London Queues To Meet Monica
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 10, 1999; Page C1
LONDON, March 9This time, the negotiations came first.
Monday, Monica Lewinsky, who had just arrived here for a three-week book tour of Britain, was caught off guard during her first book signing at Harrods department store. As soon as she arrived, more than 200 photographers and reporters began barking orders, telling her where to go, what to do and how to pose -- "Look up!" "Come on, love!" they shouted. In a few minutes she fled into the glassware section in tears, and returned only after the cameras were gone.
But today there were about only 60 members of the media at the book signing at the Borders on Oxford Street. And after a good scolding from Lewinsky's handlers -- and assurances that she would look up this time -- they behaved.
"If anybody shouts anything, we're going to walk," a security guard announced as Lewinsky, 25, waited in a back room. "She'll be cooperative if you are. But if you shout at her, she won't," said a woman handling public relations for Lewinsky. "If you promise not to shout, she'll pose."
After about 10 minutes of such hectoring, Lewinsky emerged from a side door with a brilliant smile, wearing a navy blue dress covered by a matching long jacket. Her smile wobbled slightly as she sat down behind a table and the camera flashes flickered in her face. But it reappeared as she began signing books.
If Lewinsky thinks the American media are unrelenting, she's in for a shock. There is nothing the British love more than a sex scandal. And the press can't get enough of the salacious details. Her British media debut started out smoothly enough with a television interview last Thursday with the gray-haired Jon Snow, a news anchor for Channel 4 here. In contrast to the cozy giggle-fest Lewinsky had with Barbara Walters, Snow was comparatively cool and distant; he sounded as though he was interviewing the Swedish ambassador. Even his most lurid questions -- "He made you tingle?" -- were delivered with reserve.
But one of the two newspaper interviews she's granted was a disaster. Jan Moir of the Daily Telegraph said today that Lewinsky looked like someone "you might choose to sew the lining into your dining room curtains."
She's not giving out any more interviews for the time being, said Fiona Marsh, a spokeswoman for Michael O'Mara Books, which published "Monica's Story," written by Andrew Morton. Nor is she going out much. Marsh said she's been holed up in her hotel mostly, except for a dinner at Le Caprice, a modern British restaurant in South London, with the publisher and his wife Monday night. Marsh said Lewinsky had hoped to go shopping and see a show while she was here. But the hectoring of the British press and the intensity of the public response have encouraged her to stay inside, she said.
The book signings at Harrods and Borders have been the biggest each has had, said spokesmen for the stores. Harrods, where people started lining up at 6:30 a.m., sold more than 400 books at 16.99 English pounds (about $28). Borders sold more than 800. Books Etc. here (part of a chain owned by Borders), which held a book signing this evening, sold about 750. That event was briefly disrupted by a man wearing a Clinton mask. He shouted incoherently for about a minute before he was escorted out by security. Lewinsky didn't see him.
The people who stood in line, sometimes for hours, offered various reasons for coming to see her -- they wanted to see what she looked like in person, to have her signature for posterity, to give her a few words of encouragement.
"I wanted to see how other people outside America are dealing with this," said Liuba Shapiro, 20, a Georgetown University student on spring break, as she waited in line at Borders.
Oddly enough, she'd come to the wrong place. The crowds at Borders and Harrods were largely American, with an assortment of Europeans. One theology student said he'd skipped a class on sin to see her. "Now we all know what we need to do if we want to get famous," said Neal Patel, 24, of Illinois.
Many of those in line today were around Lewinsky's age. David Kagan, 23, and Kimie Heaney, 22, recently graduated from college in the United States and are traveling around Britain. They sat in front of the children's section at Borders holding two signs they had made the night before to express their feelings toward Lewinsky. "We support you Monica," read one. "Monica you [underlined twice] are the victim."
"She has become a big joke, and we just wanted to let her know we see the person behind the joke," said Kagan.
Doris Planeta, 22, of Michigan, started out feeling sympathetic though still critical of Lewinsky's behavior. But after a brief conversation with Lewinsky, she walked away a fan.
"She's a person now . . . not just a TV figure," Planeta said.
Most people got little more than a scribbled signature and a polite thank-you from Lewinsky. Only one got an inscription -- Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse mystery series, who was escorted to the front of the line at Borders. On the way out, he said he hadn't yet looked at her inscription: "I think she put 'With thanks,' but I'm going to hope all the way home she put 'With love.' "
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