Since she emerged last week as the virtual other woman in the latest Anthony Weiner virtual-sex scandal, Sydney Leathers has turned into a sideshow of her own.
The 23-year-old Indiana woman drew about 24 hours of sympathy after a debut interview describing herself as a politics junkie who was shocked when the ex-congressman suddenly steered their Facebook chats in a steamier direction.
But then came her bikini photo shoot for the New York Post. And a raunchy interview with Howard Stern, in which she teased the possibility of a boob job and a career in porn. (Wouldn’t have to come up with a screen name, would she?) Followed by a new gig modeling — what else? — leatherware for a New York apparel company.
Hmpf! Is this any way for a sex-scandal lady to behave?
Actually, yes. Although they may ultimately retreat into the shadows, many of the women thrown into the spotlight by an unwise liaison with a politician have gamely exploited their notoriety, at least for a while, writing tell-alls or posing for Playboy.
Monica Lewinsky spent the first years after the Clinton scandal dabbling in reality TV, designing handbags and flacking for the Jenny Craig diet. Donna Rice took advantage of the 1987 affair that drove Gary Hart out of the presidential race to model for No Excuses jeans. Fanne Foxe, the stripper-mistress of Rep. Wilbur Mills, upped her fee after their relationship became news in 1974. Rita Jenrette, who dished in 1981 about her sex life with her husband,Rep. John Jenrette, after all, went into acting for a while. (All have since moved on to deliberately quieter lives.)
Should we be surprised? Probably not. The women involved in sex scandals “tend to be people who did this voluntarily,” said Gail Collins, author of “Scorpion Tongues,” a definitive history of political gossip. “You don’t find many who got into this against their will sexually.”
For example, Nan Britton, better known as “the woman who had sex in the cloakroom with [President] Harding,” said Collins, also a columnist for the New York Times. “She didn’t have to come forward, but she wrote a book” claiming that he fathered her child.
Or Collins’s favorite sex-scandal lady, Madeline Pollard, who struck up an affair with Rep. William Breckinridge after meeting him on a train in 1884. The Kentucky Democrat was 47; she was 17 but “not unaware of what was going on.” After he dumped her, she sued for breach of promise. And then? “She went on the stage,” telling her sensational story on the vaudeville circuit. “Which was what you did then,” Collins told us. “It was the equivalent of going on Howard Stern.”