Let’s Hear it For Monica Lewinsky
I have only seen brief snippets of “The View” on television. As an older white male, I’m hardly the demographic they are looking for, but the news that Barbara Walters is eagerly pushing Monica Lewinsky to appear on “The View” as, perhaps, a regular, sounds to me like a brilliant idea. I think her presence might induce me to tune in frequently.
I confess that I know a great deal about how young women and young men were passed around like fresh goodies in the late fifties, sixties, and seventies in the nation’s capital. For seventeen years I ran an advertising agency in Washington, specializing in real estate and politics. And for ten years I accompanied my wife the editor of the Washington Dossier, to the social events hosted and attended by the powerful, the rich and the famous who ran America. I was the fly on the wall in the Washington playground.
Little did they know I was mentally taking notes for my planned oeuvre, now up to forty novels, many of them based on what I quietly observed and heard behind the scenes in Washington. Believe me, wearing both of these hats, was a Doctorate in America History, the kind of history that was once banned in Boston.
Back in the sixties, for example, my firm was charged with opening The Georgetown Inn, conceived as hoity toity version of “old world” hospitality, complete with butlers, shoes left in the corridors for shining and other amenities – a fantasy satisfied today by watching Downton Abbey.
My brief was to deliver the society, media, and political big shots for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. In retrospect my clients got their money’s worth. The three reigning hostesses of that era, circa 1963, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Gwendolyn Cafritz, and Perle Mesta, all came with their glittering entourages. Other celebrities followed including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to whom I personally gave a tour of the new hotel, especially the Three Georges Restaurant. I’ll always remember the Duke’s quip thanking the management for naming the restaurant after his relatives.
I mention the Inn, largely because it became subrosa, a kind of hangout and private bordello for major politicos who brought their girlfriends there knowing that they would be safe under the care of my good friend and late manager of the Inn, Collins Bird. He was hardly an exception to what was happening all over town in those days. High level politicians had their mistresses. A number had their boyfriends. And they needed protective places for their hijinks.
One of the long running jokes between Collins and me was his plan to write a book about The Georgetown Inn, called The No Tell Motel. He told me he would print no more than six copies. I put in for the first one. Alas he died before his project could be consummated.
Everybody knew what was going on, including the media, and all were protective and pledged to secrecy. Exercising the venery was the Capitol pastime in those days. It was primarily a horny boys club and there was an army of available women who, heavens to Betsy, loved to party with the big shots fueled by ambition, hormones and just plain fun. Why not?
Hell, many members of Congress were away from their families during the week. But fooling around was “the” untouchable subject for mass circulation, except when it became publicly embarrassing, like the case of Wilbur Hays and Fanny Fox which became a kind of ice breaker on the subject of alcoholism and screwing around.
Because we had done such a great job with the Georgetown Inn, Bobby Baker called me one day and asked if my firm wouldn’t help him open The Carousel Motel in Ocean City. Our brief for Bobby was to bring a booze catered motorcade led by Perle Mesta and a gaggle of Senators and big time politicians for an outing at the Carousel. It got loads of publicity. In those days, Baker, who was the assistant and confidant to Lyndon Johnson through his days as majority leader of the Senate and was at that time President Kennedy’s Vice President. I loved Bobby. He was the quintessential Washington inside operator.
Later Bobby went to jail for too openly using his influence to enrich himself, another common practice in Washington in those days and perhaps, even more so, today, but he was flying high at the time of the Carousel opening. With Bobby, I gave the Johnsons a tour of the motel that day, although I found it strange that he suddenly grew apoplectic at Bobby for having our photographer show him with a drink in his hand. Good God! Hypocrisy on steroids. The Congress in those days ran on Bourbon and branch water with Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson and the teetotaler Bob Kerr running the place. Drunks were everywhere including on the floor of the House and Senate.
In those days, Washington was a helluva open town. On the surface it seemed a staid conservative little village, but underneath it was everything goes, with lots of booze, after hours jazz, whore houses, and sex. As a hired hand and later a silent observer, I lived in the anonymous background and knew many of the secrets. Believe me it has given me a honeypot of stories that have since recirculated in many of my forty novels, especially in my Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series.
But I started this blog talking about Monica Lewinsky largely because the women’s stories of that time were mostly ignored and discarded. Since they were mostly raw meat living anonymously in the shadows when the particular party stopped, they disappeared into obscurity or managed to get a prime spot on the Washington merry-go-round. Some lucky ones even got a ring.
Many were, as the saying goes, thrown under the bus. Can anyone name those young women who lifted their skirts or got on their knees behind closed doors for the gratification of Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senators, Congressman, and cabinet ministers? They were the anonymous and unsung, some used, some abused. Some got what they wanted. Others filed their regrets under “unrequited love.”
Monica, to her everlasting credit, should be the designated heroine to every woman that has ever been used as a slab of flesh by a powerful man, then tossed aside humiliated and tormented by a stupid media and judgmental public. What the hell was Bill Clinton doing with her when he unzipped his fly, playing solitaire with his penis? Who was the power player in that scenario? Didn’t bubba know that the media rules had changed by the time he arrived at the top of the mountain?
Tell you the truth, I’m proud as hell of Monica who maintained her dignity under the most torturous public scolding every administered to a powerless woman. She was the quintessential rape victim told by the world that the rape was her own fault.
But then, we all know that life isn’t fair and that Bill got the pass of a lifetime. Ask any woman if they would park their shoes under his cot. I’ll bet the majority will raise their hand in eager assent. Nor it is a stretch to speculate that Monica is merely one of many. Go figure.
In many of my novels people have told me that women win. Indeed, I never thought of myself as a feminist writer, or any other ethnic or gender centric practitioner. I rarely bother myself trying to fit into labels. Or care. In fact, I once wrote a play called Libido, based upon the Clinton Lewinsky scenario. My producer, fearing reprisals by the Clintons, killed the project in abject panic. Actually all sides of that event were allowed to air their views and I think the audience would have wound up understanding them as human beings.
As for Monica, it’s about time she has her entitled moment. She wasn’t the first woman to be manipulated to drop her panties for the gratification of a powerful man. With her newfound celebrity, she got her mojo back, and has proved that she was not the valley girl airhead most of the hotshots of the world media made her out to be. Put her on “The View.” She is an American heroine.
Go Monica. Go.