The (Too) Many Loves of Warren Beatty

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 5 2010 1:01 PM

The (Too) Many Loves of Warren Beatty

Next week brings the publication of Peter Biskind's Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America , a no-holds-barred biography of the big-screen golden boy that already promises to do for early 2010 what Tiger Woods did for the final weeks of the last decade. A preview of the book published this week in the New York Post (" Sexy Tell-All Jumps Into Beatty's Bed ") offers a lurid résumé of Beatty's romantic exploits, asserting, among other things, that between 1956 and 1991, Beatty slept with "12,775 women, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on."

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If the phrase "casual gropings" means something to you, perhaps this figure makes a kind of sense. Here at Slate , though, we couldn't quite manage to swallow Biskind's estimate. Twelve thousand seven hundred seventy-five, by way of context, is nearly one-third the number of plant species in the Amazon rain forest. It is more people than work at Yahoo . Biskind has said he arrived at that figure by assuming that Beatty slept with an average of one new woman every day for 35 years, beginning at 19, when he was an undiscovered actor. (On meeting Annette Bening in 1991, Beatty "fell into monogamy," as the Guardian puts it , and has ostensibly stayed that way.) To us, such a rate of conquest seems logistically, socially, and ontologically impossible. Herewith, 13 reasons why Warren Beatty probably seduced less of America than his biographer believes:

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  1. Biskind assumes either that Beatty bedded each partner only once, in the manner of insects, or that he carried on at least two relationships every day of his life, which challenges everything we know about the possibilities for getting from here to there in L.A. traffic.
  2. Today, good noninvasive birth-control measures have a failure rate of about 1 percent. If Beatty's encounters had followed these odds, he might have conceived more than 100 children. For the intractable complications thereof, see (1).
  3. If Beatty failed to make a conquest in the course of a day, he would have needed to redouble his efforts to maintain Biskind's average. For example, he might have had to seduce four separate women one day to catch up after inclement weather or a rigorous filming schedule. An observation from personal experience: I met two friends on opposite ends of town for coffee on Saturday. It took the whole day. Good luck fitting sex in there.
  4. Another observation from personal experience: Seducing four women a day is not possible.
  5. Biskind's proposed seduction rate also does not allow for the possibility of intermittent trips to the grocery store.
  6. Or squash.
  7. Why was Beatty, a movie star, coming into contact with so many strangers, anyway? Was he a) going door-to-door? b) hanging out in malls?
  8. If he was hanging out in malls, should we feel sorry for him? Note that Beatty had no iPhone.
  9. In order to meet Biskind's estimate, Beatty would have had to seduce more women per week than James Bond, which is impossible to fathom.
  10. Bedsores.
  11. Herpes.
  12. Biskind's model doesn't account for the fact that Beatty came increasingly to resemble Rick Moranis .
  13. Was Warren Beatty ever really that irresistible to begin with? François Truffaut famously said of the actor, on turning down Bonnie and Clyde , a script he admired, "Better not to make a film at all than to make it with men like this." Surely Truffaut was not an isolated case.

Given these and other considerations, it seems unlikely that Beatty actually managed to sleep with some 13,000 women by the time he turned 54. Still, who knows: When this topic came up in the Slate offices, most of the men present found Biskind's number preposterous. Several women, though, argued it might be feasible. Interpret that, dear reader, as you will.

Were you seduced by Warren Beatty? Do you think you have a better way to estimate his conquests? Tell us about it in " The Fray ."

Nathan Heller is staff writer for The New Yorker and a film and TV critic for Vogue. You can follow him on Twitter.

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