File this under “be careful what you wish for.”
Last week, Monica Lewinsky took her act to London. She went hawking her new book, her new makeover, her new staff of publicists and managers and, she hoped, her newly swelling pocketbook, which stands to grow by millions if she is a success.
She longs for that, of course. Success. Even more, she longs to be a successful victim. It beats working for a living, which, at last glance, Monica was having a hard time doing. When the president can’t help you get a job, you know your marketability is low.
Which leads a person to London. Because, in recent memory, there is no more storied victim than Princess Diana. Monica deliberately chose Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, to write her book, hoping he could cast the slightly ditsy daughter of a California doctor as a fallen princess, too. Monica says she is like Diana because “I was also wronged by a man I loved.”
Of course, Diana happened to be married to her wrongdoer, not meeting him for a quickie in the hallways.
This is not a small detail. But it didn’t seem to register, until she crossed the Atlantic and emerged in the glitzy glassware section of Harrod’s — owned, of course, by the father of Diana’s star-crossed lover, Dodi al-Fayed — for her first international book signing, a chance for the princess-wanna-be to meet her adoring subjects.
What she met instead were the paparazzi. Be careful what you wish for.
They hounded her. They screamed and popped flashbulbs. They yelled at her to look this way and that. One reportedly asked whether she would assume the position that made her famous. After all, you ask a boxer to put up his fists. You ask an intern who is famous for having oral sex to …
Well, you get the idea.
This was not the sympathetic reaction Monica was hoping for. Within minutes, she fled in tears.
Because this was England and because this was Harrod’s, the photographers were scolded, then banished. Silence was demanded. A team of 12 bodyguards with Marine-type haircuts arrived to enforce the gag. When Monica re-emerged, it was to a library-quiet scene. The people in line got a total of three seconds with the intern-princess and were not permitted to speak. Just slide the book in, get it signed and move on. No personalization. No fraternization. Someone likened it to a third-grade reading test.
The rest of the week didn’t go much better. Monica granted an interview to a newspaper — she is being paid handsomely for most of these, another reason American victims go to Europe — but the writer likened Monica to someone “you might choose to sew the lining into your dining room curtains.”
Monica stopped giving interviews.
Now, I am glad this happened. And I hope the rest of the Monica-Across-The-World tour is a disaster. I am not without sympathy for Lewinsky. And I despise Bill Clinton’s behavior. But I am more concerned for my country.
And what concerns me about my country is this: With her Barbara Walters interview, her Time magazine cover, her invitation to the Oscars, her team of hairstylists and makeup artists and the millions of dollars she now stands to make, Monica is creating the image of a desirable existence. She suggests to our citizens that this is a pretty good way to go. Have a fling with an important person, make a bundle.
In short, a lesson in American history that should disgust and repel people may instead have them asking, “Where do I sign up?”
Lewinsky lives in a fantasy world, where what she did is quickly forgiven because she mixed love into the equation. She is self-deluded, and so, too, are more and more of our countrymen. We tell ourselves we are the victims, deserving of sympathy. We think we are entitled to things because of that, like big lawsuits and fame.
TV talk shows have spawned this. Lawyers have spawned this. Now, even our president has spawned it. Former spokesman George Stephanopoulos has his own book in which he is the victim, led astray by a president he believed in.
Excuse me. Does anybody in this country take responsibility for his actions anymore?
I guess not. Not when by playing the victim you get publicists and bodyguards and lots of money and even someone to shush the paparazzi. Of course, were Princess Di still alive, she might warn people that this famous victim thing is not all it’s cracked up to be. But then, she’s not here, is she?
As one person who waited hours for Monica’s autograph said, “Now we know what we need to do to get famous.”