Okay, Igive in: Hillary Clinton's astoundingly selfish New York Senaterun is Topic A this week. Since many readers keep track of my political wagers-I'vebeen on a losing streak since '94-let me assure them that I've already maileda check for $100 to Chris Caldwell at The Weekly Standard, a deservedcomeuppance for predicting just weeks ago that Hillary's gambit was an elaboratetease, a salve for the manifold wounds inflicted upon her by President Clinton.Apparently, what started out as a lark-thanks a lot, Charlie Rangel-hasmushroomed into a near-reality. Not that I think Hillary will ultimately representa state she knows little about in Washington, DC; it's just thatin the next 18 months New Yorkers are going to see so damned much of her. Ralliesthat will clog traffic, given her First Lady Secret Service protection; shrilldebates between Hillary and RudyGiuliani (the presumptive GOPchallenger) that I'll be forced to watch; Bill Clinton himself coming to NewYork City and fouling the air. Before gettinginto specifics, let me reiterate what I've said for two years now: Al Gorehas the unfortunate fate of being the Clintons' final victim. Hillary's Senaterace will siphon away money, organization skill and media attention from Gore'spresidential campaign, not only in New York but the entire country. HillaryClinton was very effective on the stump for Democratic candidates in the midtermelections of '98, milking the sympathy that so many suckers felt for her duringthe President's impeachment/Monica woes, and was probably responsiblefor Barbara Boxer's reelection in California. She'd bea key asset to Gore and other candidates in 2000 if she put aside her own ambitionstemporarily, deferring a Senate run till 2004 in her native Illinois.
But she'slearned dirty politics at the knee of the master. Was there a more despicablespectacle this spring than watching Hillary toy with Congresswoman Nita Lowey-aDemocrat whose liberal bleatings I abhor-letting her dangle as she made up hermind 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 powerfulLowey ally; in addition, she'd be a draw in New Jersey to assist whateverdimwit the Democrats put up against Christie Whitman. (As an aside,I still think Steve Forbes is wasting a ton of money on his vanity presidentialcampaign; he'd be of greater help to the Republicans if he ran for the openNew Jersey Senate seat instead of Whitman, a race he'd win in a landslide.)
On the Republicanside, Congressman Rick Lazio, the 41-year-old conservative/moderate whoupset Gore's buddy Tom Downey in the '92 elections, is getting a lotof tv time for his threat to challenge Giuliani in the GOP primary. I suspectit's a clever ruse on Lazio's part: By gaining so much attention now, he's gonefrom being a relatively anonymous representative to a statewide figure, andwill be in a strong position to challenge the odious Chuck Schumer in2004. Sure, Gov. Pataki and Al D'Amato are ramping up Lazio'schances 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 theRepublican National Committee, and George W. Bush in particular,will exert pressure on Lazio not to bloody Giuliani in a bitter campaign andweaken Bush's chances for winning New York in the general election, as wellas losing an open seat for the Senate.
I don'tparticularly care about the carpetbagger liability that Hillary Clinton has:New York has its precedents for outsiders-Bobby Kennedy and JamesBuckley-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 NewYork City from Zabar's to Chambers St., that's not the worst thing inthe world. What is maddening is that Hillary doesn't especially careabout the people of New York: This is a blatant grab at power, an obvious steppingstone 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, "Despiteher 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 believethat New Yorkers, when it comes down to voting, will see through her facadeand elect Giuliani.
Still, she'shad a clear agenda in visiting New York so often in the past two months. Herappearances are planned not only for the money, media spotlight and contacts.She's also coming-perhaps primarily-because she wants to fool the less sophisticatedand informed voters into thinking that she sort of lives here already, and evenhas a connection to New York. She believes that if dutiful reporters recordher every commencement address, baby-kiss in the projects, her support for anenvironmental initiative in Buffalo, then people who aren't very brightwill think she's a New Yorker. Hillary's tenure as First Lady has proved shedoesn't have much respect for the American people-the health care fiasco wasproof of that-and believes they're basically stupid. That's what she learnedin Little Rock: how to successfully condescend to constituents who don'tknow where New Haven is and get away with it. All these photo ops thatHarold Ickes has engineered in New York are an extension of this philosophy:Hillary Cares, She's One of Us.
