Okay, I give in: Hillary Clinton‘s astoundingly selfish New York Senate run is Topic A this week. Since many readers keep track of my political wagers—I’ve been on a losing streak since ’94—let me assure them that I’ve already mailed a check for $100 to Chris Caldwell at The Weekly Standard, a deserved comeuppance for predicting just weeks ago that Hillary’s gambit was an elaborate tease, a salve for the manifold wounds inflicted upon her by President Clinton. Apparently, what started out as a lark—thanks a lot, Charlie Rangel—has mushroomed into a near-reality. Not that I think Hillary will ultimately represent a state she knows little about in Washington, DC; it’s just that in the next 18 months New Yorkers are going to see so damned much of her. Rallies that will clog traffic, given her First Lady Secret Service protection; shrill debates between Hillary and RudyGiuliani (the presumptive GOP challenger) that I’ll be forced to watch; Bill Clinton himself coming to NewYork City and fouling the air.
Before getting into specifics, let me reiterate what I’ve said for two years now: Al Gore has the unfortunate fate of being the Clintons’ final victim. Hillary’s Senate race will siphon away money, organization skill and media attention from Gore’s presidential campaign, not only in New York but the entire country. Hillary Clinton was very effective on the stump for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections of ’98, milking the sympathy that so many suckers felt for her during the President’s impeachment/Monica woes, and was probably responsible for Barbara Boxer‘s reelection in California. She’d be a key asset to Gore and other candidates in 2000 if she put aside her own ambitions temporarily, deferring a Senate run till 2004 in her native Illinois.
But she’s learned dirty politics at the knee of the master. Was there a more despicable spectacle this spring than watching Hillary toy with Congresswoman Nita Lowey—a Democrat whose liberal bleatings I abhor—letting her dangle as she made up her mind about running? Why, even as Hillary shuttled from destinations abroad, schmoozing with foreign dignitaries about the human condition—and of course, with an emphasis on the plight of children—back to New York for Lowey’s fundraisers, there was an evil glow about her. The message? Hillary to Nita: You’re screwed. If Clinton put her own claim to “destiny” on hold, she’d be a powerful Lowey ally; in addition, she’d be a draw in New Jersey to assist whatever dimwit the Democrats put up against Christie Whitman. (As an aside, I still think Steve Forbes is wasting a ton of money on his vanity presidential campaign; he’d be of greater help to the Republicans if he ran for the open New Jersey Senate seat instead of Whitman, a race he’d win in a landslide.)
On the Republican side, Congressman Rick Lazio, the 41-year-old conservative/moderate who upset Gore’s buddy Tom Downey in the ’92 elections, is getting a lot of tv time for his threat to challenge Giuliani in the GOP primary. I suspect it’s a clever ruse on Lazio’s part: By gaining so much attention now, he’s gone from being a relatively anonymous representative to a statewide figure, and will be in a strong position to challenge the odious Chuck Schumer in 2004. Sure, Gov. Pataki and Al D’Amato are ramping up Lazio’s chances against their foe Giuliani, but they’re doing that to get under the
Mayor’s skin, which isn’t hard to do. When push comes to shove, I’ll bet the Republican National Committee, and George W. Bush in particular, will exert pressure on Lazio not to bloody Giuliani in a bitter campaign and weaken Bush’s chances for winning New York in the general election, as well as losing an open seat for the Senate.
I don’t particularly care about the carpetbagger liability that Hillary Clinton has: New York has its precedents for outsiders—Bobby Kennedy and James Buckley—quickly establishing residency and winning a post in the Senate. And if she hasn’t the foggiest notion of how to direct a foreign cabby in New York City from Zabar’s to Chambers St., that’s not the worst thing in the world. What is maddening is that Hillary doesn’t especially care about the people of New York: This is a blatant grab at power, an obvious stepping stone for her own presidential run in 2004 or 2008. Also, a big Fuck You to
her husband. And, as Newsday‘s Bill Reel wrote last Friday, “Despite her popularity, there does exist…a fair number of so-called Hillary haters, and routing them would be the ultimate revenge on the vast right-wing conspiracy.”
I do believe that New Yorkers, when it comes down to voting, will see through her facade and elect Giuliani.
