Wednesday, March 19, 2008

David Paterson, Man Slut

Hmm, I thought I'd be able to get a jump on my work this morning, but nooooo....the front pages of the NY Daily News and NY Post are simply too damn distracting.

Spitzer's whore turns out to be a "Girl Gone Wild," with lesbo action captured on video (big metziah) and it turns out that new, first-ever black and blind governor of New York State had, ahem, numerous affairs, not the one he meticulously alluded to on Monday and which I blogged about yesterday.

(You know, the classy chick he screwed at the Day's Inn, which I was considering checking out for our out-of-town-guests for Little Babe's forthcoming bar mitzvah. No more. )

Furthermore, some of the sluts Paterson cavorted with evidently work in state government.

Another, he might have gotten a job for.

What next?

It’s 9 a.m and I am saturated with sex scandal gossip. I mean it. My brain feels dirty. I reached my limit. It is impairing my ability to focus on my work, which tends to be a lot more serious that who’s boinking whom.

It’s making me skip screens every 20 minutes or so, seeing if anyone has the latest on the old NY guv, the new NY guv, the old NJ guy, the driver, his wife and, evidently, also her lover.


I'll bet that part of Paterson (99 percent, say) is ruing the day (two Mondays ago, to be exact, about 2 in the afternoon) that the buck got passed to him. And I know Michelle feels the same way. The glare of the media shone flatteringly for about half a day and then it became a klieg light, revealing something deeply disturbing.

I was sorta (not really) okay with the Monday state house confession but now feel like I have eels in my boots.

A tit-for-tat, his 'n hers pair of affairs is one thing...the difficult “honesty” he displayed as he faced the state, the candor of boldly talking about their subsequent reconciliation, reassurances that they love each other, have “worked” on their marriage, and are closer than ever… yadda, yadda, but honestly, what has come out since then is pretty intense.

To put it another way, that "rough patch in the marriage" narrative doesn't fly when it turns out that you've been screwing your way from Albany down to the Upper West Side.

And fairly recently, as well.

At this point, I know more about David Paterson’s sexual activity than his ability to run New York State.

I just hope we don’t get treated to the same treatment he gave his mistresses at the Day’s Inn.

And that this is my last post on the sordid sex lives of American governors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Infidelity: It's the New Monogamy!

These are trying times for the Seventh Commandment.

First, the Spitzer soap-opera -- the most shocking yet entertaining sex scandal in recent memory.

Then, the McGreevey allegations of two days ago -- as if New Jersey refused to be outdone by New York State's pornodrama -- that Jim and Dina had three-ways with a former (male) aide.

And now, just when we were consoling ourselves with the appointment of a stable, straight-arrow, legally blind replacement governor for New York State, it turns out that he, too, was getting it on the side, having a 2 to 3 year fling (but who's keeping count?) with a mistress during a "rough patch" in the marriage.

Giving me a special feeling of proximity as Paterson and his f#@*buddy were doing it in my nabe, at the ultra-classy Days Inn, on Broadway and 94th Street.

Kinda of down-market from the Mayflower Hotel in DC, wouldn't ya say?

And evidently, saving our new guv about $80K, as he was getting it for free.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning, we were blissfully ignorant and now, everybody knows. Nor did it take long for the news to get out. Following his inauguration, in a premptive strike against the inevitability of the press ferreting out this little bit of sleaze, Paterson decided to come clean.

Put it out there.

Stop the rumors dead on their feet.

And as if to even the playing field -- and remove Michelle Paterson from the victimhood of, say, Silda Wall Spitzer -- the Patersons fessed up to her having fooled around as well.

Hate to say it, but I'm a bit skeptical about this.

However, as quickly as I can say, "hand me my bra, that's my husband coming up the steps!" the press will find Paterson's galpal and, if it is true, Ms. Paterson's boytoy.

But, screw New York State and its unzipped legislators.

What I am really waiting for is the lowdown on the alleged three-ways that took place between McGreevey, his "deceived" wife Dina and the stud-muffin Ted Pedersen, their "Friday Night Specials."

I want proof, which shouldn't be hard to track down. And details. I actually would like to know who did what to whom.

Such as…was there any DP?

Now, this is a scandal worth following. For one thing, the players are actually attractive, people you might fantasize about having a three-way with.

