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The Nation's Listed Lewinskys,
Answering the Call of Unwanted Fame

By Mark Leibovich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 1998; Page B06

Like Vincent van Gogh, Fannie Lewinsky didn't become famous until after she died. It took several years, an oversight and a coincidence of namesakes.

But since Monica Lewinsky has become a household name, Fannie, who passed away in 1992, has been the subject of relentless media inquiries, bad jokes and crank phones calls.

It seems her daughter-in-law, who lives in Fannie's former home in Washington, N.J., never changed the listing in the phone book. Now her quiet, unassuming mother-in-law is receiving more phone calls than when she was alive.

The daughter-in-law, whose last name is also Lewinsky, would not give her first name lest she invite even more attention. But it's a moot point. "Everyone calls me 'Monica' now anyway," she says.

Dorothy Lewinsky of Bellingham, Mass., feels her pain. So does Lorraine Lewinsky of Bainbridge Township, Ohio, Stanley Lewinski of Queens, N.Y. (different spelling, but close enough), and Steve Lewinsky, owner of Lewinsky's Iron and Metal in Milwaukee.

None of them is related to the former White House intern who is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with President Clinton. We know this because it's the first thing they say. But they are nonetheless collateral victims of Monica's sudden infamy.

"It's not easy being a Lewinsky these days," says Terry Lewinsky, of the Mendon, Mass., Lewinskys, who learned of the scandal when a USA Today reporter called her early on the morning the story broke to ask if she was related to Monica.

Her teenage daughter bears a resemblance to that Lewinsky, she says, which makes her wonder what she would do if she were Monica's mother. "For starters, I wouldn't be talking to reporters," she says.

The Lewinsky plight is exacerbated by a confluence of factors: a fiercely competitive media, the advent of Internet databases and, inevitably, the emergence of crank callers whenever such mass obsessions take hold.

Few callers are clever. "People call me and ask for Bill Clinton," says Anna Lewinsky of Bristol, Pa. Other Lewinskys report repeated calls for "Monica" from people claiming to be the president or independent counsel Ken Starr.

Of course, there are calls from faux Hillary Rodham Clintons, too. And boy, are they mad.

"This cranky woman who says she's Hillary keeps calling," says an Ohio Lewinsky who asked not to be further identified. "I wish she'd stop."

"It's really been quite extraordinary," says George Lewinski of Berkeley, Calif., who describes his wife, Alice Gopnik, as "relieved" she kept her own name.

Lewinski, an editor and commentator for the NPR business news program "Marketplace," has been looking for a connection to satisfy curious callers. "I think I once met a woman whose half brother is Monica's father," he offers plaintively.

Some Lewinskys look for the bright side of their recent notoriety. They are less likely to have to spell their names, for one.

"I made reservations on the phone last night, and it's never been easier," Terry Lewinsky exults.

Plus, it could be worse -- she could be a Linda Tripp.

"No one trusts me," complains Linda Tripp, a real estate agent in Moorhead, Minn. "Everyone asks me if I'm wired."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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