Keeping busy and creative was the biggest help in getting through a time of high anxiety and difficulty, and I started by learning to knit....Reawakening my creative senses has helped me cope during an almost unendurable time in my life. As I have learned from this extraordinary experience, I hope that you recognize the importance of being free spirited with your creativity.
Monica Lewinsky, from The Real Monica Inc.
Okay, I admit it, I shamelessly LOVE Monica Lewinsky. Some of it is lust, some of it is just that I tend to like any sort of scandalous, semi-scandalous, or pseudo-scandalous public figure (there are limits to that as you will not find me sticking up for say Anna Kournikova or Katherine Harris). Lately, Monica's sort of adopted this I want to be a private person persona now, and I think that is admirable, but when you get or at least allow Diana's biographer to tell your life story, well you are not exactly one to say you are NOT a public person (or at least that is my take on it). So I don't go in for the "I want to be alone" thingy with Monica, but I do sympathize or maybe empathize with her. I was watching this dumb Tom Green (is that his name that really unfunny guy who had testicular cancer?) show on MTV over the summer (when I didn't do anything but watch tv and court oblivion as I'm sure if you've read any part of the journal aka Franny's Brokedown Palace you are really tired of hearing cuz I am tired of writing it...it is just that it is honest, it is what I did, I was bored, now you should have to be bored too, it is only fair) and in this episode Monica goes to Canada with this Tom guy (I've decided that is his name...screw it if I'm wrong I don't give a fuck I hate the guy) and she is searching for fun fabric for her handbags (which I am so jealous of my friend Creemie cuz she has one of these) and he wants to introduce her to his friends and family. She seems sort of game and stuff, but at one point they are ice skating and some people yell horrible stuff at her. I mean that is sooo nasty, imagine just minding your own business (okay they were shooting a television segment so that is a bit different but I am sure this happens to her all the time) and some asshole calls you a slut, a cocksucker, etc. Actually, that is what it is like to be a woman and a fag in this country, why do I feel sorry for her? Nevermind, but the amount of hatred and dumb stuff that is said about her and I'm sure to her, I feel for her. So I love Monica. I love Hillary too, and the world wants to think that Hillary is a poor hurt victimized wife (and okay she is sort of) but she's been married to Bill for years, I'm sure NOTHING shocks her anymore. The only reservation I have besides the Diana thingy, the thong! And Vox was a horrible book! And who would ever think Linda Tripp was trustworthy? And god, how much of my tax money went into tormenting this poor girl? I want that back! And now they want her to testify again? Stop the insanity!
I think it is kind of scary, but the essence of modern celebrity is scandal. It has been that way for a while, there is nothing new in saying that sensation rules the air waves, the inkies, and whatnot, but I think it is really getting inane, I mean there are people who are celebs just for being scandal figures like Rick Rockwell/Darva Congers (yes you can add a couple months to your 15 minutes by posing for Playboy), the entire cast of Survivor, Big Brother, Elian, et al and then celebs who would normally be sort of nowhere are all of a sudden famous again for nothing but their transgressions (Natalie Cole, the wayward Pointer Sister, Robert Downey Jr, Anne Heche, the wayward Bush twin). I'm sure that it exacts a heavy toll on some of those who are the scandalized figure and so then they repent, become religious, write some book about how they have totally changed, become Buddhist or Kabbalized or whatever it is that is the fad now, very few celebrities have the nerve to be unrepentant fuck ups. Now they repent and still fuck up (the obvious example here would be Robert Downey Jr, but I have empathy for him and his wonder woman fetish cuz you know that could have easily been me in that Merv Griffin suite--I have a thing for Linda Carter too, and when I do too much coke, she's the first person I want to have sex with...okay I am being facetious), but my point is that it seems like the way celebrityhood is structured audiences want celebrities to do things that are outrageous because they want to feel superior to them. Call them nasty names, so that they don't feel threatened by their success and the power that celebrity has over so many people's lives.
This of course, is info I have gleaned from the one and only Jacqueline Susann. She is my idol of sorts. I love foul-mouthed, locquacious, bossy, broads...the fact that Jackie has been subjected to so many shitty misrepresentations of her life and work of late is tragic. Of course, in Jackie-land I don't think she would have cared much what they said about her as long as they spelled her name right (a woman after my own heart for sure), but ugghh...I have not seen Isn't She Great or Scandalous Me because I have been living with Jackie for years, I have that crap memorized. Years ago, my roomie and I started this dumb tribute zine to Jacqueline Susann and back then you had to find her books in used bookstores (or the best way was garage sales) and we published two paper issues, then we imploded and tried to kill one another...it was all very Jackie. Years later, I put the stuff up on the internet and did another issue with another friend. But, my point here is that the play version of the movie Valley of the Dolls (done entirely in drag), the guy who wrote the computer generated Jacqueline Susann novel in like 1992 or something, and maybe the first issues of the zine, were the first wave of Jackie-mania. And we weren't afraid to say Jackie was superficial, campy, out of her mind, witty, nasty, obsessed with fame (her own and others), while the stuff now is all like white-washing her. It's like there has to be something redeemable about her now, you can't just say that she saw the underbelly of the beast and loved it and made you love it too. And that my friends, is sad!
