popular culture in the sixties. We didn't call it a “blow job” for aesthetic reasons (way too uncool). We called it “head.”
Head was ours the way the missionary position was our parents'. We'd seen our moms flush crimson when dad picked the chicken neck out of the pot and, grinning, held it upÂ .Â .Â . and the idea that mom (or Mamie Eisenhower or Pat Nixon or Debbie Reynolds or Doris Day) was going to, you knowÂ .Â .Â . not in a million years!
Even in the sixties, most midwestern or southern or rural girls went, “Ooh! Yuk!” at the slightest suggestion that they lower their pretty heads. But California girls knew all about it: They had the talent their mothers would never have. They strengthened their jaw muscles with cucumbers and bananas and did oral yoga exercises with their lips, mouths, and tongues. They went to the dentist to file down teeth so they “wouldn't get in the way.” They learned to put condoms on with their mouths. They performed after licking ice or eating jalapeÃ±o peppers or chewing a Red Hot.
Head was the perfect sixties sex act. It was, literally, still outlawed in many states between men and men, as well as between men and women. You could go to jail for it. It was fast; you didn't even have to take your clothes off. And the fact that we were certain our parents hadn't done it was an important consideration at a time when fools like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were telling us to “kill your parents” (while not killing theirs). Part of its outlaw appeal was that it was a black act more than a white one. Old blues songs like “Hog Me Baby” and “Down on Me” and “Scratch-Throat Blues” had celebrated it.
We had adopted black culture fervently and wholeheartedly in the sixties, to the point where if Black Panthers showed up at a party in the Haight and admired one of our “chicks” or “old ladies,” we longhaired white boys got out of the way and went outside to smoke some dope while she moved into the bathroom with the Panther. Both we and our chicks felt this was ideological penance, a personal way to redeem ourselves for slavery and untold generations of white racism. Some of our old ladiesânot allâobjected only when Panthers like Huey Newton, a successful pimp, tried to turn them out to perform for the dollars our generation pretended to disdain.
Head also caused some men to open doors they had forced closed all their lives. Stoned enough or drunk enough, they discovered they didn't really care if the form kneeling there in the lava light with lips bared and mouth open was a man or a woman.
The porn industry quickly picked up on what we'd started. Massage parlors opened everywhere suddenly, fluorescent-lighted churches in an America that was overnight becoming the Diocese of Fellatio. The naked priestesses in these grubby temples would never have intercourse, but they could be convinced with a donation to do massage with their lips and mouths. Men all over America ducked into these churches for quickie noontime prayer; the bells they heard going off in their ears had nothing to do with salvation.
By then, our generation had found its own miracle-dispensing sex symbol. Our fathers may have had B.B. and M.M. Our kids would one day have S.S. We had L.L.âLinda Lovelace, the Empress of Head. Her movie was calledDeep Throatand everyone of our generationâfuture president Bill Clinton, future Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomasâsaw it. It featured Lovelace doing nothing but head, taking itall inwithout gagging, every sixties man's dream. She was somehow able to relax, perhaps paralyze, her throat muscles completely. She claimed that her clitoris was in her throat. Her manager, an ex-marine named Chuck Traynor, explained it: “Once your throat opens, your esophagus gets quite large, like a sword swallower's.” We heard that Linda was doing a cross-country media tour where she was demonstrating to critics that what we saw on-screen wasn't movie magic. Head shampoo announced it was considering putting her in a television commercial.
When Richard Nixon was brought down by the source named Deep Throat, we thought it was poetry. Richard Nixon, doing a Linda Lovelace, taking it all in.
Hollywood had warm and fuzzy feelings about Bill Clinton, and there was the conviction that if he loosened upâlike JFK when he came to town; producer Irwin Winkler's guest house is where JFK and Angie Dickinson used to trystâBill Clinton would fit right in. It was easy to visualize him hanging out in Evans's bedroom with Jack Nicholson, sharing a joint and watching as a magician twirled a girl around and around, C notes coming out of her every orifice. Listening to Evans talk about a girl he'd urinated upon, who got up and broke three of his ribs. Hanging out. Having fun. Just being human in Hollywood. The big house in Bel Air, the beach house at Carbon Beach, the two black Mercedes, the black Ducati, the black Dodge Ram, a daily manicure. You knowÂ .Â .Â . normal life. Listening to Sharon tell him how Bob Evans once kept one of her friends in a dog collar. Going over to the wall in Evans's bedroom and checking out the Helmut Newton photograph of the girl with the smoking cigar in herÂ .Â .Â .
There was even some relatively serious talk that Bill Clinton would move to town after he left office. Didn't he say, “The best part of the White House isn't Camp David orAir Force One; it's all the movies people send me”? And he did like these three little guysâSteven and Jeffrey and Davidâvery much, and they seemed to like being in the big guy's presence. He probably would have made a good CEO or CFO or whatever honorific the hard-nosed Geffen would have thrown the ex-president of the United States.
It wasn't even hard to see Bill Clinton at an important script meeting. He knew movies. He told Mel Brooks he watchedBlazing Saddlesevery year, not once, butsix times!He didn't say that publicly, of course; the six times may have raised some eyebrows. Publicly, he said his favorite movies wereHigh Noon, Casablanca,andThe Ten Commandments. (Really.) He claimed to love movies that were about “love, honor, and courageâstuff people care about.” And movies “about people who managed to stay human under inhuman conditions.” He loved Bogartâ“He could get away with everything because he was so authentic”; De Niroâ“He's got real range”; Meryl Streepâ“one of the two or three greatest actresses ever”; and frequent Clinton contributor Tom Hanksâ“tactile, compelling.” And he was relatively literate. He likedLeaves of Grass, and Walt Whitman was certainly better than average for Hollywood. After all, Michael Eisner's sole point of creative reference seemed to be O. Henry. And if Bill Clinton was able to handle the Indiana Jonesâjacketed Newt and glassy-eyed Dick Armey and that rat-catching creep Tom DeLay, he could certainly convince screenwriters to rewrite and directors to reshoot. There would be no shame in being finessed by the man who'd finessed Bibi and Arafatâeven though, with full-blown Hollywood egos, few screenwriters saw themselves as the fallen Bibi. And no director would ever tell the truth and admit to acting like Arafat.
Some people at Spago or Crustacean or Le Dome even talked about Hillary coming out with Bill. But Hillary didn't seem the right fit for a Hollywood wife. A little tummy tuck? A little liposuction? A little lip inflation? A little time in a tanning salon? A twice-a-week top-of-the-line facial at Veronica's on the PCH, where both Mel Gibson and his wife went? But it was all wrongÂ .Â .Â .Â .Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
People thought about it and realized they just couldn't see Hillary in the new patio dining room of the Bel Air Hotel, talking about whether Wolfgang was still a better caterer than Along Comes Mary, whether Merv would make it much past the millennium with his prostate, whether Mark Canton's affair with Luc Besson's secretary would last, whether Michael Eisner was justified saying about Jeff Katzenberg, “I hate that little midget.” Everyone realized Hillary was too afire, too revved up, too alive to be doing that. How could you possibly have the patience to work with Wolfgang's wife, Barbara, organizing a charity tent event if you'd already co-run the whole world? How could you worry about the rhesus monkeys running amok in south central Florida, leftovers from a 1940sTarzanmovie shot there, if your normal frame of reference was global, perhaps even stratospheric? Besides, every Hollywood wife was 100 percent sure that, once out of office, she would dump him.
Some old-time William Morris agents who hung out in the bar of the Regent Beverly Wilshire, once Hernando Courtwright's glorious Beverly Wilshire Hotel, sucking on their unlit cigars, even started spitballing a whole new career for Bill Clinton, post-term, post-Hillary. They convinced themselves he could act, and the false rumor mill went into hyperactive overdrive for a few days.
Bill Clinton was still a young man, after all, and, with Sly's trainer and Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon, they could see it, these wise old showbiz hoot owls: Bill Clinton and Sharon inBasic Instinct II, Bill Clinton and Redford inButch and Sundance II, Bill Clinton and Warren inShampoo II. (He already had Hollywood's hottest hairdresser, Christophe.)
It made some sense. That ten-second eye-contact empathy turned on a cameradirectly, instead of on nearby cameras with human beings aroundâif Redford was so good as the Candidate, wasn't it possible the lifelong professional candidate would be as good as Redford? Some sashimi instead of cheeseburgers, Geffen's masseur, a little karate with Ovitz, some of Steven's mom's vegetables, who knew?Â .Â .Â . Jackie Chan's speech coach, sincerity tips from Sydney Pollack, a little Thai from Sharon's Chrome Hearts hash pipeÂ .Â .Â . a starcouldbe born.
He came out to Hollywood often during his darkest days, vamping fund-raisers, pressing friendly and selected flesh, and playing golf with a group of Hollywood players, one of them now primarily a grass dealer and gofer for movie stars. Bill Clinton, the gofer told me, never asked him for any dope (he knew the gofer had the best in town), but he really enjoyed lighting up a cigar after a few rounds of golf. Bill Clinton told the gofer it was the only place he could smoke a cigar anymore. The Secret Service agents always made sure nobody took any pictures while the cigarâit was a Davidoff, not a Cubanâwas in the president's mouth.
Hollywood, the home of manicures, ultimately didn't care about the smoke from the Oval Office cigar, either, and the town's attention was soon diverted to anotherâthis time, locally scandalousâblow job. It took place at a party in the Palisades, at the home of New Age former fur salesman turned agent Arnold Rifkin. The sister of another Morris agent was seen on a balcony giving New Line head of production Mike DeLuca a blow job. The balcony performance made the front page of the business section of theLos Angeles Times. “I have become what I beheld,” DeLuca told friends. The newspaper account missed the party's other sensational event: Farrah Fawcett, finding the bathrooms full, went outside and pooped the front lawn while the partygoers watched from inside.
The two events, the balcony performance and Farrah's pooping, obliterated all talk in Hollywood of any of Bill Clinton's actions and habits for some time. America may have been in purposeful denial about what took place in the Oval Office, but Hollywood was in a gleeful dither about Arnold Rifkin's balcony and front lawn.
Bill Clinton was old news now. All this sound and furyÂ .Â .Â . about another manicure done by a wanna-be Valley GirlÂ .Â .Â . all this Sturm und DrangÂ .Â .Â . all this kvetchingÂ .Â .Â .Big deal!It wasn't Farrah.
Hillary Lives, Tammy Wynette Dies
“I don't think he can be magnanimous,” Linda Tripp said. “It's not him. He admitted as much to you.”
“You mean monogamous?” Monica said.
One of the many cheesy ironies in the whole lurid, sleazy melodrama was that as the president transmogrified into the Big Creep, Hillary was reborn as Saint Hillary. Because while, if you were a man, you couldn't run on holes, you could, if you were a married woman, go a long way on scorned holes.
The woman who told us she was not Tammy Wynette stood by her red-faced, finger-jabbing man, and Americans, both men and women, loved her for it. Women loved her because many of them knew that their own husbands were cheating. Men loved her because she wasn't leaving her husband, thereby justifying what they were telling their own wives, if forced to: Honey, you know how much I love you and the kids. It didn't mean anything, honey. It was just sex.
We were asked to believe that Hillary was shocked and wounded by her husband's dalliance with the thong-snapping, Altoid-sucking Monica. We were asked to believe that Hillary's marriage was shattered by her priapic beast of a husband. We were asked to believe that the First Family needed time for healing. Saint Hillary and her husband appeared in church; he even had a Bible in handâand Saint Hillary wore dark shades, beneath which, Americans just knew, there were hot, angry, and martyred tears. And most of us wanted to believe it. We wanted to because the alternative was worse.
The alternative was this: The only part of Lewinsky even surprising to Hillary was the cigar. She knew the man she stood by. She knew him when she married him; she asked her dad to go down to Arkansas when Bill was campaigning, to try to make sure he kept his pants zipped. She wasn't stupid. She knew that the Arkansas state troopers drove him to Gennifer's apartment (with its zebra-striped couches). She knew about the girl in the basement of the statehouse. She knew that his jogs detoured into the bushes. But she didn't care anymore. Maybe, in the beginning, when she sent her dad down there. But not anymore. Her husband was an animal. It didn't matter what he didÂ .Â .Â . as long as it didn't explode on the front page and on the evening newsÂ .Â .Â . and embarrass her and Chelsea.
Hillary and Bill Clinton had a cynical deal, whose roots were found in the idealism they'd shared in the sixties. They thought they could make this country, the country they loved, a better place. He'd run for office and she'd be there hand in hand with him. They'd share the power, and as long as they shared it, as long as he listened to her about public affairs, he could have his own private ones. She'd stand by her manÂ .Â .Â . and he'd stand tumescent, telling others to “kiss it.”
He liked the deal. He had a smart wife with a passion for making this a better America, a savvy political theorist who wasn't afraid to take the gloves off against the forces of right-wing Republicanism, which were trying to undo the many legal and political victories achieved since the sixties. Hillary had real, heartfelt, and thought-out beliefs that weren't dependent on polls. She was a huge asset to have in the room when the subject was the state of the state or the state of the union. She was a real partner to him in a conference room, which is where she belonged, as surely as Gennifer belonged in a bedroom.
She liked the deal. She had a charismatic husband with a gift for eye contact and one-on-one, ten-second empathy. He was a relentless campaigner. He shook hands with fire hydrants and waved at telephone poles. He could work a room better than anyone she'd ever seen, a Method actor playing out a redemptive, lift-your-spirits drama on an endless rubber-chicken circuit.
No wonder all those bimbos got dewy-eyed just shaking his hand. There was something sexual about the way he touched people and seduced them into pulling the ballot lever. She knew she didn't have his easeâhislubricityâshe had been stiff, wallflowerlike, and dry all of her life. He was like a sleek and dazzlingly waxed Cadillac. Well, fine. Then she'd drive it. Drive that Cadillac all the way to the White House and make sure it didn't turn into an Edsel. She believed in public service. If the price of doing good, of making this a better America, was letting him be privately serviced by white-trash mechanics in zebra-striped service stations, so be it.
There was one part of the deal that was dicey. He couldn't ever leave her while he was in office. He couldtalkabout leaving her (he did with Gennifer and with Monica), but he couldn'tdoitÂ .Â .Â . not if he wanted to stay in office. All of his polls said that if he broke up with her, he'd be history. Nor could he allow her to leave him. Dick Morris was adamant that no president could survive White House divorce. So all he could do was talk about it, playing with the notion, teasing the possibility of a life without Hillary in his own mind, and then dismissing it with a self-deprecating joke. He'd have to pee twenty times a day at a certain age, he told Monica. True, but he also knewâhot damn!âthat he'd still be getting it up.
He also knew he couldn't afford to piss Hillary offÂ .Â .Â . too much. He needed her for his presidency and he needed her to shape his policiesÂ .Â .Â . and he knew that she knew how much he was screwing around. This was a woman who read everything, who had her own network of mostly women friends, street-smart and cynically idealistic political operatives who heard everything and told her everything. Yeah, she threw things sometimes and called him names, but she wasn't going anywhere. She was running the country with him. She was “Mrs. President Mary Todd Clinton.” They were partners to better America. She couldn't get a gig like that anywhere else, with anybody else. There was no other gig like that in the whole world. So he was safe. He could piss her offÂ .Â .Â . just not too much.
Then it almost hit the fan in 1992, in New Hampshire. Gennifer, the slut! She had tapes! He lied and denied and somehow got away with it. Partly thanks to Gennifer herself making money off of all this with the tabloids. (Thank God for women who needed money; their credibility was destroyed by the dollars men paid them.) Partly, he got away with it because60 Minutessent simpatico and mild-mannered Steve Kroft instead of that junkyard watchdog Mike Wallace. But mostly he got away with it because of Hillary. She sat there holding his hand. She put a dollop of hominy and a teaspoon of grits into her midwestern voice. She stood by her man. He lied with his words, but it was Hillary's lieâwith her eyes, her body language, her handsâthat got him off.
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There were moments when Monica first hit Drudge's Web site that he thought it was the ball game. The details terrified him. Would the details get out? The death of his presidencyâhistorical ignominyâlay in the details.
If this could be spun into an “affair” with a young womanâwell, maybe there was some light at the end of the tunnel. But the details he remembered all too clearly and fearfullyâthe cigar, all the jacking offâwould Monica give them the details? Would the details be in that smug, self-righteous, pompous dork's report? If the details wound up on the front page, how would Hillary handle it? Would his own daughter have to know that he put a cigar in there and then put it into his mouth and said, “Tastes good”? He had no choice but to lie. The details were Freddy Krueger hiding in the closet.
So Monica would have to be turned into trailer trash, too, just like Paula and Gennifer. She was a stalker. She was neurotic; she was sick; she needed psychiatric help; she couldn't be believed! Those twisted, perverse details that she fabricated out of whole cloth showed how sick she was! A cigar indeed! Right out of Krafft-Ebing! Beverly Hills trailer trash!
So he denied it to everyoneâto Hillary, to Chelsea, to usâforcefully, emotionally, looking us in the eye, an outraged, innocent man, falsely accused. We said to ourselves, Maybe he really is innocent. Look how angry he is. Sure, politicians lie, but with this kind of vehemence? This kind of passion? This baldly? Right in our faces? Nixon's lame “I am not a crook” defense sounded like a lie when he said itâflat, dispassionate, masked words. But Clinton's words were fighting words: a guy sitting in a bar, ready to come across the table at you if you said it again.
Hillary was equally convincing. “A vast right-wing conspiracy.” Sure! Groovy! Right on! Power to the people! We knew they were out thereâthe conspiracy nutbags and abortion clinic bombers and militiamen and the flag-bedraped bigots and racists and homophobes. It made sense they wanted to get Bill Clinton, who was one of us. They wanted to get him because he was one of us. Because he dodged the draft and loved blacks and talked about gay people being in the army. They wanted to get him because they were still pissed off about the shit storm we'd unleashed in the streets thirty years ago. They were still pissed off that we'd ended that stupid and bloody and senseless war in Vietnam they had so much fun with.
When theStarr Reportcame out, Bill Clinton's worst nightmare came true, and then went awayÂ .Â .Â . like he'd had a nightmare about having a nightmare. The details were there all right. The cigar, the tongue, the Altoids, the onanism into the sink, and onto Nancy Hernreich's couch. But they were buried in footnotes and addenda.
The mistake Starr made politically wasn't that his report was too salacious. The mistake he made politically was that he wasafraidof making it too salacious. So he buried the details, the Freddy Krueger details Bill Clinton was most afraid of, in small print in thousands of pages. He never brought all those poisonous little pellets of sleaze together in the body of his report. He never asked if the man in the Oval Office needed to be removed to get some hasty therapy.
Even though the details were out, the sordid nature of the details themselves came to Bill Clinton's defense. They were the blow jobs that rocked the worldâbad enough for parents sitting at the dinner table to ask, “What did you do in school today?” only to hear, “Mom, what's oral sex?” in reply. But a cigar? The president of the United States sitting there playing with himself? On the front page? On the evening news? Are you kidding me?
And it didn't happen, either. It was as though the squalid nature of Bill Clinton's own actions was getting him off the hook. It was much safer and sanitized for the media to spin it as an affair, to cosmeticize, almost romanticize it, to put a Hollywood gloss on it, instead of showing the harsh, shadowy black-and-white reality: a middle-aged man using a young woman as a piece of meat.
Hillary, we were told straight-faced by her aides, didn't even read theStarr Report. Right. Her partner, that sleek Cadillac that she drove to the White House, was in danger of being booted and towed, and we were asked to believe that she didn't even bother to read the citation. She was allegedly off wonking over policy, making Post-its for the millennium.
No recent First Lady had been humiliated this way. Pat Nixon had been humiliated and had turned to the bottle, buthishumiliation never reflected directly on her. Lady Bird Johnson knew that LBJ was using Bobby Baker's whoors, but she didn't have to read about it in the papers. No one knew that JFK was bringing three hookers at a time into his hotel suites. And if George Bush had a special friend who'd been his secretary for a long time, wellÂ .Â .Â . but none of them had used the Oval Office itself, the tabernacle of America's government, as a four-dollar-an-hour motel room. None of them had been caught spilling themselves on the White House sinks and couches. Some of them had smoked cigars, butÂ .Â .Â .
I wondered if Hillary feared in those darkest days that her husband would wind up like Spiro Agnew, bribed with a bagful of frozen steaks, living reclusively on international flights and in the desert until the day he died. Or as a new partner at Dreamworks, keeping a twinkly eye on that new development girl with the nipple ring.
But she stood by him, wearing her grieving woman's shades, playing out the whole touchy-feely opÃ©ra bouffe of healing and forgiveness, pretending that Lewinsky was a mortar to her heart, that she really hadn't known. Hillary was a smart woman playing dumb to keep herself looking like the victim she had never been, knowing that her Saint Hillary incarnation was playing just fine in Peoria and upstate New York.
She even got Chelsea, the daughter she loved, to play a crucial public part in this extraordinary family soap opera. When she and Bill went vacationing in Martha's Vineyard, when we were all microscopically watching their every little twitch (Was Hillary holding his hand? How close was she standing to him?), she somehow got Chelsea to go up and down the reception line that was waiting for them. There was Chelsea, truly the innocent victim, shaking hands with the folks, pressing the flesh near her dad, smiling like an old pol, a true Clinton. The message we were meant to receive was clear. If Chelsea forgave him for his inner squalor and his lies, shouldn't we? It was the60 MinutesGennifer Flowers ploy, shamelessly reenacted all over again. Hillary had gotten her husband off the first time. Now she'd pimped her daughter to perform the same act.
During the year of Saint Hillary's incarnation, Tammy Wynette died. Her daughters promptly accused her husband of killing the woman who had sung “Stand By Your Man” and made it a household phrase. Was there grisly, dark meaning here? Was that the ultimate fate of women who stood by their men? Would it happen to Hillary, too, someday in a figurative, political sense?
But then police officials cleared Tammy Wynette's husband of any involvement in her death. He, it seemed, had stood by his woman, too. It gave false hope to those who thought Bill Clinton would stand by his.
Hillary, Barry, and Nixon
“Do you know what I have?” Monica said to Linda Tripp. “I hope I didn't throw it away. I have a picture of me from his birthday party but he's like bent overâjust his buttâand it's me looking at his butt.”
Hillary's first political romance, back in her prom-flower sweet-sixteen years, was with the right-wing conservative Barry Goldwater. He was the perfect bridge to her New Left and movement politics of the sixties, even though the cowpoke Arizona senator voted against the Civil Rights Act and would have bombed North Vietnam into a moonscape. I understood Hillary's crush. In 1964, at Ohio University, I wore a Goldwater pin and was a member, like Hillary, of the Young Conservatives. Two years later, I was out in the streets breaking windows at an ROTC office, reading Marcuse and Fanon, and smoking dope.
Hillary and I had a crush on Barry Goldwater not because we shared his sometimes wacko political ideas, but because he was finally what we'd been dreaming about for our America. A politician who was honest. A politician who dared to reveal his humanity in public. A politician who didn't talk magnolias like Lyndon Johnson, or out of all of his orifices like the loathsome Nixon, or put us to sleep with mush-mouthed by gollyâisms like Ukulele Ike. I interviewed and covered Goldwater as a young student reporter during his doomed 1964 campaign for the presidency and remembered the moment in Cleveland's Public Hall that defined him for me. Here were thousands of true-believing, wild-eyed zealots chanting first “Viva!” and “Ole!” and then “We want Barry! We want Barry! We want Barry!” and the candidate stood there watching them as if they were badly behaved orangutans at the zooÂ .Â .Â . and he finally put his arms up and growled, “Well, if you'd just shut up, you'd have Barry!” Talk about taking the wind out of sails; the orangutans gaped at him as if they'd been struck by a tranquilizer bullet, and Barry proceeded to laugh at them for twenty seconds in his deep, phlegmy baritone.
If you want to define politics within a rock and roll context, Goldwater, who would inspire Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott and Dick Armey and Tom DeLay to consider public service, was Bill Haley without the curlicue and the belly fat, a cowpoke in suits and horn-rimmed glasses. Some of his fellow senators called him “Senator Branchwater,” and before he began his campaign, he told a reporter, “You know, I don't really have a first-class brain.” When he was nominated, he said, “Christ, we ought to be writing a speech telling them to go to hell and turn it down and let somebody else run.” A thousand psychologists signed a petition saying he'd be “psychologically unfit for office.” He appeared on his campaign plane sometimes wearing a white sombrero with a yellow-and-white-striped Mexican blanket slung over his shoulder.
His enemies, solid LBJ Great Society liberals, many of them formerly JFK aides, feigned horror and shock at some of the cowboy's antics. How could he have waded into a crowd and snarled, “Get that damn baby away from me!” when some mother lifted the thousandth baby of the day to be kissed? How could he have put a sign on his campaign plane that saidBETTER BRINKSMANSHIP THAN CHICKENSHIP? They dug up what they considered damning actions in his personal life, actions that I loved, like taking a minicamera to a party and trying to catch his friends in compromising positions without their mates; putting a microphone and a loudspeaker into the bathroom of his house and booming, “Hi there, honey!” as women guests did their business; floating for hours at the bottom of his pool, a weight bag across his stomach, a snorkel sticking out of the water because, he said, “I get damn tired of answering the damn phone.” There was also the matter of his behavior as a city councilman in Phoenix. He kept a toy set of windup teeth near him and when someone rambled on too long, Barry would set the teeth clattering (the perfect Christmas gift for future president Bill Clinton).
I was depressed when Barry Goldwater was decimated in the election, my mood brightened only by the comments made by his vice presidential running mate, the obscure and abysmally undistinguished New York congressman William Miller: “What we have said was apparently little noted by the electorate, and certainly will not be long remembered. But it is for us the living, and not the dead drunk, to here resolve: That this government, of the birds, by the birds, and for the birds, shall not continue on this earth.” Barry's response to Miller was typically right on point: “No campaign crew in history drank more booze, lost more laundry, or bet more money on card games than his.”
Yet, ultimately, through the years, I did remember, and so did many others, two things about landslide loser Barry GoldwaterÂ .Â .Â . even as I got involved in the movement politics of the sixties and seventies. He was right about Vietnam when in his nomination acceptance speech he said, “Yesterday it was Korea; tonight it's Vietnam. Make no bones of this. Don't try to sweep this under the rug. We are at war in Vietnam. And yet the PresidentÂ .Â .Â . refuses to sayÂ .Â .Â . whether or not the objective over there is victory. And his secretary of defense continues to misinform and mislead the American people.” (It wasn't until 1997 that Robert McNamara would finally admit misleading and deceiving us. And he did it in a bookâfor which he was paid a lot of money.)
Barry was also right about Walter Jenkins, whose situation presented a relevant and somewhat analogous issue to ponder in the year of Bill Clinton's impeachment travail. In 1964, White House aide Walter Jenkins was Lyndon Johnson's closest adviser, his personal assistant. Married and the father of six children, Jenkins was arrested at the YMCA, a block from the White House, for committing a homosexual actâa month before the election. Reporters learned of the arrest and also of a previous arrest for the same act, in which the charge read “Pervert.” Walter Jenkins was a scandalous front-page story in the most fevered days of a presidential election. Against the counsel of his advisers, Barry Goldwater issued orders that Walter Jenkins's arrest not be used in the campaign. (Johnson, on the other hand, ordered a poll before he issued “a statement of sympathy” for his old friend.)
As much as Hillary and I loved Barry Goldwater, we loathed Richard Nixon, his successor as the Republican standard-bearer, with an equal fervor. “Richard Nixon,” Barry Goldwater had said, “is the most dishonest man I've ever met.” Harry Truman agreed. “Richard Nixon,” he said, “is a no-good lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in.” Yes, that was exactly right, and it was the basic reason my generation had such a visceral and deep distrust of him. Nixon literally was, as Barry had said, “a four-square liar.”
We had watched Tricky Dick as we grew up, a shadowy presence in a sharkskin suit on our evening news. His body language was stiff and stilted, like Ed Sullivan's or like Charlie Chaplin burlesquing Hitler inThe Great Dictator. His Pinocchio nose seemed longer to us every day, the greasy mangrove of Brylcreem atop his head a nest of crawly things. His muscles moved independently of one another: the arms sweeping up as though jerked by puppet strings, stiffly held V-for-victory fingers thrust at us the way Nelson Rockefeller used to thrust his middle finger at reporters. His smile was the frozen, gleeful smile of the KGB or Gestapo torturer, about to turn up the current. His eyes were the black holes in a mossy Transylvanian graveyard where bats with furry wings cavorted among gorgons, Gothic crosses, and tombstones. His mouth was another, larger black hole, a mass grave tended by a serpentine tongue that spewed lies and (we later discovered) scabrous four-letter racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic words.
That's how I felt and that's how my generation felt. We loathed the man. We had seen him on television using his wife's “Republican cloth coat” to get himself off a hook we were certain he deserved to hang on. This was a man who was even willing to use his dog, Checkers, to elicit our sympathy. (Visually, Bill Clinton would use Buddy the same way.) This was a man willing to persecute Alger Hiss to further his own career. We thought him an empty, ambitious careerist. He had no heart. He was the personification of the wordphonyto a generation that had grown up believing itself armed with Holden Caulfield's shit detector.
When JFK beat him, we wereÂ .Â .Â . in rapture. We were rid of him, free finally of what seemed to have been a childhood disease, a dark-shadowed presence who was a daily depression. And JFK was ours, even though we weren't of voting age yet, a president with a sense of humor and a real, unstaged laugh, who talked about compassion and the rights of our fellowman, of loving one another, regardless of skin color. As Hubert Humphrey said, JFK “brought form to our amorphous yearnings.”
JFK offered us hope for an America without dark shadows and night creatures prowling the mossy graveyards.TheNight Creature, meanwhile, was beaten in California even for governor, a loser in his own state. He said, “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Yes,rapture! Nixon was in that hole in the graveyard himself now, politically dead and buried, and we busied ourselves trying to help build the golden place called Camelot.
And then, in one furious apocalyptic momentÂ .Â .Â .six gray horses, followed by the traditional riderless black horse. The bats and demons and gorgons from the graveyard were back, and they took JFK from us. After a few yearsâLBJ and that surreal mink-trimmed ten-gallon StetsonâNixon crawled out of his political grave. Two other bodies later (Martin and Bobby), Richard Nixon, the Night Creature, was president of the United States. (He beat Humphrey in 1968 with one of the earliest uses of negative television advertising: a shot of Hubert laughing over images of cities burning, protesters being beaten, and stacks of dead GIs in Vietnam.) We were of voting age by then. We were old enough to hurl bricks that broke windows. We were cynical enough to answer his four-letter expletives with our own shrill ones.
Everything he stood for was symbolized to us by the goofy uniforms he designed for the White House police. Double-breasted tunics trimmed with gold braid and gold buttons, worn with helmets that looked like they belonged in the Ukrainian army. Some of us even stopped watching “Laugh-In” when they allowed him on the show. “Sock it to me!” he said, and the sound of exploding TV sets was figuratively heard across the land. Considering the rage we felt toward him, Nixon was lucky some acid-burned, mind-blown one of us didn't frag himâDICK NIXON BEFORE HE DICKS YOUour signs said. Dick Tuck, our merry political prankster, even hired two obviously pregnant women to march outside the Republican National Convention with a sign that saidNIXON'S THE ONE!
We chortled knowingly when novelist Robert Coover revealed the real Nixon to us inThe Public Burning. Coover's Richard Nixon said, “I'm a private man and always have been. Formal. When I have sex I like to do it between the sheets in a dark room. When I take a shit I lock the door. My chest is hairy but I don't show it off. I don't even like toeatin publicÂ .Â .Â .Â .” And we absolutely rejoiced when Coover revealed the scar that made Nixon tick: a brutal anal rape committed by Uncle Sam himself. Nixon: “Â âNo!' I cried. âStop!' but too late, he was already lodged deep in my rectum and ramming it in deeperâoh Christ! It felt like he was trying to shove the whole goddamn Washington Monument up my ass!Â .Â .Â . I lay there on the spare-room floor, gurgling, sweating, half-senseless, bruised and swollen and stuffed like sausage, thinking: âWell, I've been through the fireÂ .Â .Â .Â . I recalled Hoover's glazed stare, Roosevelt's anguished tics, Ike's silly smile. I should have guessed.'Â ”
No dummy, Nixon knew how fervently we loathed him. He was our enemy and we were his. He described us as “bums” and “derelicts.”
We defined ourselves to be everything that Richard Nixon wasn't. Weweresex, drugs, and rock and roll. We believed in the buttons that adorned our scrawny bodies:TUNE IN, TURN ON, DROP OUT; DON'T TRUST ANYONE OVER THIRTY; BURN POT, NOT PEOPLE; MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR; STAMP OUT PAY TOILETS; IF IT MOVES, FONDLE IT.
We traded in our neckties for beads and ankhs. Peace symbols dangled around our necks. We got rid of our blue button-down shirts and wore embroidered denim or denim jackets with an upside-down American flag on our backs. We wore fringed Wild Bill Hickok coats and navy-surplus pea coats. (Bill Clinton had a long one when he came back from Oxford.) Those of us who worked in offices where beards and mustaches were banned bought fake ones for the weekend. We wore no underwear, and the funkier our bell-bottoms looked, the hipper they were, especially if there was a copy of Chairman Mao'sLittle Red Bookin the back pocket. We never read the bookâit was in sync with yelling, “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win”âbut we kept it in our pockets the way we kept a rubber in our wallets. We were too zonked to read much of anything, although the more scholarly were memorizing passages from Tolkien andSiddharthaand Kahlil Gibran.
We swore by our genitals the way Nixon swore by his “old Quaker mother.” We were our own vast Bay of Pigsâroiled up and flooding the Berlin walls of Puritan resistance. The Stones'Sticky Fingerscover featured a real zipper with a bulge to the left of it. John and Yoko were naked on the cover ofTwo Virgins. Yoko made a movie calledBottoms, starring 365 naked ones. Andy Warhol painted with his willard, as did Tom of Finland, who said, “If my cock did not stand up when I was working on a drawing, I could not make the drawing work.” The Plaster Casters turned willards into art objects. One member of the troupe would get a famous rock willard interested; then another caster would quickly dunk the interested willard into a malt shaker of caulk. The plaster willards (Hendrix's reputed to be the largest) were exhibited as holy relics at underground art shows.
We wore jeans so tight, they cut the circulation off, and we stuffed Kleenex or Kotex or a beanbagdown there. Eldridge Cleaver, former minister of information for the Black Panthers, commercialized that idea by manufacturing “Cleavers”âpants with codpieces. (The Panthers, in love with guns, were always willard-focused.) We celebrated the Age of Aquarius by attending be-ins where, within minutes or hours, we usuallywerein, though we often didn't know each other's names. We put our sexual show on the road in comfy Volkswagen campers, which freed us from backseat immobility and leg cramps. We discovered water beds and Slip'N Slide, a twenty-five-foot plastic sheet that we'd wet down and use for intertwined skinny-dipping on summer nights in the backyard. We found more intimate uses for our new electric toothbrushes. We yelled “No!” in chorus when, on-screen, Dustin Hoffman said to Mrs. Robinson, “Do you think we could say a few words to each other first this time?” The Noxzema commercial was our adâ“Take it off! Take it all off!”âthe way “Lay Lady Lay” was our song. We made Burt Reynolds a star after he showed a little pubic hair inCosmopolitan.
The emblematic sixties moment may not have been Woodstock or the Summer of Love, but a scene at a Village club in New York. Hendrix was up onstage, playing his guitar. Morrison and his date, Janis, were in the audience. Jimi was stoned and Morrison and Janis were stoned and drunk. Morrison got up, went to the front of the stage, unzipped Jimi, and put his willard into his mouth. Jimi kept playing. Joplin ran to the stage, tackled Morrison, and the two of them swung at each other. Jimi zipped himself up and kept playing.