For another, the McGreevey scenario truly qualifies as kinky while Spitzer's dalliance is cliched and Paterson's Days Inn affair is just about the most pathetic -- and least erotic -- thing I can imagine.

Anyhoo, the next few days promise to be extra-titillating as further details emerge on the Patersons and McGreeveys.

While the dutifully monogamous, married American public tuning into this schmutz is left to wallow in its extreme dullness

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Rabbi's Girls: On Call

At a bus stop in Miami during winter break of 1979, my sister and I – an aspiring singer and writer hailing from Queens, NY - decided to become high-ticket hookers.
We were on our way to Fort Lauderdale, where the college scene was legendary. Even in staid Miami, the cute English lifeguards at the Fontainbleu tried to pick us up poolside when we snuck onto the premises from the efficiency we were renting. Considering ourselves “fat” at the time, we marveled at the low standards men set for their sexual partners, realizing that most males will jump into bed with anything female.

With this observation newly minted, we talked about trading our bodies for cash, capitalizing on our unique marketing angle: our dad was a rabbi. There was great fetish appeal in that identity, we knew from personal experience. Being known in the sex trade as The Rabbi’s Girls would give us an edge other girls did not have. Our thighs might have been bigger than the average girl’s but so was our business potential.

A high school senior and college sophomore respectively, we fantasized about the rates we would charge, decided that the way to go was to be our own boss, thus eluding getting ripped off by pimps or madams. Naturally, we’d have to change our names. Though we were trading on being nice Jewish girls, our Hebrew monikers -- Shira and Adina -- had to go. Far more importantly, we had to go undercover lest our parents (or our friends’ parents or our yeshiva principal, God Forbid!) find out.

I dubbed myself Chantal, the French version of Shira, which means song. Adina decided to become Desiree. Somehow, sex trade pseudonyms invariably involve French. (Witness the transformation of Ashley Youmans to Ashley Alexandra Dupre. From runaway Jersey girl to continental call girl with the addition of a Gallic surname.)

The bus shortly came and we sat among senior citizens and domestic workers and day laborers further honing our plan. We set rates: $500 an hour. Special services at $150 a pop were also available. We decided that even if we had one john a week, by the time we graduated from college, we would be rich.

Furthermore, if we started our business upon returning to New York (sporting suntans, which were super-slimming), we’d have enough money together to think about renting a cool apartment in Manhattan, so we didn’t have to live with our parents in Forest Hills. Living in the city, Adina would be able to go to auditions all the time, get discovered and have a smashing career on Broadway. For me, an arts reporter for the Queens College newspaper, the N train would be history. I could be out in the city every night covering shows and films and writing fiction late into the night, inspired by the view outside my window, which overlooked the Hudson.

It was only a matter of time before a big newspaper discovered me, offering me a plum assignment, making all my dreams come true. A bestselling novel would naturally follow. And at that moment of mutual stardom, Adina and I would quietly slip out of the sex trade.

Alas, The Rabbi’s Girls Call Girl Service never saw the light of day, but it was a good idea. Probably a lucrative one as well. If Adina and I had followed our marketing instinct, there are many things we might have avoided in the intervening thirty years.

Among them, various jobs that we took in order to keep a roof over our heads, or our respective family’s head, keep our children clothed and properly fed, pay their tuition, finance our modest travel, support our husbands’ aspirations, give to charity. Had we become hookers, we might have avoided decades-long career detours – gigs that did not involve our unique skills or abilities, but paid the bills.

We might have had designer clothes, haircuts and vacations and shoes akin to the $2K Manolos that Ashley Youmans received as a gift from her pimp. We might have enjoyed the constant care of a manicurist as she has, judging from her My Space pictures.

The point is, realizing that sex sells is a momentary revelation, not a catalyst for a career. Many are those who recognize the cash value of their bodies but few are those who actually prostitute themselves out.

Now, in her mid-forties, Adina recently emerged as a singer, producing her debut CD last year. My own detour from freelance writing to the more lucrative field of public relations has accidentally led to a fulfilling consulting business. The articles, short stories, reviews and blog entries that I write are done by the light of the moon.

So the Rabbis Girls Call Girl Service evaporated into the conceptual stratosphere, but its story will be part of a cabaret show that my sister and I are writing about the weird, wacky and often wonderful experience of growing up as the daughters of a congregational rabbi in Queens, NY, in the 1960’s and 70’s. If there is one lesson we learned from our father it is that we are created in the image of God.

