I turn the pages, my hands atremble. It seems to me that the course of civilization is being written here, of all places, in Vogue magazine.
Once, when life was simpler, first ladies were role models. Now, Hillary, oh Hillary, is a model model. Annie Liebovitz, who is famous for taking pictures of famous people in various stages of undress, has turned her lens on Hillary, who's suddenly no longer just a policy wonk. She's Cindy Crawford with a law degree.
When I tell a friend there's a Hillary photo spread in Vogue -- the one with Sharon Stone on the cover -- the first question he asks, as an American male, is, of course, "Is she naked?"
Is she naked?
"Nothing too suggestive," he says. "I'm thinking classy. You know, with maybe a lot of gauze or something."
Hillary? Oh, Hillary.
I turn the pages, rushing past the cleavage-heavy perfume ads, the naked-guy male cologne (whatever happened to after-shave, not to mention clothes?), the Halston watches, the Liz Taylor jewelry, the $250 scarves, the entire spring collection, and I'm up to Page 226 and still no Hillary when I bump up against Kate Moss, the famous Calvin Klein waif.
You've seen her, haven't you? She looks about 12 years old and like she hasn't had a meal in the '90s. In this ad for Calvin underwear, she's got her hands under her bra in what I'm told is the "naughty schoolgirl" look. Let me just say it's like no school I ever went to.
Unaccountably, Moss' waif look is something of a sensation. Women are lining up to have plastic surgeons de-fat their cheeks, so they, too, can look like the little match-girl after a really bad week on the street. The world has gone mad.
Hillary. What are we doing here?
Can we talk about Annie Liebovitz a minute? I have no problem with her controversial cover shot of the enormously naked and pregnant Demi Moore, which I'm sure was a powerful statement on motherhood and also the need for more maternity stores.
Where Liebovitz lost me was after her unforgivable Vanity Fair cover of the all-over-naked Sylvester Stallone. I could have gone pretty much my entire life without seeing Sly naked, especially posing as "The Thinker." What next -- Rush Limbaugh as "Venus de Milo"?
What we know is that the photographer can get the model to do just about anything, or at least that was Vanessa Williams' story. Try to imagine this session.
"C'mon, Hillary, sweetheart, more lips. Lips. Moisten 'em. Rub the tongue over the lips. More. That's good. Beautiful. Now, the hair back. Way back. Like you're Marilyn. Wind blowing. Good, good. More lips. That's perfect. Now, one button. Just give me one button. No frowning. I want a smile. Pretty smile? OK, a smile, and now a button. Good. Now two . . ."
I turn the page, and there she is.
Dressed. But, well, not exactly first ladylike. I don't see Barbara Bush here.
Anyway, there's Hillary on Pages 228 and 229 in this two-headed double spread, wearing a demure turtleneck. In the shot on the left, she has this dreamy, faraway look, like she's thinking about something oh so sensual -- say, either Fabio or maybe health care reform.
In the other shot, just as I feared, she has the hair back. She looks, well, almost glamorous. I talk to women about this. Every woman thinks it is great.
These women tell me these pictures make several essential points: particularly what a makeup person, a hair person, designer dresses and really soft lighting can do for you. This is fantasy time.
But it just seems so un-Hillary. But who is Hillary? She grew up as a Goldwater girl, got radicalized in college, Yale law, politician's wife, Chelsea's mom, two names, three names, back to two, back to three, won't stay home to bake cookies, gives cookie recipe to Redbook, writes health care, redecorates White House.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Mamie Eisenhower was once a pinup girl in Stars and Stripes, but try to find that in the history books.
I turn past some boring text. But we're not finished. Here's a picture where Hillary looks like she's posing to be on the bow of a ship. It's getting weird. I like that.
And then it's over. The next page begins a spread on American fashion models in China. Lots of leg. Lots of pagodas. I'm serious.
Still, I guess, civilization has survived. It turns out that Hillary had refused to even bare a shoulder, although Liebovitz had pleaded.
After all, even a Vogue model has her dignity.