When we weren't flaunting our genitals, we were getting high. Marijuana was as important to us as catsup and cottage cheese were to Nixon. We fired up our doobies with Smile lighters. When we ran out of grass, we smoked dried banana-skin scrapings, oregano, corn husk, and pine needles. Marijuana scented America's air. Even some of the older folks got into the zeitgeist of it. The socialites Alfred and Betsy Bloomingdale hosted a partyâtheir guests: the Jack Bennys, the George Burnses, and the governor of California, Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy. According to his former executive assistant, Alfred, always a live wire, lit up a joint and passed it around. The governor and Nancy and Jack and George all took a couple of hits, inhaled, and then said, not surprisingly, that they didn't feel a thing. (The same Ronald Reagan who at the same time was ordering his National Guardsmen to use the same skin-stinging powder against us in the streets that was being used against the Vietcong in the jungle.) It seemed like everybody was getting high somehow: Even the astronauts smuggled minibottles of brandy ontoApollo.
Sex, drugs, and rock and roll defined our politics, as well. John Lennon's words were a manifesto: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that. I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go firstârock and roll or Christianity.” We burned bras, draft cards, and American flags, burning bridges, we naÃ¯vely thought, to the values our parents had taught us. We attended teach-ins, wearing our most serious faces and our tightest jeans, looking for someone to share a joint with and in-depth exploration of our bodies and the body count so gratifyingly far away in Vietnam. Moratorium Day was our callow response to Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. One hundred thousand of us, longhaired and unwashed, streaming past the White House, candles in our hands, as Nixon Peeping-Tommed us from behind his tacky gold-flecked White House drapes. In our juvenile, messianic arrogance, we didn't care that while we were having fun protesting, getting high, getting laid, our black and farm boy brothers in Vietnam were writing things on their helmets likeWE ARE THE UNWILLING, LED BY THE UNQUALIFIED, DOING THE UNNECESSARY, FOR THE UNGRATEFUL.
We were feverishly proud of being part of a political movementâThe Movementâbut even our politics were intertwined with sex. “The sexual and the political are one,” Bernardine Dohrn, one of the leaders of the Weatherpeople said, and her words came from the horse's mouth. Because while the media vamped Jane Fonda as the sex symbol of our revolution, we knew that was crap. Jane was a movie star, a movement public-relations commando. Our pinup girl, our real babe in bandoliers, was Bernardine, leading her troops in what she called “Wargasms.” As another Weatherpeople guerrilla, Mark Rudd, said, “Power doesn't flow out of the barrel of a gun; power flows out of Bernardine's cunt.”
She was twenty-six years old, tall, long-legged, tanned, brown-eyed, voluptuous. She was pouty, in-your-face sensuous. All the men I knew in the sixties and early seventies dreamed of “getting it on” with Bernardine. She appeared on protest stages in front of tie-dyed seas wearing a brown minijumpsuit with thigh-high Florentine leather boots; barefoot in a tight miniskirt, her shirt open to her navel; in a purple skirt with a tight orange sweater with buttons that saidCUNNILINGUS IS COOL, FELLATIO IS FUN; in hip-hugging jeans and a sheer low-cut top, her hair dyed the color of Ho Chi Minh's flag; in a black motorcycle helmet and tear-gas gloves, playing with a steel pipe the way Mick played with his mike. She staged formal Weatherpeople orgies we were alldyingto be invited to. She was our clenched-fist, red-hot Fidelista, who took a breast out one day as a man was looking at it and said, “You like this tit? Take it.” Bernardine was our own sweet thing, our own pink shot, the sex bomb who called herself “a crazy motherfucker” and said she wanted to “scare the shit out of honky America.”
We were a counterculture, an America within Amerika, arrogant, self-righteous, even jingoistic about our values, heroes, and music. “I Can't Get No Satisfaction” was our “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; “Sympathy for the Devil” our “Star-Spangled Banner”; Woodstock our D day; Altamont our Pearl Harbor; Dylan our Elvis; Tim Leary our Einstein; Che Guevara our Patrick Henry.
We did not have “our” Richard Nixon. It was a shared faith among us that our generation, committed to letting it all hang out, to the truth setting us free, would never produce a Richard Nixon, a president who would look us in the eye, jab his finger in our faces, and lie.
Yeah, there were a lot of usâa whole lot of usâand the Night Creature knew we were a lot of trouble and turned his worm-encrusted ghouls loose on usÂ .Â .Â . Ulasciewicz and Segretti and Liddy and Hunt and Haldeman and EhrlichmanÂ .Â .Â . and the cross-dressing, sanctimonious pedophile, J. Edgar Hoover. The Night Creature gave frenzied, polarizing speeches (written by Pat Buchanan and William Safire), whetting the living dead's appetite for bloodâourbloodâshed by police batons and billy clubs and National Guardsmen, until they finally shot and killed four of us at Kent State. But it was all starting to come apart by then; Nixon had lived and been resurrected, thanks to his lies, and he was about to die (once again) as a result of them.
Hillary, God bless her, was in the front lines, working for the House Impeachment Committee, working endless hours, helping put together the case that would drive him from office. The Night Creature's own tapes drove the stake through his heart. Not only did they confirm his role in the Watergate cover-up but they showed America that the Oval Office had become the Night Creature's rat's nestâa place of filth and dead fingernails and foul-smelling wetness. It was Barry Goldwater, in poetic justice, who pushed the stake the final inch into the Night Creature's black heart by telling him he'd be impeached if he didn't resign and by saying he was going to vote for impeachment himself. (By the nineties, Barry was firmly on our side, saying, “Jesse Helms is off his rocker,” referring to Ronald Reagan as “just an actor,” and warning, “The Religious Right scares the hell out of me.” In 1994, he was named “Civil Libertarian of the Year” by the Arizona ACLU for his support of the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians and his commitment to the reproductive rights of women.)
Driving a stake through the Night Creature's heart was such sweet revenge! They had taken JFK from us and then Martin and BobbyÂ .Â .Â . and the Night Creature had come out of his darkness and now we'd cast him back there where he belonged. Thanks to the efforts of Hillary and Barry and millions of us who'd united to throw this “four-square liar” out of office. At the moment of his resignation, I had sat in an office atRolling Stone, with the entire staff there, undrugged for once, watching the Night Creature on TV flipping us his final V-for-victory fingers. Across from me sat a young intern who'd bought champagne for everyone. Bobby Shriver was JFK's nephew, and as he watched the set, he had tears streaming down his face. I started to cry, too, as I watched Bobby.
I saw Richard Nixon in 1993, months before he died, in the dining room of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Laguna Niguel, California. He was dining with friends at a table not far from us and I watched him as he ate.
I had met him once before, as a young reporter covering a campaign stop he was making in the lily white Cleveland suburb of Fairview Park in 1968. He was on remote control that day at a press conference, his eyes dead, until I asked him if he knew that Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers had just won his thirtieth game. Nixon came briefly alive, asking about the score and the number of McLain's strikeouts, the frozen smile replaced by something faintly human. “I'm a big Denny McLain fan,” he said. Neither of us knew that day in 1968 that McLain would wind up in jail for pimping and gambling and that Nixon would escape jail only thanks to Gerry Ford's kamikaze pardon. The day his pardon was announced, I was waiting for Evel Knievel, yet another goon, to rocket across the Snake River in IdahoÂ .Â .Â . and when word of the Night Creature's pardon worked its way through the unwashed, longhaired, outlaw crowd, a bit of the old ultraviolence infected the boys: Windows were broken, bonfires lit, teeth smashed out, and women stripped and held high at the edge of the abyss-fronting cliffs so they could watch Knievel fly. Evil was in the air the day Evel crashed.
As I watched Richard Nixon in the dining room of the Ritz-Carlton in 1993, so many years later, he looked feeble, beaten, and old. I was wearing a sport coat and a T-shirt and tight black women's leotards stuck into my cowboy boots. Jeans were outlawed in the dining room and I had no other pants to wear, so my wife had lent me one of her leotards. As Nixon passed us on the way out, I got up and shook his hand and wished him well. Maybe it was my way of making personal peace with the Night Creature as he approached his final and unnegotiable grave. But Nixon just kept staring at my wife's tight black leotards on my burly frame and made the kind of empty pleasantries he's probably still making in hell.
After Nixon left, I reflected that maybe that's why I'dreallygotten up to shake his handÂ .Â .Â . a final act of protest for his weary eyes:Yeah! Dig it, Dick! This is what happened to your AmericaÂ .Â .Â .Â . It's a place where men wear cowboy boots and leotards.
The President Shrieks and Shouts
“You know,” Linda Tripp said, “I wouldn't mind seeing him have to admit in public that he has a problem.”
“My God, I'd die,” Monica said.
There was a chancre growing on the presidency, growing daily. Gone wasâsure as hell!âany hope for an eternal flame. Gone were the William Jefferson Clinton postage stamp and his beet red mug on future ten-dollar bills. Gone were the USSClintonand the Clinton F-54 bomber and Clinton freeways and boulevards, national airports, promenades and malls. Gone were the William Jefferson Clinton Pavilion in LA and the Clinton Memorial Tower in New York. Gone was the Nobel Peace Prize, although, thanks to Jann Wenner, he probably still had a shot at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
His contributions to America would be overshadowed now by his contributions to the English language: “to Clinton”âto parse and lie skillfully; “to get a Clinton”âto receive fellatio. His finger-pointing television denial would be as famous as the Zapruder film. Hugging Monica in her beret would get as many laughs as the Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly honeymoon video.
It was an extraordinarily painful way for a man to step on his own willard. He'd been the Comeback Kid since the day in high school when, forgetting about a science project due that morning, he'd bought a hot dog and a piece of tin and put them out in the sun. Presto! A solar hot dog cooker. But what could the Comeback Kid do now to get out of this one? Could heÂ .Â .Â .
Stonewall? Make a Checkers speech? Claim it was executive privilege? Borrow Ted Kennedy's Chappaquiddick neck brace? Hide behind Betty Currie the way Nixon hid behind Rose Mary Woods? Crawl into a bottle like Joe McCarthy? Get electroshock like Thomas Eagleton? Decompose like Ed Muskie? Blame it on Addison's disease? Boo-hoo like Jimmy Swaggart? Impregnate Hillary? Go down on Patricia Ireland? Dahmer Linda Tripp? Kopechne Paula Jones? Ned Beatty Kenneth W. Starr? Defenestrate Helen Thomas? Horsewhip Maureen Dowd? Deep-six his copy of Vox? Move to Paraguay? Move to Malibu? Stop hanging out with Sharon, Barbra, and Eleanor? Put a sweater on and try a fireside chat? Flagellate himself in Times Square?Cut it off?
If all that wasn't bad enough, that dumb, miserable Paula Jones, turned out now by the right-wingers covering her legal costs, said she could describe “distinguishing characteristics” about Willard.
He'd be out there raising money to build a better America, gushing charisma, and he'd see people looking at himÂ .Â .Â .funny. He knew they were thinking about Willard. Was Willard too small, like Hitler's? A pencil? A knockwurst? A thimble? A mushroom? A horseradish? An olive? It wasn't fair! He was giving his constituents words and policies they could rock on and they were looking at his willard! (It was as though his fly had been permanently unzipped by the headlines. Would he, for the rest of his life, be permanently looking down, checking it?) Lyndon Johnson had scrotal skin hanging halfway to his knees and no one knew aboutthat!No one was looking at LBJ's willard.
His own lawyer, Bob Bennett, that self-righteous prig Bill's brother, started talking to his Hot Springs buddies, his oldest friends, guys he'd been in high school gyms with, asking them about Willard, saying if Jones really knew something known only to those who'd been healed, blessed, ministered toÂ .Â .Â . Bennett almost went into a rest room with him once but chickened out at the last minute. Well, at least Bennett didn't go to Hillary to ask if she faintly remembered anything that wasÂ .Â .Â .
No, Bennett went to his doctors, former and present, and they swore out affidavits that Willard was just fine, thank you. Bennett told him he had to see the Obi-Wan Kenobi of willards, the urologist who'd studied Reagan's and Bush's privates, and he had to sit there as this “unbiased Republican expert” poked and pulled and squeezed. But eventhatwasn't enough! Jones's lawyers said what ifÂ .Â .Â . what ifÂ .Â .Â . whatever Jones saw appeared only when Willard was erect? There was talk he'd have to sit there in front of Obi-Wan Kenobi teasing Willard until he stood up to his full, proud, and hungry height. But at least Bennett, aware of what he called “the ugh factor” here, finally didn't allow that. Bill Clinton remembered Al Gore's words: “A moral compass should always point north,” and knew that was a good part of his problem. Willard had always pointed north, north of the North Pole.
It was a sixties problem once again, a problem the men of my generation had struggled with now for thirty years. We were always soÂ .Â .Â . intoÂ .Â .Â . our willards. For many years, before women saw through our self-obsessed, preening nonsenseâit was more than thirty years before John Wayne Bobbitt's was sliced off by his wifeâwe acted like we were saving the world with our willards. But instead of saving the world, we got into a lot of trouble. Women got tired of hearing about how many women the Kielbasa ManâWilt Chamberlain (twenty thousand)âor Warren Beatty or JFK or Mick had usedÂ .Â .Â . and they got justifiably pissed off.
Truth was, we justhadto give our willard room, dangle it out there, and stick it intosomething. Maybe we were suffering from Clara Bow syndrome, the inability to say no in any sexual situation (Clara couldn't say no to the USC football team). Maybe it was erotomania or some form of priapism. It got hard. It made us uncomfortable. It had to be softenedÂ .Â .Â . by anybody and everybody. Some of us, even those of us with high public profiles, had had a difficult time with ourÂ .Â .Â .condition. Geraldo Rivera's description of himself fit many of us: “a grunting, voracious pig in heat.”
I saw Michael Douglas, whom I'd previously met, in the bar of the Westwood Marquis, shit-faced, sitting next to, and allover, a sultry, nymphet-like sex bomb. I finally went up to Michael from across the bar and said, “Hey, Michael, man, get a room!” And he laughed and did. A few years later, Michael's wife walked in on him at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, while Michael was in frenzied flagrante delicto with his wife's best friend, and his wife left him. Michael checked himself into an addiction clinic in Arizona and got up in front of the group and said, “I am a sexaholic” and confessed everythingâall the way back to admiring Kirk, one of the greatest swordsmen of all time. (One of his fellow addicts taped the confession and sold it to the tabloids.)
I saw Jeff Bridges, the compleat sixties guy, on theJagged Edgeset, begging to do the first scene of the movie himself, the scene where a naked woman is tied to the bed and murdered by a ski-masked figure. “Jeff,” the director told him. “You're in a ski mask. You don't have to do this scene yourself; your stand-in can do it.” But Jeff did it himself, six times, over and over, insisting on doing it “till we get it right.”
And I saw the penultimate sixties marriage blow up, the countercultural royal couple in Splitsville, over that damn zipper. Jane Fonda was a ballsy and stunningly beautiful woman, and Tom Hayden was a ballsy, if geeky-looking, man, the former head of Students for a Democratic Society, author of the Port Huron Statement, our generation's call to arms, one of the Chicago Eight, our Magnificent Seven. And Hayden, the putz, the pimply-faced shanty Irish putz, with Jane Fonda in his bed, still couldn't keep it zipped. It was like cheating on the holy grail of female sexuality, grabbing for the brass ass when you were already king of the world. But he grabbed anyway, and Jane left him, forced by California's divorce laws to pay tens of millions of dollars to this idiot who'd wronged her.
As we headed toward the millennium, sixties men had been made to feel like the pigs we often were. The truth was that in the battle between the sexes, many of us were war criminals.Cocksmanbecame a pejorative word, though a lot of men were still playing the same old self-centered, sexually abusive game. They weren't talking anymore, though, about banging their brains out and moving on to the next piece of tail. They were wiser now, and more one-on-one sensitivity-savvy. They were talking about “failure to communicate”Â .Â .Â . “lack of commitment”Â .Â .Â . “emotional fatigue”Â .Â .Â . before they moved on to the next piece of tail. They kept cutesy stuffed animals in their bedrooms to demonstrate their own nonmacho and cuddly naturesÂ .Â .Â . and to disarm suspicious, liberated soon-to-be victims.
Bill Clinton had learned that new language, too. Even while he was still using Monica as a sex toyânot her lips anymore, but her voice, in two-hour marathon phone sexâhe bought her gifts: a stuffed animal, joke sunglasses, a small box of chocolates. He even let her play with his new puppy, Buddy, now that she wasn't playing directly with him, only indirectly over the phone. He wasn't one of those abusive sixties men anymore. He didn't just tell Monica to get down on her knees. She meant something to himâat least a small box of chocolates. And then, naturally, when he got bored with her, when he started entertaining thoughts of Eleanor Mondale maybeâthe daughter of the former vice president was certainly safer and prettier than Monica, whom Vernon Jordan, a man with a keen eye for horse flesh, dismissed as “flaky and chubby”âthe breakup with Monica would be in civilized nineties termsâin this case, using the world's oldest June/December dismissal: I'm too old for you, sweetheart, I'll be peeing twenty times a day and you'll still be beautiful. (What could he sayâflaky and chubby?)
The end of another tragic romance in the nineties, weepy and touchy-feely, as the non-cocksman gives her one last “Christmas kiss” in the cramped porn-cubicle that was the hallway between the Oval Office and his private one. Goodbye, Monica, we had fun, I'll think about you forever, and one night maybe at two fifteen (with Willard) I'll call you, kiddo (wink wink, oink oink).
Everything, Bill Clinton was old enough to know, had a silver lining. Nineteen sixty-eight, for example, was the worst yearâMartin and Bobby and Nixon's election, but stillÂ .Â .Â . it was the year McDonald's put the Big Mac on its menu.But where was the damn silver lining here?
What he felt like doing, he told his chief of staff, Leon Panetta, was punching Kenneth W. Starr in the gut. The preacher's son had turned on an evil, roving spotlight and it had gotten stuck right on his willard. If Reagan was Teflon, then Willard was Velcro.
Bill Clinton was over-the-top enraged about what he aptly called the “drip, drip, drip” from all of this. He wanted to take a swing at somebody the way he'd almost swung at Dick Morris after tackling and knocking him down during the governor's race in Arkansas. He found himself smashing the sides of his chairs while talking to aides, shouting, screaming, shrieking (an aide's description).Goddamn these son of a bitch, right-wing motherfuckers, grouped around the windows of the Texas School Book Depository!
What about Ronald Reagan? Why didn't anybody talk abouthisdamn sexual habits? The father of family values? Reagan told his biographer, Edmund Morris, about all those groupies when he was an actor: “They tore at his clothes, beat on his hotel room door.” He admitted to Morris that when he was an actor, he slept with so many women that one morning he woke up and didn't know who was lying next to him. He didn't tell Morris that even as a young man, he could sometimes have used some of Bob Dole's Viagra. Starlet Jacqueline Parks said, “He really couldn't perform sexually.” Former girlfriend Doris Lilly said, “Intimately, he was nothing memorable.” Ex-wife Jane Wyman put it bluntly: “He was lousy in bed.” The problem seemingly was an old one. Army buddies remembered how Reagan liked to tell gross, embarrassing X-rated jokes in front of women, prompting one woman to tell him finally, “What's the problem, Ronnie? Don't you fuck too good?”
There was even a lot of talk about Nancy Reagan. Had she really gotten her movie parts by sleeping with the head of casting at MGM? Was it possible that in her youth the Ice Queen was a Hollywood bimbo? Did she really entertain the dirtiest old man, Frank Sinatra, who liked to eat eggs sunny-side up off of hookers' breasts, in the White House? During three-hour, do-not-disturb “lunches”? Spencer Tracy, who knew her as an actress, didn't think so. “She projected all the passion of a Good Humor ice cream,” Tracy said. “Frozen, on a stick, and vanilla.”
What about the Reaganadministration? All those hypocritical, pharisee Republicans seemed to have forgotten their own dirty, juicy sex scandal! Never mind the blow jobs and the cigar and the whacking, this one involved genuinely Republican kinks. Beating women with belts, riding them bareback, and drooling. All done by Alfred Bloomingdale, Reagan's close friend and adviser and heir to the department store fortune. Vicki Morgan was seventeen years old when she first catered to Alfred's needs. Alfred was fifty-seven. “There were two women who were nude,” she said, “and I was told to take my clothes off and Alfred was already taking his off. He asked one of the girls to get the equipment, which was Alfred's belt, the ties he wore around his neck and, excuse me, a dildo. He then proceeded to have everyone line up against the wall and beat them with his beltÂ .Â .Â .Â . He'd have these girls crawl on the floor and he would sit on their backsÂ .Â .Â . and drool, okay? I mean, he'd drool!”These hypocritical, pharisee Republicans!Even Dan Quayle was alleged to have had sex with a lobbyist. His wife, Marilyn, defended him by saying, “Dan would rather play golf than have sex any day.”
Jesse Helms, that evil, poisonous troglodyte, was behind it all! The three-judge panel that had appointed Starr was headed by Judge David Sentelle, whose “rabbi” (a word Helms didn't prefer) was Helms. Bill Clinton felt like biting someone's lip off! His mood was even transmitted to the public by his press secretary, Mike McCurry, who, after columnist William Safire called Hillary a “congenital liar,” said that if Bill Clinton weren't president, he'd make a comment “to the bridge of Safire's nose”Â .Â .Â . invoking badly needed positive images of good old nonphilandering, all-American Harry Truman, who'd once threatened to punch out a reporter for criticizing the quality of his daughter's piano playing.
Even as Bill Clinton raged and shrieked and smashed his chair arms, there were other new allegations: A White House makeup person didn't like the way she said he “flirted” with herÂ .Â .Â .Â . One of the stews on the campaign plane said he'd folded his arms and wiggled his finger across her nipple while Hillary was only a few feet away, napping.
It seemed he'd continue to have, in his aide's phrase, more “personal exposure” on this issue, and in his frustration and rage, screaming and shrieking, Bill Clinton wished he could be more like one of his aides, Harold Ickes, who had said to the White House counsel, “You better get this fucking straight and listen up! You better keep your fucking nose out of this! And if you don't like it, you can just go fuck yourself!” God, Bill Clinton thought, how he'd love to say that to Kenneth W. Starr! God, the president of the United States thought, how he'd love to make that speech live, prime-time: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Listen up! Keep your fucking nose out of this! If you don't like it, go fuck yourself!”
It was no fun being around the White House. Imagine: The preacher's son, that sanctimonious wimp, was talking about sending over a search warrantÂ .Â .Â . a search warrant! As if the White House were some kind of crystal meth lab!Â .Â .Â . Looking for Hillary's Rose Law Firm billing records. Then the FBI had come over to fingerprint first Hillary and then himself, the president of the United StatesÂ .Â .Â . the whole deal you see on NYPD BlueÂ .Â .Â . a full roll of every finger, then the palm and the side of the hand. White House staffers were wearing rubber gloves, looking at files they were afraid Starr might want. And all this time, that evil roving spotlight was fixed on the center of his private gravity, the place where he'd led so many hands. He scheduled another trip to L.AÂ .Â .Â .Â . to raise some more cash to better AmericaÂ .Â .Â . to play some more golfÂ .Â .Â . to smoke his cigar in his golf cart.
Time flew fast in L.A., the place where real life was only a few reels long. Nobody in Hollywood cared anymore about Mike DeLuca's blow job, or Farrah Fawcett's defecation, either. Everybody was talking now about the size of MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e drummer Tommy Lee's willard, exposed in a video with Pamela Anderson Lee that was being messengered all over the studios. I got mine by messenger from an executive at Disney in the same package withThe Lion KingandBeauty and the Beast.
The women in Fox's publicity office weren't impressed, though. They had something called the P-fileâa collection of stills taken from the outtakes of movies. Plenty of big male stars. All full-frontal nude. Forget Tommy Lee, the women said. Check out Willem Dafoe. Hurray for Hollywood! The president of the United States found solace in the only place in America, maybe on earth, where people were talking about other willards.
The War on Acid Reflux
“I didn't kiss a boy for four years,” Monica said.
“Really?” Linda asked.
“When I was in high school,” Monica said, “oh, this was like the most depressing time of my life. How depressing is that?”
“Well,” Linda Tripp said, “you sure made up for it, dear.”
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.Let's go to press! It was a million-megaton story. Bill Clinton was hip-deep in the Big Muddy now, under the Tallahatchie Bridge, gasping for air like Brian Jones.
The Pentagon Papers hadn't been as publicized as theStarr Report. Nixon's incursion into Cambodia hadn't gotten as much bad press ashissemi-incursion into Monica. If the failure of Nixon's Vietnamization policy hadn't resulted in calls for Nixon's resignation, then why was his masturbation prompting so many calls forhisresignation? Nixon was guilty of aerial atrocities; all he'd done were oral sodomies. Nixon had had it easy. Well, yes, there was the war and there were all those demonstrations, but Nixon had all those orbitings and moon walks andApollosandSaturn FivesandSurveyors. “I am not a crook” didn't soundthatbad in the context of “Houston, Tranquility Base here; the eagle has landed.”
Bill Clinton had dodged the draft and now found himself the target of a television air war, tap-dancing around land mines on the slippery slopes of a slimy Ho Chi Minh trail, strafed, bombed, barraged by editorialists howling, “Resign! Resign! Resign!” Even Bob Dole had been drawn into the scandal. Dole, the lobbyist now that he always should have been, Monica's next-door neighbor at the Watergate, was handing out doughnuts to the press camped outside, sharing the weekly supply he received for doing Dunkin' Donut ads.
“If you're in big trouble over something,” Dick Morris had said to Bill Clinton before Dick's own disgrace, before Dick's preference for toes shared the same tabloid pages with Marv Albert's werewolf imitation, “the best strategy is to distract 'em.” Or, as Harry Truman said, “If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em.”
But how could Bill Clintondistract 'emorconfuse 'emwhen the media Beast was feeding on this in its own gluttonous wayâ“All news all the time! Continuous twenty-four-hour-a-day coverage!” What could he throw the Beast so it would feed on something or someone else? What could the Beast possibly enjoy more than this feast of food so rich that ratings were skyrocketing even on Fox News?
Searching for a distraction, his more pointy-headed aides argued for “a redefinition of the big picture, a reframing of historical context,” to make a case that there was nothing that was really unseemly or un-American or unpresidential oruniqueabout Bill Clinton's actions. Researchers turned into private eyes, snooping the history books and memoirs for anything that might beÂ .Â .Â .relevantto this.
George Washington was probably bisexual (irrelevant)Â .Â .Â .Â . Thomas Jefferson fathered a black child (bingo! jackpot! very relevant)Â .Â .Â .Â . Benjamin Franklin liked threesomes (maybe relevant)Â .Â .Â .Â . James Buchanan may have been gay (probably irrelevant)Â .Â .Â .Â . Warren Harding made love to a young mistress in the White House closet (so relevant), but Harding was such a corrupt sleazeballâWhitewater was not, was not Teapot Dome!âthat any attempt to craft a Harding shield would only hurtÂ .Â .Â .Â . FDR and his mistress Lucy Mercer, one of several, had a lot of oral sex (full-scale relevance alert!), but FDR was bound to a wheelchair, so oral sex was a near necessityÂ .Â .Â .Â . LBJ said, “I get more pussy in twenty-four hours than Jack Kennedy got his entire life” (probably relevant), but LBJ was such a barnyard hick that drawing parallels between LBJ and Bill Clinton could boomerangÂ .Â .Â .Â . JFK was a sex fiend (directly relevant, but, unfortunately, old news, gorged and gobbled by the Beast way too often to distract it from what was on the table now).
Besides researchers turned into private eyes, veterans of more recent scandals were out there, too, tipping the White House to juicy morsels that might distract the Beast. They remembered the stripper Fanne Fox and octogenarian Arkansas congressman Wilbur MillsÂ .Â .Â . nontyping secretary Elizabeth Ray and near-octogenarian Ohio congressman Wayne HayesÂ .Â .Â . Teddy Kennedy under the table at Sans Souci, plastered out of his mind, trying to force an unwilling waitress toÂ .Â .Â . (Oh, not relevant! Sad-eyed old congressmen and fat old Teddy, the little brother who couldn't, disgraced forever anyway for fatal cowardice at Chappaquiddick.)
And Gerry Ford? Gerry Ford had had more problems with women than anyone, but no one understood why. Why did Squeaky Fromme want to kill him? Why did Sara Jane Moore want to kill him? And what about that seventy-seven-year-old woman who rammed the White House gates with her car, got arrested, got released, went home, got in her car, and rammed the gates again that same night? What was there about flatulent, pipe-smoking, mild-mannered Gerry Ford that made women want to kill him?
Unfortunately, there was no riskless way to reframe the historical context. The history of American politics was an unswept minefield and rusted shrapnel posed the danger of tearing Bill Clinton's head off. Besides that, the Beast was being savagely criticized by the soccer moms for feasting on all this garbage. To throw more maggoty food atop the table now would further enrage those momsÂ .Â .Â . and then someone (Hillary?) had a brilliant idea. Feed the Beast a different taste to distract itâsomething sweet.
Sweet? But what? What wassweetin this story? A small box of chocolates as payoff for phone sex and blow jobs? A last “Christmas kiss”?Sweet? No, no, Monica was the wrong woman to focus on. The right woman was Chelsea. And her mom and dad. A family in crisis. A family healing. A family forgiving. Give the Beast a soap opera, feed it schmaltz, play it some violins. How could the Beast not like that?
It was beautiful! It was uplifting! The Beast gobbled it upÂ .Â .Â . and so did we. It was sugar-coated breakfast cereal that snapped and popped in our mouths. Not for nothing had we become the sensitive, in-touch-with-real-feelings generation. The generation of communication, intervention, closure, and venting. We had designed ourselves, ever since the sixties, to buy this story. “Love is all you need,” the Beatles had said.
And so, out of the detritus of cigar butts, we conjured for ourselvesâat the Beast's urgingâa sappy, universal love story. He cheats. He's sorry. He loves his wife. They love their daughter. Will mommy and their daughter forgive him? Stay tuned! “All news all the time! Continuous twenty-four-hour-a-day coverage!”
We were torn away now from the Oval Office and Bill Clinton's private office, the scene of the noncrime crime. We were watching a different show:The First Family in Crisis!We were away from XXX into PG country, away fromBoogie Nightsand safe withThe American Presidentor a nineties remake ofKramer vs. Kramer. Some of us got tears in our eyes. Oh, look at poor, brave Chelsea! Trying to carry on so heroically with her hellish schedule at Stanford after daddy's screwed the pooch! Poor, poor Chelsea, even her nice, clean-cut, white-bread swim-star boyfriend dumped her because he didn't want anything to do with someone whose fatherÂ .Â .Â . Poor, poor Chelsea!People in the streets were dressed up as human cigars! Signs on overpasses screechedHONK IF HE SHOULD RESIGN!How could poor Chelsea possibly deal with this? Such a brave, noble, innocent,sweetyoung woman?
And look at poor Hillary, her fate the fate of most of America's women. Betrayed, humiliated, victimized! Oh, she thought she was so highfalutin for a while there, didn't she? Wearing her fancy black coat with the silver Deco design into the grand jury hearing, even autographing her book for a juror, acting in general like hers didn't stinkÂ .Â .Â .not anymore! Brought down off the throne now, just one of millions of cheated women now, one of us now. But how brave she was in the face of this smell. Noble. Crying behind her sunglasses. Because sheÂ .Â .Â . lovedÂ .Â .Â . himÂ .Â .Â . andÂ .Â .Â . heÂ .Â .Â . lovedÂ .Â .Â . her! You could just tellÂ .Â .Â . and they both loved their little girl and they'd love each other forever and live happily ever after and he'd never cheat again! The Beast was happy and so were we. We fell for it like Monica fell for him. Jesse Jackson and ministers everywhere waved their applause signs at us in case we had second thoughts:LOVE! HEALING! FORGIVENESS! NOT RESIGNATION! NO IMPEACHMENT! FINISH OUT THE TERM!
Yes, there were a few critics who said, Please! It's horse manure! Tripe for the masses! Dick Morris's distraction strategy at full throttle!Â .Â .Â . Morris had also said, “My job is to run the pump and the motors, not to fix the hole at the bottom of the boat” and “Polls are the ultimate master of the Western World”Â .Â .Â . but there was no doubt the strategy was working. Bill Clinton's approval rating was sky-high and, now that she was off of her throne and one of us, now that she'd been humiliated, Hillary's approval rating was sky-high, too. (Some of her aides worried about that a bit. If we liked Hillary only after she'd been humiliated, did that mean we liked humiliating her? Do you really like a person whom you want to humiliate?)
First we watchedA Time to Heal!Â .Â .Â . Bill Clinton saying he was sorry, over and over again, sometimes choked up, though it was difficult to determine what exactly he was sorry for. In his words, “inappropriate actions”âwhich could have meant anything from using theNword, using theFword, or cutting a loud and rude one aimed at Arafat while at Camp David. In an increasingly appropriate America, it could have meant just about anything, but whatever it was, Bill Clinton was sorry. So sorry, so very, very sorry. During this period of healing, he hung out with ministers the way he'd hung out with Steven and Jeffrey and David, and clutched his Bible like a man with emphysema clutches an oxygen tank, or like a man robbing a bank clutches a gun.
Then, after this period of healing, choreographed for a monthlong period, like a ratings-sweep television miniseries, we watchedA Time to Forgive!Hillary, back at his side, the sunglasses gone, Chelsea between them, even Buddy, the puppy, wagging his tail once again (and no longer squatting on the Rose Garden lawn).
Even the most successful show, however, comes to an eventual end: Those insane Republicans kept yammering about impeachmentâ“The elephant has a thick skin, a head full of ivory, and, as everyone who has seen a circus parade knows, proceeds best by grasping the tail of his predecessor,” Adlai Stevenson had saidâand the Beast, jittery and petulant, was showing signs of suffering sugar rush. So, to act out the screenplay written by Dick Morris,anotherdistraction was needed.Impeachment? Had the Republicans completely lost their minds?Impeachment? With Bill Clinton's approval rating sky-high and the economy booming?Impeachment? With even Hillary, the big loser in the midterm election of 1994, triumphant again thanks to her abject humiliation, admired again in her disgrace.Impeachment? No way! Not a chance! Nada! Zip! But still, just to make sureÂ .Â .Â . another distraction was imperative.
The policy wonks got together and wonked! An issue, maybe? Gay marriage? A new offensive in the war on big tobacco? How about a sequel to health care now that Hillary wasn't radioactive anymore? More empowerment zones? A war against a new disease? How about a war against one of those diseases people were always hearing about on TV?Thatwould guarantee an already-receptive, preconditioned audience. A war against hemorrhoids? Incontinence? Diarrhea? Male-pattern baldness? The ever-elusive Epstein-Barr virus? Constipation? A war against acid reflux?
Some of the more hypochondriacal policy wonks waged a spirited campaign to expand the putative medical offensive from thelimitedtarget of acid reflux to the widerkilling zoneof heartburn. In arguing for the War on Burpsâit admittedly didn't have the ring of the War on Poverty or the War on Illiteracyâthey pointed out that antiburp medication was already a $1.4 billion industry. A lot of dyspeptic Americans would rally gassily, their gastric juices sloshing, behind this distracting New Age flag.
