Cursed by long lead times, the tabloids missed the first turn in the sex-scandal news cycle. While Ted Koppel speculated about whether the president considered oral sex to be sex and Newsweek reported the possible existence of a semen-stained dress, the tabloid cover stories on the newsstands were: Jerry Springer (Star), JonBenet Ramsey (Globe), and Michael Jackson (National Enquirer). The big question this week was: Could the tabs reclaim their territory--the depravity and hypocrisy of the celebrated--in the face of the onslaught from the respectable press?
The answer is no, even though the tabs took out the checkbook to play catch-up. Agent-provocateur Lucianne Goldberg refused the $2 million she said the tabloids had bid for the Monica Lewinsky tapes. (It's probably safe to assume that Lewinsky herself has turned down the $2 million that Bob Guccione offered her to pose for Penthouse, according to the New York Post.) Even though it was the Star, back in 1992, that almost derailed Bill Clinton's candidacy with its revelation of his affair with Gennifer Flowers ("He introduced me to things I've never done before, like oral sex"), none of the tabs came up with new women or other bombshells this time. The most provocative gossip of the past two weeks came from the normally speak-no-evil Liz Smith, who reported that when Clinton first came into office, a former first lady who kept in touch with the Secret Service told her that Clinton was "totally out of control in the White House when it came to women." Does this mean Nancy or Barbara will be testifying before the grand jury?
The most shocking tabloid news comes from the Globe, which thinks the alleged affair between Clinton and Lewinsky is just so much feverish fantasy. "According to a source close to Monica," the Globe reports, "the intern's self-described sexual exploits could well be the female equivalent of locker-room bragging." Then there's the publication's re-creation of the first couple's first conversation about the news. After Bill denounces the initial story in the Washington Post, saying, "It's lie after lie!" Hillary declares, "We've got to fight back!" To which the president responds: "I don't think I've ever felt more completely in love with you than at this moment. Your trust and love will help me through this." Maybe the real news here is that the Globe is being secretly funded by the Democratic National Committee.
It does have one tidbit that fills out the portrait of Lewinsky. Her bra size is 38D, and among other interns, these assets are known as "Monica's mountains."
The Star defends its reputation as the most politically engaged of the tabloids. In addition to its coverage of the Flowers affair (reportedly confirmed in a deposition by Clinton last month), it also revealed the toe-sucking proclivities of former Clinton adviser Dick Morris.
T he Star has no doubts about Bill and Monica, offering new information about how the affair started. Most reports say Lewinsky first caught the president's eye when she wore a revealing dress to an office party. That happened, says the Star, but the stage was originally set during a chance encounter in a crowded White House hallway. As she and Clinton passed each other, Lewinsky, who was wearing colorful harem pants, according to the publication, "turned her butt toward him, pulled out the waist-band--'and showed him I was wearing thong panties.' When she snapped the elastic back, she giggled, and Bill smiled broadly--he'd gotten the message." To any sane boss, the message would be "Get this lunatic out of here." If the story is true, it does show Lewinsky's seduction technique to be as subtle and sophisticated as Clinton's. At least Lewinsky wore panties. The Star also reports that Hillary decreed the White House was not an underwear-free zone after an intern who favored microminiskirts regularly came to work with her private parts exposed.
In the Star's version of events, Peyronie's disease also rears it ugly head. This is the condition that causes the penis to bend at an unusual angle; for a time it was reported that this was the "distinguishing characteristic" of Clinton's sex organ that Paula Jones was going to reveal. According to the publication, Lewinsky told pals that the presidential organ "had an abnormal shape." But not anymore, apparently. The Star asserts he had some corrective work done at the time of his knee surgery. And it also reports that Lewinsky had some corrective work done to her bank account at the time of her subpoena to testify in the Jones case. She made a "highly unusual $11,000 payment on her credit card," it reports. The Star doesn't speculate about the money's source.
W hile the Globe sees Lewinsky as Jezebel, the Star portrays her as a young woman caught up in a heady love affair. "I really love him," they quote her saying. "It's so exciting being with the president of the United States. That's not something many girls can put on their secret sex résumés." As far as this president is concerned, that's probably only as many girls as can fit inside the Astrodome.
The Enquirer provides details about how Monica set her sights on her man, went after him despite all obstacles, and how and where she consummated the affair with ... Andy Bleiler, her high-school drama coach. OK, the Enquirer's coverage disappoints, but at least it presents a more believable account of life chez Clinton than the Globe. According to the Enquirer, the president has become increasingly depressed and "has been ravenous for junk food. Big Mac wrappers, half-full Slurpee drink cups and french fry bags have to be constantly swept out of sight." He's not sleeping well and spends the predawn hours alone with his best friend, his dog, Buddy. A furious Hillary is quoted as telling her husband: "If this is true, your life is ruined, our lives are ruined--and so is Chelsea's. ... You'll go down in history as the President who couldn't keep his fly zipped up." An "insider" told the Enquirer that Hillary also "stormed into her closet, grabbed a dress, threw it in Bill's face and screamed, 'Is this like the dress you gave her--the one she says she's kept as a souvenir of the affair?' "
The publication turns to science to assess the truthfulness of Clinton's denials of the romance. He's lying, concludes Jack Harwood, who "analyzed Clinton's words with the Verimetrics instrument, a high-tech truth machine that measures stress in a person's voice." According to Harwood, a stress factor of more than 60 indicates deception. When Clinton denies asking Lewinsky to lie under oath about the affair, "the stress analysis indicator skyrocketed to 100." Clinton was also being deceptive, Harwood says, when he denied having an "improper relationship" with Lewinsky.
All three publications agree on one thing: Lewinsky was emotionally shattered at age 14, when her parents divorced. This led her to seek out older men to replace the father she felt had abandoned her, and to do it by mimicking the femmefatale style of her mother. It's a picture of a needy young woman, one whom any older man with something to lose--or half a brain--would have the sense to avoid.
Although what happens seems to be up to Starr now, it may actually have already been decided by the stars. New York Post gossip columnist Neal Travis last week repeated an item he first ran a year ago, at the time of Clinton's second inaugural. It was about astrologer Linda Ashland's warning that the president needed to postpone his noon swearing in because of adverse astral influences at that hour. The last presidents to be sworn in under those conditions, she says, were John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.