And God is not a ho.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Out of Albany

I was putting on sparkly pink blusher in Sephora on Lexington Avenue and 58th street with Little Babe when HOBB showed up to escort our youngest home from his nearby dental appointment so I could attend my client's gala dinner at the nearby Harmonie Club.

I was surveying the effect of the irridescent powder on my cheeks when HOBB asked me if I had heard about our governor, Eliot Spitzer. No, I shrugged, blending in the make-up, wondering if I also needed some undereye concealer to revitalize my late afternoon face before heading over to the cocktail party.

Regarding me as one would regard someone who just asked, "Barack who?" HOBB broke the news that the entire world has been trying to digest ever since yesterday afternoon: the tough on prostitution, former DA, married, Jewish, seemingly squeaky clean and moralizing father of three, not to mention GOVERNOR OF FREAKING NEW YORK STATE had solicited the services of a high-price call girl. For a chunk of change. In our nation's capital.

Within hours, Eliot Spitzer would be known by a variety of media-appointed monikers: The Luv Gov; Eliot Mess; "John" Spitzer; and most infamously, Client #9.

Late night television was just given a treasure trove of material for the foreseeable future, rich compensation for the previous months' writers strike.

Fresh from my revelation at Sephora, I ran over to the Harmonie Club where the temptation of loshon hara* was largely and admirably avoided, though each kiss-kiss greeting was accompanied by a "can you believe it?"

And in truth, no, I could not believe it.

Nor could anyone, judging from the utter monopoly this story had over the news. Returning home just before 11, I joined HOBB on our couch where we filled our brains with punditry and politicians and pronouncements and porn of a sort we are not used to seeing.

The pornography of the disintegration of high profile public life.

Headline news that out-tabloids the tabloids.

A scandal that hearkens back to the good old days of Boss Tweed.

Tragedy cloaked in titillation.

Stating the obvious: this particular scandal is built on the backs of private people, Spitzer's family, in particular his wife Silda, his three daughters and his parents.

Seeing Silda standing by his side at his press conference replayed scenes of wives past (Dina, Hillary, Mrs. Craig, et alia) standing stoically next to their disgraced spouses, knowing that the entire world is secretly wondering just what sexual defect they might harbor that drove their husbands into the arms of a hooker/intern/guy in the next bathroom stall, wondering why they are even publicly supporting the SOB, wondering where their self-esteem is.

And his poor parents. Just as we harbor high hopes for our children, so, too, we squelch our fears for their future. Of all the horrific scenarios to dread as a parent, surely, "my son the Governor of New York who solicited high-priced hookers at a DC hotel," is up there in the Hall of Parental Shame.

Right beneath, "my son the murderer."

It is the morning after the revelation of the scandal and this story has pushed out anything else in the news. It is front and center, occupying pages and pages of newsprint and valuable cyber real estate. The reasons for this story's power are obvious and this is hardly a case of a tempest in a tea pot.

This scandal is the Katrina of contemporary American politics.

But the thing about it is that it just doesn't make rational sense. The ultra-sordid particulars, the paper trail, the money, the illegality all point to a Catch Me If You Can impulse that is based not in defiance but pathology.

Or maybe both.

With a little bit of magical thinking or invincibility.

Plus a touch of desperation.

At the end of the day, the Eliot Spitzer Sex Scandal is not really about sex.

And aside from what further scandalous details might yet emerge, Part Two of the saga will be the revelation of why Eliot Spitzer chose to end his public career this terrible way.

*gossip, literally, evil speech

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Murder in Jerusalem

The conference call came in at 3:30 pm, as planned. The day had been busy, with meetings in midtown, an impromptu stop at Whole Foods at the Time Warner Center, phone calls from press accompanying me as I walked westward along 59th Street.

I was in the process of eating a hasty Whole Foods salad when my client called.

Gulping down my peppermint water, I reached for the phone, affecting an unhurried voice, a voice that said that I was prepared and professional rather than scattered and sweating profusely in the aftermath of my race across town and marathon salad consumption.

As all the parties exchanged their greetings, I quietly directed my browser to; after all, I hadn't seen the news since early in the day and wanted to peruse the headlines. Instantly, stark wording filled the screen, announcing a terrorist attack on a seminary in Jerusalem, at least seven dead.