The War on Burps, some policy wonks explained, would also be seen as part of the administration's Holy War on Cancer. Overflowing gastric juices left the esophagus with scar tissue and altered the cells that line it, thereby making those altered cells more likely to develop the dreaded terror, so much scarier than Saddam and all those other war criminals in biblical robes, Public Enemy Numero UnoÂ .Â .Â .the Big C!But no, the wonks were just being wonkish. Cancer had already been wonked and milked even by liberal Republican wonks, the Compassionate Conservatives (which, some Hollywood wags said, was as oxymoronic as saying “lady producers”).
What Bill Clinton needed desperately was a wild boar national tragedy, some hard-shell and awfully cynical pols felt (the kind of pols who thought Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets passed the first Civil Rights Bill and James Earl Ray's the second; who thought Reagan would have been nailed for Iran-Contra without Hinckley). Bill Clinton needed a humongous hurricane with thousands of deaths, or anthrax in Central Park, or a Three Mile Island meltdown on a Chernobyl scale, or the Big One in California voiding a chunk of coastline into the sea, or a Texas towerâtype sniper in a ballpark.SomethingÂ .Â .Â . on that tragic level. (The shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, much later, would have been perfect.)
Bill Clinton needed an event that would break America's heart for a month or two. We'd go through the horror itself first. Then videotaped replays of the horror for weeks. Then we'd go through the grieving. Then videotaped replays of the grieving for more weeks. Prayers. Sermons. Sobbing faces. Children holding on to their mommies. Parents screaming.All mourning all the time!Then the experts would pontificate onLarry King Live, night after night, analyzing the horror and the grieving and the closure from all the replays, still picking through ruinsâa child's Raggedy Ann doll, a smashed photo of a smiling young couple found in the rubble, an old lady crying on an old man's shoulderâas the camera panned across fresh graves at a turn-of-the-century cemeteryÂ .Â .Â . atsunset.
Bill Clinton needed a Mike Tyson uppercut to our hearts. Something to soften us up. To put us into a more sensitive mood. To make us feel more forgiving. To make us feel better about him. (Reagan, his polls down during Iran-Contra, said, “Maybe I should go out and get myself shot again.”) Bill Clinton needed a great and horrible and welcome and opportune tragedy to put everything in perspective.
.Â Â .Â Â .Â Â
He didn't get it. He didn't get the apocalypse he needed, but he got something. The explosions at the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, final proof that the Good Lord was on Bill Clinton's side. (Some would have their doubts later, when another act of God, a tornado, wiped out Bill Clinton's former Little Rock statehouse, including Chelsea's tree house.)Yes, Virginia, there was a Santa Claus! Bill Clinton was as happy as the day grocery stores started selling frozen pizzas!This act of God, these explosions, coming during the period when Bill Clinton was clutching his Bible, were truly heaven-sent. The explosions were planned and carried out by Arab terrorists.
Forget the War on Burps; this war would be against Arab terrorists, and it would be real. The Beast would be showing America at war. The explosive cacophony of all of those bombs, live on CNN, would surely drown out the jibbering, jabbering cries for impeachment. The Creep would be recast as the Commander in Chief, clothing himself in the flag some insisted he'd burned in the sixties, draping Old Glory over the most inglorious part of his body.
Just to firm up his support a bit, he dragged his Saddam scarecrow out of the Pentagon's closet and hurled some more bombs and Tomahawks Saddam's way, too. Oh, he flew through the air with the greatest of ease, the high-flying Creep on his political trapeze, dropping Tomahawks on Baghdad and Afghanistan and the Sudan!Boom! Boom! Boom!What a lovely, handy, perfect little boomer war this was! Even the old-style, dadgum, shitkicker rednecks (who hated him) got booby-trapped by this one. Yessir, Amurrica was at war, by God! And by God, we had to support our boys, by God, and support the commander in chief, by God, by God (even if they hated him), because, by God, hewasthe commander in chief.
Well, sure, some people upchucked. Republicans Trent Lott of Mississippi and Gerald Solomon of New York, who'd seen that saddle burr Wag the Dog movie and thought they knew how to distinguish a reel showâfirstA Time to Heal!and thenA Time to Forgive!and nowA Time for War!âfrom real life. But when they criticized the cynicism and self-serving mendacity of the president of the United States, the nauseating and brazen timing of this, they were ambushed by their core constituencies. All those shit-kickers and By God Amurricans supporting our boys and the commander in chief. They had to stage a fast and undignified retreat.
Lott and Solomon knew they were on slippery, dangerous ground anyway. There were crazy people out there on the Internet claiming that Bill Clinton had bombed our embassies to save his skin, with the help of the CIA. They were the same sort of ding-a-lings who in the past had claimed that LBJ and the CIA murdered 129 people (connected in some way with JFK's assassination), and that LBJ, on the flight from Dallas to Washington, had stuck his willard into JFK's wounds.Yea, verily,Trent Lott and Gerald Solomon did a big-assed retreat indeedÂ .Â .Â . and our Tomahawks kept falling around the world.
Cross-dressed in Old Glory now, fighting a victorious multifront war, officially and publicly forgiven by Hillary and Chelsea, riding his polls and approval ratings, the commander in chief thought for the first time that he could win the battle of his life. Not against big tobacco or the burps, not against terrorism and Saddam Hussein, but against Kenneth W. Starr. The war against Kenneth W. Starr would be the final distraction, the rarest filet mignon, served up to the Beast. Bill Clinton and his aides and his friends in the media (mostly sixties kids) would take this preacher's son, whom Clinton considered “filthy and sleazy,” and turn him into the ghost of drunken Joe McCarthy: Kenneth W. Starr portrayed as peepingly sticking his nose into the holy of holiesâAmerica's collective bedroom.
Bill Clinton would Saddamize the preacher's son the way Nixon had Saddamized McGovern. He would make Kenneth W. Starr the issue, not Bill Clinton. He would not allow himself to be ruined. He would ruin Starr. (“Here ruining reputations is considered sport,” Vince Foster had written in his suicide note.) Clinton would exploit Starr the way he believed Starr was trying to exploit him. He would accept the wisdom of his first White House counsel, Bernie Nussbaum, who had advised him “to do harm to enemies if you can.”
Kenneth W. Starr, Bill Clinton was convinced, was a Republican hatchet man, the demonic Helms's creature, the former chief of staff from 1981 to 1983 to Reagan's attorney general, William French Smith. He'd been appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by Reagan in 1983. Who really needed more proof than that? Starr was obviously a Helms man, a Reagan manâbut there was more proof. Even as Starr was investigating Bill Clinton as special prosecutor, Starr was still getting a million dollars a year representingÂ .Â .Â . big tobacco! Helms, Reagan, and big tobacco! And the pious twit was claiming that he was being fair?Fair? With friends and allies like that?
Bill Clinton wasn't discouraged. He contemplated the advice his mama had given him: “Nothing good comes easyÂ .Â .Â .Â . We just have to be strong to pull ourselves togetherÂ .Â .Â .Â . We've climbed mountains before and we've got one more to climbÂ .Â .Â .Â . You can't saw sawdust.”
It was back to the barricades for Bill Clinton, back to the sixties: The pigs were lined up in phalanx, holding billy clubs and tear-gas guns, and they were lofting the canisters in, and flashcubes were sparkling, and Bill Clinton was out there, the Stones and the Who blasting inside his head. Arkansas's own Street Fightin' Man with his Prince Valiant Beatles haircut wouldn't ever get fooled again. Throwing those canisters right back at Judge Pig Starr, Bull Connor Starr, Rusty Calley Starr, Paul Harvey Starr, Judge Julius Hoffman Starr, screaming “Fuck you!” into the acrid, choking, dark night of his travail.Look, top of the world, Ma!Abbie Hoffman (now dead), Jerry Rubin (also dead, after turning into a real estate salesman), Bobby Seale (now selling barbecue sauce), and our lollipop-dispensing baby doctor, Benjamin Spock (dead now, too) would have been proud.
It was all starting to swing the commander in chief's way: The showsâA Time to Heal!andA Time to Forgive!andA Time for War!âhad all been successful. This new showâA Time to Saddamize!âwould play, tooÂ .Â .Â . but Bill Clinton was still uneasy.
There was that moment in Vancouver, up on the balcony, when Boris Yeltsin, the doddering sot, had seen Bill Clinton waving to producer Bud Yorkin's beautiful wife, the actress Cynthia Sikes, down below, holding Bud and Cynthia's babyÂ .Â .Â . and Yeltsin had turned to him with his vodka red cheeks and said, “Is datyourbaby?”That was wrong!The president of a bust-out derelict country had no right to speak to the president of the United States that way!
And then there was the uncomfortable moment in Hollywood, at that cocktail party, when he'd walked into the room, floating on his own charisma, and Sharon Stone was sitting there with her back to him. She didn't even turn to look at him. She just sat there with her legs crossed, thighs showing, and didn't even turn. Aware of him behind her, she arched her neck back and said, “Hi, Bill.”Hi, Bill? Bill? Like he was an ex-fiancÃ© or something! He was the president of the United States! The commander in chief! She was an aging actress withonehit movie! Was that any way for a piece of fluff to greet her commander in chief?
Within hours, people in Hollywood told the story of how Sharon Stone had greeted Bill Clinton. In a place where a good title means dollars, their meeting already had a million-dollar title:The Flasher and the Masher!
Kenneth W. Starr Confesses
Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned. Cast out the evil that has corrupted my flesh. Grace me with Your strength. Infuse me with Your spirit. Save me from the flames of perdition.
I have been Your servant. I sing Your hymns on my morning jog. I read Your Scripture when Alice and I go on our Sunday-afternoon drives. I have never cheated on my Alice. I am a straight arrow, a learned, affable man, courtly, thoughtful, and deliberate. I try to carry myself in a judicial and Christian manner. I have been a good husband to my Alice, who has been a good wife to me. Once a Mendell, once a Jew, she is now a Starr; she is Church of Christ.I have never cheated on my wife!
But I will never, to my dying day, forget the look on my poor Alice's face when she found me down here in the basement, abasing myself with the Internet, my eyes red and lusting, ravishing Pookie's body. Alice has gone back upstairs now. I hear her puttering in the kitchen, and I know she can hear the abject sobs of my ruin. For a man of my judiciousness, decorum, and equanimity to be discovered by his faithful wife sitting at his computer in striped pants and morning coat, looking at his strumpet's naked bodyâHis! His! Not mine!âis, I will be first to admit, an abomination.I have never cheated on my wife, Lord!
I can't even bring myself to refer tohimby his name. Nor can I force myself to violate myself further and call him the president of the United States. I will call him, then, POTUS, the inhuman acronym used by the Secret Service on their location maps. Please do not think, my God, that I am apportioning any of my blame to him by referring to him. I am on my knees as I hear Alice, sniffling upstairs now, begging to be forgiven formysins, not POTUS's. I will use the worn-out and now meaningless phrase I have heard so often sitting high on my judge's bench: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
You know I have done my best to serve You and America my entire life. I say that not to excuse myself in any way for my sins, but to provide a moral context, to build a case for a pattern of my behavior that, until my exposure to POTUS, was as near-exemplary as humanly possible. I say that in all humility, my Lord, but You know it in Your all-encompassing wisdom to be legally accurate. Mother told me that I prayed to You already when I was two weeks old. I knelt as Father preached at home in between haircuts. I didn't drink. I didn't smoke. I went to see You at the Church of Christ. I sold Your Word door to door. I didn't dance. I didn't fornicate. When I married Alice, she taught me to dance. Alice and I didn't fornicate, eitherâwe still don't. We celebrate Your presence in our hearts and loins. I've been true-blue, Lord. I campaigned for Richard Nixon in high school. I've served under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. I've spoken at Pat Robertson College.
I have suffered the slings and arrows of a blasphemous and profane world because of my beliefs and my loyalty to America and You. I have been called Chauncy Gardner and Mister Rodgers. I have suffered calumnies and bogus allegations. I have seen signs that sayWHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH? as I pass by. I have been called a doofus and a nerd. In my service to You and America on the federal bench and as solicitor general, I have taken courageous and maligned positions against abortion, burning the flag, and homosexuals. I have opined on behalf of school prayer. I have raised in tribute to You, with Alice's help, a beautiful family.I have never cheated on my wife, Lord!I have put one cigar into my mouth for a group photograph with my colleagues. I didn't light it.
I have been Your Christian soldier fighting the forces of the Church of Cool. In a world increasingly cool, I have spoken up for family values, for the unborn fetus, for Paula Jones, for the Constitution. I have represented the tobacco companies You need to bring sinners swiftly back to You, the automakers You need to bring broken bodies to repentance. I have gloried in not being cool, proudly using my smarminess, my thick glasses, my baseball cap, my Starbucks mug, my baldness, and my psoriasis as prayer flags for Youâa reminder to all Americans of a bygone world when people didn't worship at the altar of cool and weren't focused on the slimness of their bodies, the inarticulation of their speech, the barbarism of their music. Hear me, my Lord! When the tie-dyed hordes befouled the earth in the sixties, I wore a suit and tie to school. My children speak English, not Ebonics; my dear wife is a mate, not a suffragette.
You know, too, surely, that intimately I have violated neither myself nor You. Father taught me the godly nature of an ice-cold shower. Mother never found anything when she examined my sheets. For my entire life, as I've stood at the urinal, I've held myself only with the tips of two fingers. The instant I have felt myself not even attracted, not even tempted, but in the tiniest platonic way curious about a member of the opposite sex, I have fled to Your Scripture. And You have rewarded me with an infinite capacity for work, with an energy impossible to deplete. You have made my psoriasis-scarred flesh as unto the fine, musty-smelling pages of a leather-bound law book. Thanks to You, the briefs I discuss are legal ones; the wildest climaxes I enjoy are in a courtroom at top hourly rates. Thanks to You, my seed is green-backed and collecting interest.I have never abused myself, my Lord!
I beg You, then, now that I've defined the moral context, now that I've established my pattern of behavior, to forgive me for what I, a sinner, am about to confess.
In my servitude to America and You, I was asked to read a book in 1993. I regret to say that it wasn't the Good Book. It wasn't Your spirit and Your soul. It was a leprous bookâa diary written by a sinner. His name was Robert Packwood. I was asked by a congressional committee. I couldn't refuse. The sinner was a United States senator. I was selected to read it thanks to the probity and decorum that You have granted unto me, oh my God. It was a diary of filth and sexual debauchery. It was a document written in a sewer. I was asked to read every word and form an opinion as to its relevance in a Senate trial. I read every word over and over and over and over and over and over again. It was torture. It was horrifying. Flesh, my Lord! Intimate female flesh that Packwood sniffed like a depraved beast.
Alice woke me one night, screaming, and said that in my sleep I had put my face, sniffing, against her flesh. I had to run to the bathroom because I was wet between my legs, the way I was wet sometimes as a boy.
I tried everything. Ice-cold showers. Ice cubes. Dry ice. Ice cream. Alice and I tried reading the Scripture to each other. I heard her, but my eyes were trapped on her breasts. I read to her, but I was drooling. Packwood, this beast, had immersed his wanton, dripping-wet hands in my brainpan. Images of pink fleshâon a single occasion, even dark-hued, but not black, fleshâwere polluting my snow-white, decorous, judicial thoughts. After what seemed a very long time, I felt relieved.
Perhaps it was because I had converted to decaf and abjured eating red meat. Perhaps it was because my daughter's girlfriends stopped visiting our house. I had purged myself of Packwood's poison, but I still felt my recovery tenuous. I was still unexpectedly, joltingly reminded of passages in Packwood's diary by the most nonsensical things: a piece of white chicken meat, the inside of a cantaloupe, the bulb of an angel on our Christmas tree. But I prayed to You, every hour of every day. I bought a desk calendar with Your Word on every hour. And I was better.
I didn't know then that Packwood's diary was only the first step in my ruin, that his frenzied images were nothing but a means to weaken me for POTUS. I knew very well who POTUS was. I had watched him on television and at banquets, displaying his masterful, easy charm. POTUS was everything I wasn't and never wanted to be. He wasn't just cool. He was the Pope of the Church of Cool. POTUS discussed his underwear on television, tooted a horn for the wide-eyed naÃ¯fs. POTUS swept through a room like a powerful jolt of electricity. POTUS was good-looking and charming. POTUS wasn't a nerd, didn't wear glasses, wasn't bald, didn't have psoriasis. Nobody called POTUS Chauncy Gardner and Mister Rodgers. I had heard all the talk, too, about how POTUS had always betrayed his wife.I have never cheated on my wife, Lord!
POTUS represented everything I was committed to fight againstÂ â¦ for America and for You, my Lord: Abortion, promiscuity, pornography, suffragettes, homosexuals, AIDS, affirmative action, miscegenation, evolution, the Woodstock Nation, bilingual education, heathenism, communism, globalism, onanism, busing, rutting, flag burning, marijuana, clove cigarettes, herpes, tattoos, graffiti, pierced navels, Boogie boards, skateboards, sushi, Jolt, Brompton's Cocktail, bungee jumping, incense, the spotted owl, the Denim Bible,The Ultimate Fighting Challenge,bikinis, yoga, Altoids, protesters, demonstrators, longtime companions, anarchists, surfers, streakers, the Rosenbergs, Teletubbies, Studio 54, professional wrestlers, peace signs, the SDS, the IWW, the SLA, the ADL, the Rainbow Coalition, Nine Inch Nails, STDs, Marilyn Manson, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Manson, Warhol, Alger Hiss, Henry Reske, Mike Tyson, McGovern, Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Ralph Ginzburg, Al Goldstein, Howard Stern, Jane Fonda, Gus Hall, Che Guevera, Ralph Nader, Mapplethorpe, theRolling Stones, rap, hip-hop, the Internet, Hollywood, massage parlors, massages, body paint, body parts, birth control, gay marriage, the polls.
I hated POTUS and what he stood for, and when I was asked to replace Fiske as Whitewater independent counsel, I was as happy as on days when Father would cut my hair and preach to me at the same time. I had the cross and the sword in hand now! Thanks to Your help, with Packwood's diary pushed to the back of my mind now, I had my old energy back. I would reveal POTUS as the low and base Borgia Pope that he was. I would force his followers to turn their faces from him in disgust. I would slay POTUS, and abortion and promiscuity and pornography and suffragettes and homosexuals and all the rest of it would die with him. Those who maligned me with their calumnies missed the point: I wasnotInspector Javert. I wasnotAhab obsessed with his white whale. I was Your St. George, facing Lucifer's dragon. I knew POTUS was guilty; all I had to do was to determine of what.
I began in Little Rock, a place built of excrement. I knew the full power of the stench now. It wasn't just POTUS; it was also his suffragette wife, FLOTUS. They were chest-deep in their own slime and corruption. But every time I was about to reach the link that would strip the clothes off both of them and expose their scrofulous nakedness, the link evaded me. Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgateâthe link would slip away. I sent Hubbell to jail and the harlot McDougal, but it did no good.
I kept hearing, again and again, about how POTUS had debased himself in pursuit of his fleshly pleasure. There were more stories about his debasement in Arkansas than there were watermelons. The more stories I heard, the more Packwood's diary haunted me all over again. I felt like my brain was a cavern of degradation, my Lord! Flesh danced in my sentence structures and dreams. I found myself confusing what Packwood had done and what POTUS had done. Alice was back in Washington; she couldn't help me. I looked in the mirror and saw an overwrought, overweight nerd with the pouches of sleeplessness beneath his sinner's eyes. I was afraid to fall asleep for fear of wetting the Little Rock Holiday Inn bed. But I did not betray You! I was not an accomplice in the evacuation of my seed.
Two events took place at roughly the same time. They are joined together in my mind. I read the Gennifer Flowers file that Bulldog Bittman and Jackie Bennett and some of my other disciples put together after interviewing her. She has a filthy mouth, my Lord! She has a beautiful filthy mouth, usually painted in hammer and sickle scarlet. I shouldn't have read the file.
I was not preparedânot even after Packwood's diary and the lascivious chitchat in Little Rock and my fevered dreams. How can Your creations do such things? Blindfolds and ropes and food from the refrigerator which theyâice cubes? For these purposes! When all of my life I have used ice cubes for the opposite effect! POTUS called her “Pookie.”
And I saw the photographs in the file, too. A young Pookie in her full shame! Pookie from every different angle! Pookie in close-ups! Pookie in color! I couldn't stop myself from staring at them, at her. I sat for hours in my office, the door locked and Pookie on the desk in front of me. I was rigid, literally petrified. I couldn't stop looking at her shame. She was disgusting! Pookie was so disgustingly perfect and so perfectly disgusting.
Shortly afterward, I met POTUS and FLOTUS at the White House. We took their depositions. I couldn't keep my eyes off him. He was his smiling, insidious self. I watched him and envisioned the photographs of Pookie in my files. He had done all of those abominable things to her, this smiling sinner sitting here with his betrayed wife. He had debased Pookie, impregnated her, and paid two hundred dollars for her abortion. Two hundred dollars! As I watched him and thought of her body and her shame, I resolved that if I didn't slay him, my life would be proved worthless.
But I was in worse pain than I'd ever been, my dreams filled with Packwood's hands and Pookie's shame and POTUS holding buckets of ice. And sometimes Alice and I would be in there, too.Â â¦ My God, forgive me! I couldn't get it out of my mind! Even Alice wasn't much help to me anymore. She was unexplainably smiling much of the time, talking about our second honeymoon, waking me up at night. Were her lips painted, or was it my imagination? Had my sweet, loving, non-Jewish, baptized, Church of Christ wife now also become part of my infernal dreams? Or was Alice Pookie? Was I POTUS? Were Packwood, POTUS, and I taking turns withâwas that Alice touching me or Packwood? Oh, abomination! Lamentation! Shame! Blasphemous ice cubes!I did not abuse myself, my Lord! I have never cheated on my wife, my Lord!
Then that woeful pig-nosed woman came to us with her tapes. It was the final straw personally. First Packwood's diary, then Pookie's file, then Pookie's photographs, and now all this splendid new dreck! The ice-cold showers didn't work anymore. Alice didn't want to read Scripture anymore; she wanted toÂ â¦ I was now forced to contemplate the horror that took place in the Oval Office hallway and bathroom. Now I had to hear about fellatio and masturbation and that other heinous sin I can't even bring myself to discuss. On top of blindfolds, ropes, food, and ice. And that hideous netherworld cigar. I will never touch a cigar, let alone put it into my mouth, as long as I live.
I was overjoyed and in torment. I knew I had stumbled, thanks to this obscene pig-nosed woman, upon the means to slay POTUS. But at what price to myself? Could I download all this new imagery into my brain and surviveâwithout, minimally, exhausting Alice unto death? I resolved to sacrifice myself and Alice. I would stay within my usual innocent demeanorâmy smarminess, my baseball cap, my glasses, my Starbucks mugâwhile I destroyed him! Even if it meant my dreams and thoughts would be filled with French postcard orgies of sin. No one would know what I had sentenced myself to. No one would know the sacrifice I had made. No one would know that this once-decorous figure of judiciousness and responsibility had become as flesh-obsessed as POTUS.
No one knew, but some became suspicious after I issued myReport. Why was it filled with all those many explicit descriptions of sexual debauchery? Because POTUS was engaged in sexual debauchery, that's why. It had nothing to do withme. I was merely telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. I didn't do those fiendish things;hedid! I wasn't the degenerate;hewas! I wasn't the pervert;hewas! It was true, wasn't it? I didn't have any of those dreams or thoughts until Packwood and Pookie and POTUS forced their disgusting cigars inside me.
I stripped him naked, my Lord, and millions turned their faces away from him in disgust. Not as many millions as I'd hoped, but the idolaters of cool rallied to his side. We knew who'd come to his defense, didn't we? The Jews, the black rabble, and the KennedysÂ â¦ the Ellen Degenerates, the Barney Fags. Never mind, it won't do him much good. POTUS will be impeached anywayâperhaps even removedâif I have to go to Congress and get it done myself. For all practical political purposes, I have accomplished what I set out to do. POTUS is naked and dead, my Lord. I have proven to myself that I am better than he. I am the nerd triumphant! The Church of Christ victorious over the Church of Cool!
I beg Your forgiveness for my thoughts and my dreams. I beg that I be cleansed. I loathe myself for sitting here at my computer in my basement watching the newest naked photographs of Pookie some sinner has posted on the Internet. I sit here rigidly,but I have not abused myself! I have never cheated on my wife, Lord!
I hear Alice whimpering upstairs and I regret terribly that she saw me like this. But Alice will get over it. I'll beseech her forgiveness, I'll read from Your Scripture, and Alice and I will celebrate Your presence in our hearts and loinsÂ â¦ as in my thoughts I recklessly explore Pookie's sinful flesh.
Sharon and Bill
“The You Know What of the You Know What found you awfully attractive,” Linda Tripp said.
“Big fucking deal!” Monica said. “He finds anybody attractive. I guarantee you that given the opportunity with anyone he'd let anyone suck his dick.”
Catherine Tramell may have been the bang of the century inBasic Instinct,but that didn't mean Sharon Stone was. Or Bill Clinton, for that matter. Maybe that's why Sharon was so blasÃ© about his presence when the president of the United States walked up behind her at that party. They knew each other already. He had rearrangedhisschedule so he could meet her in San Francisco. “He was really, really hot for her,” Dick Morris had said. “He has it bad for her.” The president of the United States talked to his golf course buddies a lot about his favorite Sharon Stone scene. Yup, it wasthatscene!Youknow! The one Sharon was now claiming she'd been tricked into doing. The one I'd written.
I felt a kind of bemused proprietary interest when I heard about the friendship between Sharon and Bill. I had created her. I had voted for him. Her career had gone nowhere until my screenplay made her a global star. Her accountants had fired her; even her agents had fired her. A producer who'd seen her at the Deauville Film Festival years beforeBasictold me, “She came knocking on my door at midnight. There's no way I'd let her in.” One of her former agents said, “We used to have a saying among us at the agency. Put Sharon in the room alone with the director and she'll close the deal.” She was so unpopular on movie sets that the crew of one of the clinkers she'd done beforeBasicurinated in a bathtub she was supposed to bathe in. Then she'd read my screenplay, fought to get the part, and the rest was Hollywood history. The greatest American sex symbol since Marilyn Monroe. Proof positive that Frank Capra was dead wrong when he said, “A nude girl is a nude girl, and that's thatâand there is no way you can make a star out of a nude girl.”
She was Bill Clinton's ideal woman, the ripest of ripe peaches, apotheosis of the curvy beauty pageant blondes he's always favoredâthe same physical type as Dolly Kyle, his longtime mistress; as Cathy Cornelius, the young aide who accompanied him on so many government trips; as Kristy Zercher, the flight attendant he'd groped on the campaign plane; as Gennifer and Eleanor Mondale. And Sharon had a lot of Hillary in her, too. She was smart and direct, but not as crude. Those of us who knew Sharon could never imagine her saying, “I need to get fucked more than twice a year, Bill.” (It was also true that those of us who knew Sharon couldn't ever imagine her needing to say that.)
And then there was the JFK connection, too. Before he was governor or president or Handsome or the Creep or Butt-headâwhen he was still Bubba, the fat boy from ArkansasâBill Clinton had shaken JFK's hand at the White House, and it had changed his life. He emulated JFK to the point where, like JFK, he never carried any moneyÂ .Â .Â . where, like JFK, he changed his shirts three times a dayÂ .Â .Â . where, like JFK, he had a willard with a zany, serendipitous life of its own. (On the wall in his private office, above the spot where he liked Monica to kneel, was a portrait of JFK.) It was fitting, therefore, maybe even preordained, that if JFK, while he was the president of the United States, had been “really, really, hot” for Marilyn Monroe, the sex goddess of the New Frontier, then Bill Clinton would “have it bad” for Sharon, the sex goddess of the millennium.
Some people who knew her felt that Sharon was as much a politician as he. As many in Hollywood know, a star's career is a lifelong political campaign. Each new movie is an election. Stars have to be as image-conscious as politicians, one of the reasons stars choose heroic (noncomplex) roles, trying to swirl their character's heroism with their own persona, dressing themselves in their character's nobility and goodness. Sharon was especially challenged, since she'd ascended atop her star on the strength of her privates, but she'd handled the challenge well.
Thanks to some advice from Hollywood PR doyen Pat Kingsley,herDick Morris, she'd outgrown her pubes. To begin with, Sharon said she didn't know what the director was doing when he'd gottenthatshot, that she'd been “tricked”âforgetting that the shot had to be lighted, that the hair and makeup people were between her legs most of that morning. It was Sharon's way of saying that she didn't inhale. Then she hit the charity circuit, becoming a spokesperson for AIDS, reenacting the all-American tradition: Babe Ruth visiting sick kids, getting his picture taken. Then she stopped taking her clothes off on-camera, the result not only of image making but also of age. (“My ass hangs halfway down to my knees,” she told me during the making ofSliver.) Then she finally found Jesus, though I worried that it was like one of Jimmy Swaggart's sightings of the ever-fleeting Lord.
She tried to ignore, in the glorious zenith of her stardom, that she'd had only one hit movieâlike Bill Clinton, who didn't dwell on the fact that he'd twice been elected as a minority president. There were those of Sharon's friends in Hollywood who worried that she'd wind up as one of those blowzy, loud, has-beens onHollywood Squares,a professional celebrity like Zsa Zsa Gabor, looking a lot like Petula Clark. But then there were also Friends of Bill's who worried he'd wind up getting Steven's decaf each morning.
I remembered something Sharon had said to me late one night, both of us blitzed on Thai hash: “I crawled the hill of broken glass and I sucked and I sucked until I sucked the air right out of my life.” Perfect, I thought. Bill Clinton would like herâboth for the ineffable Whitmanesque sadness of the thought and for the enticing promise of the action.
She'd likehim,too, I knew. When we were castingSliverand the studio wanted Billy Baldwin, she said, “He's a boy. Give me a man. Give me Alec. I'd let Alec throw me over a table anytime.” She'd be just right for Bill ClintonÂ .Â .Â . slam-bang actionÂ .Â .Â . roaring down the road in Dolly Kyle's turquoise El Dorado convertible, swerving from lane to lane at a hundred miles an hourÂ .Â .Â . or going for a walk with Dolly, tripping over a chaise longue on somebody's front lawn, pulling her onto the grass and stripping her with his teethÂ .Â .Â . or running into that groupie, Connie Hamzy, while he was the governor, the one who'd been with Mick Fleetwood and Huey Lewis and Keith Moon and Don Henley.Hail, hail, rock and roll! Rock and roll is here to stay!
Such an unadulterated, glorious sixties moment (in 1984). He saw the groupie out by the pool from a hallway at the Little Rock Hilton. She was wearing a bikini. He sent one of his troopers to bring her inside. No small talk, no chitchat.Alec Baldwin right over the table!“I'd love to get with you,” he said. “Where can we go? Do you have a room here?” She had no room; she was just using the pool. He took her by the hand. He went up and down the hall, opening meeting room doors.Damn! Goddamn!Goddamn all these people!All these people in all these meeting rooms!
He wanted to get with her sobad.“Where can we go?” he said to her. “Where can we go? Are any of the rooms open?Where can we go?” She told him to get an aide to book them a room. “I don't have time for that!” he said. He charged down another hallway, holding her hand, nuzzling her, feeling her breasts, sticking his hand inside her bikini, almost stumbling down the hallways now, trying doors in a vascular frenzy. A door opened! A laundry roomÂ .Â .Â .there were more people in it! Damn! Damn!She kissed him. He squeezed her breasts.Damn!He had a meeting!Damn! Damn! Damn!He said, “How can I get in touch with you?” She said, “I'm in the book.” He started to walk away down the hallway, turned back. She saw the bulge in his pants. “How long you gonna be by the pool?” he asked. She said, “All afternoon.” He was gone.
A wild man. Created for Sharon, I thought, who had a boulevard streak of craziness herself. Not long afterBasic's release, we went out. I picked her up at her house off of Mulholland, overlooking the Valley. We smoked some of her Thai. She brought out two bottles of Cristal, and we wound up on the rug, crawling around her dollhouse. We got hungry and got into the limo and went to a chic Hollywood place to eat, stoned out of our minds. She had scampi sauce dripping down her chin. She looked at the other diners and said, “Who are those fuckers?” They were studio heads and producers and agents, all staring at us. We drank some more Cristal and got back in the limo and smoked some more Thai. We needed music.
Rock and roll!We stopped at Virgin Records and she went running up the steps for James Brown, and then she was running down the steps, her arms wide, playing the diva, saying, “Wherewereyou?” very loudly as everyone stared at these two ripped loonies. We paid and tried to leave. A security guard informed us we were trying to leave through the front plate-glass window. He led us to a door.
On the way back to her house, she said, “I wore these brown suede pants just for you. I knew you'd put your hand there.” We went back inside her house and watched the twinkling lights. We drank more Cristal and wound up on the rug next to the dollhouse againÂ .Â .Â . and then I went back to my hotel, happy that I'd created her.
Right out ofBasic,that dollhouse scene, I thought as I contemplated Sharon and Bill Clinton. He was a character from that movie, too. He was as jaded, and he even spoke like my Nick Curran: “I stuck it up their ass” (about Republicans) and “He's so stupid, he couldn't get a whore across the bridge” (about Ted Kennedy) and “You know why people go into politics, don't you? Because of their unsatisfied sexual desire” (about himself?) and “She can suck a tennis ball through a garden hose” (about Gennifer). (Hillary, on the other hand, seemed to belong not inBasicbut in one of my later movies,Showgirls.“Where's the goddamn fucking flag?” she said to one of the state troopers in Arkansas. “Put the goddamn fucking flag up!”)
Unlike Hillary, I thought, whom he was calling “Hilla the Hun” and “the Warden” and “the Sarge,” Sharon would understand his kinks. If he wanted to getdownat night, smoke a little dope, put her lace nightie on, and play Elvis on his sax, Sharon would bedownwith that. She'd also have her own Thai.
Thinking of kinks, I realized maybe Sharon and Hillary had more in common than being smart blondes. The director Wes Craven told me that Sharon had seduced his wife, Mimi, still one of Sharon's “best friends,” and stolen Mimi away from him. When Mimi's divorce from Wes was granted, Sharon had sent Wes a dozen dead roses. Those dead roses, I knew, symbolized Bill Clinton's greatest danger as far as any “meaningful relationship” with Sharon was concerned. Maybe she was his ideal woman, but Sharon was nobody to mess with, or mess around on.
Yes, she had a back rubs and herbal remedies, touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy side, butÂ .Â .Â . shewasthe girl who went into the room andclosed the deal.Paul Verhoeven, the director ofBasic,said shewasCatherine Tramell, the devil herself. This was a woman who, when she broke up with Dwight Yoakam, called him “a dirt sandwich,” who, when she broke up with producer Bill Macdonald, sent him his mother's heirloom engagement ring back by Federal Express.
She knew at least as much about power as Hillary, but Sharon's knowledge didn't come from committee meetings and 1930s agitprop primers. Sharon's knowledge of power was elemental, primal, learned in modeling sessions (at nineteen) and casting couches and in the back rooms of shadowy black-lighted discos in Milan and Buenos Aires. If Hillary was good with a scalpel and a lethal tongue in a boardroom, Sharon was good with an ice pick and a soft tongue on a couch. Sharon usually got what she wanted on a personal level. Hillary usually got what she wanted on a political level but, at least as far as Bill Clinton was concerned, turned into “Hilla the Hun” and “the Warden” and “the Sarge” on a personal one.
Â .Â .Â .
I saw Sharon in action with the director Phillip Noyce as we were about to shootSliver.She thought Noyce was a disastrous choice to direct it. “He's a big goon,” she said. “He doesn't know anything about sex.” Phillip was a lumbering, talented Aussie who, exactly then, was trying to break a five-pack-a-day smoking habit.
