The Washington Post

Gennifer Flowers: Bill Clinton may not have won without me

It’s sometimes best to fade into history.

That’s especially true if your claim to fame has been an affair with a famous politician who later became president. Case in point: Gennifer Flowers, who sold her sex stories about Bill Clinton to the tabloid “Star” and nearly derailed Clinton’s presidential bid in 1992. She appeared in Penthouse, landed a book deal and wrote the steamy “Gennifer Flowers: Passion & Betrayal” in 1995.

And now she’s back.

Gennifer Flowers appears on a New Orleans talk show.

Flowers appeared this week on New Orleans TV station WGNO in an interview with reporter Susan Roesgen, who once worked in Little Rock, where Flowers’s affair with Clinton occurred. In the interview, Roesgen pours Flowers a glass of red wine, since the interview is occurring in the “Twist Bar,” and the pair sets out to dish about General David Petraeus and the past.

“It amazes me that this type of thing continues to happen,” Flowers, now 62, said before going into her own history.

She said, “I made him [Clinton] a household name overnight. We had had that discussion. He said, ‘My problem right now is that no one knows who I am. I need that name recognition.’ He went on to talk about the other candidates and the advantages they had. When my story came out, he was a household name.”

“Are you serious?” Roesgen asked.

“I’m very serious,” Flowers said, before adding that Clinton contacted her as late as 2005 asking to see her.

She said that she told Clinton to leave her alone. (Helpful hint, Gennifer: Maybe you should stop trading on his name.)

Clinton may see his presidential campaign a lot differently. What presidential candidate would purposely use an affair to gain attention in a crowded primary as he headed into New Hampshire? Certainly not one as smart as Bill Clinton, with a loyal army of Clintonites and a wife who wanted to win the White House as much as he did. After all, an extramarital affair tanked Gary Hart’s presidential run just four years earlier. Extramarital sex didn’t play well in politics back in the 1990s, and it still wrecks careers 20 years later. Just ask Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Petraeus.

Flowers left Little Rock after Clinton became president and ended up in New Orleans. In 2003, I visited her night club “Gennifer Flowers Kelsto Club,” which was housed in a former brothel, during research for my book “Sex in the South: Unbuckling The Bible Belt.” Flowers hosted a night of erotic literature readings at the bar, which was adorned with plenty of pictures of her, including the cover of Penthouse. She sold white T-shirts with her image and a red lip print that she had branded as her logo. A sign on the bar stated, “No photographs of Gennifer Flowers may be taken by customers.”

When she entered the room, it was if a character had walked off the pages of a Jackie Collins novel. She wore a velvet and chiffon fringed shawl over a black dress with plunging neckline and funky black glasses with rhinestones edging the frames. She listened to poets read X-rated poems before singing some torch songs, including Peggy Lee’s “Fever.”

After Hurricane Katrina, Flowers left New Orleans and moved to Las Vegas. But she never gave up her Clinton connection. In 2008, she put the answering machine tapes with the Clinton conversations up for auction. That same year, she told the Associated Press that she would consider voting for Hillary Clinton.

Monica Lewinsky was reportedly shopping a book deal last fall. Would she spill more secrets about her steamy Oval Office relationship with Clinton in a tell-all book? With the 1990s women coming out of the woodwork, who’s left? Paula Jones?

Don’t be surprised. Jones and Flowers paired up in 2008 and created a website offering videos with lurid details of their encounters with Bill for $1.99 each. With Hillary’s name being buzzed for a possible 2016 presidential run, the ghosts of Clinton’s past won’t stop them from thinking about yesterday.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.

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