CharlieRangel obviously doesn't agree. He told The Washington Times'John McCaslin last week that Giuliani has met his match. Rangel: "Heis so awkward in front of people who are not of his same sex and backgroundthat 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 getto Washington without a guide."
I don'tthink there's been a pundit who hasn't speculated about this bizarre race. LastFriday, The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot began hiscolumn: "A Republican senator running for reelection next year recentlyreacted this way to Hillary Rodham Clinton's now probable Senate campaign: 'Can't you get her to run against me?'
"Thinkof 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 campaigncash. The chance to beat the First Tiger Lady would unite otherwise fractiousRepublicans from Jerry Falwell to Christie Whitman."
Gigot goeson to say that privately Democrats are astonished at the First Lady's audacityand the harm it could cause the party in 2000. He also states the obvious: thateven the many Beltway reporters who admire Hillary aren't about to counselher to forgo the contest: It's too juicy a story. He continues: "The exceptionis The New Republic, which has trashed her candidacy as loudly as it's promotingAl Gore's-and which is no coincidence, comrade. Its editors know Mr. Gore hasenough problems without adding Hillary's."
The Post's"Page Six" had a funny item last Thursday in which it reported thatat the Princeton Club last week, former Clinton press secretary MikeMcCurry made the silly prediction that Dan Quayle would be the GOP'spresidential nominee; two floors above, conservative Grover Norquist,addressing the Fabiani Society, described Hillary as "an unreconstructedEast German border guard."
But it wasThe Boston Globe's John Ellis, last Saturday, who won theprize for the week's most scathing commentary. "On paper," Ellis wrote,"the race is a complete mismatch. Hillary Clinton has no credentials forthe 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 athird-tier state who couldn't meet her revenue targets. She worked closely atthat firm with two other partners; one who committed suicide under mysteriouscircumstances and the other a convicted felon and thief."
Ellis concludes:"She will not win because her candidacy isn't about New York, or the peoplewho 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 starsin and directs. The problems of others are important only to the degree thatthey forward her plot."
Not surprisingly,Salon's Joe Conason has a different spin, arguing that the presenceof St. Hillary on the ballot will inspire an avalanche of minorities to actuallyvote and also bring untold millions of dollars into the state, which can onlybenefit Gore. In his June 1 column he essentially tells Gore and his handlersto stop being crybabies: "A presidential candidate who worries about beingovershadowed by a Senate hopeful looks and sounds like a loser. Hillary canhelp Gore more than she hurts him. He should learn to make the most of the remarkablewoman who is almost certain to be his political companion." As Paul Gigotwould say, I think Conason has been inhaling James Carville'sexhaust for too many years now; what else could cause such woozy logic?
Even MargaretCarlson, a Clinton shill through thin and thin, wrote in her June 7 Timecolumn: "If people think Clinton fatigue is going to hurt Al Gore, imaginehow much it could hurt an actual Clinton." Patrick Kennedy's Patriarch It was apleasing week for Kennedy-bashers who live on the Washington-BostonAmtrak 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 ShapesUp 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 Hoffmannwrote that Kennedy was getting in shape for his upcoming shoo-in MassachusettsSenate run and that's why he's "cut back on alcoholic drinks, fattyfoods and [the] desserts he loves so much." It was a cheap laugh, and onethat the Post indulges in frequently: It's a certainty that owner RupertMurdoch is still pissed that Kennedy forced him to sell the Postback in the 80s, with a midnight bill that prohibited cross-ownership of newspapersand television stations.
Next onthe list was John Kennedy Jr.'s George, which, as Mediaweekreported in its May 24 issue, is in the midst of a "spring cleaning."According to the trade magazine, George's paid circulation fell 5 percentin the second half of 1998, while single-copy sales dropped 28.2 percent. Aformer George employee is quoted as saying, "I don't think Johnis as involved as an editor should be. It's not that he isn't a hard workerin 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 questionI have about George is why Kennedy accepted a full-page advertisementfrom the National Rifle Association. Not that it bothers me (NRA: Ourphone number is 212-244-2282), but for all the bluster Kennedy's relatives havemade about the NRA and gun control, you'd think that would be revenue John Kennedywould 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 backamong the living. I was concerned: Labash, normally a steely reporter, wentsoft after Littleton, and even found the presence of God in oneof the town's makeshift media shanties while he was reporting on the martyrdomof Cassie Bernall, the young Christian who was killed in the school massacre.