As we approached the shoot, she zeroed in on a scene in the script and said it had to be changed. The scene described a woman masturbating in a tub while gazing at a Calvin Klein magazine ad. Sharon said a woman wouldn't masturbate that way. I'd written the scene, but I wasn't going to fight about it. “Fine,” I said to Sharon, “masturbate the way you want.” But Phillip decided to draw the line. He wanted her to masturbate as I'd written. He wasthe director.That was the point.
Sharon threatened to walk off the movie and forced a meeting with Noyce in my suite at the Four Seasons. She and I sat next to each other on the couch. Phillip sat on a chair facing us. Sweat streamed down his face and from under his armpits. He was wearing a boxy suit with a black T-shirt. He was pasty-faced, his nerve endings jangling from nicotine withdrawal.
Sharon wore a flimsy, classy white dress. I wore shorts and a tank top. Phillip started talking about the “visual importance” of including the Calvin Klein ad in the masturbation scene. “You don't know what you're talking about,” Sharon told Noyce. “It's a male fantasy; women don't do it that way.” Phillip kept insisting.
Sharon turned to me. “Does your back hurt?” she asked. I said that it didâI'd pulled a muscle. She started to rub it as Phillip kept talking. “Get down on the rug,” she said. I did, my stomach to the carpet. I noticed that Phillip wasn't talking. I noticed that Sharon was straddling my back with her legs, moving up and down. I noticed that she wasn't wearing any underwear.
She kept moving up and down, up and down. I knew she had her back to Phillip, who was watching her from the chair. I could hear Phillip breathing. The room was still. She clenched my sides tightly with her thighs, held them for a long moment, and then we both relaxed. “Better?” she asked, laughing.
I laughed and agreed that my back was much better. She got off of me and I turned. Phillip was gaping at us, his eyes huge, sweat in splotches now on his black T-shirt. He stared at the two of us for a few seconds and said to Sharon in a flat, dull tone, “Do the scene how you want.”
She did itas she wantedthrough the entire shootânot just that scene but every other one, too.Shewas the director of the movie.
She didn't like Billy Baldwin, eitherâ“He's a geek,” she saidâand did the same eviscerating trip on him. She'd wipe her mouth after kissing him or rinse it with mouthwash. She bit his tongue during a kiss; he sounded cotton-mouthed the next day. Billy was feeling so intimidated about his love scenes that his performancebecamegeeky and boyish. According to Billy, Sharon was acting this way toward him in revenge. Billy said Sharon had told a friend when Billy was cast, “I'm going to make that motherfucker fall in love with me so hard, he won't know what hit him.” According to Billy, the fact that he wouldn't stray from his mate “really pissed her off.”
The worst news for Bill Clinton, as I contemplated a “meaningful relationship” between him and Sharon, was that he wouldn't be able to cheat on her. Hillary might scratch his face, nail him in the head with a Styrofoam cup (“Bad reflexes, Bill,” she said), or kick a cabinet door off its hingesÂ .Â .Â . but Sharon would kill him. Ice pick or arsenic, he'd be a dead man. The best news for Bill Clinton was probably that his ideal woman knew a whole lot about masturbation and might help.
I suspected that in this “meaningful relationship,” Sharon would be Bill and Bill would be Hillary, Sharon would be JFK and Bill would be Marilyn. But maybe Bill Clinton knew that. So that all Sharon and Bill would really do was notch each other like the old gunfighters did. Just another notch (below the belt). Yet another confirmation they were both superstars.
I introduced one of my friends to Sharon Stone once, hoping they'd fall for each other. The reason I made the introduction was because I was in love with my friend's wife. It worked. Sharon and my friend fell in love. They broke up less than a year later. I married my friend's wife and lived happily ever after. On the day I married Naomi, I fought an urge to send Sharon a dozen dead roses, but I didn't want to do that to someone I'd createdÂ .Â .Â . to someone I'd made a starÂ .Â .Â . someone who, thanks to me, didn't even have to turn around when the president of the United States came over to say hello.
Hillary and Bill
“You know what I was thinking this afternoon?” Monica said to Linda Tripp. “Like, you know, it's so weird that when I was younger, it was such a big deal, like losing your cherry, and who do you lose your cherry to, and my God it's such a big deal. Blah blah blah. And now it's like no big fucking deal.”
There was a man, the young Hillary Rodham told her parents, who unzipped himself to her and showed her his willard. There was another man who threatened her with a butcher knife as she played with her friends. There was yet another man who flung her to the ground, got on top of her, and started to kiss her until she flailed at him and he ran away.
Her parents were mystified. Park Ridge, Illinois, was a country club Chicago suburb. The white supremacist, extreme right-wing John Birch Society was strong here, in this bucolic place without Jews, Asians, Hispanics, or blacks. (Many years later, the suburb would become the district of militantly antiabortion congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.) The streets were thought to be so safe that Hillary and her two brothers were allowed to walk to school. In winter, the kids ice-skated alone. Yet these things kept happening to Hillaryâa willard, a butcher knife, and what sounded like near rape.
Hillary's father, Hugh, who had worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines in his youth, then stacked boxes to put himself through college, ran a mom-and-pop custom drapery company. He was the kind of man who'd never had a credit card in his life. Everything was paid for in cashâthe Georgian brick house, the new Cadillac he'd trade in every year. Hugh Rodham chewed tobacco and loved Barry Goldwater. He was gruff and confrontational. When Hillary got straightA's, he said, “You must go to a pretty easy school.” He gave his kids no allowance: “They eat and sleep for free. We're not going to pay them as well.” When Hillary asked him over dinner for money to see a movie, he put another potato on her plate instead. He would drive his kids through the slums sometimes to show them how lucky they were. Yet he sat at the kitchen table, helping them with their homework, and he played pinochle with them. He taught her to hit a curve ball. Her brother said she was “daddy's girl.”
Her mother, Dorothy, called her husband “Mr. Difficult.” (He probably would have gotten along with Monica's father, Dr. No.) Dorothy was the daughter of a fifteen-year-old mother and a seventeen-year-old father who broke up shortly after their marriage. She taught Sunday school now, but Hugh Rodham didn't go to church. Dorothy kept to herself with Hugh and her kids, organizing backyard barbecues for the family, driving the kids to school. When Hillary kept getting beaten up by an older girl in the neighborhood, it was Dorothy who taught her to fight back. It was Dorothy who told smart little Hillary she would grow up to be the first woman member of the Supreme Court. (Monica's ambition for herself was higher.) Neither Dorothy nor Hugh engaged in displays of affection the children could see, but Dorothy had an odd sense of humor. She would show up at one of Hillary's birthday parties, many years later, dressed as a nun.
As Hillary grew into an older girl, she became a jock. She played tennis, soccer, softball, and Ping-Pong. She learned to canoe. She was a pool lifeguard. Hugh Rodham, who had once been a physical education teacher and had been a part of the navy's Gene Tunney program, was pleased. When he heard that she misbehaved in school, he was always the one to spank her. Dorothy, meanwhile, never “gave her advice on clothes and makeup and how to attract boys.”
Not interested in boys, Hillary joined every activity in high school. She was a member of the prom committee, the student council, the cultural values committee, the pep club, the debating team, the National Honor Society, the organizations committee, the brotherhood society, the school paper, the spring musical. The school newspaper said she was cold to other students personally, called her “Sister Frigidaire,” and said she would become a nun (many years before her mother showed up at her birthday party in a nun's habit). She was known as a “teacher's pet” (as Bill Clinton, in high school, was known as a “brownnose”). She dated a boy briefly, but the relationship ended when she asked him to watch her pet rabbits and he let one of them get away. She punched him in the nose. (Bill Clinton should have taken note.)
Boys in school didn't like her. She was “womanish,” they thought, not “girlish.” And she had a noticeable overbite. When her girlfriends organized ear-piercing parties, she didn't go. She played Carry Nation in a school skit. Even her girlfriends thought she should “be a little cooler,” with all of her many activities. At her high school awards day, her mother said she was “embarrassed” by all the many trips Hillary made up to the stage.
Working-class kids, the few whom she met, disliked her on sight. During a high school soccer game, she said, “Boy it's pretty cold” to the goalie of the opposite team.
“I wish people like you would freeze,” the inner-city girl told her.
“You don't even know me,” Hillary said.
“I don't have to know you to know I hate you,” the girl replied.
A Methodist minister was the first strong male influence in her life besides her tobacco-chewing father. Don Jones was just out of the seminary and drove a red 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible. He introduced her to the work of Bob Dylan and FranÃ§ois Truffaut. He gave her a copy ofCatcher in the Rye.Don Jones drove Hillary and the other girls in his Bible class to the Mexican migrant-labor camps outside Chicago. The girls served cupcakes and sewed dolls for the workers' kids.
He renamed the Bible class his “University of Life” and took Hillary and the other girls to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., speak. He took them to see legendary Chicago labor organizer Saul Alinsky, who was staging “fart-ins” at various companies' headquarters. He took them to poor black neighborhoods, where he flashed around a Picasso print and asked the ghetto kids what it meant to them.
Hillary loved all of it. “She seemed to be on a quest for transcendence,” Pastor Jones said. But she was still urging her classmates to vote for Barry Goldwater. She also applied equal energy to her piano lessons, given at her teacher's house, in rooms filled with the stuffed and mounted dogs that had been the teacher's pets.
She went to college at Wellesley, a school for moneyed kids, one of the East Coast's Seven Sisters, fifteen miles away from Boston. She was elected president of the Young Republicans her freshman year. Wearing demure dresses, she attended the afternoon teas. She buried herself in schoolwork, writing Pastor Jones, “The last two weeks of February were an orgy of decadent indulgence.”“An orgy of decadent indulgence”meant she was taking it easier and eating three meals a day. As a Young Republican, she was smitten with the movie starâhandsome mayor of New York, John Lindsay.
She began dating a Harvard student, whom she would date for three years. It was a relationship he would later define as “romantic but platonic.” That meant, in the sexually crazed sixties, that Hillary Rodham was one of the few young women on a college campus not getting laid. (Remember the classmates who said she'd be a nun? Remember her mother attending her party in a nun's habit?) In 1968, when those opposed to the war in Vietnam were flocking to the banners of Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy, she went to the Republican National Convention in Miami, not as a protester but as a participant.
But while she was still an active Republican, she was already reading things Republicans considered subversive. She neatly filed all of her copies ofmotive,a monthly publication featuring the essays of Carl Oglesby, a Marxist cofounder of Students for a Democratic Society. Besides terrorism and ritualistic witchcraft, the magazine also advocated lesbianism. Hillary amused herself at times by “playing hippie.” She wore tie-dyed clothes for a month and painted flowers on her arms.
“My mind exploded at Wellesley,” she would later say, but her radicalization began with a local campus issue. All the women at Wellesley signed a “vow,” promising to adhere to the student handbook of conduct. Among other things, this meant being in at midnight, wearing dresses for dinner, and being subject to room checks. Hillary began a campus movement to do away with this honor system. She had buttons manufactured at her own cost and wore hers proudly:BREAK THE VOW! the button said. (Bill Clinton would have worn it.)
In her senior year, she was elected president of student government. She was now a chunky young woman with an overbite, and the target of the school newspaper for engaging in corrupt practices. “The habit of appointing friends and members of the in-group should be halted immediately in order that knowing people in power does not become a prerequisite for office holding,” the paper said. She was still having her platonic relationship with her Harvard friend, dancing sometimes to the Beatles or the Supremes, but spending endless hours in the dining hall discussing politics. She resigned from the Young Republicans and told her friends she was no longer a Republican. She spoke admiringly of Eleanor Roosevelt, a former First Lady, a social activist, a bisexual, a woman whose husband died in the arms of a longtime mistress.
Hillary felt an overwhelming rage when she heard of the murder of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Wellesley's speaker on her commencement day was Massachusetts senator Edward Brooke, a black moderate and prowar Republican, for whom Hillary had campaigned only two years ago. As student government president, she was allowed to say a few words after Brooke's speech. (“His speech was a defense of Richard Nixon,” Hillary said later.) “Part of the problem with empathy,” said the future First Lady, whose husband would be known for his empathy, “is that empathy doesn't do anything. We've had lots of empathy; we've had lots of sympathy. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.” (“Immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating”. . . a mother lode for Freudian interpreters.)
Lifemagazine quoted from her speech and photographed her unflatteringly in oversized glasses and tight striped pants. After the publicity, she was invited to a summer conference organized by the League of Women Voters, where she met a man who would be a great help to her and to her future husband through the years, the head of the NAACP's Voter Education Project, Vernon Jordan. She debated taking a “spiritual journey” to Indiaâthe Beatles had just discovered the Maharishi Mahesh Yogiâbut decided to go to law school at Yale instead. She immediately got in touch with the leaders of the antiwar movement thereâone of them was Gregory Craig, who would one day defend her future husband against impeachment charges. Her dress at Yale was movement chic: an Afghan shearling coat, Levi's bell-bottoms or Vietcong-style black pajama bottoms, sandals, peasant blouses, and wire-rimmed granny glasses. She wore black armbands so often, some people thought it was her sense of style.
Hillary arrived at Yale at a feverishly revolutionary moment. Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, the future barbecue-sauce impresario, was on trial for ordering the murder of another Panther. Movement rock stars were coming to town: Huey Newton, the future cocaine magnate, as well as Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, who clenched her fist and pumped it into the air as Huey got off his plane. (Fonda and Hayden weren't a couple yet; Fonda was there with Canadian antiwar activist and actor Donald Sutherland.) Fearing police brutality, Hillary organized a group of law students to monitor the protests and Bobby Seale's trial for the ACLU.
Trouble, when it came, didn't come from the cops. It came from the student protesters. Panther David Hilliard told a campus rally, “There ain't nothin' wrong with taking the life of a motherfucking pig.” Some students started to boo. Hilliard yelled, “Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo Ho Chi Minh! Boo the Koreans! Boo the African-Americans! Boo all the suffering blacks in this country!” The students' boos got louder and Hilliard yelled, “You're a goddamned fool if you think I'm going to stand up here and let a bunch of so-called pacifists, you violent motherfuckers, boo me without getting violent with you.” A foreign-exchange student started to go up onstage to say a few words, and Hilliard bloodily stomped his honky un-American ass.
Movement superstar Jerry Rubin, the future Beverly Hills real estate agent, appeared at another rally and said, “We know what work isâa dirty four-letter word.Â â¦ Things should be free.Â â¦ Fuck rationality; we're irrational and irresponsible. I haven't taken a bath in six months.Â â¦ Arresting us for smoking dope is like arresting Jews for eating matzos.Â â¦ Number one on the program is to kill your parents, who got us into this mess in the first place.”
After the movement superstars left town, Hillary became a member of the editorial board of theYale Review.During her term, the review published a long editorial in defense of the Panthers, illustrated with sketches of policemen as pigs. One of the captions read “Seize the time!”âthe Panthers' call-to-arms slogan. In the summer of her first year at Yale Law, Hillary worked for the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, assigned to work with Senator Walter Mondale's staffers. (She met Mondale and his family, including his cute little girl, Eleanor, who would one day cause Monica Lewinsky to have a near-epileptic hissy fit when she found out that Eleanor, all grown up, was in the Oval Office with Hillary's husband.)
At the beginning of her second year at Yale, Hillary was sitting in the library, when she saw a young man staring at her. He had a boyish, scraggly beard and long hair. He was more than a little pudgy, but he had the height for it. She thought he looked like a teddy bear. She had seen him in the cafeteria weeks before, talking loudly to a group of people about Arkansas watermelons. When Hillary saw him now, staring at her as he spoke to a male friend, she went up to him. “Look,” she said, “if you're going to keep staring at me and I'm going to keep staring back, we should at least introduce ourselves.”
He told her about Arkansas, about the Toad Suck Daze Fair and the Hope Watermelon Festival and the Hot Springs Shriners Parade. As they got to know each other, she saw that he mostly subsisted on peanut butter sandwiches. He had a slow southern drawl, read voraciously, and made her laugh. He told outlandish stories, one about Lyndon Johnson on the Oval Office floor having sex with a girl who, at Johnson's insistence, wore a peace symbol around her neck. “Come off it, Bill!” Hillary would say, and “Cut the crap, Clinton!” They got an apartment together and he visited her parents' home, amused that Hugh and Dorothy forced him to sleep separately from Hillary, in another bedroom.
Hillary and Bill went to work for George McGovern in Texas. Bill was in Austin, working phones at party headquarters. Hillary was in San Antonio, registering Hispanic voters. They saw each other on the weekends. She didn't know that during the week he was sleeping with other womenâonce, three in one week.
Bill made a campaign swing with McGovern and his wife in Arkansas while Hillary stayed in San Antonio. When McGovern gave a speech at a fund-raiser held in a contributor's home, Bill bumped into his old girlfriend Dolly Kyle. They started kissing as McGovern spoke, then went outside when the candidate's speech ended and had sex in the yard.
But Bill was also telling other women how strongly he felt about Hillary and how much he missed her, away from him down there in San Antonio. He started crying to a young woman one night about how much he missed Hillary, and the young woman began consoling himÂ â¦ and one thing led to anotherÂ â¦ and soon he was enjoying her on top of the big conference table, with the phones going off at campaign headquarters.
Hillary was getting deeper into feminism, and Bill encouraged and supported her. She was reading a book calledThe Female Eunuchby Germaine Greer, and he flipped through it one weekend when they were together in Austin. He didn't tell Hillary that he had already met Germaine Greer in England. He had attended one of Greer's lectures. Greer said that having sex with middle-class men was always overrated and unsatisfying. When she was finished, Bill Clinton got up and asked a question. “About the overrated orgasm,” he said to the future feminist icon, “in case you ever decide to give middle-class men another chance, can I give you my phone number?”
As she spent that weekend, and so many others, with him in Austin, the future First Lady of the United States was happy. Gone was her girlhood, gone the terrifying images of willards and butcher knives flashing at her, of men who forced her to the ground and got on top of her. For the first time in her life, finally, thankfully, after all these years of platonic dates, Hillary, the chubby young woman with the overbite, was in love.
There was a man making his way into her heart who would unzip himself and flash his willardÂ â¦ lots of times, to lots of other womenâbut not very much to herâthrough the course of her life.
Monica, Andy, and Butt-head
“It's more than adequate,” Monica said. “It's not, oh my God, like Andy's was, but it'sâit's sizable.”
“You said it was on the slender side,” Linda Tripp said.
“I was comparing it to Andy's,” Monica said. “Andy's is huge. Andy's is humongous.”
Monica was telling one of the White House stewards, Bayani Nelvis, that she had smoked her first cigar the night before. Nel asked if she'd like one of the president's Davidoffs from his private stash.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Cool!” Nelvis opened the door into the president's private dining roomÂ .Â .Â . and therehewas, standing right at the door, about to come out.
He handed some papers to Nel, asked him to take them to Leon's office, and asked her to come in.
As soon as she was inside, she stuck her hand out and mock-introduced herself.
“Monica Lewinsky,” she said, “President Kiddo.”
He laughed. “I know your name.”
He told her he had tried to call her but had lost her phone number. Then he'd looked in the book, but he couldn't find it.
“I even spelled Lewinsky right.”
He gave her that slow, sexy smile and said, “Well, that explains it.”
“What are you doing here anyway?” he asked.
She told him about the cigar she'd smoked the night before and how she had told Nelvis and how Nelvis was going to get her one of the president's.
“I'll give you one.” He smiled. He led her to his stash and handed her one.
“It's big,” she said.
“I like big cigars.”
“So do I,” she said, looking into his eyes.
He kissed her and lifted her sweater. He fondled her breasts with his mouth. She put her hands on Willard and empowered him. She knelt downÂ .Â .Â . and after a while, he stopped her again. This time, at least, there had been no phone call.
“Happy New Year,” he said, buttoning himself up. He gave her a long, soulful kiss.
She gave him her unlisted phone number again.
“This is the last time I'm giving it to you,” she said.
He went into the bathroom. She started out. She saw him through the open door. Willard was in his hand. He was bringing Willard to closure over the bathroom sink.
A week later, another Sunday afternoon, her phone rang at home. She picked it up, but there was no one on the line. It rang again minutes later, but her answering machine clicked on. The caller said nothing. She picked the phone up and said, “Hello?”
“Ah. I guess youarethere.”
She thought it was a college friend. “Yeah, I am,” she said casually. “How are you? What's goin' on?”
“I don't know. You tell me.”
“Holy shit!” she said. “It's you!”
He really laughed.
“Where are you? What are you doing?” she asked.
“Well, I'm going to work in about forty-five minutes.”
“You want some company?”
“That'd be great.” He laughed. She gave him her office extension number, and he said he'd call her. She drove through a blizzard to get there, then sat at her desk and waited. When he called, he said that she should pass by his office, casually carrying papers. He'd be out there and it would look like they'd bumped into each other.
But when she got to the Oval Office door, he wasn't there. A Secret Service agent was.
“I've got some papers for the president,” she said.
The Secret Service agent led her inside. He was sitting behind his desk, smiling.
“You can close the door,” he said to the Secret Service agent. “She'll be here awhile.”
He asked her if she wanted something to drink. She knew what that meant by nowâa move into his bathroom, off the hallway leading from the Oval Office to his private study.
He led her into the bathroom, held her, and kissed her.
“I want to go down on you,” he said.
She felt as if she were going into shock. “No,” she said. “Please.”
“I want to go down on you,” he said again, more insistently this time.
Oh my God! Oh my God! This wass-o-o-ounreal! The president of the United States wanted to go down on her! Her!Big Mac and Pig Mac and all the other awful names they had called her. She knew from reading Gennifer Flowers's book how good he was at cunnilingus.
“You can't,” she said to him.
“I've got my period.”
“Oh no!” he said.
“I know,” she said. She knelt downÂ .Â .Â . and after a while, he stopped her.
Afterward, he was chewing on a cigar. Then he had the cigar in his hand and he was holding the wet cigar the way she'd seen him hold Willard when Willard was a little wet.
She looked at the cigar and she looked at him and she said, “We can do that, too, sometime.”
Four or five days later, around midnight, he called.
“What are you wearing?” he asked her.
She knew what he wanted. Gennifer's book recounted how much he liked phone sexÂ .Â .Â . how much he liked Gennifer talking dirty to him.
She talked dirty to him in her Marilyn Monroe voice. She started touching herself, and she knew he was playing with Willard. His breathing became heavier. She thought they almost came together.
“Sweet dreams,” he said, and hung up.
The Sunday after they'd had phone sex for the first time, she bumped into him by the elevator in a West Wing hallway. She was having a bad hair day and wore a black beret. He asked her to join him in the Oval Office.
When they got there, she said, “Is this just about sex? Or do you have some interest in getting to know me as a person? If it's just about sex, it's okay. But you have to let me know.”
He said, “What?” and laughed a little bit.
“You never even ask me questions about myself.”
He looked deep into her eyes and said, “I cherish the time I have with you.”
He put his arm around her and said, “I love your beret. It frames your cute little face so beautifully.”
He said, “You have no idea what a gift it is to me to spend time with you and talk to you. I cherish our time together, I really do. It's very lonely here. People don't understand that.”
He told her how much pain he was inâhis back was hurting again, but worse than that, he said, he had just been informed of the death of the first American serviceman in Bosnia.
She felt suddenly reassured. He was such a caring and sensitive man, so obviously moved that a soldier had been killed as a result of an order he'd given.
As he moved her toward the hallway and the bathroom, she started to tell him that. But he kissed her suddenly and passionately, before she could say anything.
“I feel so stupid standing here in this dumb hat.”
“It's not a dumb hat. It's a cute hat. I like it.”
She knelt downÂ .Â .Â . and then they heard someone in the Oval Office. He shoved Willard inside his pants, zipped up quickly, and hurried into the Oval Office. She had to laugh as she watched him go. Willard looked like the Alien, ready to burst through his clothes.
He ducked back out of the Oval Office and said she had to leave because he had a meeting. He whisked her through a back door to his aide Nancy Hernreich's office and gave her a deep and passionate kiss good-bye. She left and tried to go into the West Wing hallway, but the door was locked. She went back into Nancy Hernreich's office.
She was startled to see him still there, sitting on Nancy Hernreich's couch, alone, staring at nothing. He had Willard in his hand and was closuring himself. She watched him with Willard a moment and then she smiled and stepped to her Handsome and kissed himÂ .Â .Â . as he kept moving Willard back and forth with his hand.
The next Sunday, February 4, she was sitting at her desk when he called her from the White House residence and told her he'd be going to the Oval Office in an hour and a half.
He said he'd call her when he was leaving the residence upstairs in the White House. She watched the clock. An hour and a half passed, then two, then two and a halfÂ .Â .Â . and just when she thought he'd blown her off, three hours later, he called.
She suggested they bump into each other “accidentally on purpose,” like they had before. They “bumped into each other” in the hall and went through the Rose Garden and into the Oval Office. He walked her right back to his private study and kissed her. She was wearing a long dress that buttoned from neck to ankle. He unbuttoned all the buttons and took the dress off. She took her bra and panties off and was naked for the first time with him. But she still had her black combat boots on.
“They're just like Chelsea's,” he said.
He told her how beautiful she was and put his hand between her legs. She had an orgasm and then she knelt downÂ .Â .Â . and after a while he stopped her. They got dressed and they went back to the Oval Office.
“Are you sure this isn't just about sex?” she asked him, smiling.
His eyes seemed to her to tear up. He said, “I don't ever want you to feel that way; that's not what this is.”
She told him then about Andy Bleiler. She told him that Andy was married and that she sometimes felt he was just using her sexually.
He listened closely as she talked about Andy, and when she was finished, he said, “He's such a jerk.”
She felt that he really cared, that he had really listened. Before she left, she went around the side of his desk and gave him a long hug. He kissed her arm and said he'd call her.
She said, “Yeah, well, what's my phone number?”
He rattled off both her home and office numbers perfectly.
“Okay,” she said, “you got anA,” and left.
When she got back to her desk, her phone rang.
“I just wanted to tell you,” he said, “you're a really neat person.”
She felt, for the first time, that they had become friends. So she didn't understand, in the days afterward, why he didn't glance at her or smile at her when he saw her. She felt something was wrong. She was hoping he'd call her on Valentine's Day, but he didn't. When he called her at her apartment on the Monday after Valentine's Day, February 19, and she heard his voice, she knew for certain something was wrong.
“Can I come and see you?” she asked.
“I don't know how long I'm going to be here.”
She drove to the White House quickly, gathered a bunch of papers at her desk, and headed for the Oval Office. She told the Secret Service agent outside his door that she had papers for the president to sign.
Handsome was sitting behind his desk. He looked pale and depressed.
He said, “Sit down,dear.” She hated the worddear.It was a word, she thought, that only old people used.
He said he had been thinking and that what was going on between them “wasn't right.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. “I don't want to hurt Hillary and Chelsea. I want to work on my marriage.”
She started to cry and plead with him, telling him how strongly she felt about him, telling him they were good for each other and needed each other.
“No,” he repeated, “this isn't right.” And then he said, “I don't want to be like that schmuck in Oregon.”
Andy Bleiler,she thought.Here was the president of the United States comparing himself to Andy Bleiler!She was sorry now she'd ever told him about Andy.
“You know,” he said to her, “if I were twenty-five years old and not married, I would have you on the floor back there in three seconds.”
“I don't understand!” she cried.
“You'll understand when you're older,” he said. “We can still be friends.” He gave her a hug and she tried to kiss him.
“We can't do that anymore,” he said.
The telephone rang and he picked it up. “I've got to take this call,” he said to her.
It was a sugar grower, he whispered to her, and he was about to sign legislation that would hurt the sugar industry.
“When I screw somebody”âhe smiled at herâ“I like to tell 'em first.”
She left then, crying. She'd knelt down for him three times, she'd let him play with her body, and now he'd dumped her.But she was in love with him!He was Andy Bleiler all over again, saying he felt guilty about cheating on his wife and child. But that gave her some hope, too. As many times as Andy Bleiler had broken up with her because he felt guilty about cheating, he'd always come back to her to cheat some more. Her only hope now was that the president of the United States would turn out to be like Andy, who'd treated her terribly for years.
She told her mother and her aunt Debra that Handsome had ended their relationship, and, while they could plainly see her pain, they were relieved. She hadn't said a word to them about Willard; all she'd mentioned was the flirting and kissing. But they'd seen the color photograph of the president of the United States next to her bed and were worried for her.
A week after Handsome told her it was over, he called her at home. He had seen her in the hallway, he said.
“You looked so skinny,” he said.
She offered to drive down to the White House right away to see him.
“I've got to help Chelsea with her homework,” he said.
A week or two later, she saw him again as she was giving a girlfriend a White House tour. He was wearing blue jeans, a denim work shirt, and a baseball cap. He had been in the White House theater with Hillary. She introduced him to her girlfriend and picked pieces of popcorn off his shirt.
In late March, she cut her hand on a file cabinet and went to see the White House doctor. Next morning, she saw the doctor with Handsome, who'd been jogging and was feeling nauseous. The doctor asked her how her hand was and Handsome asked what had happened to it. He called her that night at her desk and said, “I'm sorry you hurt your hand.”
He asked her, over the phone, to join him and see a movie in the White House theater. It'd be too risky, she told him. There'd be other people there.
“You're right. Itistoo risky.”
“What if I see you this weekend?” she asked.
“I'll see what I can do.”
That Sunday, he called her at her desk at lunchtime. The Secret Service agent led her inside the Oval Office. He wasn't there. The agent poked his head into the hallway and they heard the toilet flush. They were embarrassed. Word around the White House was that the president was suffering from an intestinal flu. He came out of the bathroom sweating, wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. The agent left.
He kissed her as soon as the agent was gone. In his hand, he had an unlit cigar that he'd been chewing.
“I've missed you so much,” he said. His fingers were deep inside her. He was still holding the chewed, unlit cigar in his other hand. He put the cigar inside her and began moving it up and down, back and forth. She had an orgasm.
He took the cigar out of her and put it into his mouth.
“It tastes good.” He smiled.
He kissed and held her again. When she reached to unzip Willard, he stopped her.
She had the feeling that he “wanted to focus on me sexually.” He also, of course, had the intestinal flu. She was elated as she went home that day.
Their breakup had lasted six weeks. His guilt had lasted six weeksÂ .Â .Â . until his appetite for her overcame it. The good news was that he was just like Andy Bleiler. The bad news was that he was just like Andy Bleiler.
Five days later, on Friday, April 5, she was called into her boss's office. Timothy Keating was staff director for Legislative Affairs. He told her she was fired. Her last day would be the following Monday.
She would start Monday as an assistant at the Pentagon, writing press releases. Keating didn't use the wordfired.He said she was merely “being given a different opportunity.” But she knew what it meant.
“You're too sexy to be working here,” Keating said. “The Pentagon job is much sexier.”
She felt as if her world were shattering. She knew why she was being “transferred.” She and Handsome had tried to be careful, tried to stay away from the windows in the Oval Office and the study, confining their fooling around to the hallway and the bathroom as much as possible. But word, she knew, always got around the White House quickly. She had been around him too much. Secret Service agents had seen her walking into and leaving his office, sometimes by the back door.
And she knew there were women on the staff, many of them Hillary's friends, some of them his former or present lovers, who were vigilant about observing who was going into his office. They were the women she called “the Meanies.” She knew, too, that these womenâso unlike her in style and clothing, corporate and unsmiling, religiously professionalâwere especially vigilant at this moment, April 1996, seven months before the presidential election. She knew the close call he'd had with Gennifer during the last election. The Meanies would make sure there was no “bimbo eruption” this time, while he ran against Bob Dole, her next-door neighbor.
And she knew how much he wanted to win against Bob Dole, who, he said, was “an evil, evil man. He likes cutting food stampsâhe likes it. He enjoys cutting Medicare. He relishes slashing education. He loves cutting immigrants. It's how he gets his kicks.”
She cried all weekend. He called her Sunday afternoon.
“Can I come see you?” she whimpered.
“Tell me what happened first,” he said. She told him.
“I bet this has something to do with me,” he said. “Okay. Come on over.” He had just come back from attending Easter services with Hillary.
She knew she looked like a wreck, but she went over right away. A Secret Service agent was standing at the door as she arrived with her sheaf of cover-story papers. He wouldn't let her in. He said he'd have to check with a staff member, one of the Meanies. She said, “PleaseâI'll only be a couple minutes,” and he relented.
Handsome lookeds-o-o-osad when she saw him. His friend Commerce Secretary Ron Brown had been killed in a plane crash four days earlier. She started to cry. She told him about her “transfer” again and he got angry and upset.
“Why did they have to take you away from me?” he said. “I trust you so much.” He got up and hugged her for a long moment and moved her to the hallway.
“If I win in November, you can come back here just likethat!” he said. He snapped his fingers. She felt a tiny bit better, smiling through her tears.
“Really?” she asked.
“I promise,” he said. “You can have any job you want.”
“Can I be the special White House assistant for blow jobs?”
He really laughed and she laughed a little bitâshe was still crying, feeling “devastated.”
He started kissing her and he took her sweater off. He fondled her breasts and took her breasts out of her bra. She took her bra off.
“Mr. President, you have a phone call!” someone in the Oval Office said. He broke away from her quickly and went out into the Oval Office. She put her bra and sweater back on. Then he was back suddenly, and he saw that she'd gotten dressed.
“Damn,” he said. “Why did you put your clothes back on?” He was smirking at her.
He led her into the study and took the phone call. It was Dick Morris, his political adviser. As he spoke to Morris, he let his pants drop and pulled his underwear down. Handsome didn't look at her, just gazed off as she knelt downÂ .Â .Â .Â . She didn't know exactly why, but this was the first time that she felt like a whore. Like she was “servicing” him. Handsome hung up and watched her with Willard. He said nothing.
He stopped her and she looked up at him.
“I'm in love with you,” she told him. It was the first time she had said it.
“That means a lot to me,” he said.
“Mr. President!” Harold Ickes, one of his aides, yelled in the Oval Office.
“Shit! Goddamn it!” Handsome said.
He jumped up, put his pants back on, and went running out into the Oval Office.
She put herself together quickly and went out the back through the dining room. She cried all the way home. She had lost the job she loved. The man she loved had made her feel like a whore. But she loved him still. She loved hims-o-o-omuch. She didn't know as she drove home that she wouldn't see this man she loved for nearly a full year.
On the following Monday, April 15, 1996, the first day she stepped into the Pentagon, she knew she'd hate it. The place looked shabby. There were all these uniforms around. Everybody was terminally unhip. In her new job, she mostly transcribed tapes or typed up releases. She'd gone from heaven to hell.
Her world turned to darkness. She'd sit by the phone and wait for him to call. For a while, she didn't even go out, for fear she'd miss a call. He called rarely, telling her once, “Don't worry, I'm going to take care of you. You'll be okay.”
Mostly, when he did call, he wanted phone sexâmore active now himself, talking dirty as much as she did. He woke her up early one morning when he was at the Olympics in Atlanta and, after he'd climaxed, he said, “Good morning!” And then he said, “What a way to start the day!” From June until October of 1996, he called her eight times for phone sex.
She was having an affair by then with Ted, an older man she'd met at the Pentagon, but she was still telling all of her friends and her mother and Aunt Debra how much she was in love with the president of the United States. She was also going to a weight clinic again and making trips to the White House to take Betty Currie gifts for him: another Zegna tie, a T-shirt.
She attended government and public events, where she'd briefly glimpse him, even as she continued her affair with Ted. She waited on the sidewalk as he and Hillary were driven to church; he saw her and waved at her. She flew to New York to attend a public function at Radio City Music Hall celebrating his fiftieth birthday. She wore a red dress, and as he hurried through a mob of people, campaigning, pressing the flesh, she put her hand on Willard and pressed Willard's flesh.