Still, she’s had a clear agenda in visiting New York so often in the past two months. Her appearances are planned not only for the money, media spotlight and contacts. She’s also coming—perhaps primarily—because she wants to fool the less sophisticated and informed voters into thinking that she sort of lives here already, and even has a connection to New York. She believes that if dutiful reporters record her every commencement address, baby-kiss in the projects, her support for an environmental initiative in Buffalo, then people who aren’t very bright will think she’s a New Yorker. Hillary’s tenure as First Lady has proved she doesn’t have much respect for the American people—the health care fiasco was proof of that—and believes they’re basically stupid. That’s what she learned in Little Rock: how to successfully condescend to constituents who don’t know where New Haven is and get away with it. All these photo ops that Harold Ickes has engineered in New York are an extension of this philosophy: Hillary Cares, She’s One of Us.
Charlie Rangel obviously doesn’t agree. He told The Washington Times‘ John McCaslin last week that Giuliani has met his match. Rangel: “He is so awkward in front of people who are not of his same sex and background that just being on stage with a woman, much less Hillary Clinton, will put him
in a very, very embarrassing position… I don’t think Giuliani knows how to get to Washington without a guide.”
I don’t think there’s been a pundit who hasn’t speculated about this bizarre race. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal‘s Paul Gigot began his column: “A Republican senator running for reelection next year recently reacted this way to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s now probable Senate campaign: ‘Can’t
you get her to run against me?’
“Think of the benefits, added this savvy GOP pol. He could immediately fire his fund-raisers. A couple of national mass-mailings would bring in more than enough campaign cash. The chance to beat the First Tiger Lady would unite otherwise fractious Republicans from Jerry Falwell to Christie Whitman.”
Gigot goes on to say that privately Democrats are astonished at the First Lady’s audacity and the harm it could cause the party in 2000. He also states the obvious: that even the many Beltway reporters who admire Hillary aren’t about to counsel her to forgo the contest: It’s too juicy a story. He continues: “The exception is The New Republic, which has trashed her candidacy as loudly as it’s promoting Al Gore’s—and which is no coincidence, comrade. Its editors know Mr. Gore has enough problems without adding Hillary’s.”
The Post‘s ”Page Six” had a funny item last Thursday in which it reported that at the Princeton Club last week, former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry made the silly prediction that Dan Quayle would be the GOP’s presidential nominee; two floors above, conservative Grover Norquist, addressing the Fabiani Society, described Hillary as “an unreconstructed East German border guard.”
But it was The Boston Globe‘s John Ellis, last Saturday, who won the prize for the week’s most scathing commentary. “On paper,” Ellis wrote, ”the race is a complete mismatch. Hillary Clinton has no credentials for the job. She has never been elected to anything by anyone and she has accomplished
nothing of importance over the course of her 25 years as a political spouse. Her resume is unimpressive. She was a partner at a second-tier law firm in a third-tier state who couldn’t meet her revenue targets. She worked closely at that firm with two other partners; one who committed suicide under mysterious circumstances and the other a convicted felon and thief.”
Ellis concludes: ”She will not win because her candidacy isn’t about New York, or the people who live here [although Ellis writes for the Globe, he's a New York resident], or what she might do for them. It’s about her. It’s her movie, which she stars in and directs. The problems of others are important only to the degree that they forward her plot.”
Not surprisingly, Salon‘s Joe Conason has a different spin, arguing that the presence of St. Hillary on the ballot will inspire an avalanche of minorities to actually vote and also bring untold millions of dollars into the state, which can only benefit Gore. In his June 1 column he essentially tells Gore and his handlers to stop being crybabies: “A presidential candidate who worries about being overshadowed by a Senate hopeful looks and sounds like a loser. Hillary can help Gore more than she hurts him. He should learn to make the most of the remarkable woman who is almost certain to be his political companion.” As Paul Gigot would say, I think Conason has been inhaling James Carville‘s exhaust for too many years now; what else could cause such woozy logic?
Even Margaret Carlson, a Clinton shill through thin and thin, wrote in her June 7 Time column: “If people think Clinton fatigue is going to hurt Al Gore, imagine how much it could hurt an actual Clinton.”
