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Lewinsky Pulled Back Into Washington

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  • By Amy Goldstein
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, January 25, 1999; Page C01

    She's been eking out a bicoastal existence, hovering -- as so often she has -- between the glittery worlds of her father in Los Angeles and her mother in New York.

    And by the odd norm of her fierce final months in Washington, her life has taken a quieter turn. There are long sessions in both cities with her celebrity biographer. And when she steps out to dinner in Beverly Hills or off Central Park, only occasionally does her presence at a chic restaurant precipitate a scene.

    But yesterday, Monica Samille Lewinsky found herself pulled back into Washington, back into the headlines, back into the hands of her political nemeses.

    This time she was sequestered not inside the Watergate apartment she relinquished last fall but inside the Mayflower Hotel, where she met face-to-face with a trio of House of Representatives impeachment managers and a handful of top deputies to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. She was, in other words, cooped up in a $235-a-night, mahogany-filled room in one of the city's most luxurious hotels, directly across Connecticut Avenue from her lawyer's office and just five blocks from the White House.

    And as usual during the tensest moments of the scandal she helped to create, Lewinsky was firmly under her mother's protective wing. Accompanied by her new husband, R. Peter Straus, Marcia Lewis took the train from Manhattan Saturday and stayed with her daughter at the Mayflower. Yesterday morning, mother and daughter walked through the vast marble lobby into the chandelier-studded dining room. Daughter had two pancakes and orange juice for breakfast.

    By mid-afternoon, when the three congressmen slipped in through a doorway off a side alley, the entrance was blocked by two police officers with canines and a few members of the Secret Service. The real commotion was out front, where dozens of camera crews -- and a smattering of passersby -- waited in the cool gray of the afternoon for news of what had transpired inside. It was a few minutes after 6 p.m. when the managers appeared, saying they had come away impressed with the "intelligence and poise" of the 25-year-old former intern whom they fervently want the entire Senate to meet.

    Monica was back.

    She'd arrived at Dulles from Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, the beret that had become one of most worn-out cliches in American popular culture replaced with a baseball cap bearing the initials of an independent film company. The firm, the Shooting Gallery, employs a 35-year-old lawyer named Jonathan Marshall, who is rumored to be a new beau.

    She was led away from the airfield directly, thwarting the thicket of reporters awaiting her at the main terminal.

    And with her return it became starkly evident just how absent Lewinsky had been. She was out of sight in September, when Congress released the report of Starr's investigation, opening the window onto Lewinsky's grand jury testimony and her secretly recorded conversations with friend-turned-betrayer Linda Tripp. She was out of sight, too, during the dramatic days last month when the House debated whether to impeach President Clinton, then voted to do so.

    She was here in October long enough to deliver a parting note to her neighbors as she moved from the apartment she once shared with her mother in the Watergate South. "As I depart 700 New Hampshire, I wanted to apologize for the inconveniences of the past nine months," she wrote, alluding to the media crowd that had camped outside in hopes of a glimpse. "I hope you all know how very sorry I am that so much attention was brought to the building. Best wishes, Monica."

    Yesterday, several friends from her Beverly Hills childhood said she had settled back into nearby Brentwood. Few had been in direct touch with her lately, and they were unsure even whether she had moved in with her father or taken an apartment of her own.

    "I imagine she's probably careful about where she goes and what she does. It's not just like popping in for dinner anymore," one old friend said. Said another: "I've heard Monica sightings -- friends of friends who've seen her around L.A. -- at this restaurant or that.

    "At least she's getting out more, so that's good."

    In New York, her outings at times still are chaotic.

    On a single day in November, she, her mother and her stepfather ran into trouble at two trendy Manhattan restaurants, where they were spotted by photographers. And last month the New York Daily News reported that she was seen "hysterically crying, freaking out in the bathroom" at the Shooting Gallery's Christmas party in Greenwich Village, apparently overwhelmed by paparazzi who had stuck their cameras too close.

    Lewinsky has not worked since she left Washington. But she signed contracts for an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters at an uncertain date and for a book describing her affair with Clinton that is being written by Andrew Morton, a British writer who also was Princess Diana's biographer.

    Reached yesterday, Sally Richardson, publisher of St. Martin's Press, which is handling the book's U.S. distribution, said Morton had "spent a lot of time with her -- weeks and weeks in L.A., in N.Y." She said the writing "is pretty far along," but that until the Senate decides how long the president's trial will last, it remains uncertain if the book will come out next month, as planned.

    She said the book would not appear "until the end of the trial and some resolution. . . . It's unprecedented circumstances. We're playing it very loose."

    So even as Lewinsky's life has gravitated elsewhere, the roiling political events of Washington are foiling her attempt to tell her story from her own vantage point -- let alone to find a job and really get on with her life.

    Lewinsky, of course, had been eager to move on from the nation's capital well over a year ago, months before the scandal hit. She was tired of the pace, tired of the politics that -- while they came to interest her -- never had seemed her natural sphere. That, after all, is why Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan had been helping her search for a job in New York.

    But in plunging back into the maelstrom, she betrayed no outward sign of resentment early Saturday morning as she claimed her first-class window seat on the United Airlines flight from Los Angeles. Tom Koenig, traveling to Washington from Hawaii, thought he recognized the young woman tossing her bags next to him, then glimpsed the familiar name on the ticket as she climbed into the seat.

    She was knitting a gift for a cousin as they talked about movies they had seen, about his toddler son, about why she had never learned to play golf, Koenig told WTOP radio. "Well," he added, "I guess she's human just like the rest of us."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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