She positioned herself on the sidewalk outside his hotel the next day so he could see her waving at him. She went to a fund-raiser and saw him hugging another woman at about the same time that she saw him on TV jogging with Eleanor Mondale in L.A. She went to another fund-raiser and he pointed to her as he left the room, and she thought he mouthedI miss you.When she wasn't with Ted, and there were no public functions to attend where she could see him, she was at home listening to Billie Holiday singing “I'll Be Seeing You.”
During one of his sex calls, she told him how much she missed him and begged to see him. He said he was too busy. During another sex call, she asked him to serenade her with his saxophone over the phone on her birthday. He promised he'd call her on her birthday, but he didn't. During another sex call, she asked him when they would have intercourse.
“Never,” he said.
When she asked him why not, he said, “You'll know when you're older.”
She got angry at him and he said, “If you don't want me to call you anymore, just say so.”
In late September, she broke up with Ted. She had discovered that Ted was sleeping with other women while telling her how much he adored her. In early October, she discovered that she was pregnant. Ted didn't even want to share the abortion cost with her. He didn't even go with her that day. She went alone, using money she'd borrowed from Aunt Debra.
On the day after Handsome was reelected, she went down to the South Lawn to join the crowd that greeted him. She wore her beret. He saw her and gave her what she considered to be a “meaningful” look.
After she saw him on the lawn, she waited for his call. Hadn't he promised that if he won the election, he'd bring her back to the White Houseâjust like that? She even got her hair cut, sure that he'd make good now on his promise. She waited by the phone for days. He didn't call. She found herself crying uncontrollably.
She was scheduled to leave for a friend's wedding in Hawaii on December 2, but she postponed her departure for a day when she read that, for the first time since the election, Hillary would be out of town. It will be Handsome's last chance, she said to herself, but she wasn't always calling him Handsome now. Sometimes she called him “the Creep.” Sometimes she called him “the Big Creep.” Sometimes she called him “Butt-head.” If he didn't phone her now, she'd change her phone number. She remembered what Gennifer had called him: “a flat, two-dimensional piece of hardened paper, empty of all feelings.”
He called her around 9:30 p.m. It had been six weeks since she'd even heard his voice on the phone.
“Hi,” he said. “It's Bill; I've got laryngitis.”
He said, “I wish I were there and could put my arms around you.” He told her he missed her and asked her to come to see him at the White House the next day. She told him she couldn'tâshe had to go to her friend's wedding in Hawaii and her ticket wasn't refundable.
He started having phone sex and told her he wanted her to do the talking. She used her Marilyn Monroe voice. She heard a strange noise on the other end. At first, she thought he was climaxing, but then she realized it wasn'tthatsound. She listened. He wassnoring.
She went to her friend's wedding, got a great tan, and then flew to Portland to see Andy Bleiler. Andy sneaked away from Kate and they shared a day in her motel room. Andy told her that he'd been cheating on his wife with another woman for more than a year.
She'd been worried about pain during intercourse since her abortion two months before and wanted to try sex first with a familiar lover. Her day at the motel with Andy proved to her that she was healed, and she flew back to Washington.
She thought about her relationship with the president of the United States. Interrupted in the hallway and the bathroom by phone calls. Interrupted by aides. Interrupted by knocks on the door. He couldn't go down on her because she was having her period. She couldn't see him because he was out campaigning. She couldn't see him because Hillary was in town. She couldn't see him because Eleanor Mondale was in there. She couldn't see him because her Hawaii ticket wasn't refundable. Then his back hurt. Then he had intestinal flu. Then he broke his leg and was on crutches. Lloyd Bentsen was waiting outside. Asshole Arafat was waiting outside. She couldn't even do him with Altoids. She came in chewing them and they kissed, but he didn't have time. President Zedillo was waiting for dinner.
Somerelationship, she thought, “foreplay to the foreplay.” The Creep. The Big Creep. Butt-head. She remembered how he'd left Gennifer a T-shirt to hold through the night, after he'd gone hurrying home to Hillary. Monica didn't even have anything to hold. All she had was his photograph on her nightstand.
She was depressed, but she looked forward to seeing the new friend she'd made at the Pentagon. She was sure this was going to be a lifelong friendship. She was convinced her new friend cared about her. Her name was Linda Tripp.
Monica Feels His Pain
“I would have believed it about any president,” Monica said.
“Well, I wouldn't have believed it of George Bush,” Linda Tripp said. “He was like a grandfather.”
“He had a girlfriend.”
“He did not!”
“He did too!”
“Oh, I don't believe that,” Linda said. “He was such aâaâold fellow.”
The former First Lady was gone and he lived alone in the big house near New York City that they had bought together. He felt himself to be an old man, peeing so many times each day, staring out the living room window sometimes at the snow, with only Monica for company. Who would have thought that at his age he would be spending much of his time with herÂ â¦ with Monica, still so young, still in school trying to get her doctorate inÂ â¦ foreign affairs. She even summarized the Sunday-morning talk shows for him.
Monica didn't live at the houseâhe'd had enough of scandalâbut she lived close by and came up to the house all the time. Once he even went over to her apartment, and the former president of the United States sat down at the piano with Monica and they sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” together. Sometimes they just talked. He sat in his chair in his study, his foot up on the ottoman, grapefruit juice or white grape juice at his side, pointing his eyeglasses at her or twirling them, biting his pen or clutching his fist to make a point, using the old-time phrases he knew she thought were outdated, things like “Right on” or “Not my bag.”
He talked a lot about his mother. “She sacrificed everything for us,” he told Monica. “She worked like a dog through pain and tears.” He served Monica drinks sometimesâthe “Asian martini” he'd first tasted in Singapore, the Chinese mai tai, “so strong it can kill you.”
“You're giving me something that can kill me?” Monica laughed.
“You're young,” he told her. “You can take it.” She knew how consumed he was with the difference in their ages.
“I look damn old,” he said to her. “I see how young you are and IâwellÂ â¦ I see some of my contemporaries and they look so bad.”
He told her, “You have your whole life ahead of you. Mine is all past, behind me.”
On another occasion he said, “Monica, you need something to live for. Everybody does: countries do, people do. And everyone should maintain a youthful spirit. Sometimes it's hard to do, but, Monica, you must. Otherwise aging will just get you down and defeat you.”
Sometimes, when he was in a mood like this, she was able to make him laugh. “I'm in pretty good shape,” he admitted to her once. “I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't play cards anymore. What do I do?”
“Nothing fun,” Monica said.
When he was presented with a fortune cookie on an airline flight, he handed it to her and asked her to open it and read it to him. He smiled when she read, “Â âYour mentality is alert and analytical.'Â ”
She knew, though, that when she wasn't with him, he was mostly alone, cooking up cans of chili for himself, nibbling his sesame-seed bread sticks, toasting hot dog buns so he could feel himself there at the ballpark as he watched a game on TV. When she joined him for chili, he laid out the fine china himself. He spent most of his days writing his books, worried that he'd been discredited by the scandal, wondering if people still had any respect for him. “I can write op-ed pieces until I'm blue in the face,” he told her. When he wasn't working on his books, she helped him. He'd always listened to her ideas; he was reading. Not as much about politicsâ“It's a dirty and cynical business, always has been and always will be”âas about philosophy.
“I can't find my book!” he said to her once, upset. “I can't believe I'm missing my Nietzsche!” He told her, “Most of the time, I can't make out a goddamn thing in this stuff.” He philosophized to her, as well: “I believe that man is both good and bad, light and dark. The evil, though, overrides the good in certain situations because although man has the potential to be good, his inherent evil tends to overwhelm him at times.” And: “I think we have to wait until we die to know the answers. I really do. Peace comes with death.” She didn't like it when he talked to her like that. “There are so many books left to read,” he told her. “My time is running out. You have a lot of time left. I don't.” She liked it better when he told her, chuckling, about the philosophers themselves: Rousseau had all kinds of bastard kids; Marx was a drunk who fell down in the gutters. The older he got, Monica noted, he, who'd masterfully worked so many rooms, wanted to have less to do with people. “Why bullshit with people?” he said. “It takes time away from the great books.”
Monica loved traveling with him, sitting there and watching him with the leaders of the new world, staying in guest houses and luxury suites provided by the host governments, sleeping just down the hall but always available for his call. When she went to his suite on their trips abroad, he would invariably point to the ceiling and put a finger over his mouth, warning her that they could be listening to or watching them. The two of them occasionally ran into bumps during their travels. The new president of Israel had looked at her suspiciously and said, “Can we trust her?” and the president of Latvia had stood him up for a meeting, and she saw once again her ex-president's old fire-burst of temper. “Goddamn!” he said to her. “I did not come all the way out here to be stood up or to see second-tier people! I am not staying another minute! Let's go! Now!”
But he still had his soft and romantic side, as well. Walking at night in Anchorage together, he stopped and said, “Look how the lights sparkle out here. The colorsÂ â¦ are just spectacular. Everything up here is either light green or blue. I know people love New York, but after seeing this, we've got to wonder why we go back to the goddamn place.” In Moscow, he stooped down and threw a snowball at her. Then he let her decide whether they were going to Prague or Budapest next. She picked Prague, and he said, “It's magical, you'll be overwhelmed.” In Saint Petersburg, the mayor asked why Monica wasn't wearing a scarf in the bitter chill. The former president of the United States answered for her: “She's one of those indestructible types.” At the Guangzhou market in China, he tapped her on the nose and said, “Be careful of these people approaching you and trying to sell you things. Not everyone out there is nice.” And in Tokyo, he told her, “Monica, you must never get tired of these places, even if you come back a thousand times. This is your first time here, so it's all new and exciting. But when you return, you must look at these places as if you were looking at them for the first time.”
There was a moment with him in Beijing that Monica would never forget. As soon as they saw him in the street, the crowds were all over him, tugging at him, touching him, adoring him. Watching him basking in it, glorying in it, taking what he later called a “people bath,” Monica thought, Just knowing somewhere in the world he is revered absolutely gives him a sense of gratification and vindication. They went from the streets into a teahouse and he swayed to the music. He picked up a tambourine near the stage and started playing it. The former president of the United States, disgraced because of his liesÂ â¦ and here he was so many years later, loved by the crowds, with Monica near him, Monica there to share this moment of epiphany.
Sometimes on their trips, it seemed that he just needed to see her. He called her to his suite at midnight, and when she got there, his room was dark except for a small desk lamp. He was in pajamas and a robe. “Oh, hi,” he said. “I couldn't sleep.” On a plane ride back home, he whispered, “Monica?”
She said, “What's wrong?”
He said, “Oh, nothing. Were you sleeping?”
When she couldn't accompany him on a Moscow trip because of her grad school finals, he called her excitedly, even twice a day. “Monica?” he said. “I can't believe that I got through to you! I just punched in your number and hoped for the best! Well, it's five a.m. here, but I've got insomnia, so I thought I'd call and fill you in.” In another call, he said, “I know how much you love this city. I wish you weren't in school. The stopover in London was well worth it. It was beautiful. They are further along in spring than we are. The crocuses and forsythias are out, blooming like mad.” He called her, too, when he fell down in the Moscow streets. “I scraped my knee and hit my rib,” he said. “It hurts when I breathe. I don't know what happened. I just sort of lost my balance and slipped.Â â¦ I guess the stars just weren't with me this time around.”
Back home, she was with him at Halloween, his favorite holiday. She watched as he went out into the yard of the big house, handing candy out and talking to the neighborhood kids, masked there, waiting for him. A father wearing a mask in the likeness of the former president's face came up to him, and he laughed and said to the father, “Well, Mr. President, it's nice to meet you.” The father's son got a good laugh out of it, and Monica saw that he was having as much fun being out here with the kids as all the trick-or-treaters.
Monica was with him at Radio City Music Hall for the annual Christmas show. She watched him watch the reenactment of the birth of Christ. The narrator said that Christ died at the hands of His enemies, but every human being had been affected by that “one solitary life.” As Monica watched him, she saw that he, who had had so many enemies, whose life had affected hundreds of millions of others, was crying.
Three weeks before he died, he spent the day in New York with the daughter he loved so much. People everywhere were stopping him and asking him for autographs, but what meant so much, he told Monica, was that his daughter was there to see it.
“It was just niceÂ â¦ knowing that she was right there to see it all andÂ â¦”
“Share it with you,” Monica said.
“That meant a lot,” Richard Nixon, eighty years old, told his twenty-two-year-old research and foreign relations assistant, Monica Crowley.
Kathleen and the Ratwoman
“I said something about Marsha Scott,” Monica said. “He saidââShe was my girlfriend in like 1968' or something like that, just a stupid thing like that.”
“Oh, yes,” Linda Tripp said, “he banged her on the canal or something.”
“Oh, how gross!”
Up onstage already were Monica and Paula Jones and GenniferÂ .Â .Â . and now, out of the darkened wings, came not trailer trash or Beverly Hills bimbo but a classy, intelligent, and attractive socialite, Kathleen Willey, doing a “pity me” monologue about yet another unwanted groping in that bordello hallway between the Oval Office and the private study.
Even as the pundits feverishly forecast “the other shoe” that was surely soon to drop, it seemed suddenly that it had. Within weeks, however, Willey's monologue was exposed as a selective and suspect account. The victim of the groping stood revealed as an upscale, scheming, former stewardess trying to make a buck by offering her well-kept body to Bill Clinton, who rarely turned a body down. Backstage, whispering, sharpening her fangs, was Monica's new “lifelong” friend at the Pentagon, Linda Tripp, the Ratwoman.
Kathleen Willey, who enjoyed skiing in Vail and sunning in Bermuda, met Bill Clinton in 1991, with her husband, Ed, a prosperous real estate lawyer. She and Ed set up the state of Virginia's first Clinton campaign headquarters. When the candidate flew into Richmond for a debate with George Bush and Ross Perot, Willey went to greet him at the airport with a group of other Democrats. Nancy Hernreich, then Clinton's office manager in Little Rock, went up to Willey at the airport and told her Clinton wanted her phone number. Willey gave it to her. Moments earlier, news cameras had caught Willey hugging Clinton and Clinton then turning to an aide to ask who she was.
Bill Clinton called her at home that afternoon. He had a bad cold. “It was really good to see you,” he said.
“It sounds like you need some chicken soup,” she said.
“Would you bring me some?” he asked.
“Well, I don't know about that,” Willey said.
Aides came into his hotel room and he told Willey, “I'll have to call you back. I'll call you at six.”
When he called at six, Willey had a friend there with her named Julie Hiatt Steele. She asked Julie to listen in on their conversation. Willey told him she couldn't take him his chicken soup. She'd see him at a fund-raiser after the debate that night.
On election night, Willey and her husband, Ed, flew to Little Rock to celebrate Bill Clinton's victory. A few months later, in April 1993, Kathleen Willey became a volunteer at the White House Social Office. She commuted from her home in Richmond three times a week. She organized White House tour groups. She recruited high school bands to play there. She helped plan the White House Jazz Festival.
Kathleen Willey had made her move by then on Bill Clinton, no doubt regretting the chicken soup she hadn't taken him. Like Monica later, she sent him a tie. Like Monica later, she gave him a bookâits title as intriguing asVox,the phone-sex book Monica would send him. Willey's book was entitledHonor Among Thieves.Like Monica later, she called Bill Clinton to wish him a happy birthday. She sent him a handwritten note inviting him to spend his winter vacation in Vail. She added that she was going to be there in mid-December and offered to help make travel arrangements for him. She never mentioned her husband.
As she was writing her notes and calling Bill Clinton, Kathleen Willey was in the throes of a personal nightmare. Ed had been caught embezzling $340,000. Ed's victims and the law were after him. Kathleen Willey, who knew a lot about living well, was going broke.
The Ratwoman had been watching her by then.
The Ratwoman knew how she felt about Bill Clinton by then.
The Ratwoman had become her friend by then.
Linda Tripp, forty-three years old, was a “floater” in the White House secretarial pool. She had worked for George Bush and had been inherited by Bill Clinton. She was the ex-wife of a career soldier, a lieutenant colonel, who had dumped her and left her with two college-age kids. Thanks to her ex-husband, Linda Tripp had worked the dark side of the Pentagon. She had even been assigned to the supersecret antiterrorist Delta Force. She knew about black-bag operations and had a top secret clearance. She was a creep and a spook.
And here she was now, in the Clinton White House, among people she loathedâpeople who cussed and wore blue jeans and acted like the White House were a college campus. She was a dumpy, stiffly conservative spy among attractive, sexual young people who had taken over the government. A woman who'd been cruelly dumped by her husband, she seemed to have a special loathing for Bill Clinton, the star of the show. She knew all about the women on the White House staffâ“the graduates” who went into his office and did things to him and for him that she would never be called upon to do.
So Linda Tripp began wooing, ingratiating herself with, Kathleen Willey, the volunteer worker who seemed to have a special relationship with Bill Clinton. The former Pentagon black-bagger just happened to be at the right place at the right time, working near Kathleen, just as she'd been at the right place at the right time with Vince Foster, her desk right outside Foster's office, the last person to see him before he drove down to the park to shoot himself.In the right place at the right timeÂ .Â .Â .to later claim that she saw Hillary's Rose Law Firm billing records among Foster's files.
Linda Tripp fawned all over Willey, praising her hairdo, her dresses, even her deep voice. She filled Willey in on her black-bag scoops, pointing out the staffers who were among “the graduates” who were intimately satisfying Bill Clinton's needs. Tripp told Willey how outraged she'd been when she was sent down to McDonald's to get a cheeseburger for the president (a frightening image in retrospectâthe Ratwoman, who loathed Bill Clinton, bringing him his fat-poisoned food). She told Willey constantly that the president was romantically interested in her: “Look at him, Kathleen. He's looking right at you and nobody else in the room.”
Kathleen Willey's life, meanwhile, was coming apart. She and Ed desperately needed money. She was only a volunteer at the White House; she needed to be paid. On November 29, 1993, she went to see Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. She sat down across from him.
“I've got something I need to talk to you about,” she said. He asked if she wanted a cup of coffee and led herÂ .Â .Â . into the hallwayÂ .Â .Â . to his private study. He poured her a cup of coffee in a Starbucks mug. He showed her around the private study and displayed his political button collection (as he would with Monica).
“I've got a really serious problem,” she told him. “I need to talk to you. There's something going on in my life. Ed has gotten himself into some financial trouble, and I'm really kind of desperate. The bottom line is, I need a job.”
She was crying. Suddenly embarrassed, she turned from him and walked awayÂ .Â .Â . into the hallwayÂ .Â .Â . and tried to open the closed hallway door that led back to the Oval Office. Bill Clinton, behind her suddenly, hugged her.
“I'm really sorry this happened to you,” he said. He kissed her. They were still in the hallway. She still had the hot Starbucks mug of coffee in one hand. He ran his hands through her hair. She was afraid she'd spill the coffee.
“You have no idea how much I wanted you to bring me that chicken soup,” he said.
She said, “Aren't you afraid there are people around here? What if somebody comes in?”
He had his arm above her head. He looked at his watch. He said, “Yeah, I've got a meeting. But I can be late.” He took the Starbucks mug out of her hand and put it on a shelf.
“I've wanted to do this since the first time I laid eyes on you,” he said.
He kissed her again. He felt her breasts and her back and put his hand up her skirt. He put her hands on Willard. Willard was erect. Bill Clinton's face was beet red.
Then, his nightmare of nightmaresâwhy did this keep happening again and again?âsome idiot of a damn fool started knocking on the hallway door, yelling, “Mr. President! Mr. President!”
“I've got to go!” Kathleen Willey said. “You've got a meeting.” She grabbed the Starbucks mug back off the shelf and walked through the Oval Office and out the door.
She went straight to the Ratwoman's desk. “Where's your lipstick?” Linda Tripp said. They went outside and sat by a picnic table on the White House lawn. Willey told her what had happened. “I could always tell the president wanted you,” Linda Tripp said.
Willey went back to Richmond and told her friend Julie Hiatt Steele what had happened. But she had another, much more critical problem. Ed wasn't at the office and he wasn't home. She and Julie looked everywhere and couldn't find her husband. The next morning, police found Ed's body. He had committed suicide. Kathleen Willey lost it. Julie had to put her in a hospital.
When she got out of the hospital, in dire straits, she got a job as a secretary in the White House counsel's office, working right alongside of Tripp, also in the counsel's office. Kathleen Willey started sending Bill Clinton affectionate and supportive notes again. But now she had another pressing problemâand so did Tripp. A new counsel was coming in, and that meant new secretarial staff could come with him. The Ratwoman and Willey went to see the new counsel, Lloyd Cutler, together. They told Cutler, the most veteran of Washington operatives, thattheycould helphimmaneuver his way around the politics and bureaucracy of the White House.
When Cutler took over, he said he was keeping Willey at her job temporarily but was letting Tripp go. The Ratwoman nearly hemorrhaged! Willey, this inept, spoiled socialite who could barely run a computer, was staying on? Was gettingherjob?Why? Because the president of the United States thought Willey was a sexy babe and knew Tripp wasn't? The same old Clinton standardsÂ .Â .Â . a pair of nice tits and a sweet ass meant more than a woman with job experience, a woman who'd worked with Delta Force.
“Don't you think for one moment I don't know what's going on around here!” Tripp yelled at the inept, spoiled socialite she now hated. “Don't you think I don't know why I'm getting fired and you're getting my job!”
“What are you talking about?” Willey said.
“I know they want you because the president wants you around,” Tripp said.
As Linda Tripp walked out of the office on her last day, she turned to Willey and said loudly enough so others could hear it, “I will get you, if it's the last thing I do.”
Out of the White House, stuck in a cubicle at the Defense Department, planning celebrity trips to defense bases, Linda Tripp raged and kept tabs on Kathleen Willey. Willey, she learned, was soon out of the White House and was now working for the State Department, flying to glamorous places like Jakarta and Copenhagen at taxpayers' expense. The State Department! This former stewardess, who'd been organizing White House tours two years ago! Who couldn't even run a computer! But who'd let the president of the United States feel between her legs and had said nothing about it!
In August 1997, the story about the incident in the hallway between the president of the United States and Kathleen Willey made its way into the papers. Willey initially didn't speak to the press. Her story got out through leaks from one of Paula Jones's attorneys. In the beginning, Willey fled from any kind of publicity.
Her story was discredited after she did a nationally traumatic interview with60 Minutes,recounting in low-key, classy, socialite terms what had happened in the hallway leading to the private study. The White House had simply released the affectionate and supportive notes she had sent to Bill Clinton beforeandafter the incident.
Her story was discredited in another crucial wayÂ .Â .Â . by the Ratwoman, who had said, “I will get you, if it's the last thing I do.” Yes, Tripp told the press, Willey had come right to her after leaving the Oval Office that day. But Willey, Tripp said, wasn't shaken or upset. She was “excited.” Willey had been after Bill Clinton ever since she'd come to the White House. Willey was a “woman on a mission.” As they spoke out by the picnic table that day, Tripp said, Willey had wanted her advice on “the next step” in her now-blossoming “relationship” with the president. In no way was this, Linda Tripp said, “sexual harassment.” The fact that Linda Tripp was saying this, a person who admitted to an intense dislike of Bill Clinton, was the final factor in the discrediting of Kathleen Willey's story.
What no one at the time knew was that the entire story had been leaked thanks to an anonymous phone call to one of Paula Jones's lawyers. The caller, who sounded like a middle-aged woman, told the lawyer all the details of the incident in the hallway and gave him Kathleen Willey's name. The lawyer leaked the information to a reporter.
Linda Tripp, though no one would ever prove it, had pulled off a black-bag op worthy of the best (or worst) of Delta Force. She began it with an anonymous phone call. She publicly humiliated Bill Clinton with the public revelation of his sleazy sexual behavior, this time with an emotionally distraught woman seeking his aid. She humiliated Kathleen Willey by exposing her as a woman willing to use her body for money. And she made herself look publicly noble by defending the president, whom everyone knew she loathed, against sexual harassment charges.
But by the time the press spoke to her about Kathleen Willey, the Ratwoman was gnawing a bone tastier and more rancid than any of the others.In the right place at the right timeÂ .Â .Â .first with Vince Foster, then with Kathleen WilleyÂ .Â .Â . and now with a young woman she had met in the office at the Pentagon, a young woman very much Bill Clinton's type. A young woman who had been a White House intern. Linda Tripp crunched her bone and knew that this one came from right under Bill Clinton's soft white underbelly. The Ratwoman smelled roast pig.
Nixon Impregnates Monica
“The age difference between us,” Monica said to Linda Tripp. “I should tell him I have hearing aids too.”
Nixon's MonicaâCrowleyâdidn't go down on him. She took notes and ran to her secret diary after their conversations. But by doing that, by giving us the details of the insomniac Night Creature stewing, plotting, and clenching his fist in his palatial New Jersey crypt, she pleased Nixon at least as thoroughly as Monica Lewinsky had pleased Bill Clinton.
Joyfully turning her loose (or out) on the world was Nixon's former speechwriter, William Safire, clothing himself now in the priestly vestments of theNew York Times,encouraging her to recount the details of what Nixon had said to her to seduce her into being his trick on posterity. Monica Crowley thanked Safire for “his wise counsel and kind support.” Monica Crowley took it all in and Nixon let it all hang out.
But who could ever have imagined a fact as revealing as the Night Creature's admission to his Monica that Halloween was his favorite holiday? Hounds howl, fangs flash in the crepuscular Jersey night on All Soul's EveÂ .Â .Â . and the Night Creature tells Elviraâno, no, Monica!âthat he looks “ghostly” on TV, that George Bush is a “bloodless” Wasp, that Janet Reno is a “partisanwitch.”
In 1992, as the election with George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot approached, the Night Creature aimed his acidy venom in frothing, bitter, geyserlike eruptions. At George Bush: “Goddamnit, why isn't he showing some leadership?Â .Â .Â . He's a man consumed with petty crapÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's up there in New Hampshire petting cows and raving about God knows whatÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's a mushy moderateÂ .Â .Â .Â . I cannot believe that Bush said, âWe'll kick Saddam's ass,' can you picture Gorbachev saying, âWe'll kick the Republic's ass'?Â .Â .Â .I think Bush's handlers are on drugsÂ .Â .Â .Â .I heard him say the other day âA splash of Tabasco!' âA splash'? In my day, I heard everyone saying, âWait a sec.' What the hell is a sec?Â .Â .Â . He tries too hard to be one of the people, eating pork rinds and the rest, but he's notÂ .Â .Â .Â . Bush was soft on the whole war in Vietnam.” Ross Perot, he told his Monica, was “a demagogue, an egomaniac. He doesn't keep his word. He doesn't say what he means.” Jesse Jackson “just likes to be around controversy. He's shrewd.” Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was “a jerk,” Secretary of State James Baker “an ass,” and reporter Bob Woodward “that asshole.” Gerry Ford was “Poor Gerry Ford. The pardon was the kiss of death.” Lyndon Johnson “invited the press into his bathroom.” Republican adviser David Gergen “had no problem prostituting himself. He believes in nothing.” Future Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and Illinois congressman Dan Rostenkowski were “corrupt up to their eyeballs.”
The Night Creature's fist shot into the air and he yelledwhamowhen he spoke about Massachusetts senator John Kerry: “Here's a guy who was carrying placards in front of the White House and protesting.That son of a bitch threw his medal over the fence at the White House.Here I was trying to end the goddamn war so that his service wouldn't be in vain, and he's throwing his medal back at me!” His fist wentwhamo,too, when he thought about Bush chief of staff John Sununuâ“Sununu? For God's sake! Who the hell is he?”âand of his fellow Republicansâ“Very few of our goddamn people are any good!No one stands up to take the bastards on!They don't have any guts!”
The Night Creature was as bitter now as he had been in the sixties about “all the libs out there” and “the little bastards and assholes in the media” and “the orgy over the Watergate crap.” He said, “Look what the press did to me, the Herblock cartoons and whatnotÂ .Â .Â .Â . They put the lies in the headlines but the truth they put back with the corset adsÂ .Â .Â .Â . Seventy-eight percent of the media voted for McGovern.” He referred to Watergate as “the Watergate bullshitÂ .Â .Â . that sillinessÂ .Â .Â . that silly, silly thingÂ .Â .Â .Â . I think they just love to wallow in this Watergate crap until they drownÂ .Â .Â . who cares about Watergate anymore? It belongs maybe on one of the history channels but not on a major network.” He was as scarily paranoid now, it was clear, as he had been in the sixties. “Those who were after me for Watergate were after me for a long time. They weren't interested in Watergate as much as they were interested in getting me on Vietnam. I gave them what they needed, but believe me, Watergate was just the excuseÂ .Â .Â .Â . One of the greatest tragedies of Watergate was that I couldn't build the new conservative majority. And I was going to start with newspaper reporters. I was going to get conservatives in there to take these people on. That's why in '72 they had to bring me down. They knew I was after them and that I'd succeed.”
Sitting there, in the fetid darkness of his study, wearing his burgundy dinner jacket, the Night Creature spun furry spiderwebs as explanation for what he had done. The devil may have caused the infamous eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap in the deadliest Watergate tape, but JFK and LBJ had caused Watergate itself: “I never wanted to accept the fact that there is a double standard out there. Democrats survive by it, Republicans get killed by it. Kennedy could be as dirty as they comeâand my God! He did some outrageous things in there! But he was protected. Johnsonâsame thing, although to a lesser degree because he wasn't a Kennedy. Somehow I made the mistake of thinking or maybe not even thinkingâmaybe it was an unconscious thingâthat I could act like them.”
Forget his political death; ignore the grimy stake in his heart: The Night Creature knew that he could still run this country. “Any effective leader has got to be a son of a bitch.You have to instill the fear of God in your people to get resultsÂ .Â .Â .Â . To be credible, you have to bomb the bejesus out of countriesÂ .Â .Â .Â .War has to be cast in idealistic terms or there is no way the people are going to support it. In Korea, we were fighting the Commies. In Vietnam, it was harder to get the message acrossÂ .Â .Â .Â . The war in the Gulf was well-run, but I'm afraid it was too short and, frankly, even though one casualty is too much,this one had too few casualtiesÂ .Â .Â .There is no grand thinking going on. We need more vision stuff, more mountaintop stuffÂ .Â .Â .Â . We should get the CIA to take out SaddamÂ .Â .Â .Â . I don't go for this exporting democracy crap.Democracy doesn't belong everywhere.Not all societies or cultures are meant for it.”
He knew the swamp rats who could rebuild his America: Newt Gingrich: “He's a bomb thrower and we need him.”Â .Â .Â . Dan Quayle: “He's so right on.”Â .Â .Â . His former speechwriter Safire: “just a good guy.”Â .Â .Â . And former speechwriter Pat Buchanan: “He's a bulldog. He'll go after them.” The Night Creature, whose Oval Office meetings had been punctuated with so many racist and anti-Semitic epithets, went out of his way to defend Buchanan: “Buchanan's worried because he has been tagged as anti-semitic, which is totally untrue and unfair. The guy is just not that way.” And he reserved a special slimy passion, which was obviously reciprocal, for Bob Dole: “Damn impressiveÂ .Â .Â . he is the last great hope for the party in this century.”
Over and over again, the Night Creature praised Bob Dole. “He's a class act, simple and honestÂ .Â .Â .Â . Dole is the only one who can lead. He is by far the smartest politicianâand Republicanâin the country todayÂ .Â .Â .Â . Dole is a man of principle, but in an election year he would not be so stupid as to support what he believed was a losing position.”
Dole relied on the Night Creature for advice and Nixon became, according to Monica, “Dole's chief, though shadow advisor.” “Stay young!” Nixon advised Dole, and he named world leaders who had excelled in their seventiesâde Gaulle, Audenauer, Chou En-lai. Nixon wrote a nine-page draft called “The Dole Game Plan” for the 1996 election. He told Dole he had to make “character” the great issue of the campaign. “The character issue will help him tremendously against Clinton,” Nixon told Monica, “basically because Clinton has little or no character.” The Night Creature saw the war hero from Kansas as his soul brother, even though Nixon had not done much more than play poker during his war. “There is no one but Dole!” Nixon shouted at Monica. At another moment, he said, “Dole is the only one out there swinging.”
Bob Dole had always been out there swinging, Richard Nixon knew, agreeing for once with Barry Goldwater's assessment: “Dole's the first man we've had around here in a long time who will grab the other side by the hair and drag them down the hill.”Grab them by the hair and drag them down the hill!That was Dole all right, who responded to a colleague's proposal to cut the food stamp program by saying, “Do you put in a burial allowance for the ones who starve?”Â .Â .Â . Dole, who told an amputee that he was jealous after the amputee pointed to Dole's mangled arm at a VA hospital and asked, “Why don't you cut the damn thing off?” And it looked, the Night Creature thought, like Dole's wife, Elizabeth, had the same kind of piss and vinegar in her, too.
Small-town boys from Yorba Linda, California, and Russell, Kansas, they went way back together. Nixon appreciated Dole's odd sense of history. Dole liked to point out, for example, that he'd been wounded in combat “eighty years to the day after Abe Lincoln tookhisbullet.” Nixon chuckled when Dole told him that the day he was born, the train carrying the disgraced Warren G. Harding's body passed through his hometown.
It was Nixon who'd saved Dole in a difficult race in Kansas by campaigning heavily for him and it was Dole who'd slashed away at theWashington Postduring Watergate, saying, “The greatest political scandal of this campaign is the brazen manner in which, without benefit of clergy, theWashington Posthas set up housekeeping with the McGovern campaignÂ .Â .Â .Â . The most intensive journalistic rescue and salvage operation in American politics.” Dole added, “There is a cultural and social affinity between the McGovernites and thePostexecutives and editors. They belong to the same elite, they can be found living cheek by jowl in the same neighborhood, and hobnobbing at the same Georgetown partiesÂ .Â .Â .Â . The Republican Party has been the victim of a barrage of unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations by George McGovern and his partner in mud-slinging, theWashington Post.” That was loyalty all right, referring to Watergate as “unfounded” and “unsubstantiated,” trying to make Nixon's campaign of lies and illegal acts seem as though he were being victimized by what Nixon called “all the Libs out there.” Dole was out there swinging all right, showing the effects of all the DDT he'd inhaled growing up in the farm fields of Kansas.
Years later, when the Night Creature was buried, it was his soul brother who delivered the eulogy, just as he'd delivered Pale Pat's. “How American?” Bob Dole said of Richard Nixon. “A boy who heard the train whistle in the night and dreamed of all the distant places that lay at the end of the trackÂ .Â .Â .Â . The grocer's son who got ahead by working harder and longer than anyone else.” Bob Dole said, “The second half of the twentieth century will be known asthe Age of Nixon.” And then Bob Dole broke down and sobbed.
As election day 1992 drew closer, the Night Creature was gushing pure bile aimed directly at Bill Clinton: “He's as weak as piss on a rockÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's a goddamned liarÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's a pretty boy who doesn't quite have it together, a waffler and an opportunistÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's a phony baloneyÂ .Â .Â .Â . He has little or no characterÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's so damned smugÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's a clever bastardÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's DogpatchÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's damaged merchandise, he's got McGovern's crowd as advisorsÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's on media steroids and Bush's people are a bunch of boy scoutsÂ .Â .Â .Â . We all have our weaknesses, human nature being what it is. We all succumb to something: Maybe power, maybe money, maybe women or booze or drugs. In Clinton's case, all of the above.”
