Judy Chavez is writing a book, but she's got the wrong medium. Her saga cries for sitcomization. Already, one can see the TV page for next season.
"Arkady and Me," Channel 4 (Premier). Wacky escort-service hostess refuses to go out with boring old Russian defector, but changes her mind when CIA offers her a new Corvette and a trip to the Virgin Islands.
The show is imaginary (so far), but the book is on the way. Judy Chavez announced this at a press conference yesterday. She announced very little else. Anxious PR folk whisked heir hot property from public view after allowing all of 10 minutes of display. Crazed reporters were left bellowing. "Who? What? When?" and other W's into the empty air. Soon they took to interviewing each other out of frustration. Here was a stroy with spooks, sex and money (taxpayers' money, yet) and all Chavez wanted to do was plug her book.
"Judy's had a very difficult week," said her PR man, Jack Gleason of Washington, at the start of the very short proceedings.
Difficult but full. Chavez was all over the TV dial this week, even without a sitcom contract. She popped up on NBC News Monday night to inform America that she's been living it up on CIA money ($30,000 to $40,000 worth) with this Arkady Schevchenko, who'd walked away from his senior UN job and into the CIA shadows.
Then her name arose at President Carter's news conference. he jokingly dismissed her contention about where the money came from. "If the figures the woman quoted were accurate, which they aren't, it would highly inflationary, contrary to my policy there." Carter said that Shevchenko had other sources of income (he's writing a book, too, naturally) and that his CIA money didn't equal "what the woman said was paid for her services or favors."
This apparently got Judy mad. A reporter asked her response to Carter's statement yesterday and she actually answered the question. "I do not believe the President of the United States needs to resort to locker-room humor," she huffed. She said Carter was inaccurate and that she would substantiate her claims about the CIA money.
Chavez has showed up a half-hour late in the hotel ballroom where the press conference was scheduled. An attractive young woman who wore a demure burgundy dress, gold bracelets, and carefully applied makeup, Chavez was accompanied by PR consultant Gleason, a lawyer, a literary agent, the editior in chief of Dell Publishing and Dell's PR director.
They sat down at a table the cameras rolled. Gleason laid down some grounds rules, which included "no questions relating to Mr. Shevchenko's activities at the UN" and "no questions relating to Judy Chavez' personal life," which, of course, were the only questions one wished to ask.
Then he introduced his client, revealing that her full name is Judity Taylor Chavez. He said she would make a short statement and answer a few questions.
"MY purpose is to announce that I'm writing a book . . ." Chavez began in a barely audible voice. "Speak up! Speak up!" people yelled. "Down in front."
Chavez said that her book, to be published by Dell, would cover in considerable detail her relationship with Arkady Shevchenko. She also said that she had evidence that the money Shevchenko gave her came from the CIA. She said she had received and kept 40 hundred-dollar bills that are sequentially numbered.
"I was suspicious I was being paid in government funds," she said. "My suspicions were confirmed when two FBI men told me the money was channeled through Arkady Shevchenko by the CIA."
That was about it for her statement. About six questions were allowed by Gleason, who non-answered a few himself.
"Were you a good investment?" someone salaciously asked her. "let Arkady and the CIA make that judgement," Gleason said.
Then, "Did you love him?"
"I was fond of Arkady."
"Why did you blow the whistle?"
"I was placed in a precarious situation and decided to explore every option," she said. "There was too much pressure on me . . . I thought this was the only way out."
Gleason had more to add. "Every time she turned around she was being briefed by the CIA and FBI," he said. She felt she was being harassed and was in jeopardy.
"How did you meet Arkady?"
"I met him through my escort service."
"One more question," said Gleason.
It was a reprise of the sentimental favorite, "Are you in love with him?" which again drew an "I'm still fond of Arkady," followed by Gleason's "ladies and gentlemen, thank you," and the hurried departure of Chavez and friends toward profitable seclusion and reportial bellows of pain.
Out in the hall, the reporters besieged Chavez' literary agent, Lucianne Goldberg, and the Dell team, editor-in-chief William Grose and PR director Jane Heller, who'd stayed behind but didn't appear to know too much. It was gleaned that the Chavez-Shevchenko affair lasted about six months, that Chavez may or may not be from Alabama, that she's 22, that she's separated from her husband, Taylor, whoever he is, that the CIA claims it picked her escort service out of the yellow pages and that Chavez has never said she is a prostitute (in answer to the question, is she a prostitute?)
Grose, asked virtually any question about the book arrangements, answered "no comment." There will be a ghostwriter, however; that much can be disclosed.
The spirit of the day was perhaps best encapsulated when Lucianne Goldberg was asked if she could say where, approximately, Chavez was going to write her book.
"Well, it's in the world," she said.
Around that time, a small army of NYU journalism students, ordered to attend the press conference as a field exercise, invaded the hall, found that they missed Chavez, and began interviewing the reporters, many of whom were still trying to interview the re-retinue. By then, it all seemed perfectly logical.