WASHINGTON -- The Great Scandal Machine never rests. You lived (or yawned) through the impeachment of a president. Now comes the big-buck payoff -- books, TV interviews, and for all I know, movies, videos and a Broadway musical.
Hey, nobody ever went broke selling illicit sex, especially soft porn with a presidential seal.
Get ready for the Marketing of Monica.
There's no way to escape this week's commercial spin of Ms. Lewinsky: The Barbara Walters interview on ABC, a $660,000 interview on British TV and the book you've waited for, "Monica's Story."
Scandal-weary skeptics might ask: Haven't we heard enough? After all, the Rodeo Drive Princess painted her X-rated scenes for independent counsel Ken Starr's report. She appeared, demurely and tersely, on Senate trial videotape.
But TV moguls and publishers are betting Monica Monomania is insatiable. And Our Little Girl has to pay those mean old lawyers, doesn't she?
Sure, one motive for Monica Redux is TV obsession with sweeps weeks, when ad rates depend on pumped-up viewership. I suspect that's why NBC popped up with Wednesday's "Jane Doe No. 5" tale of an ancient, alleged Clinton rape.
The sly promotion of All-Monica Week mimics the way Detroit once peddled new car models -- ads hinting at sleek tail fins and marvelous horsepower. The Monica tease is so much like a honky-tonk strip act, you can imagine a chorus of "Night Train."
Thus, we have John Snow, whose Monica interview on Britain's Channel Four has been sold in 32 countries, telling TV Guide: "She's a brilliant TV presence, telling how she was raped by the U.S. Constitution. . . . She blames Linda Tripp for pushing her near suicide."
Ms. Walters, whose two-hour interview airs coincidentally on Wednesday's final sweeps night, tops Mr. Snow's rhapsody. "She's open, expressive, very touching, funny, articulate. This is no Valley Girl."
That's the theme of Monica Week hype: Instead of a foxy, thong-snapping Linda Lovelace, Ms. Lewinsky has the smarts of Gloria Steinem and the charm of a Jane Austen heroine.
The reality? Ms. Lewinsky was a starstruck adulteress who stalked a married president -- not hard to do, it turned out -- and stupidly spilled all to a woman hell-bent on destroying him.
But in the Walters interview, according to Washington Post leaks, Ms. Lewinsky insists she doesn't feel "cheap." She thinks of herself as a "loyal person," one shattered by her parents' divorce who "needs lots of attention." She no longer "loves" Mr. Clinton but feels "warm toward him."
Ms. Lewinsky says her tawdry romps with Mr. Clinton were "exciting" -- as if providing sex to a president while he talks on the phone with congressmen was a Neiman-Marcus shopping trip. She says Mr. Clinton "struggles with his sexuality." But not over-strenuously.
What Ms. Lewinsky doesn't say in either the Snow or Walters gabfest is that she's angry -- not with Clinton but with Mr. Starr, who treated her mom shabbily. Quite cleverly, he barred Ms. Lewinsky from bad-mouthing his tactics.
Well, as Ecclesiastes reminds, there's nothing new under the sun. There were kiss-and-tell presidential mistresses before Ms. Lewinsky. The prototype was Nan Britton, who penned a 1927 book, "The President's Daughter," about her romance with Warren G. Harding.
According to Britton's steamy memoir, she was 2l when the affair with Harding began. Famously, she claimed they made love in a broom closet (sound familiar?) while aides headed off an intrusion by Florence Harding. Britton wrote about hotel trysts with Harding that produced an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Ann.
Some historians scoff at Britton's tale, pointing to her lack of love letters or records.
Poor Britton, she was pre-Monica. What if Britton's heavy-breathing tale hit the media in the 1990s? She'd be a star on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, courted by network biggies, awash in publishing millions.
Ms. Lewinsky made a piker out of other political mistresses -- Gennifer Flowers, Judith Exner, Mary Peck (who claimed a relationship with Woodrow Wilson) and Maria Halpin, whose "Story of a Working Woman's Wrongs" confessed her affair with Grover Cleveland.
For better or worse, Ms. Lewinsky's global impact was inflated by media technology, celebrity culture and political warfare. Snap a thong, kaboom, you're famous.
In the Walters interview, Ms. Lewinsky reportedly apologizes to America for the country's ordeal.
Listen, babe, if you're going to apologize to anybody, try Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
Unlike gushing Ms. Walters, I doubt if they'd compare you to Joan of Arc.
Sandy Grady is Washington columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.
Pub Date: 3/01/99