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Lewinsky Gets Book Deal

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  • Key Player: Monica S. Lewinsky

  • By David Streitfeld
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 17, 1998; Page B1

    Monica Lewinsky has successfully landed her dream job the one where she's well paid and doesn't have to do any menial labor. The former intern will receive in the neighborhood of a million dollars for a book detailing her affair with President Clinton. She won't even have to write it herself.

    To do the heavy lifting with verbs and nouns, a few weeks ago Lewinsky sought out Andrew Morton, whose highly sympathetic book about Princess Diana inspired a groundswell of support for her when it was published in 1992.

    "Monica saw the parallels with Princess Diana. That was someone else who had been misunderstood through the press and was silent through much of it, never telling her own story," said Richard Hofstetter, who was brought in a month ago as Lewinsky's attorney for media deals.

    The book, tentatively titled "Monica's Story," will be published as early as February by St. Martin's Press. An ABC interview with Barbara Walters will air early next year as well, the network announced yesterday.

    Walters stressed that it was unfortunate that her interview and the book were announced on the same day. "The reason she wanted to do this interview is getting lost. Monica Lewinsky turned down a very large amount of money from Fox," which offered millions for an interview/book deal. "The reason she did this is because she said the most important thing for the rest of her life is her credibility. . . . I'm not trying to sway public opinion, but I do feel she should get credit for doing an interview for no money."

    While ABC is not paying Lewinsky, she is likely to make a seven-figure sum for another television interview, which will air everywhere but this country. Negotiations have reportedly been underway with Channel Four Television Corp. in London.

    Because of Lewinsky's immunity deal with independent counsel Kenneth Starr, both the book and the interviews will need his permission. That has already delayed Walters. "We had intended to do the interview this week and were going to run it the first week in December," she said.

    St. Martin's publisher Sally Richardson said the question of permission "didn't come up" when the deal was being negotiated last week. Morton, she added, "is going to have to work fast. I'd like the book sooner rather than later," although "he's not doing some quick cut-and-paste job."

    It's unclear what Morton, who made millions off Diana, will get out of his work with Lewinsky. Neither he nor his British publisher, Michael O'Mara, could be reached for comment yesterday.

    In "Diana: Her True Story," Morton portrayed Prince Charles as a philandering cad, Queen Elizabeth as an ice cube and Diana as beleaguered and betrayed. The book is credited with speeding up the royal divorce to her benefit. After her death, it was revealed that Diana had been directly involved in the preparation of the book.

    Sally Bedell Smith, a biographer who is now writing a character study of Diana, described Morton as "a confident guy who is cocky and rather likes the limelight. He wants to be taken seriously, but I don't think in his tabloid heart he can resist something as highly commercial and high-profile as the Monica Lewinsky story might well be."

    In any case, Smith said, the linking of Lewinsky and Diana by their biographer "is harmonic convergence." She noted the most obvious comparison: They were both insecure young women who became attached to powerful older men.

    But there are many differences, too. One was famously well dressed; the other made a dress famous. One was related to George VI; the other wanted to work for George magazine.

    Commentators will have a field day with this especially considering that Diana turns up several times in the supplemental materials to the Starr report. White House steward Bayani Nelvis was asked "if Monica Lewinsky told anyone that you called her from Martha's Vineyard and told her that the President and the First Lady were fighting, that the First Lady was leaving to go to London to [Diana's] funeral, and that she should come and stay with you, that wouldn't be true?"

    Nelvis said it wasn't true.

    Michael O'Mara, who made the original deal with Lewinsky for an undisclosed sum and controls world rights to the book, sold North American rights to St. Martin's. A large but relatively low-profile house, St. Martin's is part of Holtzbrinck, a German conglomerate.

    St. Martin's Richardson, as befits a publisher announcing a big deal, was hugely enthusiastic. The book's sales, she said, would be "gigantic." But one source said that publisher was getting the rights for only six figures, which indicates the competition wasn't particularly intense.

    Though the New Yorker reported in early September that "an undisclosed publisher faxed Lewinsky a confidential six-million-dollar offer," the dominant mood among publishers was always apathetic. Larry Kirshbaum, the head of the Warner Books/Little, Brown imprints, spoke for a number of his colleagues when he told Time magazine that "we're all bimboed out."

    Richardson and two other St. Martin's executives shook hands on the agreement with Lewinsky, Morton and Hofstetter Friday night. That, as it happened, was only a few hours after President Clinton finally reached a deal with Paula Jones, agreeing to pay her $850,000 in exchange for dropping her sexual harassment lawsuit.

    As with Jones, it is likely that much of Lewinsky's windfall will go to pay her various lawyers. Her total legal bills are now estimated to be over $1 million.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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