Patrick Kennedy’s Patriarch
It was a pleasing week for Kennedy-bashers who live on the Washington-Boston Amtrak line. Count on the New York Post to get the party rolling: In its June 1 edition, on page 7, there was the headline “Tubby Teddy Shapes Up for Voters,” accompanied by an evergreen photo of the Senator, on a
boat some years back, looking like he was in his 15th month. Bill Hoffmann wrote that Kennedy was getting in shape for his upcoming shoo-in Massachusetts Senate run and that’s why he’s “cut back on alcoholic drinks, fatty foods and [the] desserts he loves so much.” It was a cheap laugh, and one that the Post indulges in frequently: It’s a certainty that owner Rupert Murdoch is still pissed that Kennedy forced him to sell the Post back in the 80s, with a midnight bill that prohibited cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations.
Next on the list was John Kennedy Jr.‘s George, which, as Mediaweek reported in its May 24 issue, is in the midst of a “spring cleaning.” According to the trade magazine, George‘s paid circulation fell 5 percent in the second half of 1998, while single-copy sales dropped 28.2 percent. A former George employee is quoted as saying, “I don’t think John is as involved as an editor should be. It’s not that he isn’t a hard worker in the day-to-day, but it’s in areas such as going out and meeting with people, talking about the magazine. It’s left a lot of questions up in the air.”
One question I have about George is why Kennedy accepted a full-page advertisement from the National Rifle Association. Not that it bothers me (NRA: Our phone number is 212-244-2282), but for all the bluster Kennedy’s relatives have made about the NRA and gun control, you’d think that would be revenue John Kennedy would sacrifice. But perhaps he didn’t even notice the ad was in his own magazine.
Finally, it’s good to have The Weekly Standard‘s Matt Labash back among the living. I was concerned: Labash, normally a steely reporter, went soft after Littleton, and even found the presence of God in one of the town’s makeshift media shanties while he was reporting on the martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, the young Christian who was killed in the school massacre.
But fear not: In the June 7 Standard, Labash simply demolishes the pathetic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, exposing Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt‘s exploitation of the dim Rhode Islander’s name and fundraising ability, as well as recounting some truly embarrassing moments in the 31-year-old’s past. Gephardt has become Kennedy’s patron in the House, making him the fifth-ranking Democrat there, and putting him in charge of raising the necessary funds to win back the chamber for the party in 2000. Eagle Scout Gephardt’s cynicism has amazed even those who always knew the goody-two-shoes public persona was a front: The man is demagogic, twists facts and even though he despises both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, has shilled shamelessly for the ethically challenged duo. Why? So he can become the next speaker of the House.
Kennedy is far from being an orator; he can barely speak English. Here’s just one example Labash dug up, recounting a question Kennedy asked the secretary of the Navy about how to eliminate racism from the military: “So what happens is, things don’t get reported because, you know, let’s not make much to do about nothing, so to speak. One of the worries I have about, you, a really zero-defect mentality with respect to defect—I’m not talking now—I mean everyone can acknowledge that if there’s a little bit of extremism, I’m not saying that that isn’t just grounds for you know, expulsion from the military. But how do we address the broader issues… Can you answer that in terms of communication?”
As Gomer Pyle would say, Shazzam, shazzam, shazzam!
Another damning anecdote about simpleton Patrick that Labash relates is when the youngster, still in college, decided to enter the family profession and challenge nine-year incumbent John Skeffington for his Rhode Island state representative seat. Skeffington, according to Labash, was well-liked by the party establishment but Patrick said, “I faced a situation where I wanted to run for public office, and I was told to wait my turn. This was totally repugnant to me.” So give the kid points for moxie. But, of course, he bought the election.
“More remarkable were the resources at Patrick’s disposal: from the family’s deep-pockets donor lists to the Brown University speech coach hired to improve Patrick’s dadaist delivery, to Dad himself helicoptering in to the district to accompany his son door to door. Nearly a dozen Kennedys weren’t so much recruited as conscripted to win Patrick’s 1988 race… The only hint of embarrassment came from John Jr. ‘He was a perfect gentleman,’ says Skeffington. ‘He said, ”I hope you realize that I don’t want to be here, I don’t like this, but you understand it’s my cousin and I was asked to do it. I don’t think it’s fair.”‘”
Then there was Kennedy’s first real flash in the media when he took on now-retired GOP Rep. Gerald Solomon in a debate about the repeal of the assault weapons ban. Solomon, a Marine in Korea, was so incensed by the following remarks that he offered to put up his dukes against Kennedy. This was the blast Kennedy took at the New York pol, using, as always, his family as a backdrop: ”Shame on you… Play with the devil, die with the devil… There are families out there…[you'll] never know what it’s like, because [you don't] have someone in your family who was killed.”