"Omigod, there's been a terrorist attack in Jerusalem!" I gasped, realizing a millisecond later that I had just blown my facade of complete focus. My thoughts flew in a flurry as I scrolled down the page, sifting for information. Seminary? Which seminary? For teachers, scholars, rabbis, visiting American students on their year-abroad program? Who were the victims? Kids? Teens? Adults? Israelis? Foreigners?

My blood ran cold, thinking of the children of friends studying in Israel for the year. Only last year my own daughter was a student in Jerusalem. Her best friend was currently spending her year abroad studying at Hebrew University. Twentysomething years ago, I was a student at Hebrew U as well. That year, the worst thing that happened was the murder of John Lennon in front of his apartment building in New York City.

I switched to Their report told me that the attack happened at a well-known school, Mercaz Harav, founded by Rabbi Kook, the former chief rabbi of Israel, father of the religious Zionist movement. It described a chaotic scene, blood everywhere, students hiding under desks and in bomb shelters, 50 ambulances arriving, police storming the premises, looking for the terrorist.

Somehow I assumed a bomb. In our time, terrorism has become inextricable from bombs, particularly of the suicidal/homicidal variety. But there was not a bomb. There was a killer with a gun.

Like on an American college campus, except programmed to kill only Jews.

500 to 600 shots fired, announced Jpost.

Though my ear was pressed against the phone receiver, I was no longer on the conference call. I was somewhere in the cybersphere, floating between New York and Jerusalem, mentally multi-tasking, out of time and place, out of my mind.

Weirdly, I heard voices talking animatedly, including my own. No one had responded to my exclamation about the attack in Jerusalem. Did they hear? Do they not care? Evidently not, for we were deep into discussion of strategy and marketing of the project at hand. I saw my right hand scribbling notes, felt my head nod in assent, heard myself murmur my approval. My eyes, however, remained glued on the computer screen, reading, seeking information, switching between Jpost and Haaretz, checking out and the AP report, seeing how Foxnews reported the story versus, going even to the right-wing to see if I had missed any details. I learned that the killer had most definitely been killed by a part-time student.

Did I actually speak out loud or had I simply imagined my outburst?

The phone conference moved into specifics. We compared notes on our best media contacts, connections within the community. Quietly, I took stock of everyone I knew to be in Jerusalem -- my sister, brother-in-law, their kids, dozens of friends and their families, a couple of clients, a project partner, old boyfriends, old relatives, a cast of characters interchangeable with my New York circle of friends and loved ones.

As the New York afternoon grew old and the conference call drew to a close, the personal calls started coming and we all said the same thing to each other. How horrible. It's been so long since something this terrible happened. Is everyone accounted for? Have we heard anything from anyone in Israel?

I spoke to my husband and my sister in Israel. My daughter, Middle Babe, called to tell me that her best friend called to let her know that she was safe at Hebrew University. My youngest, Little Babe, came home from school and I casually asked him whether he had heard anything at school (he hadn't), wondered if I should give him a heads-up about that which he was likely to hear about tomorrow at school.

I counted forward five hours and decided against calling Big Babe, my oldest, studying in Berlin. It was the middle of the night in Europe. He would hear in the morning.

It is now night and the news reports are more complete. The gunman was not Palestinian but Israeli Arab, from East Jerusalem. I do not even know what this signifies. There was widespread celebration in Gaza. This needs no interpretation. Eight are confirmed dead. Several of the wounded are critically injured. One of the rabbis at the yeshiva, weeping, told the Israeli government it could go to hell. Many of the students died clutching sifrei kodesh, holy books. Photographs from the crime scene show bullet holes through glass, bloody tzitzit, body bags lined up on the floor, members of Zaka collecting human remains for burial, blood, blood everywhere.

Tomorrow is Topsy Turvy Day at SAR Academy, the marvelous school Little Babe attends. He has his crazy outfit all ready, cannot wait to get on the bus in mask and cape, a dress rehearsal for Purim, a joyous celebration of the start of the month of Adar.

The murdered students at Mercaz Harav Kook had gathered tonight for special classes on the meaning of the joyous month of Adar. Instead of celebration, there will be funerals, said one of the grieving rabbis.

