RIP, Miss Peggy Lee, and Talk, Too


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An embarrassment of riches this week. Subjects to write about, that is. First of all, the great Peggy Lee dies, and as they say, especially people of my generation, there will never be another like her. She had great influence on me in my youth with her rendition of "I Got It Bad and that Ain't Good." I used to sit up listening to the radio while locked up in prep school and in love with a girl who was locked up in Ethel Walker's, and my-oh-my, did I suffer. "Lover" was another sultry song that raced my motor, but by then the sweet young thing at Ethel Walker's had become history.


Miss Peggy Lee had the right stuff. She drank, took drugs, had affairs but sang like an angel, and never complained. Today's self-obsessed morons could take a lesson from that brave lady.


And speaking of bravery, there was none around when they scraped the bottom of boxing's deep barrel of grime and corruption at the shameful sham punch-up between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis last week in New York. Rather than parade Tyson in front of the public, it would be more appropriate to submit him to a psychiatric examination to determine whether he is actually sane. Poor Mike?and he will one day end up very, very poor. (Don King will make sure of that, the way he's made sure others whose careers he's "guided" have ended up broke.) Time and again he's been forgiven by the gangsters who run boxing for monstrous behavior inside and outside the ring. But if Tyson belongs in a looney bin, King belongs behind bars. The two television companies that paid for last week's shenanigans should be blacklisted by all sport-loving people, but I shall not be holding my breath for this to happen. There's too much money involved, too much corruption and much too much greed.


And then we have my old friend Tina Brown. Too much has been written about her magazine's demise for me to add anything, so I won't. Except for a take by an Englishman by the name of Craig Brown. According to Brown?no relation?it was the "visionary and skinny mogul Harvey Weinstein" who had the idea to boost Talk's advertising revenues by producing a "magazine they don't produce any more." "Great idea, Harvey," said Tina, "but how do we turn it into the type of magazine they don't produce any more?" "You wanna know how we do it, Tina? I'll tell you how we do it! We don't produce it any more!"


Well, the pencil-thin and devastatingly handsome Weinstein did have a point. He managed to achieve the most brilliantly successful closedown in magazine history. But don't any of you go to bed feeling sorry for Tina Brown. She understands today's culture and knows that fame is but the sum of misunderstandings that accumulate around a well-known name. She'll be back spinning in no time, probably in some connection with the grotesque Clintons. And there's always Mort Zuckerman.


Which brings me to Chuck Schumer and Enron. The media speaks of Enron as a Republican scandal, but if anything it's the Democrats who benefited and who tried hanky-panky. Bush Cabinet members refused to help, the Clinton administration went out of its way to, yet the unspeakably phony hacks are blaming the Bushies. Thanks but no thanks. I know all about the lies of The New York Times, so nothing surprises me.


Mind you, this Thomas Friedman chap sometimes makes sense. He recently wrote about how America has won the war in Afghanistan but has failed to win the hearts and minds of the Arab-Muslim world. Well, a five-year-old could have told me the same thing, but just because it's obvious, it isn't necessarily wrong. There is an iron curtain of mistrust and misunderstanding (as Friedman calls it) between America and the Muslims, but not for the reasons he gives. Which is America's failure to really explain itself to the Arabs. Uncle Sam does not have to explain himself. Uncle Sam needs to reassess his thinking about Israel, and reassess his policies toward the Saudis. When Benjamin Netanyahu said following 9/11 that the militant Muslims do not hate America because of Israel, but they hate Israel because of America, I realized to what extent Israel is pulling our chain. America is loathed by the Arabs because its military might is used by Israel to kill Palestinians. You can argue this until the cows come home, but it's the U.S.-Israel relationship that motivates terrorist attacks against America and Americans. And it's countries like Saudi Arabia that finance the terrorists who carry out these attacks.


Given the fact that anyone who dares to say anything against Israel is immediately denounced as an anti-Semite by Norman Podhoretz and his ilk, it is hardly surprising that most pundits won't even hint at what I just wrote. At a dinner party one month ago, Scott McConnell and I asked a writer friend which country was far more likely to be a danger to the United States, Iraq or Saudi Arabia. "Iraq, of course," he said casually.


Sorry, close but no cigar. It's the Saudis who finance those who export hate against America, not Saddam.


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