Labash’s article is titled “Patrick Kennedy—the Man and the Myth,” but that’s far too generous. There’s no “myth” about this rather dumb man. He’s a scion of Camelot, was born too late to get into real trouble with substance abuse—Bobby Kennedy Jr. would be presidential material right now if it
weren’t for his heroin bust almost 15 years ago—bought his way into the Rhode Island Legislature and then Congress, and now makes a fool of himself every time he speaks in public. End of story.
An Acute Sermon
I’ve been rough on Slate writer Timothy Noah in the past six months; his ludicrous condemnation of The Wall StreetJournal‘s editorial page (and WSJ boardmember Dorothy Rabinowitz in particular) is galling, especially considering that Noah at one time was employed at that paper. Also, his earnest, can’t-get-a-toothpick-up-his-butt liberalism is just so tiring in 1999. That’s what a stint at The Washington Monthly, Charles Peters‘ revered magazine of mindless thumbsucking, will do to an impressionable young man or woman.
But Noah’s May 20 “Chatterbox” item in Slate, “What Did You Do in the Debacle, Tony?” was a terrific sermon from Pastor Tim, as he questioned why reporters didn’t, upon Tony Coelho‘s ascension to Al Gore‘s campaign guru, delve more fully into the former congressman’s role in the ’94 elections. As Noah points out, Coelho was brought on in the summer of ’94 to help Democrats that autumn; few saw the GOP tsunami coming in July of that year, especially Coelho, who told the press just two months before the election that he expected normal midyear results.
“So what exactly was Coelho’s role in the Democrats’ Waterloo? Determined to get to the bottom of this, Chatterbox phoned former White House aide George Stephanopoulos. He said that Coelho really did have minimal involvement. ‘He was basically a spokesperson,’ Stephanopoulos said, ‘and did come by for several meetings.’ [Isn't it grand that Prof. George still feels it necessary to call a man a "spokesperson."] Recommending what? Stephanopoulos couldn’t remember… Hmm. Is this the same George Stephanopoulos who told [Washington Post writer Lloyd] Grove back in 1994 that Coelho was ‘a strong voice at the table’?”
Some conservative writers I know think that Coelho’s involvement in Gore’s campaign is a plus; the man knows how to shake down people for money. But like Noah, I don’t agree: This is a backstabbing creep who had to resign his congressional seat for ethical reasons (a fact that the GOP will remind reporters of every day) and is only out for himself. Gore has enough baggage on the campaign finance front. Surely he could’ve picked a rainmaker with a cleaner past than Coelho.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
Since Junior and MUGGER III are less than two years apart in age, there’s a continual, if usually joyful, rivalry between the boys. So when Junior snatched his foul ball at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago—his special day with Dad and two of his uncles—he lorded it over his little brother with gusto. Fair is fair and so last Wednesday I picked up my four-year-old from school and we went on an excursion of our own, beginning with a trip to Chameleon Comics on Maiden La., where we loaded up on Pokemon trading cards (the really cool ones are in Japanese), figurines, key chains and comic books. The Pokemon craze, which started last September, is in full bloom; all over the city comic book and video shops are running out of paraphernalia. So the tip about Chameleon, a mother lode of Pokemonia, from the boys’ friend Jackson Sinder, was
a godsend. As I mentioned previously, when Nintendo picked up the rights to Pokemon they saved their company from going the way of Sego, and ceding the entire market to PlayStation. I spoke with one of my brothers in London and the fad is just beginning there: Virgin Records expects its first shipment of trading cards in October. So when my family visits theirs in Bermuda this August, Junior and MUGGER III will be real heroes to their cousins Quinn and Rhys.
After buying out Chameleon, or so it seemed to me, MUGGER III and I cabbed up to the office and stopped at Burke & Burke for refreshments. I required a double espresso; my son picked out a can of Coke and a bag of chips. The darling cashier, who cooed about MUGGER III, gave him a gratis Cadbury “Picnic“ candy bar, as if he needed any more sugar. The Irish woman who prepares coffee at lightning speed was a doll as well: “What a cutie you have there,” she said. “But of course I can see his good looks come from you!” That’s a load of blarney, of course, but what a sweetie she was. Once upstairs, MUGGER III emptied his bag of loot, spilled Coke all over, shed his sandals, watched some Nickelodeon and then set upon terrorizing NYPress employees who were trying to work that Wednesday afternoon. He told me on the way home that it was one of his favorite days of the year.