But fearnot: In the June 7 Standard, Labash simply demolishes the pathetic CongressmanPatrick Kennedy, exposing Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt'sexploitation of the dim Rhode Islander's name and fundraising ability, as wellas recounting some truly embarrassing moments in the 31-year-old's past. Gephardthas become Kennedy's patron in the House, making him the fifth-ranking Democratthere, and putting him in charge of raising the necessary funds to win backthe chamber for the party in 2000. Eagle Scout Gephardt's cynicism has amazedeven those who always knew the goody-two-shoes public persona was a front: Theman is demagogic, twists facts and even though he despises both Bill Clintonand Al Gore, has shilled shamelessly for the ethically challenged duo.Why? So he can become the next speaker of the House.
Kennedyis far from being an orator; he can barely speak English. Here's just one exampleLabash dug up, recounting a question Kennedy asked the secretary of the Navyabout how to eliminate racism from the military: "So what happens is, thingsdon'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 mentalitywith respect to defect-I'm not talking now-I mean everyone can acknowledge thatif there's a little bit of extremism, I'm not saying that that isn't just groundsfor you know, expulsion from the military. But how do we address the broaderissues... Can you answer that in terms of communication?"
As GomerPyle would say, Shazzam, shazzam, shazzam!
Anotherdamning anecdote about simpleton Patrick that Labash relates is when the youngster,still in college, decided to enter the family profession and challenge nine-yearincumbent John Skeffington for his Rhode Island state representativeseat. Skeffington, according to Labash, was well-liked by the party establishmentbut Patrick said, "I faced a situation where I wanted to run for publicoffice, 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.
Labash writes: "More remarkable were the resources at Patrick's disposal: from the family'sdeep-pockets donor lists to the Brown University speech coach hired to improvePatrick's dadaist delivery, to Dad himself helicoptering in to the districtto accompany his son door to door. Nearly a dozen Kennedys weren't so much recruitedas conscripted to win Patrick's 1988 race... The only hint of embarrassmentcame 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, butyou understand it's my cousin and I was asked to do it. I don't think it's fair."'"
Then therewas Kennedy's first real flash in the media when he took on now-retired GOPRep. Gerald Solomon in a debate about the repeal of the assault weaponsban. Solomon, a Marine in Korea, was so incensed by the following remarksthat he offered to put up his dukes against Kennedy. This was the blast Kennedytook 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 familiesout there...[you'll] never know what it's like, because [you don't] have someonein your family who was killed."
Labash'sarticle is titled "Patrick Kennedy-the Man and the Myth," but that'sfar too generous. There's no "myth" about this rather dumb man. He'sa scion of Camelot, was born too late to get into real trouble with substanceabuse-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 RhodeIsland Legislature and then Congress, and now makes a fool of himself everytime he speaks in public. End of story. An Acute Sermon I've beenrough on Slate writer Timothy Noah in the past six months; hisludicrous condemnation of The Wall StreetJournal's editorialpage (and WSJ boardmember Dorothy Rabinowitz in particular) isgalling, 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 tiringin 1999. That's what a stint at The Washington Monthly, Charles Peters'revered magazine of mindless thumbsucking, will do to an impressionable youngman or woman. But Noah'sMay 20 "Chatterbox" item in Slate, "What Did You Do inthe Debacle, Tony?" was a terrific sermon from Pastor Tim, as he questionedwhy reporters didn't, upon Tony Coelho's ascension to Al Gore'scampaign guru, delve more fully into the former congressman's role in the '94elections. As Noah points out, Coelho was brought on in the summer of '94 tohelp Democrats that autumn; few saw the GOP tsunami coming in July ofthat year, especially Coelho, who told the press just two months before theelection that he expected normal midyear results.
