Local Reactions Range From Absorption to Avoidance
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 1999; Page A12
No sooner had the juicy details begun to pour from Monica Lewinsky's lips than the catty commentary began to fill Aviva Kempner's living room in Northwest Washington.
"You think she had her teeth whitened?" Kempner asked.
"She has a very good person doing her eyebrows," Lisa-Beth Harris noted.
Others speculated on whether she had gained weight.
For much of Washington, Barbara Walters's interview last night with the infamous intern was must-see TV. Although many of the details had long been public knowledge, this was Lewinsky's first chance to reveal all about her relationship with President Clinton on her own terms.
In bars and restaurants, police stations and stores, throngs of voyeurs and viewers tuned in, including seven people Kempner had invited over to watch the spectacle.
Lewinsky didn't disappoint.
Sounding at times like a Clinton confidante, a Clinton apologist and a Clinton psychologist, Lewinsky said: "I think he is a very sensuous man who has a lot of sensuous feelings. And I think he also had a very strong religious upbringing. And I think he struggles, too I think he struggles with his sensuality, because I don't think he thinks it's okay. I think he tries to hold himself back and then can't anymore."
She said she considered the president her "sexual soulmate."
"Now, that's a good line. Remember that," said Annette Polan, a painter who watched with Kempner.
Lewinsky talked about her own sexuality. "From the beginning, there was a very intense sexual attraction, and I don't necessarily think a sexual attraction is a bad thing," she said. "I didn't feel that way and I still don't."
Polan said, "She really has been to a good shrink."
Lewinsky talked about how tough it was to grow up in Beverly Hills with a weight problem. She talked about the infamous blue dress. She apologized to the country for her role in the scandal.
Maggie Robbins, a collage artist and art therapist who was visiting from New York, remarked, "She's taken on so much herself. It's just ridiculous that the burden falls on her, that she should have to apologize to the American people."
Although the interview prompted a good amount of giggling, there were some serious issues beneath it all.
"To me, it is really the phenomenon of women wanting to get together," said Kempner, a documentary filmmaker. "I think for months we've been talking about Monica and hearing about her, and we're absolutely furious about Linda Tripp. For women who have true friendships with their female friends, the Linda Tripp-Monica Lewinsky friendship is one of the great betrayals. We want to hear Monica talk about it."
As for Tripp, Lewinsky seemed to take the high ground, saying only: "I pity her. I wouldn't want to be her."
Carol Ross Joynt, owner of Nathan's in Georgetown, watched the interview with a neighbor at home.
"I wasn't planning on having a Monica party, but I started thinking about it," she said. "In a way, this is the end of the whole affair, and tonight is the last big moment. I'm going to light a fire in the fireplace, put up my feet and watch the predictable. We've heard it all. [But] for me, it's much more interesting than the Super Bowl."
After seeing about an hour's worth, Joynt said she and her neighbor "were both very impressed."
"I don't know that it needed two hours," Joynt said. "But Monica is holding up beautifully. She's very genuine, great hair and makeup. Holding her own in an interview with Barbara Walters is no small thing."
At a few places around town, it was March Madness vs. Monica Madness and Monica was losing out. At Mister Day's in downtown Washington, more than 60 televisions were tuned to basketball, and only two to the Monica interview.
"No one was watching it; everyone was watching the tournaments," manager Terry Mooney said.
But back at Kempner's home, Lewinsky ended up with favorable ratings.
"I thought she came off very sympathetic. She's going to have her own TV show," Kempner said. "It's her sense of humor that is charming. I've been saying it for a year now: She's going to be a host on MTV."
The women also commended Lewinsky for her poise.
"Very presidential," Robbins quipped.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company