That morning, as I was getting ready to take Junior to school, MUGGER III came out with a whopper, one that didn’t amuse Mrs. M one bit. Out of nowhere, he said “Yeah, Animaniacs really sucks… I mean, rocks.” Junior was smiling, my wife wasn’t, and on the cab ride uptown I asked my boy where his brother learned that expression. He looked at me like I was a preacher or something and replied, ”Well, where do you think? I taught him.” Oh great, I thought, remembering that when I was a kid, seven years old, I was sent to my room for saying the word “God” in front of my own mother. That night, while dining with Jeff and Amy Koyen at El Teddy’s in Tribeca (I varied my routine somewhat, choosing the stewed beef instead of the queso fundido), Amy related a similar situation when she was young. One day, she casually used the word “schmuck” in conversation and caught hell, I mean heck, from her parents.
Last Friday, Junior graduated from kindergarten and we all attended a precious ceremony at Central Presbyterian Church on Park Ave. His class sang “Let’s Make the World a Happy Place,” while the first-graders chose “We All Sing With the Same Voice” for their part in the proceedings. Fortunately, there wasn’t any long-winded speaker who gassed on about Kosovo and the responsibility that’s being passed on to today’s youth. That’ll come later for my boys.
It’s seemed that in the past several weeks one out of three Washington pundits gave their own version of a commencement address, and The Washington Post‘s Michael Kelly was no exception. As I’ve noted before, I don’t think satire is Kelly’s long suit—he excels at straight-ahead writing about who’s telling the truth and who isn’t—but I did like the conclusion to his June 2 piece, “Welcome to the…Real World?” Kelly wrote: “Finally, dear members of the class of 1999, if I can proffer only one piece of advice above all, it is this: Become a celebrity. Ours is a just and righteous land, and all are equal in the eyes of the law. But some are more equal than others, and the most equal are those who have graced the covers of People, Time, Us and Rolling Stone. Hold before you always the shining examples of Latrell Sprewell, O.J. Simpson, Marv Albert, and of course our first celebrity president, William Jefferson Clinton. And, remember, nobody pays retail anymore, why should you?”
On Saturday morning, the NYPress Giants finally met their match in the Downtown Little League: the Spaghetti Western Padres. Man, this team could field, hit and compete without a hint of cheating. I didn’t keep score, it was too painful, and though Junior and his buddy Scott Franchi protested
that the Giants won, they knew in their hearts that the team was undefeated no longer. But hey, even the Bosox‘s Pedro Martinez, the most powerful pitcher in the Major Leagues this year, has lost one game. Boston‘s romanticized team is on a tear, even holding down first place for all of last week, and the reason is their pitching, as well as superstar Nomar Garciaparra. I fully expect the Yanks to finish atop the AL East by season’s end, but the rest of the American League, with the exception of the Indians, is playing so badly the Red Sox might as well start printing playoff tickets now. Don’t like to jinx the team, but wouldn’t it be ironic if 1999 was finally the year they recaptured the World Series championship for the first time since 1918?
Sunday morning was the typical routine at our loft: the boys up early, bugging their mother to arise, and yours truly combing the Drudge Report. There was one twist: Junior was dressed up as Darth Maul, from the new Star Wars movie. The three of them saw the film while I was in Memphis, holed up
in the Danny Thomas suite, trying to make sense of the 100-plus papers that make up the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. I was happy to find out from Andrey Slivka that Natalie Green‘s Buffalo Beat was admitted into the AAN, even more tickled that the spineless organization performed true to form and tabled the controversial motion as to whether to exclude weeklies that have been bought by dailies.
