The Pickup Artists

The Pickup Artists

The Pickup Artists

A summary of what's been in the tabloids.
April 2 1998 3:30 AM

The Pickup Artists

The Big He, the Titanic lover, the flight promoter, and the Giff.

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Sometimes when a man and woman first meet, the man speaks words so true, so stirring, that the woman is helpless to resist. See if you can identify the world-class smooth operators who spoke these opening lines:

Emily Yoffe Emily Yoffe
Emily Yoffe writes "Keeping Tabs" for Slate.
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1) "I could get lost in those blue eyes."

2) "You've got eyes like Julia Roberts'--they're so big." [If this fails, follow with:] "Your eyes haunt me."

3) "You're really beautiful, you know that? ... Call me, it'll be fun."

4) "You're as pretty as my wife."

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Sure, you were tempted to guess Bill Clinton for all four, but the answers are: 1) Clinton; 2) Leonardo DiCaprio; 3) Jerry Springer; 4) Frank Gifford.

This month the tabs explore the sexual gambits of famous men. Chief among them is the commander in chief. The Star breaks news this week with an account by a flight attendant on Clinton's 1992 campaign plane of an alleged sexual assault by him. The plane was called Longhorn One (Clinton had to settle for this name; Long Dong Silver and Monkey Business were already taken) and is described by the National Enquirer as the "lust-crazed Bill Clinton campaign jet." The plane has figured prominently in the tabloid universe in recent weeks. The Enquirer quotes an "insider" as saying, "Bill Clinton had his own 'Mile-High Club' up in the front of the plane." And the Star last week ran pictures of Clinton arm in arm with, and with his hand on the leg of, flight attendant Debra Schiff, who later went on to become a White House receptionist.

But it is the account of flight attendant Cristy Zercher that fleshes out the Clinton seduction style. His opening comment to her was Answer 1, above. And Zercher claims that late one night, while almost everyone was sleeping--including Hillary, who was about six feet from Zercher's jump seat--Clinton came over to talk. He laid his head on Zercher's shoulder, asked her to talk about herself and, for 40 minutes, on and off, rubbed the side of her left breast. "I thought, 'Is he really doing what I think he's doing?' " she recalls. While feeling her breast, he also wanted to feel her pain. When she mentioned she was divorced, Clinton began asking repeatedly of the marriage, "Was the sex at least good?"

On another occasion, Zercher says, she pushed open an unlocked lavatory door to find Clinton standing there, unzipped. She says he said to her, "Well, why don't you come in and shut the door?" Then there was the time he saw the flight attendants reading Gennifer Flowers' interview in Penthouse. Zercher says Clinton kept asking them what the best part was. Schiff finally said that it was Flowers' comment that he was good at giving oral sex. "That's pretty accurate," Zercher recalls him saying. "It's one of my favorite things."

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He also told them that one thing he was afraid of reporters uncovering was a story about a couple who were friends of his. They were getting divorced because the wife found the husband cheating on her with barnyard animals. Zercher recalls her reaction: "My God, can you imagine if he becomes president that we were sitting here talking about farm animals--and he's the one that brought it up."

Finally, there's the orange incident. Clinton got a fruit basket that contained an orange that was, in Zercher's words, "shrivelled and deformed--it looked like a woman's sexual organ." Clinton brought it to the galley to show the flight attendants. He said: "I'm going to keep this. This is so great because I haven't been getting any of this lately." He carried it around and flashed it at Zercher for the next two weeks, until someone finally had to take the deformed orange away from the future leader of the free world.

This isn't the first time Zercher's name has surfaced. In a 1994 Washington Post story she says that after being contacted by reporter Michael Isikoff, who wanted to know about events on the Clinton plane, she relayed news of the phone call to Debra Schiff, who, in turn, relayed it to Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey. Zercher says Lindsey called her and urged her to say "all positive things" about her experiences. It's become a pattern in reports of Clinton's sexual advances that friends of the women in question confirm the advance but often say it wasn't unwelcome. Sure enough, a Zercher friend tells the New York Daily News that Zercher, who is now an executive assistant in New Jersey, told her several years ago that Clinton groped her and grabbed her breasts. But instead of finding his behavior "humiliating," as she now tells the Star was the case, the friend says she laughed it off.