From the Night Creature's shadowy point of view, Bill Clinton seemed his bÃªte noire. Bill Clinton was the symbol and personification of the generation that had driven him from office. “If Bush loses to Clinton, he will have erased my '72 victory because that was a referendum on Vietnam. A Clinton victory will reverse that by saying that it was okay to have actively opposed the warÂ .Â .Â .Â . If Clinton wins, he will have opened up the office to all those who otherwise would have been disqualified, as late as 1988, with Gary Hart. Most in the media, though, are just like him. They are sympathetic with him on Vietnam; they experimented with drugs and casual sexÂ .Â .Â .Â . Clinton is all for recognizing Vietnam. He's just panting to go to Hanoi and walk through the streets, where he'll be welcomed by millions of Vietnamese. Imagine!The ultimate Vietnam war draft dodger recognizing Vietnam!Unbelievable!Â .Â .Â . It's not that he was against the war thenâalmost everyone his age was. It's the fact that he says he's still against it. Clinton still thinks that North Vietnam's cause was more justÂ .Â .Â .Â . I know why he did what he did to dodge the draft; he didn't want to get his ass shot off. As I was out there trying to end the goddamn war, he was running around, claiming privilege, avoiding service, and demonstrating against it. He was a selfish, spoiled brat. He made my job so much harder, and he sent God knows how many men to their death in his place. I'll tell you one thing; if he is elected President, I will know that this country has finally gone to hell.”
Only weeks before the election, the Night Creature, architect of so many hellish events, knew hell was fast approaching. The polls were showing Bill Clinton with a sizable lead. “The only things,” he told his Monica, “that would be self-destructive to him now would be bombshells, like a letter that showed that he asked to renounce his American citizenship during Vietnam, or an illegitimate child.”
Even as he pondered the miraculous October surprise of a bastard child, the Night Creature found himself with mixed feelings about Hillary. He knew he should have hated herâHillary, who had been part of the House Judiciary Committee that had forced him from officeâand in some ways he did. Hillary “was frightening, her ideas way out thereÂ .Â .Â .Â . I still can't believe it! She was on the goddamn committee to impeach me! She's a radical!Â .Â .Â . If she gets in, whoa! Everybody had better fasten their seat beltsÂ .Â .Â . her eyes are ice coldÂ .Â .Â .Â . She really believes this liberal crapÂ .Â .Â .Â . The people around her are all to the radical left. They are going to doom her.” But in other moments, he found himself respecting her, admiring her. “How could she sit there next to him on 60Minutesknowing what she does about his running around? Humiliating! But she has a higher agenda. She is very sharp, and she just wants to win the goddamn election. Take a little humiliation now and get power laterÂ .Â .Â .Â . She's a master behind-the-scenes manipulatorÂ .Â .Â .Â . Hillary's so steely. She evenclapsin a controlled way.”
When Bill Clinton was elected the forty-second president of the United States, the thirty-seventh president of the United States said to his Monica, “Clinton has vindicated the anti-Vietnam, draft-dodging, drug-taking behavior of the sixties. Most of that generation was bad, really bad. The Silent Majority was a reaction to that moral decay, but who's going to do it now? The Clintons are going to be our moral symbols for four years, maybe eight. Four years, and maybe we can recover. Eight, and the damage will be irreparable.”
What he feared had, in his mind, taken place: America had gone to hell. He was talking to Monica about it the day after Bill Clinton's election, when a bird smashed into the window right above his head.
“My God! What the hell was that?” the Night Creature said, throwing his hand over his bestaked heart.
“A bird hit the window, Mr. President,” Monica said.
“Oh,” he said, “did it fall to the ground?”
“No,” Monica said, “it was stunned for a moment but then recovered and flew away.”
“That's good,” the Night Creature said, searching the squishy caverns of his mind, trying to find Stygian import in the bird's action, and shortly after the inauguration, he sat down and wrote President Bill Clinton a letter. He congratulated him for his victory and went so far as to say that Bill Clinton had “the character to lead America”Â .Â .Â . very farindeed,bird or no bird, since he'd called him “as weak as piss on a rock” and “a goddamned liarÂ .Â .Â . with little or no character.” The Night Creature parsed his letter to Monica: “I know it goes a bit overboard, particularly on the character stuff, but the guy's got a big ego and you've got to flatter the hell out of him if you're going to get anywhere.”
President Bill Clinton called Nixon soon after he got his letter. The president spoke to him for forty minutes! The president soughthisadvice about Russia, and the president invited himâhim,the Night Creatureâback into the White House for a meeting. “He was very respectful but with no sickening bullshit,” Nixon told his Monica. “In twelve years, neither Reagan nor Bush ever put me on the White House scheduleÂ .Â .Â . neither Kennedy nor Johnson ever invited Mrs. Nixon and me to the White HouseÂ .Â .Â .Â . Clinton said things to me that he absolutely would not want made public.I wonder if his wiretaps are workingÂ .Â .Â .Â .He never brought up Hillary, not once. And I gave him several lead-ins. He didn't respond to any of them. Strange.” At dinner with his old Texas politico friend Bob Strauss shortly after his forty-minute chat with the president, Bob Strauss told him that President Clinton had told Bob Strauss that his conversation with Richard Nixon was “the best conversation” he'd had as president.
When the Night Creature returned to the White House for his meet-ing with the president of the United States, they both drank diet CokesâClinton from the can, Nixon from a glass. Bill Clinton told him he had put on weight defending himself against Gennifer's charges in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton used Nixonian words with him:asshole, son of a bitch, bastard.Bill Clinton took him up to the residence to meet Hillary and Chelsea: “The kid ran right to him and never once looked at her mother. I could see that she had a warm relationship with him but was almost afraid of herÂ .Â .Â .Â . Hillary is a piece of work. She was very respectful to me and said all the right thingsÂ .Â .Â .Â . Hillary told me we had done âgreat things on the domestic side' although compliments coming from her are likeâI don't know what.”
There may have been a stake through his black heart, but the Night Creature felt alive after his reentry to the White House. He couldn't stop talking about his visit: “Clinton knows how the game is playedÂ .Â .Â . the trip was probably the best one I have had to Washington since I left the PresidencyÂ .Â .Â . it was the best conversation with a president I've had since I was president. Better than with Bush and I've never had such a conversation with Reagan. It was never a dialogue with the othersÂ .Â .Â .Â . Clinton is a fast learner and he's not afraid to defer to someone else's expertise. My only concern is that if his numbers are up, he may get cocky and not be as willing to listen to meÂ .Â .Â .as long as he's talking to me, he'll be okay.” And talking they were. Bill Clinton called him for advice againÂ .Â .Â . and again.
The Night Creature's admiration for Hillary was growing, meanwhile, into near infatuation. “Hillary is becoming an iconÂ .Â .Â .Â . He doesn't scare anybody.Hillary inspires fear!” He told new Clinton adviser David Gergen: “She's always there, working with him, working apart from him, pushing him to take on more, taking it on herself. No one can control her!” He even gave Gergen advice to make Hillary look better. “Rein in Hillary's sharp sides. She can't continue to appear like those French women at the guillotine during the revolution, just watching, knitting and knitting.” He did a scowling imitation of Madame Defarge for Gergen to make sure Gergen got it. After seeing Hillary testify before Congress about her health plan, he said, “Goddamnit!She has the gift of dazzle!She knocked them dead up there! They swooned over her and gave her a standing ovation. She takes the gloves off but does it with such sickening sweetness that it makes me want to gag.” It was a wonder his Monica didn't raise an eyebrow the way he carried on about Hillary: “She's so cleverÂ .Â .Â .Â . She's invisible when the negative stuff eruptsÂ .Â .Â .Â . She's strong and decisive, she's just goodÂ .Â .Â .Â .She's the tower of strength and intellect around there.”
But if there was a relationship in the making between the Night Creature and the First Lady, all chances of it ended when the Night Creature's longtime companion, his long-suffering wife, Pale Pat, died. The president of the United States didn't go to Pale Pat's funeral; neither did Hillary; neither did any cabinet member. Bill Clinton sentÂ .Â .Â .a black manÂ .Â .Â .Vernon Jordan, who, a few years later, would try to find Monica Lewinsky a job. The Night Creature, insulted, wounded, horrified, raged! “Vernon Jordan? The Clintons sent Vernon Jordan? Comeon!Hillary should have been there! He comes to me for advice to save his ass and he can't even send a Cabinet member to Mrs. Nixon's funeral?”
Well fuck them!the Night Creature thought, and immersed himself once again in his vat of bubbling bile, suddenly paying eyebrow-squiggling attention to the developing scandal called Whitewater. “Hillary's up to her ass in it, they are both guilty as hellÂ .Â .Â .Â . It's worse than Watergate. In Watergate, we didn't have profiteering, andwe didn't have a bodyÂ .Â .Â .Â .Clinton and Hillary are guilty of obstruction of justice, maybe more. Period. Our people must not be afraid to grab this thing and shake all of the evidence loose. Watergate was wrong; Whitewater is wrong. I paid the price, the Clintons should pay the priceÂ .Â .Â .Â . He's pretending not to notice Whitewater. Of course I tried that and it doesn't really workÂ .Â .Â .Â . How dare he bitch about the press coverage? They have treated him with kid gloves. He should be kissing their ass, as Johnson used to say, in Macy's windowÂ .Â .Â .Â . To think that Hillary came after me during Watergate! They are making the same goddamn mistakes we madeÂ .Â .Â . and here was Hillary on the Impeachment Committee, screaming about the eighteen and a half minutes missing from the tape, and now she's in Little Rock, shredding.”
As the Night Creature watched the Pope being greeted by the Clintons on television, he snarled, “Well how do you like this? The Pope and the Clintons together! The Saint and the Sinner! What a pair! And Hillary standing there! Oh boy!”Hell hath no fury like a Night Creature's pale longtime companion's funeral scornedÂ .Â .Â .and in his fury he even called Bob Dole, his soul brother, to tell him to “put someone good” on the select Senate Whitewater Committeeâ“We can't have a bunch of dumbos asking the questions.”
But underneath everything, he was profoundly depressed. A shrewd political operative, he knew Whitewater wasn't going to bring Bill Clinton down, any more than his philandering was. “Maybe it doesn't matter anymore,” he glumly told his Monica; “look aroundâsex, drugs, violence everywhere. Remember when this whole thing got started in the sixties and seventies. Counterculture, they called it. Morals went out the window. Nobody cared about other people, just themselvesÂ .Â .Â . so you see, the people elected Clinton because they're surrounded by immorality on all sides. It gets to the point where it doesn't affect them anymore. So they sit and listen to what he has to say about health care and saving the spotted owl and are tone-deaf when it comes to his personal character.”
The Night Creature was even further dejected by the knowledge that he had no credentials to speak of moral decline. “Watergate took away any chance I have of talking about that stuff credibly. Our critics will say, âWho is Nixon to talk about this? He contributed to it! He's the Watergate guy, the Vietnam guy. He resigned in disgrace.'Â ”
The Night Creature kept going back to where he felt it had all gone wrong for himânot Watergate, but our protests in the streets in the sixties and seventies. “It was a miserable goddamned time,” he told his Monica. “I was the one who had to face down thosehippie hoodlumswho opposed the warÂ .Â .Â . thosegoddamned protestersÂ .Â .Â .my God, I wasn't just from another generation from these people; it was like I was from a different planetÂ .Â .Â .Â . The pressure of waging the war in Vietnam broke Johnson, but I was damned if it was going to break me. Johnson left a broken man. Me, as President, I always knew that we had a responsibility to leadership no two-bit protesters were going to destroy. I couldn't stop them from destroying our values and our culture, but I could stop them from telling us that we weren't fit to lead.” The Night Creature acknowledged that the killing of four student protesters at Kent State in 1970 “wasn't right,” and then he added, “Those kidswereCommunists.”
What? What, I reflected, was this filth the Night Creature was spewing?Communists? Theywere Communists? The kids at Kent State? I was transfixed by the enormity, the horror of his lie, though it was the very same lie he'd built his entire career on. He'd branded Jerry Voorhis and Helen Gahagan Douglas as Communists when he'd run against them in the beginning in California. And now, the four kids shot to death at Kent State by National Guard kids who were stoned on Nixon's toxic and hateful rhetoric were Communists, too. Bill Schroeder, the apple-cheeked all-American ROTC studentÂ .Â .Â . a Communist! Allison Krause, the daughter of a Westinghouse executiveÂ .Â .Â . a Communist! Sandy Sheuer, the pacifist daughter of a Holocaust survivorÂ .Â .Â . a Communist! Jeff Miller, with flowers painted everywhere around his apartmentÂ .Â .Â . a Communist!
He was slandering and violating the dead, whomhe'dput into their graves. The only word that possibly applied was the word Congressman Dan Burton was calling Bill Clinton now during Bill Clinton's impeachment travail, “Scumbag!”
And when I saw that his Monicaâno, no, hisElvira!âdidn't even question him, didn't say,Communists, sir? These kids? I erased all that soft-focus prattle from my mind about the snowball fight they'd had in Moscow and the lights twinkling in Anchorage. His Monica let him do the same thing to her that the other Monica had allowed Bill Clinton to do. Richard Nixon had put words into his Monica's mouth, seeds designed to impregnate the minds of future generations with hate.
Monica Crowley's sin, I decided, was much deadlier than Monica Lewinsky's. What each man had put into his Monica's mouth defined the difference between Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, between liberals and conservatives, betweenusandthem.
[ Act Two ]
Newts, crawling things in slime and mud, poisons,The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rotÂ .Â .Â .
Do you hear that mocking and laughter?Do you hear the ironical echoes?
âWALT WHITMAN, Leaves of Grass
The Ratwoman and the Bag Lady of Sleaze
“It was just that he was scared and I enjoyed that,” Monica said to Linda Tripp. “Isn't that disgusting? I enjoyed it. I lapped it up that he was so scared. I could just tell in his voice.”
Gnawing away on Monica's juicy innards, stripping her down to the bone over the phone and in person, the Ratwoman found an ally: a whisky-voiced, chain-smoking, self-styled literary agent to the unseemly likes of Mark Fuhrman, the racist Dirty Harry of O.J. fame, and Gary Aldrich, former FBI man and author of the specious and malevolent anti-Clinton tract,Unlimited Access.
Lucianne Goldberg was Linda Tripp's perfect mate. Already handling Dolly Kyle's lubricious account of sex with young Billy Clinton, she was herself the author of soft-porn novels likeMadam Cleo's Girls.She was in her sixties, tied closely to right-wingers like Al Regnery, the book publisher, and Tony Snow, former Bush speechwriter and now one of Rupert Murdoch's hired guns.
As a literary agent, Goldberg was perhaps best known for representing Judy Chavez, a hooker who specialized in sadism. Chavez became infamous for revealing that Soviet defector Arkady Shevchenko paid her ten thousand dollars a month for five nights of company with money provided by the CIA. Goldberg sold her handcuffs-and-whips account to a publisher and reflected later, “The last time I saw Judy, she was wearing snake from head to toe. How many pythons it took to make that outfit with her five-inch heels, she might as well have had a whip in her hand. With that beautiful white skin and dark hair, what she telegraphs very subtly is pain. âI'm going to hurt you, tongue-lash you, and cause you pain.'Â ”
To those in Washington who learned of the tight connection between Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg, it made perfect sense, the two of them part of the same sleazy photo: the Ratwoman gnawing on her bone in her bunting-filled gutter and, feeding next to her, the noxious Bag Lady of Sleaze, cigarettes drooping from both their bloodred lips.
Linda Tripp turned to Lucianne Goldberg “for advice and protection” first in the days after she'd been banished from the counsel's office in the White House. She decided, in those first months of rage, that she was going to write an insider's account of the sexual shenanigans at the White House, including Kathleen Willey's magical adventures in the fairy-tale hallway. She called the commentator Tony Snow again, whom she'd met in the Bush White House, and Snow, who would call Bill Clinton “the Caligula of the Ozarks,” sent her to the Bag Lady of Sleaze.
Goldberg, naturally, loved Tripp's idea: politics and sex together, her main interests, a book even better maybe than the one she had written calledPurr, Baby, Purr.Tripp's book was going to be calledBehind Closed Doorsand she was going to write it as “Joan Dean,” a cute and barbed reference to John Dean, whose testimony had brought down the Nixon White House. Tripp would bring Bill Clinton down and Joan Dean would be in-joke revenge. Goldberg sent Tripp to an editor at Regnery, a publish-ing house long devoted to the character assassination of liberals and/or Democrats.
At the last moment, Tripp chickened out, afraid that she just might lose her job at the Defense Department if she wrote the book. “Bubelah,” Lucianne Goldberg had said to her, “if you blow the whistle on the big kahuna, you ain't gonna be working for the government.” Joan Dean was dead.
Years later, while stripping down Monica, the Ratwoman slipped and told Monica that if she ever lost her government job, she'd write a “tell-all book” about everything she knew. Monica shrugged it off, unaware that her new caring, mothering friend was already at work trying to sell the book. Tony Snow had called the Bag Lady for her and now Goldberg was calling Linda Tripp, who didn't know that Goldberg, no political virgin, was tape-recordingtheirconversation.
They talked about the best way to profit off of what the Ratwoman knew. Yes, she could get a book contract, but the best way to maximize both of their profits would be to leak the story first, or to leak “snippets,” and while the snippets made their infectious way through the airwaves, walk into a publisher's office with thewholestory and walk out with millions of dollars. They had to “titillate” the public first, and they picked outNewsweekreporter Michael Isikoff to leak the snippets to. They also talked about passing Tripp's slimy knowledge on to Paula Jones's attorneys and blowing the story of the intern and the president wide open through the courts.
Tripp couched her greed in self-righteous tones, saying she was “appalled by” Bill Clinton's behavior. “It's so sickening!” she said. “He has to get his come-uppance.” She also portrayed herself as the caring protector of the young woman whose innards she was gnawing. “Enough already. Personally, my opinion is it's time for herÂ .Â .Â . she has got to move on. She's right now going through emotional hellÂ .Â .Â .Â . I would very much like to see her leave and just get on with her life.”
“Well, have you talked to her about going public with this?” Goldberg asked.
“Then what can you do with it?”
Tripp told her that she had kept dates and records of meetings, phone calls, and gifts between the intern and Bill Clinton.
“Yeah,” Goldberg said, “but you realize the press will destroy her. I mean, I love the idea. I would run with it in a second, but do you want to be the instrument of this kid, umâ”
“She's not a kid,” Tripp said. “She comes from a very privileged Beverly Hills background. I mean, she's definitely sophisticatedÂ .Â .Â . she wasn't a victim. When this began, she was every bit a player.”
“You have to be ready to lose her as a friend,” Goldberg said.
“Oh,” Tripp said loftily, “I've already made that decision.”
A week later, in their second telephone conversation, allegedly not taped by either of them, Goldberg told Tripp to tape her phone conversations with her young friend, the former White House intern. “You need evidence, you need proof, you need tapes.”
Tripp, frightened, said taping her friend would be “unfriendly.” Goldberg said, “Well, Bubelah, if you're going to go after the big kahuna, you better kill him.”
Tripp started taping Monica and telling Goldberg what she was getting from Monica on her tapes. Monica thought Bill was on drugs because he kept “zoning out.” Monica had dates of the phone sex she and Bill were having. Bill had cold sores that Goldberg thought sounded suspiciously like herpes.
They kept trying to figure out how to get the snippets out there to titillate the public. Tripp received an invitation to spend a weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut, from a wealthy woman named Norma Asness, who was known to be a good friend to Hillary Clinton. Tripp had spent time with Asness before, at a Chanukah party at Asness's Georgetown house and also on a civilian tour of the Pentagon, which Tripp had arranged for her.
The invitation from Asness, the former Delta Force associate was certain, was a covert, black-bag op on the part of the White House. She called Goldberg, who agreed with her.
“You're being set up,” Goldberg said.
“You don't think they're going to poison me, do you?” Tripp asked.
“Uh, no. They're going to co-opt you. They're going to love-bomb you, show you this is the way you could be living if you stay loyalÂ .Â .Â .Â .”
“All right,” Tripp said. “Well, then, I won't worry about it. I just thought, oh good, so they're going to kill me when I'm there or somethingÂ .Â .Â .Â .”
“No, they're not going to kill you.”
They were stewing now in their own witch's brew, furtive, trusting no one except each other (although Goldberg was still secretly taping Tripp's phone calls, just as Tripp was secretly taping Monica's). They decided together that Tripp couldn't trust her lawyer because he sometimes played golf with a lower-level White House attorney, and Tripp fired him. They decided they couldn't trust theNewsweekreporter, Isikoff, to whom they were planning to leak their snippets, because he might write a book himself.
They decided to turn, finally, to the one person they felt would be simpatico to Linda Tripp's story about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the one person who shared their loathing of Bill Clinton: Kenneth W. Starr. They would use Ken Starr to get them their millions of dollars from the publishers. Tripp would spill him the beans and the preacher's son would scarf them up and disgorge them into the headlines.
Yikes,Lucianne Goldberg just loved it! She hadn't had so much fun since the good old days, back in 1972, when she'd been making a thousand dollars a week as a spy on George McGovern's campaign plane, writing memos that were rushed right into the White House, for the eyes only of Richard Nixon, the man who had hired her. The Bag Lady of Sleaze still thought fondly of Nixon, her dark, political guardian angel.
Through the chain-smoking Goldberg and her friend, the chain-smoking Tripp, the Night Creature was loose in the world again, out of the grave again, smearing, clawing, drawing bloodÂ .Â .Â . making Bill Clinton payÂ .Â .Â . for sending black Vernon Jordan to the funeral of Pale Pat, his cancer-ravaged wifeÂ .Â .Â . for the sixties, for the protests, for Watergate, for his resignation, for his disgrace.
David Geffen Is Angry
“I read,” Linda Tripp said, “that he spent the night at Steven Spielberg's partner's house. Castlebaum or Castleman or something.”
“Oh, really?” Monica said.
“I don't know,” Linda Tripp said. “I don't know who that is. I don't know anything about him.”
David Geffen sat alone in the den of his Malibu estate as I walked in. He was watching the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings, although, I noted,watchingwasn't the right word. He was scowling, glowering, glaring at the set. He looked as if he was ready to kill someone. “Can you believe what these motherfuckers are doing?” he said. “Can you believe these motherfuckers actually think they can get away with this?”
A few days later, actor Alec Baldwin appeared on NBC'sLate Nightwith Conan O'Brien and called for the murder of Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde and his family. Hollywood, I feared, wastweaking(as, seemingly, was Alec Baldwin).
It felt odd because Bill Clinton was never Hollywood's first choice to sit in the Oval Office. First, there was war hero Bob Kerrey, the all-American liberal from Nebraska, who'd shared the statehouse in Lincoln with Hollywood's own Debra Winger. Then there was Bill Bradley. When trial balloons floated that Bill Bradley, boring and Ichabod-like, would run for the presidency in 1992, director Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford offered to give the baggy-eyed former basketball star media lessons.
It wasn't until Michael Ovitz invited the already-elected Bill Clinton to his I. M. Pei CAA fortressâsouvenir mugs were contemplated with Ovitz's likeness on one side and Bill Clinton's on the otherâthat the town gave Bill Clinton its blessing. Clinton reciprocated by turning the Lincoln Bedroom into Hollywood's Washington commissary.
The Lincoln Bedroom was a place that other presidents had held sacred, only for the use of a czar like Universal potentate Lew Wasserman (invited there bybothJFK and Reagan). But now even directors and out-of-favor funnymen like Chevy Chase were enjoying overnight historical dalliances with their wives there. Chevy, who'd become famous by mimicking Gerry Ford, was overnighting at the White House thanks to Bill Clinton, just another wild and funny twist of American politics.
Everyone in town knew that one of Bill Clinton's closest advisers was the TV producer Harry Thomason, who even had his own office in the White House. But anyone who mattered knew that Harrydidn'tmatterâat least not in this town. He was aTVproducer in a town that liked and gladly accepted TV moneyâbut still viewed it pretty much like the minor leagues, a place to work if you were still trying to make it in movies or had busted out.
The town had a long-standing and self-righteous liberal tradition. Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, the entertainment industry's official Washington lobbying group, was a former LBJ White House aide, who'd begun his career by briefing the cornpone president as he sat on the throne each morning and handing him the presidential toilet paper. Norman Lear, the creator ofAll in the Family,was the founder of People for the American Way, a 250,000-member organization designed to use the medium of television to fight for liberal issues and causes. Warren Beatty and Barbra Streisand and Marlon Brando, among many others, had devoted time, money, and actorly eloquence on behalf of candidates and causes. Esteemed older directors like John Frankenheimer and Norman Jewison had been involved as advisers to Bobby Kennedy's tragically doomed campaign. Most of the studio heads or VPs were sixties graduates with strong liberal leanings.
I'd found it easy, for example, to get a movie made about neo-Nazi right-wingers (Betrayed) and the studio was overjoyed when Pat Buchanan attacked it as “un-American.” If Buchanan felt that way, we all thought, we must have done something right. The studio's choice to direct it was Costa-Gavras, who'd never even visited the American Midwest but who, thanks to the electrifyingly brilliant Z,was a hero to liberals everywhere.
We were partly united within our liberalism by a belief in free speech. We were convinced that the Nixons and Gingriches of the world, blathering on about the societal impact of screen violence, had their own agenda. First, they disagreed with our politics and were trying to stir the public up to boycott or stay away from our movies and, second, they knew damn well real guns caused violence and not guns on-screen, but they were using the issue of screen violence as a bogeyman so they could keep on getting their contributions from the gun lobby. When I wrote a column for dailyVariety,pointing out the graphic, over-the-top violence in a Newt Gingrich novel, I received congratulatory notes from many producers in town.
We also shared a loathing for the forces of right-wing repression. Richard Dreyfuss, all these years later, was still trying to get Sinclair Lewis's antifascist tome,It Can't Happen Here,made into a movie. There weren't a lot of conservatives in town: David Horowitz, once a New Lefty now a conservative ideologue; screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd (The Hanoi Hilton); fallen-star Tom Selleck; the NRA's Charlton Heston; and Arnold Schwarzenegger (he didn't countâhe was a Kennedy). While the few conservatives sometimes objected publicly to what they termed “liberal propaganda” on-screen, they couldn't do anything about it. They were having enough problems getting employed. Not that they were completely wrong: The director Betty Thomas succinctly defined nineties comedies to me as “funny moments with liberal inserts.”
Hollywood had an umbilical connectionâits own “action faction”âto the movement in the sixties and seventies. When the Weatherpeople went underground, the actor Jon Voight supported them. Producer Burt Schneider and director Bob Rafelson financed Huey Newton's ritzy lakeshore apartment in Oakland. Even while the Weatherpeople were on the run, director Emile De Antonio and Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler shot a documentary glamorizing them, unconcerned that the latest Weather Underground book was dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan or that Bernardine Dohrn was trying to rally her army in defense of Charles Manson, referring to the people the Manson family murdered as “the Tate Eight,” saying, “Dig it. First they killed these pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!” If some people in town liked the Weatherpeople, the Weatherpeople liked Hollywood, too. Sam Peckinpah'sWild Bunchwas their cinematic bible. Bernardine's storm troopers watched the movie's slow-motion violence over and over again, finding inspiration in the druggie, drunken Peckinpah's fixation on blood.
But no Hollywood figure had a closer tie to the sixties than Jane FondaÂ .Â .Â . even before she met her New Lefty ideologue from the Midwest, Tom Hayden. I met Fonda first when she was busted in Cleveland for bringing a tiny bit of weed over the Canadian border. (Her mug shot went on most of the office walls at the police headquarters on Payne Avenue.) We got to be friends after she read and liked my book about the shootings at Kent State. When I started writing screenplays, we tried and failed to sell MGM a movie about Karen Silkwood, the antinuclear activist. I liked Fondaâher intelligence, her commitment to better societyâand the subtle, low-key brilliance of her acting style. But she was getting olderâa staggeringly beautiful woman still in a town that discarded actresses (“leftover beef Wellington,” a producer said to me) as they approached forty.
I had an idea for a screenplay, which would become the movieMusic Box,and asked Jane if she was interested in playing the lead. I knew she wasn't getting as many scripts as she'd gotten before. She committed to star before I wrote the script. When she read it, she was overjoyed. “It's a great role,” she said; “it's going to be a great movie.” The director, Costa-Gavras, was a friend of Jane's and had even stayed at her home. When he got the script, Costa decided Jane was too old for the part. The producer, Irwin Winkler, and I tried to change Costa's mind, but he wouldn't budge. Jane went on a campaign to convince Costa she could play the part. She redid her hair, she put on a sexy dress, and she did an audition tape. Winkler and I thought she was brilliant in the audition tape (no stars ever did audition tapes), but Costa wasn't swayed. He wanted Jessica Lange.
Jane was heartbroken. She had already signed her contract to do the film and the studio was forced to pay over a million dollars to get heroutof the movie. Not much later, she decided to leave Hollywood. I didn't blame her. It was 1987Â .Â .Â . a long way away from the sixties. She wrote me a note, thanking me for my efforts to put her intoMusic Box.It was signed, “Power to the People!”
Part of Hollywood's fervently militant liberalism came, too, from media-fueled guilt about the blacklistâa time forty years ago, when a group of screenwriters, directors, actors, and producers were prevented from making a living because of alleged Communist affiliations and their refusal to testify about them before a House congressional committee.
Horrifyingly unjust, the blacklist had been hyped by the mid-nineties to become Hollywood's own holocaust. The Writers Guild, with its own present-day creative issues to fight, seemed to think it was safer and nobler to dwell on the blacklist of the past than fight studios for writers' rights in the present. The Writers Guild was conducting an endless series of seminars and testimonials about the martyrs of forty years ago.
When Elia Kazan, who testified and snitched at the same time the martyred screenwriters didn't, was finally given the Oscar he deserved, the reception he got was as frosty as though he were Leni Riefenstahl, maker of Nazi propaganda films. The iciness of his reception came, interestingly, not just from those few aging producers and directors who were Kazan's peers but also from younger actors like Ed Harris, who wore his liberal social conscience on his tuxedo sleeves.
There were a few people in Hollywood so far out on the radical Left that they smiled when Ronald Reagan was shot. Reagan was shot by the nutcase John Hinckley, who had become obsessed with Jodie Foster in the movieTaxi Driver.The screenplay forTaxi Driverwas written by Paul Schrader, who used the diary of Arthur Bremer as the basis for his script. Bremer was the nutcase who had shot George Wallace. “Two right-wing birds,” these twisted Hollywood zealots saidâReagan and Wallaceâ“with one stone”âBremer, with an assist from Hollywood in the form of screenwriter Schrader.
Some people in town were professional liberals, singing the political torch songs they knew studio heads (and many critics), upstanding socially committed sixties folks, liked to hear. Oliver Stone was the most successful example. A man of too many personal excesses, Stone seemed as often stoned as he was not. (I once saw him grab a woman by her hair and pull her out of a bar.) Originally the writer of grippingly violent, sometimes farcical, four-letter-word melodramasâMidnight Express, Scarface, The Handâhe became a liberal holy man with his two powerful Vietnam dramasâPlatoonandBorn on the Fourth of July.Both were antiwar visions, our sixties protester's sensibility blown graphically onto the big screen.
But he outdid himself withJFKandNixon.Both movies were utter and absolute lies. Worse, both movies, as far as future generations were concerned, pretended to tell the truth. Yet Stone didn't call himself a liberal propagandist; he called himself “a filmmaker depicting documented reality.”
Two different studios made the two different movies, knowing they were whopping, lollapalooza lies that would infect the brains of tomorrow's voters. I knew, though, that the movies were made not because liberal sixties folks ran the studios and believed Stone's lies. They were made because the studio heads believed Stone's lies would make money (JFKdid;Nixondidn't).
I knew, too, from experience that in a head-on collision between shared liberal beliefs and making money, money always won in Hollywood. In 1998, at a time when the energized liberal town was banding around Bill Clinton, I wrote a script for Paramount calledLand of the Free,about the resurgence of right-wing militias across the country. The studio hoped Mel Gibson would play the militia leader I'd created, a charismatic, falsely appealing man who was, at his core, a racist and anti-Semitic moral monster. Gibson turned the script down and said he didn't want to play “such a bad guy.” The studio came to me and asked me to rewrite it so my lead character “wouldn't be such a bad guy.” “But these guysarebad guys,” I told the studio. “They're awful guys. I don't want to do an apologia for the militias.” The studio said, “But we really want Mel to do it.” I refused to rewrite it; the studio put the project up on the shelf.
I had found myself in the same position in 1987, withMusic Box.My script ended with the revelation that a benign old grandpa was a Nazi war criminal. Universal, offered a chance to make the movie, said it would be happy toâif I changed the ending and grandpa was shown to be innocent of all war-criminal charges. “It's going to be an apologia for the war criminals being prosecuted by governments all over the world,” I said. “It'll wind up being an attack on those agencies prosecuting these people.” The studio executive said, “Yeah, but this way we won't sell any tickets.” Luckily, producer Irwin Winkler and director Costa-Gavras and I found a studio who made the script as originally written. (We didn't sell any tickets.)
Some people flew in under the political radar and stayed there if they were successful. Who cared if producer-mogul Andy Vajna made enough money to get to Hollywood by being a Hong Kong wig merchant who'd made a deal with the Communist Chinese government to buy the hair that had been shorn off dissidents? Who cared if Mel Gibson made the most awful homophobic comments, until his PR people zipped his lip? Who cared if the guy who directed that Disney movie was a convicted child molester? Who cared if Marlon Brando made anti-Semitic remarks onLarry King Liveâhe was Marlon Brando, and Larry King, who was Jewish, kissed him, didn't he? Who cared if Bruce Willis said, “If I were black, I'd be with Farrakhan, too”? Or: “FDR knew Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked and let it happen anyway”? Bruce Willis was big box office, wasn't he? As opposed to Charlton Heston, who was dead, buried, and mummified at the box office and was also, incidentally, the head of the National Rifle Association.
Hollywood's belief in civil liberties, even sexual privacy, also occasionally broke down. In 1983, when I was writing the movieJagged Edge,my producer was the venerable wild rhino of the business, Martin Ransohoff, tough, smart, no one to trifle with. The studio executive in charge of the project was Craig Baumgarten, who had produced and starred in a porn movie in the seventies. When Ransohoff had a disagreement with Baumgarten and felt Baumgarten wasn't treating him with enough respect, he asked me to intervene and warn Baumgarten that he knew about the porn movie. I warned him, but Baumgarten, young and brash, disregarded my warning. A tape of the porn movie soon made its way to one of the members of the board of Columbia Pictures. Fired days later, Baumgarten sobbed in shocked disbelief.
The studio that fired Baumgarten was then owned by the Coca-Cola company, whose presence in three of America's greatest scandals would be noted by observers: Fatty Arbuckle used a Coca-Cola bottle to bludgeon his young victim internally; Judge Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill would claim, abused her by saying there was pubic hair on his can of diet Coke; Bill Clinton would alibi walking Monica from his Oval Office into his private study by telling his secretary he was going back there “to get her a diet Coke.” Coca-Cola, historians also noted, was the cola company of liberal Democrats. Pepsi mostly supported Republicans, especially Richard Nixon, who, true to his deceitful nature, privately drank diet Coke.
While there were occasionally ugly and decidedly unliberal actions, such as Baumgarten's firing, the town followed Hillary's lead and got deeply into New Age psychobabble. Even Hillary's maharishi, Michael Lerner, was invited to a few studio seminars. “Facilitators” became regulars at industry retreats, summoning positive energy like rainmakers.
Superagent Arnold Rifkin was hanging out with walk-on-fiery-coals guru Tony Robbins. Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber, breaking up their partnership, let it be known they were going to counselingtogether.(I was going through a divorce at the time. “Go to counseling with your ex,” Peters told me. “It won't do any good, but she'll think you care. It'll save you at least a million bucks.”)