Noah asks: "So what exactly was Coelho's role in the Democrats' Waterloo? Determinedto get to the bottom of this, Chatterbox phoned former White House aide GeorgeStephanopoulos. He said that Coelho really did have minimal involvement. 'Hewas basically a spokesperson,' Stephanopoulos said, 'and did come by for severalmeetings.' [Isn't it grand that Prof. George still feels it necessaryto call a man a "spokesperson."] Recommending what? Stephanopouloscouldn't remember... Hmm. Is this the same George Stephanopoulos who told [WashingtonPost writer Lloyd] Grove back in 1994 that Coelho was 'a strong voice atthe table'?"
Some conservativewriters 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 ethicalreasons (a fact that the GOP will remind reporters of every day) and is onlyout for himself. Gore has enough baggage on the campaign finance front. Surelyhe could've picked a rainmaker with a cleaner past than Coelho. Gotta Catch 'Em All! Since Juniorand 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 foulball at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago-his special day with Dad and twoof his uncles-he lorded it over his little brother with gusto. Fair is fairand so last Wednesday I picked up my four-year-old from school and we went onan excursion of our own, beginning with a trip to Chameleon Comics onMaiden La., where we loaded up on Pokemon trading cards (the really coolones 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 bookand 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 rightsto Pokemon they saved their company from going the way of Sego, and cedingthe entire market to PlayStation. I spoke with one of my brothers inLondon and the fad is just beginning there: Virgin Records expectsits first shipment of trading cards in October. So when my family visits theirsin Bermuda this August, Junior and MUGGER III will be real heroes totheir cousins Quinn and Rhys.
After buyingout Chameleon, or so it seemed to me, MUGGER III and I cabbed up to the officeand stopped at Burke & Burke for refreshments. I required a doubleespresso; my son picked out a can of Coke and a bag of chips. The darlingcashier, 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 coffeeat 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 NYPressemployees who were trying to work that Wednesday afternoon. He told me on theway 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 awhopper, one that didn't amuse Mrs. M one bit. Out of nowhere, he said "Yeah,Animaniacs really sucks... I mean, rocks." Junior was smiling, mywife wasn't, and on the cab ride uptown I asked my boy where his brother learnedthat 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 forsaying the word "God" in front of my own mother. That night, whiledining with Jeff and Amy Koyen at El Teddy's inTribeca (I varied my routine somewhat, choosing the stewed beef insteadof the queso fundido), Amy related a similar situation when she was young. Oneday, she casually used the word "schmuck" in conversation and caughthell, I mean heck, from her parents.
Last Friday,Junior graduated from kindergarten and we all attended a precious ceremony atCentral Presbyterian Church on Park Ave. His class sang "Let's Makethe World a Happy Place," while the first-graders chose "We All SingWith the Same Voice" for their part in the proceedings. Fortunately, therewasn't any long-winded speaker who gassed on about Kosovo and the responsibilitythat's being passed on to today's youth. That'll come later for my boys.
It's seemedthat in the past several weeks one out of three Washington pundits gavetheir own version of a commencement address, and The Washington Post'sMichael Kelly was no exception. As I've noted before, I don't think satireis Kelly's long suit-he excels at straight-ahead writing about who's tellingthe truth and who isn't-but I did like the conclusion to his June 2 piece, "Welcometo the...Real World?" Kelly wrote: "Finally, dear members of the classof 1999, if I can proffer only one piece of advice above all, it is this: Becomea celebrity. Ours is a just and righteous land, and all are equal in the eyesof the law. But some are more equal than others, and the most equal are thosewho have graced the covers of People, Time, Us and Rolling Stone. Hold beforeyou 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 Saturdaymorning, the NYPress Giants finally met their match in the DowntownLittle League: the Spaghetti Western Padres. Man, this team couldfield, hit and compete without a hint of cheating. I didn't keep score, it wastoo painful, and though Junior and his buddy Scott Franchi protested that the Giants won, they knew in their hearts that the team was undefeatedno longer. But hey, even the Bosox's Pedro Martinez, the mostpowerful pitcher in the Major Leagues this year, has lost one game. Boston'sromanticized team is on a tear, even holding down first place for all of lastweek, 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'send, but the rest of the American League, with the exception of theIndians, is playing so badly the Red Sox might as well start printing playofftickets now. Don't like to jinx the team, but wouldn't it be ironic if 1999was finally the year they recaptured the World Series championship forthe first time since 1918?
