About ten days ago I was at a holiday party where a certain well-known woman publisher was sipping champagne and spitting bullets. She was really on a tear, angry, first of all, about a not-very-flattering profile of her in a certain glossy magazine that is required reading for the chattering classes.
And just as annoyed that Bernard Kerik, a man she claimed to know very, very well, had been nominated to head Homeland Security. She gave me, and several other people standing near me, a long list of reasons why he should never be in that–or in any other–position of public trust.
What surprised me was how outspoken she was. It was during those few days when the papers in New York, as well as Hillary and Chuck and John Corzine, were heaping praises on Kerik. Surely, in New York, a town that loves not merely gossip but its gossip columns, what she was saying and the fact she was dissing Kerik in such a public manner would soon find its way to Liz or Cindy or Lloyd or Page Six.
As it turned out, a seemingly angry former female friend was only part of Kerik’s many problems. And, frankly, all his blather about not realizing he had a problem with his nanny is, shall we say, a little hard to believe. I’m on a presidential commission, and terrific as that is, the fate of the nation is not in my hands. But on a printed list of questions you are asked before you can be appointed is one that clearly inquires about your domestic help, their status, and if you paid taxes for them. I was asked, and, believe me, I didn’t need Senate confirmation.
So why did Kerik think he could get away with it? Why did he think that he could navigate his way through the (both confirmed and alleged) flotsam and jetsam of an illegal nanny, unreported gifts, suspect business deals, and extramarital affairs? Why did he possibly remain so unconcerned that a high-profile woman publisher who has great understanding of how to make news appeared eager to publicly slam him?
Partly, I think, because of the Page Six culture in which many high-profile people in Manhattan dwell. It is a culture where doing bad not only isn’t a problem, it can sometimes lead directly to doing good, in fact, very, very good for yourself.
There are just so many current examples to illustrate my point. Let’s start with Paris Hilton, that meagerly talented blonde heiress without enough curves to make it as a standard-issue bimbo, and allegedly so dumb or so ritzy that she thought Wal-Mart was a store that sold walls. But after her porn video, pedaled by a former boyfriend, appeared on the Internet, little Paris practically became a superstar. “You can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing her. She’s doing movies and books and perfumes, and she is, right now, fascinating,” Barbara Walters gushed to Charlie Gibson on Good Morning, America, last week while promoting her “Most Fascinating People of the Year” special.
On the show Barbara was so-o-o-o sympathetic about the worldwide distribution of Paris’s sleazy little sex tape, saying, “It must have been so painful.” But, fear not, Paris said, it made her “a better person.” As well as helping her TV ratings and getting her those boffo book, movie, and perfume deals!
And what about Donald Trump, another of Barbara’s “Most Fascinating People.” The Donald has a long past history of personal and professional failures. Just a few weeks ago one of his companies went bankrupt. Nevermind. Because of The Apprentice, Trump has become the business authority for the masses with high TV ratings and several best sellers. He’s even, reportedly, getting a million-dollar diamond ring gratis for his soon to be new bride. “[Jewelers] are literally throwing diamonds at me,” he told the New York Post. Ignore Chapter 11. It’s the Art of the Deal.
And what about Martha? Currently she’s still confined to Camp Cupcake but coining money every day. Her stock price is zooming because last week a new post-prison TV show starring the Domestic Diva was just announced. It will be produced by Mark Burnett, the reality TV meister, who gilded Donald Trump’s image. The format of the new program will be different than Martha’s past television show, Martha Stewart Living, which was very how-to in nature. We all remember, I’m sure, her disastrous CBS Early Show appearance when Martha wanted to show us how-to chop a cabbage rather than discuss her troubles with the Feds.
The new show, which will debut in 2005, will have a studio audience and have Martha interact with guests, inevitably celebrities. No doubt it will be a ratings hit. As Susan Lyne, the new CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia said, “People’s perceptions of [Martha] have changed. Any sense of her being entitled, or arrogant, or moving in a different sphere than the rest of us, has been cut away by her going to prison.” Uh, does Lyne mean that lying to a Federal prosecutor means she’s, as one of the celeb weeklies might say, “just like us”? Besides, Lyne also commented, “People like redemption stories.” So true, so true.
So Bernie, don’t feel too downhearted that you didn’t come clean in your interviews with White House staffers and that you embarrassed the president. Who knows what’s in your future? A book deal? Even better, a reality show? I am sure you are feeling low and want to hide out during the holidays. That’s understandable. But take my advice, if Mark Burnett is on the phone, take the call.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.