Make it up, Joe, but make it bad

Kevin Cowherd

July 30, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

The latest media feeding frenzy has everyone taking shots at Joe McGinniss' new biography of Teddy Kennedy: "A Graying, Fat Guy Who Still Gets the Babes."

Actually the book is called "The Last Brother" and, boy, is it controversial, with McGinniss accused of sloppy research, outright fabrication, stealing from other works on the Kennedys and a total disregard for the truth.

Hey, picky, picky, picky.

Look, you want facts, go to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, OK?

Besides, what kind of a country do we live in where you can't even accuse someone of being a boorish, overweight, drunken philanderer without getting into trouble?

What is this, Cuba?

Look, if a writer has to worry about a lawsuit every single time he smears the character of a U.S. senator by accusing him of being a sniveling, immoral ne'er-do-well, well, I'm sorry, but something is seriously wrong here.

What's the point of writing if you can't upset people? Where's the . . . I don't know . . . fun?

Another thing: If we start demanding things like accuracy and integrity from our biographers, people like Kitty Kelley will be working at a Sizzler's the next day.

Kelley, you'll recall, wrote that scathing bio on Nancy Reagan, in which she claimed the former first lady and Frank Sinatra would regularly rendezvous at the White House to, uh, look at Nancy's etchings, if you catch my drift.

Preposterous, right? Let's face it: What would Nancy see in Old Blue Eyes with a sharp looker like Ronnie Reagan around?

A man who, it should be noted, already called her "Mommy."

J. Randy Taraborrelli's infamous bio of Michael Jackson also seemed to play a little fast and loose with the facts.

Taraborrelli claimed it was Jackson's horrible childhood with a domineering father that eventually drove the reclusive superstar burst into the offices of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, waving a picture of a young Diana Ross and screaming: "Here! Make me look like her!"

Well, maybe.

Then again, Michael and his old man have been estranged for years and Jackson still walks around in heavy makeup, a Marlene Dietrich hairdo and get-ups found only on the planet Romulus.

My point is, if you told Taraborrelli he could no longer write unsubstantiated gossip and idle conjecture, the man would be working the full-serve island at a Hess station in no time.

If we can get back to McGinniss, though, his book is taking a predictable pounding in the media.

Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley, for one, wrote: "Not merely is 'The Last Brother' a textbook example of shoddy journalistic and publishing ethics; it is also a genuinely, unrelievedly rotten book, one without a single redeeming virtue, an embarrassment that should bring nothing except shame to everyone associated with it."

Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan . . . isn't it time you took a stand here, buddy?

Either you like the book or you don't. Please, we've had it up to here with these wishy-washy reviews!

Sleaze addicts will be disappointed to hear that McGinniss' book contains no startling new revelations about Ted Kennedy.

C'mon, what were we gonna find out?

That the guy used to drive too fast over bridges?

That he never met a Dewars and water he didn't like?

That he thinks nothing of greeting his nephew's female houseguests at 2 a.m. while wearing nothing but his underwear?

Hey, tell me something I don't know, Joe. Get back to me when you have something on Teddy sacrificing a goat on a charred altar at Hyannisport, or parading in a low-cut cocktail dress through the Senate cafeteria, or having a 12-year affair with Sen. Howell T. Heflin of Alabama.

You see what I'm saying, Joe?

Gimme some real dirt on the guy.

Speaking of shocking, here's something that's hard to believe: NBC is planning a movie on the book for next February. (Apparently David Letterman's defection was a little harder on the folks at 30 Rockefeller Plaza than we thought.)

I can see it now: "George Peppard as the dissipated hedonist Ted Kennedy! Farah Fawcett as the devoted mother and long-suffering alcoholic Joan Kennedy! Drew Barrymore as the busty, promiscuous Senate page whom Kennedy seduces on the floor of his Capitol Hill office!

"Sunday at 9, right after 'Ghost Dad!' "

Thank God, you can always count on TV to keep things tasteful.

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