That afternoon Mrs. M and I finally were able to attend one of Taki‘s weekly roundtables with his stable of “Top Drawer” writers. Usually, this group of late-risers goes to Elaine’s on Sunday night, where they hold forth for several hours, gossiping, planning their NYPress section and having a drink or eight. However, on this occasion, Taki made the gracious concession not only to schedule the meeting for Sunday afternoon, but also downtown, at Odeon, just a few blocks from our apartment. On our way to the restaurant, Mrs. M and I saw for the first time a brand-new NYPress street dispenser, a thrill that’s perhaps peculiar to us, but exciting nonetheless. At Odeon, Taki was in top form, spinning yarns that involved about 18 countries, three dukes, half a dozen heinous Manhattan editors, seven girls left behind in the old days and fond memories of James Goldsmith. Toby Young, we learned, sold his Mick Jagger story yet again, meaning that he got paid three times for the same piece: Good thing for old Tobe that it appeared in NYPress first.
Scott McConnell and I agreed that Rudy Giuliani will defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2000 Senate race but Taki wouldn’t believe it. He thinks Hillary will win. When I suggested that fear drove his prediction he simply nodded an assent. Taki also went with the obvious matchup of Bush vs. Gore for the presidential race, although he acknowledged he’s a Pat Buchanan supporter. I conceded that Buchanan is indeed the intellectual in the crop of GOP candidates, certainly the finest speaker, but his views on immigration, just for starters, were too 18th century for my liking. Taki apparently had no use for that opinion so he told marvelous stories of dinners with Buchanan, which segued into a chat about his friend John O’Sullivan and then Bill Buckley and somehow ended up with a discussion about Greek yachts. You have to be on your toes to keep up with the man: get lost for even a momentary daydream and you’ve missed three hilarious anecdotes.
Toby had a copy of Alexander Chancellor‘s new book about working with Tina Brown for a year at The New Yorker, still available only in the UK, and assured the table it made for saucy reading. Odeon isn’t conducive for a roundtable gabfest, so we had barely a chance to chat with George Szamuely, Sam Schulman, John Strausbaugh and his wife Diane. Next time, perhaps, if we’re invited back, we’ll suggest a less noisy setting.
If You’re Going to…Cleveland
Voice “Press Clips” columnist Cynthia Cotts is back from her month off and now she’s partying like it’s 1969. In the June 8 issue, it’s my friend KurtAndersen‘s turn to be Cotts-holed. It seems the kooky media critic has a bug up her butt about all the publicity and reviews, mostly favorable, that the first-time author has received for his novel Turn of the Century. Problem is, Andersen is a gentleman of wealth and taste, three words that I’m not sure Cotts is familiar with. Her premise is that the well-known Manhattan journalist, by dint of tenures at Time, Spy, New York and The New Yorker, has through the years become acquainted with much of the city’s media elite. Therefore, she writes: “That Kurt Andersen’s new novel Turn of the Century, is on its way to best-sellerdom will surprise no one familiar with the publicity that accompanied it. The book was edited by the editor in chief of Random House and promoted by the swank PR firm PMK. On May 10, The New Yorker, where Andersen is on staff, threw a book party that was slavishly chronicled by The New York Times—and so on.”
Cotts claims that TOC “has inspired mixed reviews,” and then dwells on the negative ones, mainly from Slate, Fortune and Newsweek. She mistakenly lumps Salon in that category, where James Poniewozik (who’s moving to Time, by the way, as television critic; let’s hope he ditches that loser website Salon) gave the book an enthusiastic write-up. Andersen is a very public figure in New York’s incestuous media world and it’s no surprise that some just didn’t like the book, and others panned it out of jealousy or perhaps because of some spiked assignment from one of his editorship posts in the past. For Andersen, that was inescapable. However, he did get two raves from The New York Times, as well as glowing notices from The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and The Washington Post. (In the latter, Howard Kurtz wrote a pedestrian but positive profile of Andersen, with several pictures, and even though he blew Spy‘s famous obloquy regarding Donald Trump—he wrote “thick-fingered vulgarian” instead of ”short-fingered vulgarian”—there was no doubt he admired TOC.)
Who knows why the attention lavished on Andersen led to such a bitter and apoplectic item in Cotts’ column. As usual, her thinking is muddled: What does the Times, which Andersen skewered every month in Spy, have to gain by giving TOC positive press? Same for the Journal. Cotts concentrates on the jabs that Slate bestowed upon the books (in part, by Marjorie Williams, wife of Timothy Noah, who also slammed the book in Fortune) and Newsweek. I’d imagine that Andersen would take the Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal‘s approbation over Slate any day.