It is easy to make my point, here, just check out this from the Ladyfest site where they list women they love: "people would have you believe that any female novelist who doesn't write about cancer patients and unrequired love is smut. Jacqueline Susann is not sleazy or kitsch! She had an amazing sense of character development and plot continuums." Ah, first this person clearly knows nothing about love because if you ask me, most love is unrequired, but the really special kind is unrequited (I hope that is just a typo) and additionally knows nothing about Jackie's life cuz she died from breast cancer, so the statement about cancer is really sensitive. Why can't she be camp, kitsch, sleazy, why does she have to have plot or character development? I would argue that she sort has neither, her books ramble, they are way too long, the characters throw a few great lines, but they are not very deep. I worry about the person who wrote this. What do they read that they think Ms. Susann is like great literature? She was pulp fiction, and Jackie knew that and didn't care to be Literature.
Then there is an interview with my most dreaded modern cultural vaccuum, Camille Paglia on Salon where she rambles about how important Jackie is. You'd think I'd like CP, and maybe I would agree with some of what she is saying, but it is interesting to me that Jackie never figured into Ms. Paglia cosmology until Grove re-released her books, and she saw that there were a few films coming up she could comment on...the same goes for the person who did the interview. His own site has a really tortured unsynthesized theory type essay on Jackie v. Stanley Kubrick. Normally, I go in for this sort of thing, being a theory person myself and I know I have committed the sin of way unsynthesized theory in my own meanderings(the first thing I ever published was an article on Madonna circa "Express Yourself" where I used words like "soliciting a lesbian gaze" (and I should be arrested for that), but sometimes, you have to know when to hide your theory and when to show it, and that is the fine line so many of my favorite writers walk. And they make it look effortless, but let me tell you it is a tough line to walk. So I should have sympathy...but I spent it all on Monica and Robert Downey Jr., so I don't.
One last little Jackie thing (yeah, I know this is all a turf war) but the thing I found most fun about the two movies Isn't She Great and Scandalous Me is that you have to know some inside poop on the people who sort of originated the screen/teleplays. Isn't She Great came out of an article written years ago for the New Yorker by Jackie's ex-editor Michael Korda. In his article (which was also years after the zine appeared and got some press...yes I will claim anything as being my idea...hey maybe if I do it enough someone will believe me and hire me to be an idea person--that is the job I want...to be an idea person...no actual work involved just think of things for others to do. actually I had that job it sort of sucks, but anyway, I'm worse at what I do best, thank you Kurt), let me start again, I'm way too digressive here...In his article, Korda treated JS as an untalented, yet amusing persona, and focused more on her on her personality excesses while also pointing out that she was a terrible writer and intimated that he wrote a good portion of Valley of the Dolls...whatever is up with that! On the other hand,Scandalous Me is based on the Jacqueline Susann bio Lovely Me by Barbara Seaman which was also (like Jackie's books) out of print for many many years. And the important point here is this: Michael Korda and Barbara Seaman hate one another. In fact, most of the Susann estate does not think fondly of Ms. Seaman (I know this because yes, I have talked to the estate and they love me and I love them so poop on Ms. Seaman--you'll see why in a minute) and I also am not a Ms. Seaman fan. When I first put the site online oh those years ago, there was a little tiny piece that was about Jackie's love affairs with other women. We got the info from Lovely Me but also from Irving Mansfield's My Life with Jackie (Irving was her hubby)and it had been in the print zine for years by the time it was on the internet. Within months of it being online I started getting letters from Ms. Seaman's lawyers and her literary agent saying that I was libelous for "stealing" copyrighted material. Most of that stuff is like public domain sort of info, but I put up a credit for Ms. Seaman's book and Mr. Mansfield's book as a sort of footnote (Seaman is an academic at Columbia she should know what is "original" research and what isn't and this clearly wasn't but I don't wanna be sued so I did it). And months later I was still getting letters about how I was an information thief. So I fired off an angry e-mail to Fifi Oscard (whatever the name of that agency is that e-mailed on her behalf) and a little later I got this e-mail back about how we were "unstable" and stuff. Fun...but wait it gets better...
So the real turf war was between Michael Korda and Barbara Seaman. Barbara ended up with a dinky television movie with Michelle Lee, while Michael Korda got a big screen movie with Bette Midler, Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing...who won? Michael Korda obviously...helps to have Tina Brown on your side. So there was some nasty backbiting where Ms. Seaman said something about how Michael Korda was going to be young and prettier in the movie than he is in real life and how we was giving himself a glamorous girlfriend...and generally not telling the truth whereas her book was the truth. Nevermind that when it came out Irving and everyone associated with Jackie hated it, hated her, etc. which is why Irving later wrote his own book about Jackie. And if you ask me the only person who got Jackie right was Ira Silverberg at Grove who fulfilled his life long dream by re-issuing Jackie's books and sponsoring this cool night of fashion and film in hommage to Jackie in LA. So that is way more than anyone wanted to know about the Jacqueline Susann culture industry and how it too is rife with scandal in only ways that I'm sure Jackie herself would love and appreciate.