Sunday morningwas the typical routine at our loft: the boys up early, bugging their motherto arise, and yours truly combing the Drudge Report. There was one twist:Junior was dressed up as Darth Maul, from the new Star Warsmovie. 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 papersthat make up the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. I was happyto find out from Andrey Slivka that Natalie Green's BuffaloBeat was admitted into the AAN, even more tickled that the spineless organizationperformed true to form and tabled the controversial motion as to whether toexclude weeklies that have been bought by dailies.
That afternoonMrs. M and I finally were able to attend one of Taki's weekly roundtableswith his stable of "Top Drawer" writers. Usually, this group of late-risersgoes 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 schedulethe meeting for Sunday afternoon, but also downtown, at Odeon, just afew blocks from our apartment. On our way to the restaurant, Mrs. M and I sawfor the first time a brand-new NYPress street dispenser, a thrill that'sperhaps peculiar to us, but exciting nonetheless. At Odeon, Taki was in topform, spinning yarns that involved about 18 countries, three dukes, half a dozenheinous Manhattan editors, seven girls left behind in the old days andfond memories of James Goldsmith. Toby Young, we learned, soldhis Mick Jagger story yet again, meaning that he got paid three timesfor the same piece: Good thing for old Tobe that it appeared in NYPress first.
ScottMcConnell and I agreed that Rudy Giuliani will defeat HillaryClinton in the 2000 Senate race but Taki wouldn't believe it. He thinksHillary will win. When I suggested that fear drove his prediction he simplynodded an assent. Taki also went with the obvious matchup of Bush vs.Gore for the presidential race, although he acknowledged he's a Pat Buchanansupporter. I conceded that Buchanan is indeed the intellectual in the crop ofGOP candidates, certainly the finest speaker, but his views on immigration,just for starters, were too 18th century for my liking. Taki apparently hadno 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 BillBuckley and somehow ended up with a discussion about Greek yachts. You haveto be on your toes to keep up with the man: get lost for even a momentary daydreamand you've missed three hilarious anecdotes.
Toby hada copy of Alexander Chancellor's new book about working with TinaBrown 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 aroundtable gabfest, so we had barely a chance to chat with George Szamuely,Sam Schulman, John Strausbaugh and his wife Diane. Nexttime, 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 monthoff and now she's partying like it's 1969. In the June 8 issue, it's my friendKurtAndersen's turn to be Cotts-holed. It seems the kooky mediacritic 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 thewell-known Manhattan journalist, by dint of tenures at Time, Spy,New York and The New Yorker, has through the years become acquaintedwith much of the city's media elite. Therefore, she writes: "That KurtAndersen's new novel Turn of the Century, is on its way to best-sellerdomwill surprise no one familiar with the publicity that accompanied it. The bookwas edited by the editor in chief of Random House and promoted by the swankPR firm PMK. On May 10, The New Yorker, where Andersen is on staff, threwa book party that was slavishly chronicled by The New York Times-andso on." Cotts claims thatTOC "has inspired mixed reviews," and then dwells on the negativeones, mainly from Slate, Fortune and Newsweek. She mistakenlylumps Salon in that category, where James Poniewozik (who's movingto Time, by the way, as television critic; let's hope he ditches thatloser website Salon) gave the book an enthusiastic write-up. Andersenis a very public figure in New York's incestuous media world and it's no surprisethat some just didn't like the book, and others panned it out of jealousy orperhaps because of some spiked assignment from one of his editorship posts inthe past. For Andersen, that was inescapable. However, he did get two ravesfrom The New York Times, as well as glowing notices from The WallStreet Journal, Newsday and The Washington Post. (In the latter,Howard Kurtz wrote a pedestrian but positive profile of Andersen, withseveral pictures, and even though he blew Spy's famous obloquy regardingDonald Trump-he wrote "thick-fingered vulgarian" instead of"short-fingered vulgarian"-there was no doubt he admired TOC.)
