My big night with Monica Lewinsky


LIKE EVERYONE else in America, I wasn't going to watch. But then at 9 last night, a man burst into my house and placed a gun to my temple and said: "Turn on the Monica interview and nobody gets hurt."

"Look, I got cable!" I screamed. "We could watch 'Star Trek: Voyager' or 'Beverly Hills Cop II' or "

"We're watching Monica Lewinsky on '20/20,' " he said.

So I handed him the remote and got out the Doritos and the Diet Coke, and we watched the whole thing.

It sure was an eye-opener.

There was Barbara Walters, the most annoying woman on the planet, gazing at Monica with those basset-hound eyes and nodding sympathetically at all the right times, even though you just know she was thinking: "C'mon, chubby, get to the good stuff. Tell me more about when the prez took that phone call from what's-his-name, the congressman."

And there was Monica, alternately smiling and pensive, bubbly and contrite, speaking for the very first time -- if you don't count the stuff she told Linda Tripp, Ken Starr's flunkies, the grand jury, the British tabloid press and the publishers of her new book, which hits the stores today -- about her affair with President Clinton. I couldn't hear very well -- this guy who had broken into my house kept rustling the Doritos bag and slurping his Diet Coke and belching -- but one thing she said was that she was sorry.

Look, we're all sorry about something. I'm sorry I yelled at my kids the other day, you're sorry you blew off that dental appointment, Dan Aykroyd's sorry for every lousy movie he's ever appeared in.

But Monica is really, really sorry about all the pain she caused the country and Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea Clinton and probably Buddy the dog and Socks the cat, too, although she did not mention them by name, at least not that I recall.

My favorite part of the interview -- and this is hard to determine when you have a gun held to your temple -- concerned Monica's infamous flashing of her thong underwear at the president.

Monica said this was a "small, subtle, flirtatious gesture."

Now, to me, a "small, subtle, flirtatious gesture" would be lightly touching someone's hand during a conversation, or giving him a lingering look.

It would not be pulling out the waistband of your pants and saying, in effect: "Hey, baby, check this out."

To me, this is subtle the way a bus plunging over a cliff is subtle.

Then again, if you're trying to get the attention of the leader of the free world -- a man presumably consumed by such matters as health care reform, the situation in Kosovo, the breakdown in the Middle East negotiations, etc. -- I guess you do what you have to do.

At one point in the interview, Monica started crying, which I'm sure came as a great surprise to many.

Just about everyone who has ever been interviewed by Barbara Walters has cried, except maybe Clint Eastwood, whose tear ducts were most likely soldered shut at birth.

In fact, when a celebrity sits down to be interviewed by Walters, he or she is probably handed a standard contract that says, in part: "I understand that on a visual cue from Ms. Walters, I will be expected to sob, weep or otherwise tear up for a period of no less than 60 seconds; otherwise the interview will be terminated."

Anyway, the interview was really informative, and now we have the book, a literary Mount Everest, to look forward to.

OK, let me be brutally honest here.

I have had it up to here -- I'm holding my hand at eye level -- with Monica Lewinsky.

But if there were some new juicy revelations in her book -- if there's stuff in there about her swinging from the chandeliers with half the Supreme Court, or splashing around in the Jacuzzi with Al Gore -- I might be tempted to plunk down $24.95 or whatever rip-off price they're charging.

But since the book is supposed to be a rehash of everything she told Barbara Walters, it probably won't end up on my bookshelf.

Unless, of course, someone breaks into my house tomorrow and holds a gun to my temple and says: "We're going to Barnes & Noble to get Monica's book."

In any event, you wonder what Monica Lewinsky will do with the rest of her life after all the hype from this interview and the book dies down.

My favorite quote on that came from noted psychologist and advice columnist Dr. Joyce Brothers, who told USA Today: "She can't run away from her fame -- there's no place in the world she can go -- but she can use it. The greatest pleasure is spending your celebrity in the interest of remaking the world for the better."

Gandhi, Jonas Salk, Mother Teresa, Monica Lewinsky . . . it does seem to fit.

Pub Date: 3/04/99

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