Schiff has also appeared recently in the tabs. The Star has an account from Clinton's former chief White House steward Mike McGrath--who has testified before the grand jury investigating the current White House scandal--about the Saturday that Schiff locked him in the pantry off the Oval Office and reportedly said, "We don't want to be disturbed for 20 minutes." He said he heard Schiff go into the study, where the president was. Twenty minutes later, she let McGrath out. Schiff told the Star the story was "absolutely not true." McGrath also solves the mystery of the account of the stained Kleenex reportedly found by another steward, Bayani Nelvis. McGrath says Nelvis told him he saw Monica Lewinsky emerge from the president's study looking "shaky" and "in shock" in late 1995. Like some of the other women who reportedly emerge from the study, her hair was mussed and her clothes askew. After she left, Nelvis told McGrath, he went into the study, where he found towels smeared with lipstick on the floor.

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I n the world of the tabloids, Clinton's exploits are just an appetizer for someone whose sex life they really care about: Titanic star DiCaprio, who has obviously chosen Clinton as a role model and who, at only 23, has a good chance of surpassing the president's accomplishments. According to the Globe, after he sorrowfully bid adieu at the airport to his latest love, singer Alanis Morissette, he began chatting up a blonde waiting to get on the same plane. He has been on a "date-a-day spree" for almost a year, friends tell the publication. Though DiCaprio has gone out with a string of models and actresses, including Liv Tyler, Claire Danes, Juliette Lewis, and Kate Moss, a friend says he is no snob and that a woman doesn't have to be famous to merit his advances. "Leo's motto is, 'So many girls, so little time.' " In this, too, DiCaprio is like his mentor, Clinton. The Star's story on the depositions of the Arkansas state troopers who acted as Clinton's bodyguards says of his liaisons, "[S]ome [were] on-going affairs, others just stands of one night or even one hour. The women named included aides, wives of major supporters, executives, reporters, beauty queens, barflies, and even a judge."

The Wright brothers probably never anticipated their contribution to priapism but, like Clinton, DiCaprio is also an advocate of airborne sex. For one woman, according to the Globe, he hired a jet. He "served her champagne with fresh strawberries and ice cream, and they made love while looking at the stars." The publication does not mention if any oranges were involved.

And both DiCaprio and Clinton have found themselves in a few cock-ups over their sexual escapades. This week the Enquirer reports that while in Cuba, DiCaprio ran into model Naomi Campbell, and the two swam naked at a Havana hotel. But Campbell became outraged when she found out DiCaprio was simultaneously dating an 18-year-old Cuban model. Later, however, DiCaprio and Campbell were seen together in Paris and London, although the New York Post quotes a Campbell representative who says the two are just "good friends."

There is yet another DiCaprio love triangle, the Star reports this week. According to the publication, DiCaprio was smitten with actress Elizabeth Berkley, but in a strange Cyrano-like move, he had a friend conduct a phone romance for him. During one phone call, Berkley's boyfriend picked up the receiver and became furious. DiCaprio's friend told the boyfriend to meet him in front of the New York hotel where DiCaprio and his pals were staying. A brawl ensued, although DiCaprio emerged from the hotel bar only after the fight, to smoke a cigarette. As for the black eye DiCaprio is now sporting, the Globe reports that the actor was accidentally hit by a men's room door at another New York bar.

All these high jinks have the Globe worried that DiCaprio could end up with the same medical condition for which the Star says Clinton is receiving treatment. ("Clinton has secretly begun therapy for sexual addiction in a bid to save his presidency," the publication reports.) According to the Globe, DiCaprio is still only a sex addict in training. To avoid this fate, a "pal" warns, the actor "needs to settle down and find out what real love is all about."

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No one is worrying about the fate of talk show host Jerry Springer. The Star labels his lines as "dumb and dumber" in an account of how he tried to pick up a "Los Angeles lovely" with an offer to fly her to Chicago and give her tickets to his show. "I burst out laughing--he just looked so desperate," the woman says. Springer does have one thing in common with Clinton: He likes to use staffers to approach women for him. The Star reports that Clinton, while governor, would spot women in the audience while he was speaking. According to one trooper, he would then say: "The lady in the red dress, the lady in the green dress ... would you go get me her name and phone number? She has that come-hither look." Springer's approach is similar, says the publication. "He peeks at the audience before the show to pick out pretty girls, then sends crew members to get their phone numbers," says an ex-staffer.

Perhaps no one's opening line is lamer than Frank Gifford's. "You're as pretty as my wife" was his pathetic, yet successful, approach with Suzen Johnson, the former flight attendant with whom the Globe taped him having sex. (Perhaps the lesson here is that guys with sex problems should take Amtrak.) But now the Enquirer reports there's hope for men who stray in even the most public ways. After being wooed back for almost a year, Gifford's wife and talk show hostess Kathie Lee has told a friend, she forgives him. "At first I thought I'd die. But now I've come to love Frank more than ever," Kathie Lee told the friend who told the Enquirer. "And I know our love will last forever!"