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William Ginsburg/Reuters
William Ginsburg (Reuters)

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_ Lewinsky Replaces Ginsburg (Washington Post, June 3)

_ Key Player: William Ginsburg

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Bye Bye, Bill: The Lawyer Exits the Limelight

By Lloyd Grove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 3, 1998; Page D01

Billy, we hardly knew ye.

But what we did know seemed like more than enough.

When William Ginsburg first captured public attention in January as Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, he was a little-known medical malpractice attorney from Los Angeles -- unschooled in the ways of Washington and unaccustomed to the burdens of great celebrity. As the White House sex scandal involving his client and President Clinton blossomed into a national crisis, Ginsburg quickly became the most publicized lawyer on the planet (far surpassing even the relentless sound-bite-mongering of the redoubtable Alan Dershowitz).

But yesterday -- in a cruel twist of, well, could it have been sanity? -- Ginsburg was terminated with extreme prejudice from his life in the limelight and banished to the netherworld whence he came -- a dark land of bungled nose jobs and botched hysterectomies. In other words, Lewinsky sent him packing. It will be, for some, an irrecoverable loss.

"I'm the most famous person in the world," Ginsburg declared not so long ago, when Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw were eagerly assessing the impact of his every pronouncement.

It didn't matter if he was sharing a reverie about his client's anatomy with Time magazine -- "I kissed that girl's inner thighs when she was six days old. I said, 'Look at those little pulkies,' " -- or explaining to The Washington Post why he arranged for her to pose for sexy fashion photos: "You have to realize that a 24-year-old girl who's imprisoned, her ego, her libido, her mind imprisoned by [independent counsel] Ken Starr and the press . . . begins to feel that her self-worth is diminishing. So she's starting to get depressed. So the avuncular friend, the surrogate father, has to figure out ways to get her back to par. One of the ways is to express her beauty."

It leaves one inconsolable to acknowledge that this idiosyncratic American voice -- arguably every bit as American as Frank Sinatra's, but much more annoying -- has finally been stilled. It is difficult to accept that no television network, no media organization of any kind, will likely have any interest in anything this avuncular friend ever says again. But the Grim Reaper of Fame will not be denied: The time has come for William Ginsburg to shut up.

He was, in his day, the most quoted attorney on Earth. Who can forget the history-making moment back in February when Ginsburg set a world record for Sunday talk show appearances -- granting interviews to all five major programs (the top four broadcast networks and CNN) within a few breathless hours?

And who can forget the best of Ginsburg's pronouncements, epigrammatic in their elegance yet utterly zany:

"If the president of the United States did this -- and I'm not saying that he did -- with this young lady, I think he's a misogynist. If he didn't, then I think Ken Starr and his crew have ravaged the life of a youngster."

"It's always possible that I'm not as good as Alan Dershowitz, but I don't think so. I could have put Mike Tyson in jail just as well as he did."

Starr "may have succeeded in unmasking a sexual relationship between two consenting adults."

"Back off."

Godspeed, William Ginsburg.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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