The touchy-feely mood soon found its way to the screen, and whenForrest Gumpturned into a smash, all the studios were suddenly looking for “spiritual” or “religious” stories. Sylvester Stallone strutted around my living room one afternoon, trying to talk me into writing a “deeply spiritual” script for him. For years, he said, he had wanted to make a book into a movie in which he'd play Jesus Christ. Now he had a better idea. He wanted to play a televangelist, a modern-day healer who performed miracles. We had a meeting with a roomful of executives at Universal. Sly stalked around the room, waving his arms, pretending to preach the words of the Lord. An executive said, “Guys, listen. Sly, you're a muscle star. Joe, you've just writtenShowgirls.Don't you think this is too harsh a transition for both of you?”
As more and more men on-screen were undergoing sensitivity training, more and more men in Hollywood offices were becoming the targets of sexual harassment suits. The wealthier and more powerful either went to court or made hasty midnight settlements. But some, including mid-level studio executives, were fired. A producer of my acquaintance was not only fired but also, fearing publicity, blackmailed to give up his points in upcoming movies.
Most heterosexual men quickly opted to hire only male assistants. A woman studio executive married to a director had seen so many sexual harassment suits and settlements that she forbid her husband to hire any women on his crew. It was a strategy spreading all over town. Even as that was happening, renowned feminists were spending time in Hollywood trying to make screenwriting or producing deals. Gloria Steinem and I spent a pleasant evening in my home discussing a movie about the young Marilyn Monroe.
As David Geffen watched the House Judiciary Committee hearings, there were deeply underground rumbles at Spago that Warren Beatty, the Mark McGwire of swordsmen, was considering a run for the presidency.
It was a numbing rumor. Here was Clinton, almost out of office for not even having intercourse, and here was Warren, the Hall of Famer, the sleepy-eyed human sex machine, with his eyes on the bestained Oval Office. Rumor was that Gary HartâOh glory, glory hallelujah!âwas advising him. Rumor was that Pat Cadell, wanna-be screenwriter, was unofficially back in the polling business.
I could just hear the dialogue in Robert Evans's screening room, with the fireplace blazing and the Polaroids of naked women on the tableÂ .Â .Â . preening Warren and bitter Gary and addled Evans in his Bush White House baseball cap and grizzled PatÂ .Â .Â . and the redhead with the cigar in her butt bringing them Perriers as they discussed the ins and outs of seducing the body politic.
Not long after I saw David Geffen, he told reporters he was making House Judiciary Committee member James Rogan of California, a staunch pro-impeachment Republican, his “target number one” in the 2000 elections. David, I knew, had more money than God and was wilier than Satan, and I thought James Rogan would be well advised to beg David's forgivenessÂ .Â .Â .on his knees.
Ross Perot on Drugs
Monica said, “I'm likeââI have a mental block on who you really are.'Â ”
“You never ever realized whose dick you were sucking,” Linda Tripp said.
“No. I know,” Monica said.
The calls for Bill Clinton's impeachment wouldn't cease, the rabid twin gorgons of Scandal and Ruin were running amokÂ .Â .Â . and Ross Perot, who had twice come to his aid and made his minority presidency possible, came running in anger to help again. Perot, America's Tin Soldier, accused the president of the United States of doing drugs in the White House.
The charge helped move all of the other charges into the realm of the absurd. The cigar was surreal enough, the twenty-four-hour blow job television fiesta was bizarre enoughÂ .Â .Â . butdrugs in the White House? Bill Clinton was now, it seemed, Tony Montana with his head in a silver platter of cocaine. Perot argued that the only way to explain Bill Clinton's recklessness, irresponsibility, and mendacity was to assume that he was on drugs. Perot's was the voice of Carry Nation come pip-squeaking back. Demon alcohol replaced by demon drugs.
We chuckled at the Tin Soldier's argument, but, at the same time, those of us who had trulyexperiencedthe sixties knew in our secret hearts that the comic book Tin Soldier probably had a tangential pointÂ .Â .Â . but it was a point most of us thought irrelevant. Marijuana and cocaine, our drugs of choice, didn't make you lie to the nation or make you unzip and say, “Kiss it”Â .Â .Â . though both drugs made the kissing part more enjoyable. Perot kept calling for the president to release his medical recordsâsomething other presidents had doneâbut we knew the reason why Bill Clinton refused. Many of us had damaged our septums through the years.
We knew about the rumors that Bill Clinton, while running for office in Arkansas, had been rushed to an emergency room one night OD'd on coke. Why release records that could be personally embarrassing (George Bush, no surprise, had hemorrhoids), or worse? (JFK, treated for gonorrhea, suffered his whole life from acute postgonococcal urethritis, an inflammation of the genitals that caused a burning sensation when urinating.)
We knew Bill Clinton had done the things we'd done. At Oxford as a student, he'd hung around smoky, pillow-strewn parlors, sipping tea and sherry with the young foxes, smoking hash and dope, trying to learn, as one of those foxes put it, to “inhale.” Old girlfriend Sally Perdue described him, as governor in 1983, offering her joints from a cigarette case and coke from a plastic bag. Gennifer described him offering her coke at her apartment before they climbed onto the black satin sheets on her king-size bed. At one of his Arkansas parties for his staff, an aide offered partygoers grass, hash, coke, pills, and syringes. It was a life many of us had learned to live all too well: candles, incense, black satin sheets, zebra drapes, grass, coke, and sex.
In the early eighties, Bubba was on a tear, as were many of us. He was tearing up Little Rock's bars, staying till late, watching the girls dance, never with Hillary, but often with Roger, his little half brother. Roger was snorting coke sixteen times a day and had a four-gram-a-day habit.
Roger was the kind of guy who lit up his own farts. His mother taught him to read from herRacing Form.Roger was a sulky loafer who'd grown up doing nothing much more than practicing his guitar, watching his hair grow in the mirror, psychedelic posters all around, and singing “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” to his mother.
Roger loved the man he always called “Big Brother,” and he was once videotaped snorting coke and saying, “He was like a father to me growing up, all my life, so that's why we've always been so close.” Roger and Big Brother were hanging out in the early eighties while Big Brother was governor, and Roger was living in his “Party Shack,” the guest house at the governor's mansion, and invading the mansion's kitchen late at night when he got the munchies.
He and Big Brother were often seen partying together: A waitress at a club called the Bistro later told a grand jury that she sold coke to Roger Clinton, who'd then hand the coke to Big Brother. She said she saw Bill Clinton snort cocaine “often” and described the night when the governor of Arkansas got so trashed that he slid down a wall and propped himself against aÂ .Â .Â . trash can. The manager of an apartment house where Roger lived briefly said she overheard Roger and Big Brother discuss the quality of the cocaine they were doing. A hidden video camera picked Roger up one night as he was trying to score some coke. “Got to get some for my brother,” Roger said. “He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner.”
But four grams of coke a day is a lot, a whole lot, a hellacious lot, and Roger's hunger started making him take big risks. He was a dealer nowÂ .Â .Â . at the same time that Bill Clinton's friends saw a strange listlessness, an unexplainable anomie ravage the governor, who was spending much of his time in the mansion's basement, playing his pinball machine.
Roger was flying up to New York with cocaine strapped to his body, accompanied on one trip by an allegedly unaware Big Brother. Roger was dealing coke on consignment from big-muthah dealers, and his convertible got ripped off one night with the coke inside. His suppliers wanted twenty grand pronto and threatened to kill him.
A later FBI investigation showed that Big Brother went to a business associate, himself later convicted of drug trafficking, and asked him to stash Roger for a while at his Florida farm. The feds were onto Roger by then, though, and he got two years at a federal prison in Texas (prosecuted by a man named Asa Hutchison, who would turn up many years later as a firebrand member of the House Judiciary Committee, calling for Big Brother's impeachment).
Big Brother sat in the courtroom as his little brother was sentenced, his nose red and a little runny. Afterward, on the courthouse steps, the governor of Arkansas, still emotional, said, “I feel more deeply committed than ever before to do everything I can to fight illegal drugs in our state.”
WellÂ .Â .Â . okayÂ .Â .Â . what the hellÂ .Â .Â . so what? He wasn't doing smack, was he? He wasn't using a needle, was he? He wasn't nodding out down in the filth of some crack house, was he? (Although that business about sliding down a wall and propping himself against the trash canwasa little disturbing.)
Cocaine that was snorted wasn't a slum drug; it was definitely white-collar, and maybe even still chic, the drug of choice for the hip and for Hollywood elite, the fabled drug of Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes. Cocaine was our drug, the baby-boomer drug. (The Xers could keep Ecstasy, which put some of us, getting older, into the hospital.)
.Â Â .Â Â .Â Â
As I listened to Ross Perot rant on, I remembered my own fling with cocaine in the seventies, while I was atRolling Stone,which was a buzzing little beehive of cocaine activity. Whenever the dealers in town liked a story in the magazine, especially the stories I wrote exposing corrupt narcotics agents, they showed their appreciation by dropping off a few grams in the office.
I loved the freeing exhilaration cocaine provided, the unself-conscious babbling, and I found it to be the only effective aphrodisiac I'd ever tried. JFK's priapism was allegedly partly caused by the cortisone used to treat his Addison's disease (Bill Clinton took cortisone, too, for his sinuses and knees), but as far as I was concerned, cocaine was the greatest gift to men since the condom. My sexual partners mostly felt the same wayâit caused the kind of fireworks that went on explosively and orgasmically for eight hours.
I discovered, though, that not everyone was affected this way. Hunter Thompson, whose breakfast those days consisted of two Bloody Marys, four lines of coke, and half a pack of cigarettes, told me it made him want to write. Jann Wenner told me cocaine made him able to edit Hunter's prose. I concluded that it seemed to energize us for whatever we most liked doing: David Felton, another editor atRolling Stone,liked to talkÂ .Â .Â . Hunter liked to writeÂ .Â .Â . Jann liked to editÂ .Â .Â . and I liked to have sex.
No doubt cocaine was dangerous: It could really mess you up. I watched another of our editors, Grover Lewis, in a bar one night, trying for fifteen minutes to get cigarettes out of a jukebox. Out one night with one of theRolling Stonesweetmeats in a motel, I found myself unable to speak. I could form thoughts, I could perform sexually, but I couldn't form words for about ten hours (a doctor told me later that I'd suffered, at age twenty-eight, a ministroke).
Over the years, most of us who'd abused ourselves with coke stopped doing it. In my case, I was ministroked into it. In other cases, the daily toll of aging did it. But in most cases, the reason was our kids. We didn't want our kids to risk their own health and lives the way we'd risked ours. Some of us adopted Nancy Reagan's “Just Say No!” Others, perhaps knowing more realistically that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, gave our kids, as they became teenagers, the benefit of our experience: Grass is okay; just make sure it isn't laced with anything, especially angel dust. Coke will burn your sinuses out and put you on Claritin forever. Smack is the monkey you'll never get off your back. Crack is as bad as smack; you'll wind up dead or in jail. Speed kills. Ecstasy can stop your heart. One tab of acid can lobotomize you forever.
And now here was Ross Perot telling us that the president of the United States, whose sinuses were screwed up and who was on Claritin, had a drug problemÂ .Â .Â . in addition to his others. Bill Clinton, I was sure, was now as drug-free as I was, and I was immaculate (excepting, like Clinton, nicotine).
But as I listened to the Tin Soldier constantly hammer away at Bill Clinton as “our commander in chief,” I thought I knew what wasreallyup Perot's craw: It wasn't the blow job or the cigar or the lying. It was the damned draft. Bill Clinton (and I) had successfully and sneakily dodged the damned draft. To the Tin Soldier, that was a hanging offense!
Bubba and the Burrheads
“I thought I heard he got two hearing aids,” Linda Tripp said. “It's very unusual because high-frequency loss of hearing you generally hear about in soldiers who are around ordnance or weapons.”
“Well, he's around bands and rallies,” Monica said. “I mean, rock and roll!”
What Ross Perot didn't understand was that most men of my generation had dodged the draft or tried to. We didn't think going over into those bug-infested rice paddies was cool. We didn't understandânor would we everâthe reason this war was being fought.
Communists? What sense did it make to fight minor-league Vietnamese Communists while, at the same time, America was playing kissy face with superstar major-league Commies in Moscow and Beijing? As far as going to war because we were being told to goÂ .Â .Â . because it was an orderÂ .Â .Â . because the cornpone or amoral commander in chief had so decidedÂ .Â .Â . that didn't cut any ice with us.
We didn't believe or respect Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. We didn't want to carry guns; we wanted to carry roach clips. We didn't want to get killed; we wanted to get high and get laid.
And now they were going to kidnap us from our Beatle bootleg albums and incense-scented pads and cut our hairÂ .Â .Â . and we'd get reamed by some moronic inbred burrhead in basic training? And then they were going to put guns in our hands and tell us to kill “gooks,” whom we sympathized with as fellow freaks shit on by the burrheads of the world?Bull! Shit!Hell no, we wouldn't go!
Some of us shot our toes or pinkie fingers off. Some of us stayed in school as long as we could, adjusting career goals to necessitate grad school. Some of us ate pasta ten times a day, turning ourselves into grotesques, hoping to be disqualified for being too fat. Some of us stopped eating, turning ourselves into geeks, hoping to be disqualified for being too thin. Some of us shoved objects in our rectum, hoping to damage ourselves so we'd be disqualified for engaging in anal intercourse. Some of usengagedin anal intercourse. Some of us went to Canada.
The burrheads of the world could talk all they wanted about the dishonor of being a draft dodger. We felt no dishonor and no shame. We felt the burrheads were dishonorable and shameful automatons, good Nazis taking orders from higher-up burrheads who were dishonoring the new, loving, peaceful America we were trying to create.
We felt that anybody who didn't do everything to get himself out of this unjust and senseless war was stupid or unprincipled orcowardly.We insisted that those in favor of this scurrilous war had been poisoned by listening to Sinatra or Sammy Davis, Jr., or Eddy Arnold, or the gay-hating Anita Bryant.
When Bill Clinton, a graduate student at Oxford, a Rhodes scholar, got his notice to report for induction on May 3, 1969, he literally ran, panicked, to a friend. He was hysterical and hyperventilating. He beat on his friend's door, but his friend wasn't there. He slumped to the floor and sobbed.
He knew, by then, that he was going into politics, and he knew American voters wouldn't elect even a dog catcher who'd gone to Canada or shot his pinkie off or shoved objects into his rectum to avoid the draft. His options were limited by his own ambitions and by his own instinctive understanding of American realpolitik: The burrheads would be electing their “public servants” for a long timeÂ .Â .Â . until our generation was old enough to instill our values in our young and change America at the ballot box.
Bill Clinton hated this war the way most of us did and knew that he somehowâsomehow!âhad to quash his induction notice. He called his mother and stepfather to ask them if they knew of any strings that could be pulled. He asked his stepfather to see if he could get him into a National Guard or Reserve Officers' Training Corps unit.
Desperate, he flew back from England to Washington to see the most powerful man he knew, Senator J. William Fulbright, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Bill Fulbright, who was becoming a public opponent of the war, was a friend and his old boss. As a young man, Bill Clinton had worked in the senator's Arkansas campaign, driving him at high, reckless speeds around the state, and later, he'd also worked in Fulbright's Washington office. He begged the senator to help him get into a National Guard or ROTC unit immediately so he could avoid induction. The senator said he'd make some calls.
At the end of his wits, scrambled, Bill Clinton went to Little Rock to see another friend, who was working for the executive director of Arkansas's Republican party. Here he was, a young and very liberal Democrat, turning for help to the Republicans, a party even then captive to the forces of segregationist and racist interests, in order to avoid his induction date. Thanks to his friend, the Republican party's director in Arkansas made a trip to see the head of the state of Arkansas's Selective Service, who went to the head of the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas, Col. Eugene Holmes.
Bill Clinton cut his beard and his long hair before he went to see Colonel Holmes, a veteran of World War II POW camps and the Bataan death march. Bill Clinton was a dyed-in-the-wool peacenik, meeting a decorated war hero. Colonel Holmes had two sons who were in Vietnam. Bill Clinton sat with Colonel Holmes for two hours, trying to convince him that he shouldn't be drafted; that he, who loathed the war and everything the burrheads stood for, would make ideal burrhead officer material. He swore that he didn't oppose America's war in Vietnam. The burrheaded Colonel Holmes said he'd think about it. The next day, he was bombarded with phone calls from powerful state and local politicians, who urged him to admit Bill Clinton into the ROTC program. “The general message conveyed to me,” Colonel Holmes said later, “was that Senator Fulbright was putting pressure on them and they needed my help.”
Colonel Holmes gave them the help they needed and quashed Bill Clinton's notice to report for the induction, which was now only days away. He admitted Bill Clinton into the University of Arkansas ROTC program. But he didn't just admit him into the program; he got him out of the war. Colonel Holmes decided to allow Bill Clinton to finish his year at Oxfordandto finish two years of law school before he'd have to report. And in three years, everyone knew, this painfully unpopular war would be over.
Back at Oxford, free from the war, Bill Clinton went out on the street for the first time to protest it. He became one of the leaders of Oxford's antiwar movement. He marched on the American embassy in Grosvenor Square with five hundred other protesters. He wore a black armband and carried a placard on which he'd written in Magic Marker the name of a serviceman who'd been killed in Vietnam. He led an antiwar prayer service at a nearby church. Then he marched on the American embassy again, a foot-high wooden cross in his arms. He symbolically placed the cross against the embassy gate.
The newspapers were reporting, meanwhile, that Richard Nixon was withdrawing 35,000 troops from Vietnam. Other reports said the draft would be temporarily suspended shortlyâand that when it was resumed, only nineteen-year-olds would be called and “only those draftees who volunteered for service in Vietnam.” Nixon was pushing for a lottery system, other accounts said, whereby you'd be eligible for the draft for only one year. Numbers from one to 365 would be randomly selected. If your birthday was picked as a high number, you'd still only be vulnerable for one year. If your birthday was picked as a low number, you'd never be drafted.
When the first draft lottery was held, shortly after the stories appeared, Bill Clinton's birth date was number 311 out of 365. He knew now that if he wasn't a member of the ROTC program, he'd never have to serve in the military at all. Colonel Holmes and the ROTC had been necessary to quash his induction notice, but they were baggage now. He knew that with his low lottery number, he'd never be drafted.
He wrote Colonel Holmes a letter, asking to be reclassified 1-A (for immediate induction),knowinghe'd never be inducted because of his low lottery number. He knew, too, that this gesture could be made to look good when he ran for future public office. It could be viewed as a patriotic gesture. A young man whohada defermentgiving it upand seemingly making himself,on paper,look like he was willing to risk combat. The burrheads would love it.
Knowing that he was off the hook now, he let Colonel Holmes have it with both barrels, as though he couldn't restrain himself. He wrote him a letter. He told Colonel Holmes, almost gleefully, that he'd lied to him. While he had sworn in his meeting with Colonel Holmes that he wasn't against the war in Vietnam, he now wrote that “the admiration [between them] might not have been mutual had you known a little more about me, about my political beliefs and activities.” He wrote of “working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before VietnamÂ .Â .Â .Â . I have written and spoken and marched against the war.” He wrote that he “had no interest in the ROTC program itself and all I seemed to have done was to protect myself against physical harm.”
Bill Clinton thanked the burrhead for “saving me from the draft.” “No government,” he wrote, “really rooted in limited parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war which, in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation. The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake. Individuals had to fight, if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their countrymen and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case.”
His letter, in many ways, was an eloquent presentation of how many of us felt about the war. The way he pulled the whole scam off had rock and roll aspects many of us who'd dodged the draft admired. He hated the war and got inducted. He beat the draft notice by conning a war hero and by squeezing him with political muscle. Then he hit the streets to protest the war he'd already gotten out of. Then he got out ofÂ .Â .Â . what he'd gotten into, the reservesÂ .Â .Â . to get out of the draft. Then he told the war hero the details of how he'd conned him. Then he lectured the war hero about war.
It almost caught up with him six years later, when he ran for Congress in Arkansas against a Republican World War II veteran who started asking questions about how Bill Clinton had gotten out of the draft. Bill Clinton knew that his letter to Colonel Holmes might prove especially embarrassing to him. He wanted it back.
He'd squeezed Colonel Holmes once before through his friend Senator Fulbright, and now he squeezed him again through friends who were administrators at the University of Arkansas. The war hero called an aide to say “he wanted the Clinton letter out of the files.” The aide sent the letter to Colonel Holmes, who sent it back to Bill Clinton.
Sixteen years later, in 1991, that same aide, Ed Howard, started getting questions from reporters about a letter that Bill Clinton had allegedly once written to Colonel Holmes. Ed Howard ran into Bill Clinton in Little Rock and told him about the reporters' questions.
“Don't worry about that,” Bill Clinton said. “I've put that one to bed.”
No one knew that another copy of the letter existed, allegedly made by another aide to Colonel Holmes. It was leaked to the press during the New Hampshire primary in 1992, and for a few days Bill Clinton and his advisers went into shock. There were those who saw it as that conned and lectured old war hero's perfectly timed revenge. What would America think about a letter from a presidential candidate that was a flat-out admission of dodging the draft?
As it turned out, America thought nothing much at all. My generation had grown up now. We had taught our values to our young. The burrheads were dead or dying or certainly out of touch, like Ross Perot. Without a doubt, they were outnumbered.
In the America we had created, dodging the draft was no reason not to vote for a manÂ .Â .Â . no more reason not to vote for a man than a blow job or a good-tasting cigar. In both instances, Bill Clinton thought there was no evidence of what he had done. He denied everything. One lie was exposed by a letter, the other by a blue dress.
Mark Fuhrman and the Navy Blue Dress
“Can I ask you a question?” Linda Tripp said. “I have a lot of fear. Do you? I mean I have a lot of fear!”
“Do you want the honest truth?” Monica said. “Do you want me to tell you the honest truth? I have fear about one thing, and that's you saying something.”
It was a navy blue dress without dÃ©colletageâbuttons to the topâthat cost $49.95 at the Gap. It was not, as one of Kenneth W. Starr's prosecutors referred to it, “a cocktail dress.” It was a dress whose color and style made Monica, always paranoid about her weight, look slimmer.
It would become one of the most famous dresses in American history, better known than Scarlett's red dress in Gone With the Wind, its impact upon America's government nearly as deadly as the blood-splattered pink suit Jackie Kennedy wore as LBJ was being sworn in onAir Force One.
This simple “work dress,” as Monica called it, would also become known as one of the sexiest dresses in recent popular cultureâsexier than Barbra's nearly see-through Oscar pantsuit, sexier than Marilyn's sewn-on white sequins, sexier than the black safety-pin number that got Elizabeth Hurley a modeling contract. Monica's navy blue work dress was certainly the Gap's biggest fashion statement since Sharon Stone, Handsome's other friend, had worn her black Gap turtleneck to the Oscars.
On February 28, 1997, Monica Lewinsky hadn't seen Bill Clinton for eleven months, although they'd had phone sex half a dozen times as he crisscrossed the country campaigning against Bob Dole and the Tin Soldier. The day before, Betty Currie had invited Monica to Bill Clinton's weekly radio address. Monica watched him give the speech with six other guests, then had her photograph taken once again with the Handsome she'd been intimate with for nearly a year only on the phone.
They were a blue couple. He wore a navy blue blazer and a denim button-down shirt; she wore the navy blue dress she'd recently had dry-cleaned. She liked the way it fit her. After the photo was takenâ“I was really nervous,” Monica saidâBill Clinton told her to go up to Betty Currie's office because he wanted to give her something.
She chatted with Betty as Bill Clinton spoke to the other guests at the radio address, and when Bill Clinton came into Betty's office, Betty walked them both into the Oval Office. She walked the two of them into the private study and left.
“Come here,” Monica said to Bill Clinton. “Just kiss me.”
“Wait, just wait,” he said. “Be patient. Be patient,” and he handed her a little box decorated with gold stars. She opened it and found a glass pin that was the color of her dress. As she admired it, he almost sheepishly slipped something into her purse and quietly said, “This is for you.”
Monica reached into her purse and found a gorgeous leather-embossed volume of Walt Whitman'sLeaves of Grass. It was, she thought, the most “meaningful” and “beautiful” gift he had given her. She felt he was telling her, through Whitman's words, of the depth of his affection for her.
Bill Clinton told her he'd seen the message she'd sent him on Valentine's Day in theWashington Post's classified section, a note addressed to “Handsome,” quotingRomeo and Juliet: “With love's light wings did I o'erperch these walls/For stony limits cannot hold love out/And what love can do, that dares love attempt.” Bill Clinton told her how much he lovedRomeo and Juliet.
He kissed her then and they moved to the hallway she'd missed so much. She unbuttoned his denim blue shirt. He said, “Listen, I've got to tell you something really important. We have to be really careful.” He kissed her again and unbuttoned the top buttons of her navy blue dress. They did what they had done before and she knelt down. He froze suddenly. He thought he'd heard someone in the Oval Office.
They moved into the bathroom off the hallway and she knelt down again. After a while, he stopped her and started to push her away. She stood up and put her arms around him and whispered, “I care about you so much. I don't understand why you won't let me make you come. I mean, it's important to me. I mean, it just doesn't feel complete, you know? It doesn't seem right.”
He whispered, “I don't want to get addicted to you. I don't want you to get addicted to me.”
They looked at each other for a moment. “I don't want to disappoint you,” he said.
She knelt down again and, for the first time, she felt Willard find closure in her mouth.
“I was sick after it was over,” he would say later.
“You've got to put yourself together again,” he told her now. She buttoned her dress up and put her lipstick on, and Betty Currie magically reappeared and was suddenly knocking on the door of the private study. Betty walked them both into the Oval Office and then walked her out.
Though her departure had been abrupt, Monica was sky-high. She had gained his trust. He had allowed her to finish what he'd never allowed before. They hadn't had intercourse, but until this day, he hadn't really allowed her to do fellatio, either.
They had moved now from fellatio interruptus to fellatio. She dreamed of the day they would move from fellatio to coitusÂ .Â .Â . or at least to coitus interruptus. This was the best day, Monica thought, they'd ever had. He had given herLeaves of Grassand seeds of himself. She was grateful for both.
She went straight to dinner with some friends at McCormick and Schmidt's and then went home to her apartment. She threw the blue dress into her closet. Weeks later, she saw the dress there before going out with her friends. She tried to put it on, but she'd gained some weight and it didn't fit.
She noticed two “tiny dots” on itâstains in the area of her chest and lower hip. She wondered if they were the president's stains. She also wondered if it was either the guacamole or the spinach dip she'd had at McCormick and Schmidt's that night. She threw the dress back into her closet. She told two of her girlfriends about it, though, saying that Bill Clinton “should pay the dry-cleaning bill.”
She also told the Ratwoman about it. Linda Tripp had been on a diet, with Monica's help, and, as a reward, Monica invited her over to her apartment to pick out clothes Monica wasn't wearing. And there in the closet was the navy blue dress. Monica told Tripp the story and showed her the stains.
The Ratwoman went into a frenzy. She calledNewsweekreporter Michael Isikoff and told him about the stained navy blue dress.
“Should I take it?” Tripp asked.
“And do what with it?” Isikoff asked.
“Give it to you.”
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
“Have it tested,” Tripp said.
“What in God's name are you talking about?” Isikoff yelled.
“Where the fuck am I supposed to get a sample of the president's DNA?” Isikoff said, and hung up quickly afterward.
When Tripp called her, Lucianne Goldberg had the answer. Staying with her at her New York apartmentâin the right place at the right timeâwas a man who knew all about stains and DNA. From out of the O. J. Simpson case's toxic sewers came the ex-cop known as “FÃ¼hrer Man” and “Fuhrman the German,” to become an accomplice now to the plot to bring down the president of the United States.
The former Los Angeles detective, Mark Fuhrman, was ungodly perfect casting to be teaming with Tripp, the former Delta Force black-bagger, and Goldberg, the former Nixon spy. Once a marine, the collector of Nazi memorabilia, FÃ¼hrer Man, an author now, had been accused of planting evidence at the Simpson trial. He had once told a police psychiatrist that he tired of the Marine Corps “because a bunch of Mexicans and niggers were telling me what to do.” A witness claimed to have overheard him rant about “burning all the niggers.” He was living now in a small Idaho town not far from the headquarters of the Aryan Nation, a town filled with other ex-LAPD retirees.
FÃ¼hrer Man knew just what the Ratwoman and the Bag Lady of Sleaze could do with Monica's navy blue dress. A Q-tip would do it. A plastic bag. Sterile water. But they somehow had to get the dress.
Tripp and Goldberg knew very well what the dress meant. With a DNA-tested dress with his semen on it, Bill Clinton couldn't “deny, deny, deny” (as he'd suggested to Gennifer). The White House spin doctors wouldn't be able to turn this into another he said/she said. And if Bill Clinton should deny in court his encounters with Monica Lewinsky, he could go to jail. They somehow had to get a hold of that navy blue dress!
Together in the office at the Pentagon one day, Tripp turned to Monica and said she was running out of money. She was so broke, she said, that she was selling her clothes. That morning, someone had seen the suit she was wearing and wanted to buy it. Right now. Literally off her back. So could she go over to Monica's apartment, the Ratwoman asked, and borrow something out of her closet?Right now? So she could sell the suit she was wearing? Monica said okay, she'd go to her apartment with Tripp.
Oh no, Tripp said, she didn't want to put Monica to all that trouble. Couldn't Monica just give her the key to her apartment? Monica thought about it, then said she didn't really feel comfortable having anybody in her apartment alone. The Ratwoman foamed and accused Monica of not trusting her.
If Tripp and Goldberg couldn't physically get the dress, they had to try to make sure that Monica wouldn't send it to the dry cleaner. They decided to try to frighten her out of doing that.
“I want you to think about this,” Tripp said to Monica. “And don't just dis what I say, okay?”
“I don't always dis what you say,” Monica said.
“You're very stubborn,” Tripp said. “You're very stubborn.” She sighed. “The navy blue dress. Now, all I would say to you is I know how you feel today, and I know why you feel the way you do today, but you have a very long life ahead of you, and I don't know what's going to happen to you. Neither do you. I don't know anything, and you don't know anything. I mean, the future is a blank slate. I don't know what will happen. I would rather you had that dress in your possession if you need it years from now. That's all I'm gonna say.”
Monica said, “You think I can hold on to a dress for ten or fifteen years with semen fromâ”
“Hey, listen,” Tripp said. “My cousin is a genetic whatchamacallitâ” It was a lie. The cousin she was referring to was the Bag Lady's houseguest, FÃ¼hrer Man.
“âand during O. J. Simpson I questioned all the DNA and do you know what he told me? I will never forget this. And he's like a Ph.D. and blah blah blah. And he said that on a rape victim nowâthey couldn't do this, you know, even five years ago. On a rape victim now, if she had preserved a pinprick size of crusted semen, ten years from that time, if she takes a wet Q-tip and blobs it on there and has a pinprick size on the Q-tip, they can match the DNA with absolutelyâwith certainty.”
Monica said, “So why can't I scratch that crap off and put it in a plastic bag?”
Tripp said, “You can't scratch it off. You would have to use a Q-tip. And I feel that this is what I'd tell my own daughter. That's why I'm saying this to you. I would say it to my own daughter: For your own ultimate protection, which, mea culpa, I hope you never need it. But I don't want you to take the dress away, either. I'm telling you, I would say this to my own daughter, who would tell me to fuck off, butâ”
“Well, I'll think about it,” Monica said.
Tripp said, “Believe me, I know how you feel now. I just don't want to take away your options down the road, should you need them. And believe me, I know better than anybody, probably, other than your own mother, that you would never, ever use the dress if you didn't have to. I know this. Believe me. I just don't trust the people around him [Clinton] and I just want you to have that dress foryou. Put it in a Baggie, put it in a Ziploc bag, and you pack it in with your treasures, for all I care. I mean, whatever. Put it in one of your little antiques.”
“What for, though?” Monica asked. “What do you thinkâ”
“I don't know, Monica,” Tripp said, picking her frightening words carefully. “It's just this nagging awful feeling I have in the back of my head.”
“What if I don't have the dress?” Monica asked.
“I think it's a blessing you do,” Tripp said. “And it could be your only insurance policy down the road. Or it could never be needed, and you can throw it away. But IâI never ever want to read about you going off the deep end because someone comes out and calls you a âstalker' or somethingÂ .Â .Â . and in this day and ageÂ .Â .Â . I don't trust anybody. Maybe I'm being paranoid. If I am, indulge me. I'm not saying you should do it if you don't want to. I'm just saying it would be a smart thing to do. And then put it somewhere where no one knows where it is but youÂ .Â .Â .Â .”
FearÂ .Â .Â . ParanoiaÂ .Â .Â . Motherly ConcernÂ .Â .Â . Using Monica's own mother in her argumentsÂ .Â .Â . pretending to speak to her as though she were her own daughterÂ .Â .Â . at the same time taping her and conferring daily with the Bag Lady, whose houseguest was FÃ¼hrer Man. A conspiracy of scum. But a successful one. In a later conversation, Monica talked about not betraying her Handsome or the White House: “I would notâfor fear of my lifeâI would not cross theseâthese peopleâfor fear of my lifeÂ .Â .Â .Â .” She did exactly what the Ratwoman had told her to do. She put the navy blue dress in a Ziploc bag with her “treasures” (tapes of his messages left on her machine) and hung the bag in the closet of her mother's New York apartment.
.Â Â .Â Â .Â Â
When Tripp blew the whistle by calling Kenneth W. Starr's deputy, Jackie Bennett, Tripp told the prosecutors about the navy blue dress, which Monica would never have told them about. Starr's prosecutors knew they had ClintonandMonica by their short hairs, thanks to what Tripp had told them about the existence of the dress.
If Clinton denied under oath that he had sex with Lewinsky, the stains on the dress would prove him guilty of perjury. If Monica denied having the dress or if she dry-cleaned it, she would be guilty of perjury or obstruction of justice, destroying evidence. They even had a witnessâTrippâwho had not onlyseenthe stains but who had discussed with Monica on tapes (that they now possessed) the blue dress's importance.
When Monica finally got her immunity deal, the prosecutors immediately asked for the dress and she had to turn it over or go to jail. She had no choice. The Ratwoman had taken all of her choices away. The navy blue dress was tagged as item number Q3243 and taken to an FBI lab. The president of the United States was forced to provide a blood sample. The stains on the blue dress were revealed to be neither guacamole nor spinach dip.
Jay Leno and the Cigar
“Oh,” Linda Tripp said, “I'm beginning to think he's a huge moron, but that's my opinion.”
“And I'm beginning to think he's an asshole more than a moron,” Monica said.
“How about a combination, a moron and an asshole?” Linda Tripp said.
He had played his sax on Arsenio Hall's show, had nearly flashed his underwear on MTV, and now, as all the scurrilous rumors and charges inundated America, he tried to be hip again. He gave it the Bart Simpson response: “I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can't prove anything.” But Bart Simpson wasn't working. More and more newspapers were calling for his resignation.
Fellow Democrat Bob Kerrey's old quoteâ“Clinton's an unusually good liar. Unusually good. Do you realize that?”âhad been pulled out of the newspaper morgues and was reappearing everywhere. A column in theWashington Timescalled him “a lying, thieving hick in Allen Edmonds wingtips.” A former Reagan aide said he was “as full of shit as a fertilizer bomb and he might go off in the White House.” The same aide, Lyn Nofziger, gleefully pointed out, “With all his legal bills, Clinton can no longer afford $200 haircuts.” The chairman of the Republican party in Ohio said Bill Clinton “operated with a rectal-cranial inversion.” A columnist asked, “Do we really need the CIA to answer to a guy whose main interest is uncovering Victoria's Secret?” And fellow Democratic senator Fritz Hollings, of South Carolina, said, “Clinton is as popular in South Carolina as AIDS.”
