WASHINGTON -- Just like that, this city's only sex symbol had come and gone.
This week's sudden and dramatic return and departure of Monica Lewinsky created a media stir the likes of which the capital has not seen since, well, the last Lewinsky visit.
Yesterday, cameras captured Lewinsky, bundled in a black coat with faux fur collar, checking out of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel and zipping off to return home to Los Angeles. Even the tiger stripes on her Kate Spade bag could not scare off the waiting media.
The intense interest, of course, comes as the Senate considers whether to call the 25-year-old former intern as a witness in President Clinton's impeachment trial. But even when the political stakes are not quite so high, Lewinsky creates a manic scene in Washington that her appearances in Los Angeles and New York could never rival.
Perhaps it is the sight of her prowling in her natural habitat -- the notorious young woman back on the turf that made her famous. There she was, luxuriating in a hotel that Clinton himself has visited, dining where friends of Clinton super-friend Vernon Jordan have eaten, sleeping a mere five blocks from the White House where -- but that's all in the Starr Report.
Lewinsky knows, of course, that she is the object of the capital's fascination. She could not have been surprised that the mesclun greens she picked at Sunday night in the hotel restaurant would show up in newspapers the next day. Maybe she even knew that reporters would also seize on the room service pizza she ordered -- just before her public salad.
Such scrutiny, said the lawyer who alerted the media to her impending Garbo-esque departure yesterday, is just too much.
"She's been cooped up in this hotel," attorney Plato Cacheris said. "She wants to get on with her life, so she's leaving."
Mayflower staff, though, wonder if perhaps Lewinsky likes being Washington's "It" girl.
"I think she enjoys the publicity," said doorman Frank Agbro, shortly after she departed. "Anyway, I know one thing -- there's a mystery about her people seem to enjoy."
Lewinsky left that mystery behind her in Washington yesterday, along with a gaggle of press -- oh, and some potato chip remnants on a room service lunch tray outside her door.
Her timing was perfect for a Washington diva: She peeled out of town behind tinted windows in a chauffeured Toyota Land Cruiser at the very moment Tennessee Republican Rep. Ed Bryant was urging the Senate to call her as a witness in Clinton's impeachment trial. Should the Senate approve the idea, Lewinsky is likely to return sometime this week for depositions. Ultimately she could be summoned for questioning and her own historic moment on the Senate floor.
For the moment, though, Lewinsky has a different sort of interview on her mind.
She has been seeking court clearance to break her official silence to Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20" news magazine. Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr has barred Lewinsky from speaking publicly without his permission, under her immunity agreement. Lewinsky's lawyers have requested a court hearing on the matter tomorrow.
Testifying before the Senate -- and possibly a rapt national audience -- may deflate the impact of that prime-time interview. After that, perhaps no one will care anymore about every little Lewinsky factoid, like what she ate for breakfast yesterday.
But for now, as befits a diva, we'll put it on the record: a bagel with cream cheese and a glass of orange juice.
Pub Date: 1/27/99