Who knows why theattention lavished on Andersen led to such a bitter and apoplectic item in Cotts'column. As usual, her thinking is muddled: What does the Times, whichAndersen skewered every month in Spy, have to gain by giving TOCpositive press? Same for the Journal. Cotts concentrates on the jabsthat Slate bestowed upon the books (in part, by Marjorie Williams,wife of Timothy Noah, who also slammed the book in Fortune) andNewsweek. I'd imagine that Andersen would take the Times, WashingtonPost and Wall Street Journal's approbation over Slate anyday.
Is Cotts lettingVoice 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 coherentlyby NYPress' own John Strausbaugh in the last nine years. No, Ithink 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 conspiracistparanoia that's sent her over the edge. Time for another month's break, I'dsay.
I'll give Cotts thismuch: Out in the Midwest, reader reaction, at least that I've seen onAmazon.com, was mixed. A correspondent from Minneapolis writes:"This book rocks. As entertaining and true as I can imagine. I've workedin two of the three main business milieus Andersen portrays, and he 'gets' themPERFECTLY." On the other hand, one of Andersen's fellow Nebraskans wasn'tso kind: "I'll be brief, unlike Andersen: I found this book to be a hugedisappointment. It's fat, but it has no range, no heart, no soul, and not evenmuch wit. If you're in the NY or LA or Silicon Valley media world, you mightbe amused to read about yourself here. Otherwise, who cares?"
Hey! Here's an ideathat will appeal to almost everyone: Voice editor Don Forst shouldship Cotts off to another Leonard Stern-owned alternative paper, sayCity Pages in Minneapolis or the Cleveland Free Times. Manhattanites would be spared her twisted, revenge-motivated columns and...well, I can't figureout the upside for City Pages or the Free Times, but give me anotherweek.
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 perceivedas editor Michael Kinsley's rivalry with Andersen. One reader debunked this theory, and although I'll stick to my original opinion, this person didhave 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 Kinsleydoesn'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-oldsomehow blown up to adult proportions, like that kid in Big. Hard toread a guy like that. Assuming he has normal feelings of jealousy, though, Idon't think they'd be about a guy who wrote a novel. As for magazines, I thinkKinsley feels his league is the Times, Washington Post, TheEconomist and The New Yorker (the editor's job of which neitherof them got, anyway), not Spy or a city magazine. Just my hunch."
Finally, I must makea correction. In last week's column I wrote that Allen Barra now wiselywrites for The Wall Street Journal instead of the Voice, wherehe spent many years on the film and sports beat. Voice managing editorDoug Simmons, a peach of a fellow, set me straight, sending me a eulogyof Joe DiMaggio that Barra contributed to the Voice on March 16of this year. My error. I should be more careful: Problem is, since the Voice'sWednesday edition is available online Tuesday afternoon, I simply read NatHentoff, James Ridgeway and of course Cynthia Cotts, and then I'mdone with the paper. I do pick it up on Wednesday morning, but only for competitivereasons, to scour their array of display ads. Oh Hell, Who Cares What Year It Is? With TimHall's recent, unexplained departure from The New York Hangover,has NYPress nemesis/watchdog Chris Brodeur taken over his editingduties? 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 highbyline Basho Katzenjammer, is written by someone who must've had a verynasty hangover indeed when he/she put crayon to paper.
It's veryconfusing. In a rambling jihad against NYPress, Katzenjammer writes:"Does anyone not know that Mugger, the non-entity who lives to consumeand never goes broke, is really publisher Russ Smith? Russ hides his indulgencesbehind a pseudonym so we won't see him using his trust fund to publish a forumfrom which he can whine about food and drink and poor service and taxes anddemocrats and Clintons who won't lose the presidency or be evicted therefrom."
All commonthemes with MUGGER-bashers, but my name has appeared on my column for 14 monthsnow, and since last August on the front page of the paper. Too much Thunderbirddoes strange things to the mind. Apparently the writer, who claims an intimateknowledge of NYPress, doesn't even know where the paper is now located:"Maybe NATO should check out that big Serb-Supporter target on the roofof the Puck Building. Nahh, Nixon that-Mugger Smith will probably be elsewhere,waking up with a hangover and wondering who to skewer." As 333'shorrendous maintenance crew is all too aware, NYPress moved from thePuck Bldg. in November of 1997.
