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June 14, 2011

Celebrity and Sex

Roy Meachum

The media flurry over New York Rep. Anthony Weiner barely ruffled a hair in my beard. The pregnancy of his high-profile wife might save his seat in Congress, at least at this writing. National commentaries exercise themselves violently over a victimless “crime.”


Democrat Weiner found an electronic way to perpetuate Henry Kissinger’s saying “power is the great aphrodisiac.” My life in show biz expands the phrase to “celebrity.” As a blond, teen-age disc jockey and TV journalist I enjoyed the attention of girls and women not attracted to my looks alone. As I wrote earlier, my friendship with Eddie Fisher at the height of his fame introduced another dimension: An older woman took the singer’s middle finger into her mouth.


La vie politique never lacked for examples. John Edwards appeared in court last week charged with diverting campaign funds to his mistress and their child. My mind blurs in trying to recall sexual scandals. In my Washington journalism days, I covered Rep. Wilber Mill’s alcoholic fling with Argentinean stripper Fanne Foxe (born Annabelle Battisella) who dunked in the Reflecting Pool – without clothes naturally.


In Guayaquil, Ecuador, Elisabeth Ray’s scantily clad body stretched out across four columns of the local paper; I was relieved, hoping the hubris would be reported by someone else. The stink with House Administration Chairman Wayne Hayes’ receptionist Ray heated up when I reported to the Washington TV station I worked. I caught an on-camera interview with the woman who proudly proclaimed she couldn’t type, file or even answer the telephone.


Another Hill employee broke into tears in a studio interview when she told of legislative liaison days – for which she was eminently qualified – for a Texas congressman who never publicly admitted summoning her into his private office. In the course of that story, Massachusetts colleague Tip O’Neill stared straight into the lens and lied, his startling blue eyes brimmed with tears. The newly elected House speaker swore he had known the man for 19 years and he had never had an affair.


Then there was the night I vainly waited for the White House to call-to assist campaigning Lyndon Johnson with his loss of voice. The next morning’s Washington Post front-page published the story explaining the silence in my office and home. The president’s closest assistant and family friend Walter Jenkins was arrested for soliciting a male for a sexual encounter. His target happened to be a D.C. cop. These were the scandals that directly involved me. There were, of course, others.


Republicans and Democrats, homosexual or straight grabbed the headlines when celebrity affairs no longer made headlines.


In the most publicized mixture of both venues, Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe saw each other under the collective nose of reporters. No media story appeared, because of a truce that insisted politicians deserved private lives. The truce existed when Warren Harding swept willing Nan Britton off to a White House closet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was comforted by a mistress who was present in Warm Springs, Georgia, the day he died.


The only 19th Century twice elected president, Grover Cleveland, reached Washington in spite of his opposition’s song: “Hey Ma, Where’s Pa? Gone to the White House! Haw, Haw, Haw!” He stepped forward to claim a child who probably was fathered by the bachelor’s law partner. Andrew Jackson instigated a duel because of an insensitive remark questioning Mrs. Jackson’s honor.


Considering the past celebrity scandals, Anthony Weiner’s texting pictures of him barely clothed became a big deal because the hot weather generally generates a spasm in news. In this particular case, he will never be elected mayor of New York for stupidity, not salaciousness.


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