Emails for phone vigils and solidarity calls with Israel now fill my inbox. Jewish message boards are filling up with reactions to the murders. I find myself wondering if SAR will even celebrate Topsy Turvy Day tomorrow, or seek to postpone it. I try to think like an administrator, like a rabbi, and figure out the right reaction, the proper message, the teachable moment for American Jewish kids in the face of this tragedy in Israel.

It would have been clever to end this post with the assertion that today, everything went topsy turvy in Jerusalem but the reality is that what happened today is nothing too unusual, has plenty of precedent.

And sadly, the lesson for our children -- even now, in the 21st century -- is that being Jewish is sometimes a crime that is punishable by death.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

War and Betrayal

At Friday night dinner, our friend Nella told us about the performance of Macbeth she and her husband Jack saw this past week at BAM, describing it as the most transcendent and absorbing theatrical experience they had ever had.

Instantly, I took stock of the memorable Shakespearean productions I have seen -- Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford Upon Avon in England in the spring of 2004; King Lear performed by a community theatre in Middlebury, VT some 15 years ago; Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires three summers ago; As You Like It this past summer at Shakespeare on the Hudson in Garrison, NY; Kenneth Branagh's masterful film adaptation of Hamlet, first glimpsed at Cinematheque in Jerusalem in 1998.

Though I love the inspired lunacy and quick wit of the Shakespearean comedies, I am utterly undone by his tragedies, adore finding myself face to face with such grand themes as Fate and Irony and The Vast Indifference of the Universe, not to mention Tragedy Itself.

Shakespeare's sense of the tragic lingers long after one has left the theatre. That is part of his genius and his enduring appeal. Shakespeare's tragedies are exquisite torment, a sore tooth to be tested every few moments by a probing tongue.

Hearing Nella gush about BAM's Macbeth induced me to move it to the exalted Must-Do position on my cultural To-Do list...until last night's SoHo production of George Packer's exquisite, urgent and of-the-minute drama, Betrayed rendered Shakespeare suddenly irrelevant.

This blog is not a repository for reviews, so I will demur detailing the superb performances of the Culture Project cast, or the well-wrought script by Packer, a journalist who had been sent to Iraq by the New Yorker and who wrote the award-winning book, The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq.

Betrayed is based on Packer's experiences as a journalist in Iraq. The essence of the play's success lies in his ability to isolate one aspect of the fiasco that is the War in Iraq: the betrayal of Iraqi civilians who risk their lives for the Americans, going to work every day in the American compound as translators, as drivers, as secretaries and support staff and eventually find themselves marked for death by Iraqi death squads and civilians for being so-called "spies."

What Packer found out though his interviews with these brave, principled, desperate or foolish Iraqis is that the American government couldn't care less about their fate. And as US personnel and officials hid behind protocol and codes and bureaucratic procedure, many of the helpful, America-friendly Iraqis were hunted down like dogs and killed.

The War in Iraq is many things, none of them good. It is based on a lie that is built upon a house of lies that is difficult or maybe even impossible to untangle.

It is misguided, confused, poorly-planned, badly-executed, ill-led, immoral and, yes, very tragic. Packer is not so lefty as to pretend that Saddam wasn't a monster, that life under his regime was not a hell for Iraqi civilians. He doesn't glorify Iraqis either, making certain that the audience understands the manners in which they botched opportunities for their own redemption.

The play is not an anti-War in Iraq polemic, but it is pretty difficult to emerge from Betrayed feeling good about George W's war. Still, George P steers clear of too-easy, sloganeering politics to shine a klieg light on one terrible narrative in the midst of this tragic war.

The story that Packer illuminates allows the audience to shift from a general political stance to something far more tangible and specific: sadness, despair, outrage or just plain anger at the US government's moral and bureaucratic abandonment of the Iraqi civilians who risked their lives to help the US effort BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED IN AMERICA.

By the time the curtain falls on Adnan's soliloquy, the audience is stunned into heavy silence, brought to a place beyond consolation. Packer's Betrayed is drama beyond redemption. It presents a glimpse of hell, tragedy as a darkened funhouse whose roof is caving in and whose floor has rotted away.

And the culprit, the demented grand carnival master, is not the Germans or the Russians or the Japanese or Lady Macbeth this time, but the Americans.

The United States.