Naomi, you should know, is Eszterhas’ new wife, once the spouse of his best friend and currently great with child. (Geri, Eszterhas’ first wife, got the house, the car, the art and, I should think, the last laugh.) We’re asked to believe that Naomi’s love by itself has ended Eszterhas’ own lifetime of whoring, pumping, thumping, fucking, shooting and dumping into “holes” — and if you believe that, you’ll swallow for sure.
“I wasn’t just thinking of Bill Clinton anymore,” Eszterhas writes solemnly, “but about a generation, my generation, which, in some ways, even though it was entrenched in power, creeping up on sixty, was still struggling to find itself. I was thinking about the state of the union and the state of our hearts and privates, as we tried not to stumble and slide on the treacherous Internet ice of the new millennium.”
We did? Quoting Dorothy Thompson again: “There is nothing more terrifying than a society congealed in the pattern of an adolescent mind.” Too late to worry about that, unfortunately. And why shouldn’t Eszterhas have a crack at Fornigate? Everyone else has. Why shouldn’t he write about Clinton’s penis — “Willard,” as he calls it throughout, so named by Gennifer Flowers, apparently because, as Clinton says, Willard is “longer than willie.”
The conclusion is automatic, nevertheless, and “American Rhapsody” only bears it out: No one — no one — would read this book if it didn’t have a talking cock as its grand finale, if Eszterhas’ favorite word, “panties,” didn’t appear for the first time on Page 4 (“wet,” at that), if Brown hadn’t made it her baby, if it weren’t laden, larded — throbbing — with sentimental, he-man prose. Speaking of Bill and Monica:
He kissed her then and they moved to the hallway she’d missed so much. She unbuttoned his denim blue shirt … He kissed her again and unbuttoned the top buttons of her navy blue dress. They did what they had done before and she knelt down.
The rest, as they say, is history. Except there isn’t any history anymore, as everyone knows. There’s only Joe, in this case, and, by extension, you and me. An unhappy conclusion, but what else can you think when even immediate history is rewritten immediately, torn out of context and broadcast at a level of frightful noise?
Point of fact: Like most straight men obsessed with their own penises, Eszterhas knows nothing about women. I mean, he knows nothing about women. “Sympathetic” though he is to the president’s Willard problem, Eszterhas doesn’t understand that the reason so many women go for Clinton is that he has a strongly feminine nature. “Ain’t nothin’ so pretty as a white boy with lips,” as a black Republican friend of mine says.
According to Flowers’ own book, repeatedly cited by Ezsterhas, Clinton likes to be tied to the bed with silk scarves. He likes hot wax dripped on his nipples. He asked Flowers to “use a dildo on him.” He can give it and he can take it, in other words, and if he prefers jerking off to any other sexual activity — well, a woman can understand that, too, knowing full well that she can give herself a better blast than any thrusting Neanderthal can. (Take a look at Eszterhas’ jacket photo and you’ll see what I mean.)
In the realm of women’s character, moreover, as distinct from their holes, Eszterhas is dead wrong on every count. There’s not a woman mentioned in “American Rhapsody” who isn’t trashed and slighted, from the abandoned Geri to the fecund Naomi (who seems to have been put on this planet solely to reform Joe) to Jane Fonda, Arianna Huffington, Tipper Gore, Jean Houston, Elizabeth Berkley (of “Showgirls” fame) and right on to the book’s predatory female leads, Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (I won’t even talk about the “Ratwoman,” Linda Tripp, or Lucianne Goldberg, the “Bag Lady of Sleaze,” who can take care of themselves.)
It’s a fact that, as yet, few people have understood Lewinsky — rarely does anyone get how intelligent and witty she is, for example, or how her energy and good nature alone could seduce a man, despite her naiveti, her gooey hopes, her weight problem and her Snoopy phone. Anyone whose favorite painter is Egon Schiele and who can send the president of the United States a card that reads “The only thing I’d like to see more than you is you naked, with a lottery ticket in one hand and a can of whipped cream in the other” is a character for the ages. She’ll come into her own yet, you mark my words.
As to Hillary — dream on, Joe. Love her or hate her, she’s a lioness. She can’t be dismissed as a coldhearted bitch, a putative lesbian or a screaming Mimi who narrowly escaped being raped in the third grade. And Sharon Stone, whom Eszterhas thinks and actually says he “created,” is laughing her head off at his characterization. Stone has recently adopted a baby. She’s getting $15 million for the sequel to “Basic Instinct.” She has been noshing with the Dalai Lama. “I knew he was funny,” she says about Eszterhas, “but I didn’t know he could write comedy.” And if Eszterhas thinks you can invent Sharon Stone without Sharon Stone, it’s no wonder he’s been grilling pineapples on the beach.
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Point of order: Near the start of “American Rhapsody,” Eszterhas gets all silly about his children. “We loved our kids and wanted the best for them,” he writes, speaking, as usual, about “our” generation: “We wanted them to be not like us, but like our parents, like grandpa and grandma sitting watching the sunset after fifty years of mostly monogamous marriage, talking about the long-ago senior prom as they sipped their warming his-and-hers mugs of tea and honey.”
Right. You bet we do. As an aside — cough, cough — the current issue of Talk features a cover photo of Elizabeth Hurley tonguing a rope of Harry Winston diamonds. Pundits are saying that Brown has hit her stride with this one, that she’s wrapped and packaged Talk to sit perfectly where she’s been putting it, at the supermarket checkout. Eszterhas’ bio insists that he has never missed a single one of his son’s Little League games, but somehow I don’t believe him when he says he’s worried about what the kids are lapping up in this national cesspool, this 24-hour televised motel room, which he has done as much as anyone to bring about. Grandpa and Grandma, my ass.
Don’t lie to us, Joe. More important, don’t lie to them. Just take the money and hope for the best. Someone’s bound to call, sooner or later.
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Point of honor: No writer’s book should be panned merely on the grounds of differing opinions or opposite tastes. Eszterhas is a good writer. Sometimes, he’s a very good writer, and while “American Rhapsody” tells us absolutely nothing about Clinton-Lewinsky that we didn’t know already — “As the impeachment psychodrama began, I watched every mini-second of it … I read everything, I saw everything” — it reads like a rollicking novel when he allows it to, when he takes himself and “us” out of it, that is, and just lets the story rip. His chapters on James Carville, Larry Flynt and Warren Beatty’s presidential aspirations — “The Man With the Golden Willard” — are worth the price of the book.
Eszterhas is especially good in the boldfaced imaginary monologues (from Clinton and Al Gore, from Bob Dole, from John McCain, from Dubya) he has invented both to skewer the powerful and to razz the Zeitgeist. These sections were written, Eszterhas tells us, by “a little devil,” “a writing partner who has cursed my career” and who turns out to be — what else? — his own Willard, now happily held in check by love, in the form of Naomi. These sections are funny and crazily insightful, and I’d be the last person on earth to keep anyone from reading them. Hats off to you, Joe, for naming Richard Nixon the “Night Creature” and reminding us that the lies and blather Nixon fed his own Monica before he died — Monica Crowley, girl amanuensis — and that Crowley repeated with a straight face in her book about the Dick of dicks, were “much deadlier” and more damaging to democracy than anything Clinton stuck in his Monica’s mouth.
So there, Joe — get a blurb from that. I mean it, every word. You should be writing novels if you can’t get work in Hollywood. Just make sure they are novels next time, and try to think of something besides us and that thing between our legs.
How big is yours, anyway, Joe? You never said. I looked and looked, but you never said.