Is Cotts letting Voice readers in on the inside politics of book publishing in New York? If so, that’s a pretty tired subject, one that’s been conquered far more coherently by NYPress‘ own John Strausbaugh in the last nine years. No, I think it’s more that TOC doesn’t have enough characters of “color”; doesn’t dwell on pot-smoking East Village layabouts; and, in her mind, dwells too much on the people who run today’s media and technological society. Whatever the case, here’s another example of Cotts’ speedball lefty conspiracist paranoia that’s sent her over the edge. Time for another month’s break, I’d say.
I’ll give Cotts this much: Out in the Midwest, reader reaction, at least that I’ve seen on Amazon.com, was mixed. A correspondent from Minneapolis writes: ”This book rocks. As entertaining and true as I can imagine. I’ve worked in two of the three main business milieus Andersen portrays, and he ‘gets’ them PERFECTLY.” On the other hand, one of Andersen’s fellow Nebraskans wasn’t so kind: “I’ll be brief, unlike Andersen: I found this book to be a huge disappointment. It’s fat, but it has no range, no heart, no soul, and not even much wit. If you’re in the NY or LA or Silicon Valley media world, you might be amused to read about yourself here. Otherwise, who cares?”
Hey! Here’s an idea that will appeal to almost everyone: Voice editor Don Forst should ship Cotts off to another Leonard Stern-owned alternative paper, say City Pages in Minneapolis or the Cleveland Free Times. Manhattanites
would be spared her twisted, revenge-motivated columns and…well, I can’t figure out the upside for City Pages or the Free Times, but give me another week.
On the same subject, two weeks ago I speculated that the dishonest Slate “Book Club” exchange about Turn of the Century was inspired in part by what I perceived as editor Michael Kinsley‘s rivalry with Andersen. One reader debunked
this theory, and although I’ll stick to my original opinion, this person did have an interesting comment: “Well, I’m no expert on Kinsley’s psychology, but if you pointed a gun at me and said opine or else, I’d guess that Kinsley doesn’t give a fuck about Andersen, because Kinsley’s orientation is Washington, not New York. He took me to lunch once and I had the impression of a smart 10-year-old somehow blown up to adult proportions, like that kid in Big. Hard to read a guy like that. Assuming he has normal feelings of jealousy, though, I don’t think they’d be about a guy who wrote a novel. As for magazines, I think Kinsley feels his league is the Times, Washington Post, The Economist and The New Yorker (the editor’s job of which neither of them got, anyway), not Spy or a city magazine. Just my hunch.”
Finally, I must make a correction. In last week’s column I wrote that Allen Barra now wisely writes for The Wall Street Journal instead of the Voice, where he spent many years on the film and sports beat. Voice managing editor Doug Simmons, a peach of a fellow, set me straight, sending me a eulogy of Joe DiMaggio that Barra contributed to the Voice on March 16 of this year. My error. I should be more careful: Problem is, since the Voice‘s Wednesday edition is available online Tuesday afternoon, I simply read Nat Hentoff, James Ridgeway and of course Cynthia Cotts, and then I’m done with the paper. I do pick it up on Wednesday morning, but only for competitive reasons, to scour their array of display ads.
Oh Hell, Who Cares What Year It Is?
With Tim Hall‘s recent, unexplained departure from The New York Hangover, has NYPress nemesis/watchdog Chris Brodeur taken over his editing duties? Hall was a standup guy and we had a casual, but sincere, friendship. Now, in the June Hangover, I detect Brodeur’s hand in a screed against
this paper. The article, headlined “Back Talk,” with the junior high byline Basho Katzenjammer, is written by someone who must’ve had a very nasty hangover indeed when he/she put crayon to paper.
It’s very confusing. In a rambling jihad against NYPress, Katzenjammer writes: ”Does anyone not know that Mugger, the non-entity who lives to consume and never goes broke, is really publisher Russ Smith? Russ hides his indulgences behind a pseudonym so we won’t see him using his trust fund to publish a forum from which he can whine about food and drink and poor service and taxes and democrats and Clintons who won’t lose the presidency or be evicted therefrom.”
All common themes with MUGGER-bashers, but my name has appeared on my column for 14 months now, and since last August on the front page of the paper. Too much Thunderbird does strange things to the mind. Apparently the writer, who claims an intimate knowledge of NYPress, doesn’t even know where the paper is now located: ”Maybe NATO should check out that big Serb-Supporter target on the roof of the Puck Building. Nahh, Nixon that—Mugger Smith will probably be elsewhere, waking up with a hangover and wondering who to skewer.” As 333‘s horrendous maintenance crew is all too aware, NYPress moved from the Puck Bldg. in November of 1997.