And it'srare that Alex Cockburn and I are consigned to the same concentrationcamp. The writer continues: "The NYPress of April 21-27 shows the lowerdepths of this spoiled, stylistically bereft preppy's nastiest graffiti. Onthat front page like-minded reactionaries recklessly indulged in Clinton bashingthat bordered on the traitorous... Cockburn raved about children blown to piecesbeing Clinton's way of erasing the memory of Monica. He's one of those shit-for-brainswho imagined out loud that years of warnings to Saddam were all a setup to springbad ol' Bill from his sexual problems."
And NYPress'excellent Chris Caldwell isn't spared either. "Caldwell is hardlyworth the ink of response...a sniveling member of Russ' stable who couldn'twrite for matchbooks but calls supporters of Kosovars 'unhinged,' calls theKLA 'drug-runners' [and] insults every leader involved."
Imaginethat. A newspaper with opinions about the Kosovo intervention.
CallingMr. Tim Hall: Please rescue the Hangover! In the Days Of Gold My friendBill McGraw, who's a reporter at the Detroit Free Press, sentme a 23-year-old artifact the other day: a propaganda sheet we produced in Denverwhen we both worked at College PressService (CPS), a collectiveof five young journalists who wrote a semiweekly AP-style newsletter for morethan 450 college and alternative papers. Our wages were slim-$75 a week-butwe had a ball: drinking blue margaritas at the Satire Lounge, eatingpeyote buttons in the park by our ramshackle office and relishing the satisfactionof seeing our bylines in maybe 100 papers a week. One sideline venture thatBill and I noodled around with was Agitation Press, which had the now-datedslogan of "Specializing in bad taste, cheap shots and low blows." In the editionBill sent me the other day I had an article, under the name "BaltimoreBlizzard," called "Denver: He Expected Wells Fargo, Got BottomlessBar Instead." The short essay, written by a green, 21-year-old MUGGER,follows below.
"Perchedatop the weather chart of the Denver Post each afternoon is a sloganthat any normally jaded Baltimorean would dismiss as a gratuitous puff:'Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.' But to native Coloradans-anyonewho's lived here more than seven weeks-these words are nothing less than a RockyMountain understatement. Hour upon hour a jet-lagged prisoner is subjectedto wild rhapsodies about the spring water, pure air and most of all, the goddamnmountains. It's no use explaining that Coloradans had nothing to do with thecreation of this 'Climate Capital of the World,' 'cause they persist in pushing'their mountains.'
"Thesentiment is grating, but can be excused if not understood. Resort town thatit is, Denver ain't a half-bad place to settle down.
"Ialways thought Denver was the typical post-World War II city, with miles ofsuburbs and steely Eastern construction. A mini-Los Angeles, twinsister to Houston. The Wells Fargo wagons and teams of banditsheading for the high roads were supposed to be long gone. Just the storybookpast.
"MaybeI relied on the Baltimore Sunpapers too much, but I was shocked to seerows on rows of three-story houses, featuring wide balconies and gargoyles,trap doors and stained-glass windows. And the silver-rich pahdnahs who wereswilling whiskey back in the 1880s would be surprised to see every third housebrandishing a 'for rent' sign.
"Justa pop fly from my apartment, Colfax Ave. roars on. Within a 20-blockradius 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 panhandlersand winos searching for busfare or a morning jolt of caffeine. What makes Colfaxunique, however, is that while scarfing down a nationalized Whopper, the mountainscheck you out.
"Andthe Coloradan air is a treat. Despite what the Rocky MountainNews says about the orange scum hiding the Denver skyline, to a hardenedtrooper of real Eastern pollution, the air is just fine.
"SomethingI 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, humidityor no humidity.
"So,parochialism aside, I guess the natives have a claim in saying 'Tis a privilegeto live in Colorado.' Then again, you won't catch any Westerner peeling thepowder-blue 'Maryland is for Crabs' t-shirt off this boy's back."