The Big Guy faces the blank white page: While the political season heats up, Bill Clinton sits at his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., penning his memoir to earn that $10 million advance. He told business leaders today the process of writing was strange and that "it was hard enough living my life the first time." P.S.: He also announced that he has no plans to run for mayor of New York in 2005. (AP via Newsday)
Also not running: Tom Brokaw is fielding rumors he'll be asked to be John Kerry's running mate. He says, "As I have said repeatedly, I have no intention of pursuing a political career. Any speculation to the contrary, however flattering, is simply wrong." Brokaw's executive producer, Steve Capus, says it's wrong to assume Tom is a Democrat: "He doesn't carry his politics on his sleeve. I defy anyone to define the man politically." (Philly.com)
Stealing signals: When O.J. Simpson's home was searched back in 2001 for the drug ecstasy and for satellite theft, federal agents cleared out "bootloaders" -- devices used to pirate DirecTV satellite signals. At that time no charges were filed. Now the company is saying Simpson owes them $20,000, and it has filed suit in Miami. O.J.'s attorney says his client has been a "long-time paying subscriber." Guy's gotta watch his Court TV... (E! Online)
Save him from himself: Somebody's idea of a joke has gone too far. William Hung, famous only for having no shame that he's a searingly bad singer, just got a record deal. Fuse Music Network and Koch Records have signed the 21-year-old -- who is apparently incapable of being embarrassed. (TV Guide)
It's all material: Martha may have been in pain during her trial but she was also taking notes for a memoir her spokesperson says she had planned long before her legal troubles began. (N.Y. Daily News)
-- Karen Croft
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The Neil Bush File: The Dom Perignon flowed, the string quartet played, the happy couple nuzzled and the guests mingled at presidential bro Neil Bush's wedding to Maria Andrews in Houston last Saturday night, reports Houston Chronicle society columnist Shelby Hodge. The father of the groom, former POTUS George Bush, toasted the bride and groom, declaring, "This is a very happy day in the life of the Bush family." The groom's teenage son, Pierce, praised his father's relationship with his new stepmother, saying they set "a fine example for their kids to follow."
Not on hand, as noted yesterday in this column, were brothers of the groom President George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- or daughter of the groom, model and Princeton student Lauren Bush. Could their absence be connected to the way young Neil is repeatedly referred to as "scandal-plagued" by the press? To better understand why George and Jeb might have stayed away, we opened our Neil Bush file, to offer Salon readers a primer on the presidential brother slightly less well-known than Roger Clinton or Billy Carter -- but every bit as much fun:
Neil, the fourth of George and Barbara Bush's six children, a charming boy whose schoolwork as a child suffered due to dyslexia and whose graduation from high school was greeted by his family as something of a triumph (he went on to graduate from Tulane University -- and to get an MBA there as well), got his first big moment in the headlines shortly after the 1988 election, in connection with the savings and loan scandal. Neil, it turned out, had served as a director for the Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan in Denver from 1985 to 1988, during which time the company loaned more than $200 million to Neil's two partners in an unsuccessful oil company, JNB Exploration. His two partners' failure to repay $132 million in loans helped precipitate Silverado's collapse, which cost taxpayers around $1 billion. Federal regulators determined that Neil suffered from an "ethical disability," and required him to pay a $50,000 fine. (He himself admitted, appearing before the House Banking Committee in 1990, that some of his dealings looked "a little fishy.") He became a poster boy for the $500 billion savings and loan scandal, his house picketed, his face plastered on "wanted" posters screaming "Jail Neil Bush."
Unjailed and apparently undeterred, Neil returned to the world of business, this time starting a methane gas exploration company called Apex Energy, in which he invested just $3,000 of his own money, and raised $2.3 million from his father's buddy Louis Marx. Marx's investment was backed by the Small Business Administration, so when Apex quickly went belly-up, in 1991, the taxpayer was again left to clean up the mess. A subsequent House investigation found the whole thing, again, a little fishy, but ultimately determined that the deal was neither illegal nor improper. Neil, for his part, had made $300,000 in salary (and $160,000 from the sale to the company of a gas lease he owned, which turned out to be useless) during the company's two-year run.
Since 1999, Neil, now 49, has been working for an educational software company he founded called Ignite, which outsources much of its labor to Mexico. But in early 2002, he again stirred up controversy when, on a trip to Saudi Arabia, he told an audience that Israel had America's ear because it was beating the Arab world in the media wars -- and that Arab leaders should hire lobbyists and P.R. pros to get their viewpoint acknowledged. "The U.S. media campaign against the interests of Arabs and Muslims, and the American public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, could be influenced through a sustained lobbying and P.R. effort," Neil told a conference crowd, according to Saudia Arabia's English-language daily the Arab News. "Public opinion shapes public policy dramatically. It's true in the U.S., in this part of the world and elsewhere." (In the days following Neil's speech, the White House declined to comment about it to Salon's Jake Tapper.)
And then there are all the interesting bits and pieces that have leaked out during the messy proceedings for Neil's divorce from Sharon, his wife of 23 years and the mother of his three children. Like his 2002 deal with Grace Semiconductor, a Chinese company managed by Jiang Zemin's son, in which he was promised upward of $2 million -- in stock and cash -- over five years in exchange for attending the occasional board meeting and talking over the company's "business strategies." Or another deal with Crest Investment Corp., for which Neil apparently serves as co-chairman, getting paid $60,000 to chat now and then with the company's other co-chairman, Jamal Daniel, a friend of the Bush family who, it seems, has something to do with "structuring investing in energy and oil and gas projects throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East." It was at Daniel's Houston mansion that Neil and his new wife were married on Saturday.
During his divorce deposition, Neil was also grilled about certain women who stopped by his hotel rooms to have sex with him on his trips to Asia. He didn't know if they were prostitutes, he said. He didn't pay them. But yes, he admitted under oath, "it was very unusual."
Also unusual? All the allegations floating back and forth between Sharon and Neil -- and Neil's new wife's ex-husband -- in the divorce P.R. wars. Such as? Well, let's see. Sharon has alleged infidelity and has put forth the theory that Neil's new wife's youngest child was actually fathered by Neil, an allegation hotly contested by Neil's new wife's ex-husband, who has sued Sharon for defamation. Then there was Sharon's threat of a Bush family tell-all (which was quietly rescinded), and his allegations that she swiped his hair clippings for some voodoo project -- though she says she swiped it because his erratic behavior made her suspect that he might be on drugs, and she wanted to test his hair for evidence. And we mustn't leave out her gripe to the tabloids that he broke up with her via e-mail -- and his testimony that their marriage was "loveless" and that he and Sharon had enjoyed "very little sexual activity over the past 10 or 12 years."
All while the couple's pretty eldest daughter, Lauren, tries to carve out a career as a model. Poor Lauren is apparently so affected by her father's perpetual dance with scandal that, at a fashion show in Barcelona in 2002, she refused to walk down the catwalk in clothes she deemed "too Arabic, like a turban."
Lauren, it seems, learned a lesson her father never did: You can't be too careful these days.
-- Amy Reiter