And it’s rare that Alex Cockburn and I are consigned to the same concentration camp. The writer continues: “The NYPress of April 21-27 shows the lower depths of this spoiled, stylistically bereft preppy’s nastiest graffiti. On that front page like-minded reactionaries recklessly indulged in Clinton bashing that bordered on the traitorous… Cockburn raved about children blown to pieces being Clinton’s way of erasing the memory of Monica. He’s one of those shit-for-brains who imagined out loud that years of warnings to Saddam were all a setup to spring bad ol’ Bill from his sexual problems.”
And NYPress‘ excellent Chris Caldwell isn’t spared either. “Caldwell is hardly worth the ink of response…a sniveling member of Russ’ stable who couldn’t write for matchbooks but calls supporters of Kosovars ‘unhinged,’ calls the KLA ‘drug-runners’ [and] insults every leader involved.”
Imagine that. A newspaper with opinions about the Kosovo intervention.
Calling Mr. Tim Hall: Please rescue the Hangover!
In the Days Of Gold
My friend Bill McGraw, who’s a reporter at the Detroit Free Press, sent me a 23-year-old artifact the other day: a propaganda sheet we produced in Denver when we both worked at College PressService (CPS), a collective of five young journalists who wrote a semiweekly AP-style newsletter for more than 450 college and alternative papers. Our wages were slim—$75 a week—but we had a ball: drinking blue margaritas at the Satire Lounge, eating peyote buttons in the park by our ramshackle office and relishing the satisfaction of seeing our bylines in maybe 100 papers a week. One sideline venture that Bill and I noodled around with was Agitation Press, which had the now-dated slogan of “Specializing in bad taste, cheap shots and low blows.”
In the edition Bill sent me the other day I had an article, under the name “Baltimore Blizzard,” called “Denver: He Expected Wells Fargo, Got Bottomless Bar Instead.” The short essay, written by a green, 21-year-old MUGGER, follows below.
“Perched atop the weather chart of the Denver Post each afternoon is a slogan that any normally jaded Baltimorean would dismiss as a gratuitous puff: ’Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.’ But to native Coloradans—anyone who’s lived here more than seven weeks—these words are nothing less than a Rocky Mountain understatement. Hour upon hour a jet-lagged prisoner is subjected to wild rhapsodies about the spring water, pure air and most of all, the goddamn mountains. It’s no use explaining that Coloradans had nothing to do with the creation of this ‘Climate Capital of the World,’ ’cause they persist in pushing ’their mountains.’
“The sentiment is grating, but can be excused if not understood. Resort town that it is, Denver ain’t a half-bad place to settle down.
“I always thought Denver was the typical post-World War II city, with miles of suburbs and steely Eastern construction. A mini-Los Angeles, twin sister to Houston. The Wells Fargo wagons and teams of bandits heading for the high roads were supposed to be long gone. Just the storybook past.
“Maybe I relied on the Baltimore Sunpapers too much, but I was shocked to see rows on rows of three-story houses, featuring wide balconies and gargoyles, trap doors and stained-glass windows. And the silver-rich pahdnahs who were swilling whiskey back in the 1880s would be surprised to see every third house brandishing a ‘for rent’ sign.
“Just a pop fly from my apartment, Colfax Ave. roars on. Within a 20-block radius all the staples on a big city street can be had: McDonald’s, Arby’s, pawn shops, bottomless burlesque shows and a constant stream of panhandlers and winos searching for busfare or a morning jolt of caffeine. What makes Colfax unique, however, is that while scarfing down a nationalized Whopper, the mountains check you out.
“And the Coloradan air is a treat. Despite what the Rocky Mountain News says about the orange scum hiding the Denver skyline, to a hardened trooper of real Eastern pollution, the air is just fine.
“Something I didn’t reckon on is the torturous heat in these six-shooter environs. Oh, it’s dry all right, but 95 degrees is unbearable under any conditions, humidity or no humidity.
“So, parochialism aside, I guess the natives have a claim in saying ‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.’ Then again, you won’t catch any Westerner peeling the powder-blue ‘Maryland is for Crabs’ t-shirt off this boy’s back.”