Even the shrine he had ordered constructed for himself in the Pentagon was suddenly under fire. The Pentagon's third-floor corridor, known as the “Commander in Chief's Corridor,” was filled with wall-size photographs of Bill Clinton alongside top-rank military brass. Never a popular project, because of his actions to dodge the draft in the Vietnam War, the picture collection and the corridor were now being avoided by those Defense Department officials whose offices were near it. A janitorial worker had been assigned to wash the glass in which the photos were mounted every morningÂ .Â .Â . to remove the spit that had been left there the day before.
But doing the most incendiary damage to the Clinton presidency, some of his aides felt, was the nightly evisceration of Bill Clinton seen by 70 million Americans. Jay Leno was America's cynical conscience in the nineties and his nightly machine-gunning Clinton jokes were not in the relatively gentle spirit he had shown toward senators Bob Packwood and Bob Dole.
The jokes Jay Leno lacerated Bill Clinton with each night and which much of America was repeating the next day were, Bill Clinton felt, belittling him, making him look like “the dumb hick” and the “Caligula of the Ozarks” that the columnists accused him of being. “It came out today that Clinton once tried to have phone sex with Hillary, but she said, âNot tonight, I have an earache.'Â ” Or “Al Gore is just an orgasm away from the presidency.” Or “Monica is considering suing the president. She wants a million dollars for pain and suffering and $2.50 for dry cleaning.”
The Leno joke that Bill Clinton told a friend he really hated was this: “Former president Jimmy Carter has been hospitalized for the treatment of a skin rash. He's going to be fine, but if any Democratic president came down with a skin rash, I'd think it'd be Clinton.”
Leno's jokes spawned thousands of Internet imitators, E-mailed to offices all over America: “Why does Bill Clinton wear boxer shorts? To keep his ankles warm.”Â .Â .Â . “What's the most popular game in the White House? Swallow the leader.”Â .Â .Â . “What's Bill's definition of safe sex? When Hillary's out of town.”Â .Â .Â . “What's the only election promise Clinton has kept? Reuniting Fleetwood Mac.”Â .Â .Â . “What's the difference between Bill Clinton and a gangbanger? A gangbanger screws in turn; Bill Clinton screws interns.”Â .Â .Â . “Why is Bill Clinton always losing his voice? He keeps eating his words.”Â .Â .Â . “Why is Bill Clinton not circumcised? It would have been throwing away the best part.”Â .Â .Â . “What are the two worst things about Bill Clinton? His face.”Â .Â .Â . “What's Bill Clinton's favorite instrument? The strumpet.”Â .Â .Â . “What's Bill Clinton's idea of foreplay? âYo, look at this, bitch!'Â ”
Even more humiliating to the president of the United States were the jokes about the First Lady: “What would happen if Hillary got shot? Bill Clinton would become president.”Â .Â .Â . “Hillary is the only woman to stand by her man. All the rest had to kneel.”Â .Â .Â . “How did Bill and Hillary meet? They were dating the same girl in high school.”Â .Â .Â . “Why does Chelsea look so ugly? Heredity.”Â .Â .Â . “What kind of jewelry does Hillary look best in? Handcuffs.”Â .Â .Â . “When will there be a woman in the White House? As soon as Hillary leaves.”Â .Â .Â . “What happened when Bill Clinton was given a shot of testosterone? He turned into Hillary.”Â .Â .Â . “Why are female White House staff annoyed with Hillary? She keeps leaving the toilet seat up.”Â .Â .Â . “What's Hillary's new nickname? Oldielocks.”Â .Â .Â . “Why does Hillary wear turtleneck sweaters? So we can't see her Adam's apple move when Bill talks.”Â .Â .Â . “Why doesn't Hillary wear short skirts in the White House? She doesn't want people to see her balls.”Â .Â .Â . “What's the difference between Hillary and the West Texas oil fields? The oil fields get drilled once in a while.”
As if the proliferation of the jokes, windblown pollen, wasn't bad enough, graffiti was found scrawled into the Executive Office Building's toilet stalls:MUTE NEWTÂ .Â .Â . KEN STARR DOES IT IN HIS UNDERWEARÂ .Â .Â . CLINTON IS A POTATOE HEADÂ .Â .Â . BUDDY SNIFFS BUTTS.And bumper stickers were flooding the land:HILLARY HAPPENSÂ .Â .Â . FIRST HILLARY, THEN GENNIFER, NOW USÂ .Â .Â . THE JOKE'S OVER, BRING BACK BUSHÂ .Â .Â . IF SHE DIDN'T SPIT, YOU MUST ACQUITÂ .Â .Â . HEY, HILLARY, SHUT UP AND FUMIGATEÂ .Â .Â . THE SEX EDUCATION PRESIDENTÂ .Â .Â . ABORT CLINTONÂ .Â .Â . I VOTED FOR BUSH IN THE LAST ELECTIONÂ .Â .Â . WHERE THE HELL IS LEE HARVEY OSWALD WHEN WE NEED HIM?Â .Â .Â . I FEEL YOUR TONSILSÂ .Â .Â . I LIKE A JUICY CIGAR.
His cigar! His beloved cigar! The cigar he'd always enjoyed so much and which he couldn't have anymore. Hillary was bad enough, with her hardheaded declaration that the White House was a no-smoking zone, but now Dick Morris was telling him, “Do not be seen with a cigar again! Ever! Not in your hand! Not in your mouth!” Bill Clinton knew well enough the reasons why. He knew Dick Morris, as always, was right, but he had enjoyed his cigars so much and he and Monica had had so much funÂ .Â .Â . just talking about cigars. She had even given him a standing antique sterling silver cigar holder. He even had two books about cigars in his private studyâThe Ultimate Cigar Bookby Richard Carlton Hacker andThe Cigar Companionby Anwar Bati and Simon Chaseâright next to a book Monica had given himâOy Vey! The Things They Say!âand Wally Piper'sThe Little Engine That Could.
No more cigars. Gone, along with Monica. Her oral fixation wound up robbing him of his. He felt like one of those Arabs, the subjects of that sultan from the Middle Ages, who were in danger of having their noses lopped off if they were caught with a cigar. A cigar was “a lone man's companion, a bachelor's friend, a hungry man's food, a sad man's cordial, a wakeful man's sleep, a chilly man's fire.” There were two things a man never forgot: “his first love and his first cigar.” A cigar “numbed sorrow and filled the solitary hours with a million gracious images.”
Was that cigar with Monica in the private study the best cigar Bill Clinton had ever had? Well, in some ways, maybe. Was that the worst cigar Bill Clinton had ever had? Well, in some ways, maybe. It angered him, though, that he couldn't smoke them anymore, couldn't even put them into his mouth anymore. JFK had enjoyed his cigars; Churchill had enjoyed a quarter million of them in his ninety-one years.
All this national soul-searching over a wet, half-chewed Davidoff, and what none of the learned historical whizzes on television pointed out was that a cigar was a patriotic object, as all-American as apple pie. Benjamin Franklin paid for the Continental Congress by getting a loan on tobacco futures. With the money he got for “the royal leaf” for cigars, Franklin financed the American Revolution. And the Union won the Civil War thanks to three cigars. Two Union soldiers found the three cigars with some papers wrapped around them. The papers were discovered to be Robert E. Lee's battle plans.
No, it just wasn't right, Bill Clinton thought, all these scumbags callinghimnames, all these jokesters humiliating him, all these damn bumper stickers and people decking themselves in cigar costumes, as if the whole country was celebrating an impromptu, unscheduled Halloween. And he couldn't even have a damn cigar. He sat alone in the dark on Nancy Hernreich's couch, nostalgically contemplating his lost royal leaves, their meat, their structural stability, their lack of protruding veins, their seedlingsÂ .Â .Â . and the careful, hands-on tending his royal leaves needed.
As he settled back comfortably on Nancy Hernreich's couch, the tending of his royal leaves still foremost in his mind, he thought unexpectedly, in this period of jokes, of a joke Monica had told him. “Why do Jewish men like to watch porno films backward? So that they can see the hooker give back the money.” Bill Clinton thought, too, of the joke he had told her. “What do you get when you cross a Jewish American Princess with an Apple? A computer that won't go down on you.”
Bill Clinton remembered sadly how they'd laughed. He closed his eyes in the dark roomÂ .Â .Â . on his way to a few moments of sweet solitary solace during this nightmarish timeÂ .Â .Â . and he unzipped hisÂ .Â .Â .
Billy Can't Help It
“I brought my mom and my aunt to an arrival ceremony,” Monica said. “The Big Creep said, âI saw them. They're cute.' And I said, âShut up.' Not that cute, not cuter than me.”
“I wonder what he was thinking?” Linda Tripp said.
“How he could do them too.”
In an America increasingly in search of repressed memories and primal traumas and childhood violations, there was one other way to defend Bill Clinton's actions. The commander in chief was the victim in chief, and the real culprit was that hoary bugaboo from the sixties: society. Or, in this case, the family. Specifically, Bill Clinton's “dysfunctional” family.
Pro-Clinton teams of shrinks swept down on the talk shows to put the blame for the pickle the president was in on his mother, his father, his stepfather, his grandmother, and his grandfather. It seemed like a familial scorched-earth plan. The president stood by without comment as the shrinks euphemistically told us mom was a slut; dad a slut and a drunk; stepdad a slut, a drunk, and a wife-beater; grandma a slut and a grandpa-beater; and poor old doddering grandpa a plain old-fashioned drunk. It was a family depiction worse than any Erskine Caldwell could have drawn.
Bill Clinton, the shrinks said, had even recently, after many years of child abuse and a lifetime of abandonment, been cruelly abandoned by three important figures in his life. His beloved mother, Virginia, died in 1994. His important “father figure,” Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, died in 1995. His close friend, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, died in 1996.
In discussing these recent personal “traumas,” the shrinks did not say that two days after Ron Brown's death, Bill Clinton invited Monica into the Oval Office for a blow job; nor did they say that the videotape of the president going into Ron Brown's funeral had caught him laughing and joking with a friend.
They did say that Ron Brown's plane crash probably reminded Bill Clinton of the car crash that killed his father when he was still in the womb. They talked about how Bill Clinton had nearly lost his composure at Rabin's funeral, but they did not say that public display was probably good for a few million Jewish votes in the 1996 election. (As Hillary prepared a few years later to run for the Senate in New York, she suddenly uncovered “Jewish relatives” deep within the Methodist foliage of her family tree.)
We were to believe that Bill Clinton's problems all began with the drunken father who died in that car crash, Bill Blythe, and with his mother, Virginia. The shrinks described Virginia as flamboyant, flirty, extroverted, a “lady about town,” who wore a skunk stripe in her dark hair and heavy makeup with thick, sweeping, painted-on eyebrows. Bill Blythe, they said, was a “womanizer” who “lived a life of lies.”
When Bill Clinton was a year old, his mother left him with her mother and father so that she could work out of town. Virginia's mother, Edith, was like her daughter: a high-energy, razzmatazz, “let it all hang out” kind of flirty woman. She, too, wore painted, thick, sweeping eyebrows. She, too, had dark hair with a skunk stripe in it. Edith threw temper tantrums and kitchen utensils and beat her husband, who stuck increasingly close to his bottle.
The little boy called Edith “Mamaw” and the shrinks said Mamaw was a “rage-aholic,” while “Papaw” was an alcoholic. Mamaw enabled his drinking, they said, and Papaw enabled her rages. (The shrinks also said both Bill's mother and grandmother looked like a skunk-stripeless Monica.) As an infant, little Billy watched Mamaw beat on the hapless Papaw, and the shrinks said this caused Billy to “bury his fear” of women deep inside himself.
Billy's mother came back from out of town when he was three years old, and the family was reunited, but the shrinks didn't see this as good news at all. This is where they thought Billy's problems had really begun. Both his mother and grandmother loved him very much, but this wasn't good. This was bad, because it meant there was a “highly pathological” struggle over him by the two flirty, skunk-striped women.
Some shrinks thought that since Mamaw had a no-account helpless drunk for a husband, she was in love with little Billy. No fool, Billy realized he had two “overtly sexual” painted women fighting for his attention. The shrinks said he learned to be “exploitative” and “manipulative,” explaining something that he said to a friend many years later at the governor's mansion in Little Rock: “What am I supposed to do about these women who throw themselves at me?”
Although there was no evidence the infant Billy was the victim of incest or sexual abuse, the shrinks said the home he lived in was “sexually charged” and inhabited by two women with “flashy lifestyles.” Both the home conditions and the nature of the two women meant there was “a certain amount ofemotional incest” in his childhood. These sensual women were “overly seductive,” even though they only touched Billy with affection, never sexually.
Nothing had happened, but the shrinks said something bad had happenedâbecause he was adored and worshiped by his mother and grandmother. It didn't mean he was just another little boy badly spoiled by an adoring mom and grandma; it meant he was “traumatized” and “abused.” They violated poor little Billy as surely as if they had violated him. Poor little Billy was the victim ofnonincest incest.
Mom and grandma were unwitting pedophiles who inappropriately exposed poor little Billy to “prematurely associate sex with excitement and intense arousal,” which explained why he went gaga trying to find a room with rock groupie Connie Hamzy at the Hilton in Little Rock many years later. Nothing really happened sexually in poor little Billy's infanthood, the shrinks emphasized, but that didn't mean a lot of lifelong sexual damage hadn't been done.
Onto the scene when Billy was four years old came his stepfather, Roger Clinton, a womanizer like Bill Blythe, sharp dresser, high-stepper, and a drunk like him, too. Billy's mother, Virginia, the shrinks said, went for the same kind of man, or for a male counterpart of herself, and Virginia was a “flirt” (substitute the unshrunk wordslut).
Roger was a Buick dealer, and he beat his new wife because he thought she was cheating on him. Or because he was cheating on her and figured if he was cheating, then she had to be, too. Roger Clinton was, the shrinks said, an “alcoholic rage-aholic.”
Virginia, who took his beatings and ignored his drinking, was now enabling him the way Papaw was enabling Mamaw and Mamaw was enabling (and still beating) Papaw. The shrinks said Virginia didn't leave Roger because she had seen Mamaw beat Papaw so much, the violence felt like home to her. It was “normal.” Little boy Billy saw Roger beat his mother, but it felt normal to him, too, since he had seen Mamaw beat Papaw and had seen his mother and Mamaw yelling at each other all the time (over him).
Roger Clinton then moved his wife and stepson from Hope to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the shrinks had a lot of fun with this one. He was a drunk cheating on her and she was a slut cheating on him, and now they moved to Sin City, the Vegas of the Ozarks, where they both started to gamble heavily, too.
Hot Springs was a round-the-clock whorehouse and the shrinks saw three things wrong with the move for little Billy: First, the smell of sex was in the air and the little boy caught rushlike whiffs of it. The smell would stay inside the tissue linings of his nostrils for the rest of his life. Second, Hot Springs was a place of hypocrisy, where everyone denied the shenanigans going on and the little boy learned to deny and lie for the rest of his life. And third, the racetrack and the casinos were the centerpiece of the place, and while the little boy certainly didn't gamble, he caught a subconscious dose of gambling fever from his parents. He'd get aroused, take risks, and try to beat the odds (of discovery, in his case) for the rest of his life.
Other shrinks saw other imports and parallels: Virginia and Mamaw and Roger Clinton were all “sensation seekers,” and little Billy was always around themÂ .Â .Â .Â . Bill Blythe and Virginia and Mamaw formed little Billy's “neurological composition,” to which Roger Clinton contributed only indirectly, which sounded like a fancy way for the shrinks to make a hodgepodge of the theories of nature and nurture.
Hot Springs certainly turned up the heat underneath little Billy's abuse levels. Now Virginia and Roger were yelling at each other all the time, drinking more than ever, cheating more than ever. Billy, meanwhile, was pretending to the outside world that everything was fine at home. He was learning that lying wasnecessaryto preserve his family'sreputation.
He was lying forthem,in their interest, a twofold explanation of why he'd jab his finger at us years later and lie into our faces. First, to preserve the reputation of his family, of Hillary and Chelsea; second, to preserveourreputation, of America in the community of nations, so our country wouldn't be embarrassed around the world.
Little Billy Clinton was learning, right there in Hot Springs, thanks to Roger and Virginia's mutual abuse,to lie for usas he was lying for them. His lies were protecting Roger and Virginia's respectability as his lies would one day protect Hillary and Chelsea'sÂ .Â .Â . as well as ours. Little Billy Clinton, even back then, was aheroicliar.
As Roger's drinking worsenedâhe even took a shot at Virginia while the boy was looking onâBilly tried to counteract Roger's abuse of his mother by ignoring hisownabuse and trying to please his mother. She praised Billy and told him he could be anything he wanted in life. He didn't want to let her down. He became ambitious and worked hard to realize her dreams for him.
But the shrinks said trying to inspire her beloved son to be something in life wasn't good. It was as damaging as the affection she'd showered on him when he was smaller. Virginia was violating Billy again. He was trying to be a hero for her and that made him feel “terminally unique.”
I am special, Bill Clinton may have been saying to himself as he began accomplishing the success his mother so awfully much wanted for him. But he would have been better off as a loser. Because by being a loser, the shrinks said, he would have been recognizing his common lot with most of humanity. He wouldn't be weighed down by all the stress his hard work and ambition were placing on him.
Virginia's attempt to inspire her son was further abuse. Winning and trying to win was losing. Losing and not trying anything was winning. By trying so awfully hard to please his mother, by trying to make something out of himself, Bill Clinton was letting his mother violate him again. To be unviolated meant not being her hero, not being the rescuer of her (and his) self-esteem.
When Billy was sixteen, after twelve years of yelling, screaming, drinking, cheating, and gambling, Virginia divorced Roger. Billy even testified against his stepfather in court, against the man he called “Daddy,” the man whose last name he had legally taken. Then, after the divorce, after Billy had gathered all his gumption and spoken ill of his stepfather in court, Virginia decided to marry Roger again.
Talk about abandoned, the shrinks tsk-tsked. Oh, Sigmund! Oh, Carl! Oh, Art Janov, screaming his shrink soul out somewhere in the Malibu hills! Billy had stood up for her in court and she turned her back on him and went back to her worthless Good Time CharlieÂ .Â .Â . as the betrayed and abandoned teenage boy watched. It was the best explanation, the shrinks said, for why Bill Clinton had “problems” with women. Why he carried within him a “hidden hostility” that caused him to treat women for the rest of his life as objects to penetrate or observe as they knelt in front of him. He was getting back at his mother for the way she'd betrayed him with his stepfather.
After she remarried him, Roger Clinton, impotent, his liver the size of a cantaloupe, sank deeper than ever into the black lagoon of his alcoholism. He stayed in his room much of the time, his bottle between his legs. And now Bill Clinton, nearly a young man, became, the shrinks said, “husband” to his mother, the painted, skunk-striped, flirty woman who had had nonincestuous incest with him in his infancy, the woman who had so recently betrayed him by remarrying the semicomatose, semihuman, boozy sponge lying down in the other room.
Husband to the wife who was his motherÂ .Â .Â .and in gratitude for his love, his forgiveness of her betrayal, Virginia built Bill a shrine in their home of all his high school trophies. As he went off to college, the shrinks said, and began the penetration and rug burning of one woman after another, all Bill Clinton was trying to do was to “reconnect” with his mother, a husband in search of his unfaithful wife, not certain what would happen if he found her. Would he want to love her or kill her? Make love to her or sodomize her? Please her or humiliate her? Nurture her or rape her?
The shrinks were able to explain everything: Bill Clinton was sex-obsessed because of his mother and Mamaw. He had the sex that was or wasn't sex with Monica because she looked like his mother and Mamaw. He was sexually insatiable because of the incest that wasn't incest with his mother and Mamaw. He lied all the time because of hypocritical Hot Springs and because he had had to lie about his parents' drinking and abuse. He liked threesomes because his mother and Mamaw had fought over him. He was ambitious because he was protecting his mother's self-esteem. He flew into rages because he'd seen his stepfather beat up his mother. He allowed Hillary to hit him because he'd seen Mamaw beat Papaw.
A modern president, Bill Clinton was allegedly the victim of incest, pedophilia, child abuse, erotomania, sexual addiction, gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, rage addiction, wife beating, husband beating, grandfather beating, low self-esteem, jealousy, and poverty.
Bill Clinton was the abused, real-life punching bag available as “exhibit A” for many of the nineties liberal causes. The president of the United States was the personification of the nightmare that many liberals felt was repressed and regressed deep within the national psyche. He was the living victim of the horrors we were trying so hard to eliminate for our children and grandchildren.
If the shrinks were right about it all, then Bill Clinton himself was responsible for none of his own actions. He was a nice-looking stage upon which two sluts and two drunks had acted out a psychodrama that opened in Hope, played in Hot Springs, and became an international sensation at the White House. If the shrinks were right, Bill Clinton wasn't just a victim; he was a casualty. But if the shrinks were right, it also meant there was one hellaciously screwed-up human being with his finger on the nuclear button.
There he was on television, this victim in chief, asking to be forgiven for something he wouldn't admit to having done. How hard it was not to shed empathic tears over abandoned Bill Clinton!
Bill Blythe abandoned him by dying. His mother abandoned him for a job out of town. His stepfather abandoned him for his bottle. His mother abandoned him by remarrying his stepfather. His grandmother abandoned him by dying. His grandfather abandoned him by dying. His stepfather abandoned him by dying. His mother abandoned him by marrying two more stepfathers after Roger Clinton finally died. Gennifer abandoned him for a book, as did Dolly Kyle. His mother, Vince Foster, Ron Brown, and Rabin all abandoned him by dying. Stephanopoulos abandoned him for a book and for Sam and Cokie. Dick Morris abandoned him for a book and for Rupert Murdoch and Trent Lott. Barbra abandoned him for a TV actor. Monica abandoned him for a book and Ken Starr. Hillary and Chelsea were on the fence. Which pretty well meant only Buddy was left. As Harry Truman had said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Buddy was certainly an improvement over Zeke, Chelsea's crazed cocker spaniel, killed, finally, outside the governor's mansion in Little Rock while chasing a car. Zeke had barked nonstop, clawed at doors, had even caused a political uproar by constantly violating Little Rock's leash laws. Even dog psychiatrists couldn't silence the demented Zeke; only a car could.
While Buddy didn't seem to be as politically PR-savvy as previous presidential dogs like Fala (FDR) and Yuki (LBJ), he probably wouldn't splat the Great Wall of China, like Bush's C. Fred. Although Buddy still wasn't house-trained, thus limiting the photo ops. Plus, he had gone right up to Monica as she sat in the private study and had instantly shoved his nose right between her legs. “Buddy,” Monica had said, “you're better at this than your daddy.”
As the shrinks kept shrinking Bill Clinton on the talk shows in an effort to save him, White House spin doctors were concerned that some friendly liberal shrink would start saying thatÂ .Â .Â . judging by his behaviorÂ .Â .Â . Buddy was a victim of abuse, too. Just like his master.
Bob Dole's Johnhenry
Who knew? Right? Nobody knew. During the campaign. Against Clinton. For the enchilada. I was on message. Character, character, character. Who would you leave your kids with? And all that time. He was getting his johnhenry blown. By our next-door neighbor. Jiminy! By this girl. Lipinski. Kaczynsky. Whatever.
Bob Dole didn't know, and neither did Elizabeth Dole. We knew she was our next-door neighbor. We'd seen her at the elevator. But we didn't know she knew his johnhenry.
Funny, isn't it? How things work out? Yeah, right here at the Watergate. All three of us. Bob Dole. Elizabeth Dole. Monica Lipinski. And our neighbor, Lipinski, gets bigger than Watergate! Dorothy had it right. Right? In that movie about Kansas. “We're way out of Kansas now, Tonto.”
I was gonna win the election. “There are doers and there are stewers.” Dad said that. Three times is a charm. Somebody said that. Eighty and '88; this was three. Had it set up right to stay on message, on message, on message. Told 'em some jokes. Got grasshoppers so big in Kansas, they eat pigs' noses. Got cabbage leaves we use for circus tents. Use cornstalks to build bridges. Then back to messageâCharacter! Character! Character!
Didn't have to mention the war stuff. The shoulder. The cigar box. The pen in my right hand. Bob Dole took a lickin' but keeps on tickin'! Everybody knew about it. Wasn't like back in Kansas. Hadda run those TV ads. A picture of me and a picture of my shoulder. It wasn't there. Didn't even have to talk about the war. Everybody knew. Like they knew about his draft dodging.
The great silent issue of the campaign. World War II against Vietnam. Years in the hospital against his years at Oxford. A Purple Heart against his deferment. NASA againstSputnik.The NFL against the NLF. Kansas against Hollywood. Dead against Red. Love it against leave it. Leaded against unleaded.
The other big issue besides the war to end all warsâisn't that what Eisenhower called it? That issue was his johnhenry. We called it character. Everybody knew about him, and his johnhenry, too. Bob and Elizabeth Dole were happily married. Everybody knew that, too. The war stuff worked into that. Bob Dole was physically challenged, not the kind of man whohada johnhenry. It wasmycharacter against his. Apple pie against cherry pie. Maturity against his saxophone. Bifocals against his sunglasses. My missing shoulder against his johnhenry. Bob Dole tells the truth! Bob Dole loves America!
Knew going in that we had just the tiniest amount of exposure there, too. On johnhenry. It was my divorce. Batted it around with my guys. With George Will's wife and Rudman and David Keene. But it was so many years ago, back in '72, we thought Bob Dole would be okay.
Reagan was divorced. And Phyllis, my ex, had come back aboard. She soldDOLE FOR PRESIDENTbuttons in '88. And our daughter, Robin, who was a kid in her forties now, had been a part of every campaign.
So Bob Dole had mended the bridges. He'd pork-barreled the home district. Plus, the guys all felt Elizabeth's presence would get us over this. Elizabeth looking radiant up on the platform. Her arms around Bob and Robin Dole. Most voters wouldn't even know that Phyllis was still alive.
Jiminy, we got off to a bang-up start, didn't we? Bob Dole on message: Character! Character! Character! And right during the Democratic National Convention, johnhenry was the issue that came up. Like a hand grenade had landed in the middle of their party. Blown all of their shoulders off. Philip Morris, the little weasel, caught with a pro. Morris, Clinton's pimp, caught paying two hundred dollars an hour. So he could suck her toes. So he could get down on the rug naked and bark like a dog. Bob Dole had to laugh. It was too good to be true. Even though Trent and Jesse Helms were a little itchy. Morris worked for them, too.
But I laughed. Morris even told the pro he wanted to have at it with Hillary. He told her there was bacteria on Mars. That was top secret. He let her listen in as he spoke to Clinton. While the pro did what our neighbor girl was doing. All they could do was let Morris resign. Though I know he still gave Trent advice afterward. And somebody at the White House called him an “externality.” Yeah, that was a good one. He was an externality all right. Like the kind men have. Character! Character! Character! And then this happens. And Morris's externality reminds the voters of Clinton's externality. On message. On message. On message. I'll say!
Bob Dole said not a word about it, of course. Bob Dole stayed on the high road. He remembered the advice from President Nixon he'd gotten in '72. When Bob Dole was getting divorced. Bob Dole went to the Old Man and offered to resign as chairman of the Republican National Committee. And the Old Man told me that a politician had to be judged on his public behavior. Not his private one. He gave me a book that Bob Dole read carefully. It was about Israeli, the Hall of Fame English prime minister. Very big, Israeli. Bigger than Churchill. Bigger than Thatcher. Babe Ruth big. Dempsey. Sam Rayburn. And the book said Israeli was married half a dozen times. Jumped around more bedrooms than the clowns jumping around at Ringling and Bailey. So Bob Dole said not a word about the weasel down on the floor. Barking like a dog. But the voters all heard very clearly. What Bob Dole wasn't saying.
What a start! A landslide start! A mandate start! And after that startÂ Â .Â .Â . I fell down.In Kansas. In California. You probably saw the pictures. I couldn't help it. Bob Dole tells the truth! Bob Dole loves America! I'm not young. I'm mature. I tried to stay on message. But they started firing their poison gas. The libs, as the Old Man said, are like that. They wanted to get back at us for Morris, the weasel naked on the floor.
Jiminy, they calledmethe hatchet man! Accused me of writing the mother of a candidate I was running against in Kansas. Telling her he was an alcoholic! Accused me of calling another opponent an abortionist! Accused me of saying the Democrats caused 1.8 million American deaths in World War II! Accused me of using my missing shoulder to get my votes! Accused me of being a snarling attack dog! And now heretheycame!
Accusing me of choosing a running mate, Jack Kemp, who they said was a homosexual. And a draft dodger. They didn't do it directly. Theydenieddoing it. To give the story more play. To take the voters' minds off the weasel on the rug. The weasel denied doing it himself. Like the weasel he was. The weasel said reports were untrue. That he and the president's campaign were “tracking” rumors. That Jack was a homosexual. And had gotten out of the draft due to a pro football injury.
Bob Dole knew how slimy this was. A slander upon a fine, upstanding NFL family man. The veteran of countless linebackers. Roughings of the passer. An effort to character-assassinate Bob Dole's missing shoulder. The weasel was denying. Done to obscure un-American activities. Of the two johnhenrys. Kennedy'sâI mean Clinton's. And Philip Morris's. Bob Dole tells the truth! Bob Dole loves America! This was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The next shot they took came even closer to me. Roger Stone. One of my campaign aides. A good man. A fine Republican. A patriotic American. Director of President Reagan's Political Affairs. Even kept close touch with the Old Man in his final years. Visiting him at his New Jersey house. Whispering him political gossip. Keeping the Old Man in the loop. And now the rags were showing pictures of Roger. Bare-chested and wearing a mask. Pictures of his wife on a bed. Not wearing a whole lot. Pictures that were a part of ads Roger had run. In sex magazines. Looking for group sex. They were seen at a sex club. At an orgy. One of the ads run by Roger's wife said something about a hot babe. Who needed real men.
Bob Dole didn't believe a word of it. I didn't carewhatthe pictures showed. They wanted to get Roger because of Reagan. Because of the Old Man. Because of Bob Dole. Because Roger was the best man we had for negative advertising. Because the sex maniac I was running against for president had hit on Roger's wife. At the Old Man's funeral. The same wife whose picture was in the ads. Who said she was 40DD-24-36.
Think about that. President Nixon is barely in the ground. I'm giving the eulogy. (Bob Dole cried.) And the president of the United Statesâat the funeral of one of the greatest presidents in historyâis thinking about his johnhenry. They wanted to get Roger. And they got him. As I say, I didn't believe a word of it. But I asked him to resign.
Then they got Arthur Finkelstein. A bullet to the spine. Arthur was Roger's mentor. One of the best consultants on the Republican side. A little to the right. Working for the antihomosexual guys. Helms. Don Nickles. Lech. Faircloth. A lot of Arthur's guys were now working for Bob Dole. And it just happens to come out nowâafter Morrisâafter Rogerâthat Arthur isâaarg!âhomosexual. That Arthur is living with hisâaarg!âhomosexual husband. Or wife. Or whatever. I don't know about that stuff. We didn't have that stuff in Kansas. And they're raising two boys. Yup. That's what I said. Arthur's a homosexual. Getting paid by those guys who don't like that stuff. And he and his whatever have two boys.
I struck back at the bastards. Never let it be said that Bob Dole doesn't return fire. That he doesn't spear with his helmet when they spear him. “Can't never not do anything.” Mom said that. I went after the bastards' supply line. Their money supply. Hollywood. Bob Dole told them they made money from music that voted for the “raping, torturing, and mutilation of women.” From movies that cast their ballot for “nightmares of depravity.”
I laid it on real good. The Old Man would have been proud of me. It was like one of my speeches back in the old days. About the longhaired vermin in our streets. Bob Dole got their attention. Bob Dole burst at them with machine-gun fire. George Will's wife and my other guys thought the bullets were ricocheting all over Clinton.
I tried to stay on message. Character! Character! Character! But some of my guys were worrying. Maybe the message was turning into a double-edged sword. A plague of Kansas locusts. A game of Russian roulette. I felt like we were dodging bullets. That Bob Dole was back there with the Tenth Mountain Division. At the Pra del Bianco. Or wherever.
The troopsâRoger, Arthurâwere taking hits. I was weary. Stumbling. But if I could just slog through the mud. For a little while longer. I'd plant Old Glory on election day. Atop this heap of dirt and slime. And win the Super Bowl. I didn't pay attention to the polls. The polls were sniper fire. Bad calls made by the refs. Polls had to be ignored. I had to keep plowing up the middle. On a cold day in Green Bay. Through the shrapnel. Sniper fire. Win one for the USA. The Gipper. FDR. Ike. The Brooklyn Dodgers. Whatever.
Almost did it, too. Almost planted that flag. Almost won my championship ring. Took my bullet in the middle of October. Just a few weeks before election day. It was the divorce. Phyllis! Phyllis and Robin!
First the rags wrote that I met Phyllis at the hospital. When I was in rehab after the war. That she helped me walk again. Cut my meat for me. Helped me go back to school. Took notes for me there. Helped me pass my bar exam. Always took dictation for me. Sewed my clothes. Sewed campaign workers' clothes. That in the final year of our marriage, I was sleeping in the base-ment.Alone.That I had dinner with Phyllis and Robin twiceâon Christmas and New Year's. That after twenty-three years of marriage, I dumped her. By just saying, “I want out.”
Making me look as bad as Gingrich. Asking his wife for a divorce settlement while she was in the hospital. Diagnosed with cancer. It sounded bad. A woman who'd helped me to walk again and cut my meat. Dumping her like that. I couldn't deny any of it. Bob Dole tells the truth. Bob Dole loves America.
But that first bullet just grazed me. They quoted Phyllis as saying I was a workaholic. That's what broke us up. I was working too hard for America. If you need a reason for dumping somebody who's helped you walk again, America's not bad. Plus, there was no hostility. She made money selling her Bob Dole buttons, right? Robin was being paid by the Dole for President campaign, right? So far not too bad.
Then I caught one in my missing shoulder. A piece of shrapnel the size of a big fat lie. Wounded in the campaign for Europe. Wounded again now in the campaign against Clinton. Wasn't even sure if Phyllis knew about this stuff. Workaholic, huh?Yeah, right.A week before the election, after staying on message: Character! Character! Character! After my Hollywood speech about values. And they nailed Bob Dole on character. On his johnhenry. Because he couldn't keep it zipped. Equating Bob Dole with the sex maniac he was running against.
It was a long time ago. The early seventies. But I knew that wouldn't matter. The whole country was sexually bats then. But I knew that wouldn't wash, either. Bob Dole was Bob Dole. Bob Dole had the Purple Heart. Bob Dole had the missing shoulder. Bob Dole wasn't supposed to have a johnhenry.
Her name was Meredith Roberts. She was thirty-five at the time. A secretary at George Washington University. I was forty-five. A senator. The rags had found her now. She was sixty-three. Still single. Living with a bunch of cats. She was still mad at me, too. She told about how she used to call Bob Dole “Bobby D.” How everybody thought Bob Dole walked on water. But she knew Bob Dole wasn't squeaky-clean. How we were supposedly madly in love.
Jiminy! I wasn't surprised she was still mad at me. She thought I dumped her for Phyllis. She thought I was going back to my wife. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I did go to Phyllis, but it was a different Phyllis. It wasn't my wife. It was PhyllisWells.A model. Character! Character! Character! And now Bob Dole was Bobby D.
Bob Dole tells the truth! Bob Dole loves America! But Bob Dole wanted to be president! We tried to stop the bleeding from this hit. It wasn't easy. It was clear now that I'd dumped the woman who'd helped me to walk again for the sake of my johnhenry. Then, for the sake of my johnhenry again, I dumped the woman who was taking care of my johnhenry. For a model who tookbettercare of my johnhenry.