A case of Beverly Hills meets D.C. Intern: Is Monica Lewinsky a naif, an attention-seeker or a vamp? It depends on whom you ask.

January 28, 1998|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF dTC Sun contributing writer Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON — An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported when former White House aide Mary Ellen Glynn learned of the reasons for Monica Lewinsky's transfer from the White House staff to the Pentagon. Glynn did not learn of the details of the transfer until this year.

The Sun regrets the error.

WASHINGTON -- When she finally emerged from hiding this week, there was little to see of Monica Lewinsky but an elusive figure in a black town car, her long dark hair hanging lushly by her face, her stony expression easing slightly into a smile as her lawyer chatted with her.

A week into the presidential crisis, this image was watched with rapt attention by an international audience. By then, the woman from the Land of Hollywood had become as famous as a movie star.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But the picture of the 24-year-old former White House intern remains incomplete, open to countless, often contradictory, interpretations. Lewinsky is both a starry-eyed naif and an attention-seeking drama queen. She is -- depending on the source -- a vamp, an ingenue, a stalker, an innocent.

One moment she is reportedly sending salacious e-mails to co-workers and boasting freely about her love affairs with older men. The next, she is working nearly 568 hours of overtime in a single year, striving mightily to succeed in the political arena.

The contradictions are greatest, of course, in her version of an alleged sexual relationship with President Clinton. In secretly taped conversations with co-worker Linda R. Tripp, she describes an 18-month sexual liaison with the president, but in a sworn affidavit she denies the affair. On the tapes, Lewinsky alleges that Clinton and his friend, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., tried to persuade her to lie about the purported liaison.

From the start, this was Beverly Hills meets Washington. The daughter of a Los Angeles cancer specialist and a mother who wrote about the sex lives of opera stars, Lewinsky arrived at the White House in 1995 as an unpaid intern in the correspondence office of then-chief of staff Leon E. Panetta. That break came thanks to a family friend, Democratic fund-raiser Walter Kaye.

After a stint as an intern, Lewinsky got a paying job in the Office of Legislative Affairs, where she delivered documents to top-ranking White House officials.

It was during that time that she had the greatest potential access to Clinton, with entree to the West Wing. Her behavior in this period raised eyebrows at the White House, where there is an interest in painting her in an unflattering light, the better to discredit the claims she made to Tripp.

A White House co-worker remembers Lewinsky as "immature," saying she arrived at a 1996 White House Christmas party "all dressed in a pink dress with a bow, cut down to here." Her interest in the president, and her manner, were seen as "over the top," the co-worker said.

Favoring short skirts, tight blouses and low cuts, Lewinsky got the nickname "the stalker" because she liked to get close to the president, the co-worker says. The now-famous shot of Lewinsky in a DKNY beret hugging Clinton in a crowd was just one instance -- other staffers remember her mooning about the Roosevelt Room hoping for a chance encounter with the commander in chief.

In 1996, Evelyn Lieberman, a former White House deputy chief of staff, complained to her aide, Mary Ellen Glynn, that Lewinsky's habit of trailing the president looked improper.

"There are people we would call a 'clutch' -- they come to events trying to see the president, get a glimpse of the president, hang around trying to go to events they shouldn't go to," says Glynn, a former White House deputy press secretary. "We noticed that Monica Lewinsky was trying to do this. She kept making her way back to the West Wing."

Fed up with what she reportedly saw as Lewinsky's lack of professionalism, Lieberman urged the transfer of the young woman from the White House to the Pentagon's press office.

"Evelyn saw Ms. Lewinsky in the halls and yelled at her, 'Get back to your post, do your work,' and she didn't do it," Glynn said. "Evelyn said, 'Enough is enough. Your behavior is inappropriate.' "

Although co-workers said she was distraught about the move, Lewinsky still got a job working near high-ranking officials in the Pentagon's so-called power ring. She was a loyalist who kept a picture of Clinton by her desk. But she was seen by some colleagues as no more ardent an admirer of the president than many others.

"She was bright, she was intelligent, she worked incredibly hard for the money she made," says Col. Dick Bridges, a Pentagon spokesman, noting that Lewinsky earned $32,736 but collected $13,000 in overtime in 1997. "But she didn't seem overly interested" in Clinton.

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