Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Flirting with Disaster: A First-Hand Look

Long ago over drinks, a celebrity woman shared her hard-won wisdom with me: “Do you know who the best seducers are? Salesmen. They know how to close the deal.”

By that definition, men who do things (like generals) rather than sell themselves (like politicians) are disadvantaged in extracurricular sex. In light of current flirting follies by military leaders, my own experiences recall sadly how little has changed in over half a century.

In 1965 I became editor of the world’s largest women’s magazine, and my calendar suddenly filled up with names from society pages—-ambitious young wives of elderly politicians, middle-aged beauties who had married well and often, dowager queens of the Social Register.

I was being recruited for activities previously unknown to me. “Tell them,” my beautiful well-grounded wife advised drily, “that up close you’re not that interesting.”

No matter. At a Washington restaurant, I ran into Perle Mesta, the fabled political hostess whose gossip column I had canceled when I became editor of McCalls.

“You naughty boy,” she exclaimed, “you fired me.” After my most winsome smile, she added, “Never mind, I like you anyway.”

When I sent Nora Ephron to interview toadlike Henry Kissinger about his publicized bachelor dating, he told her, “Power is an aphrodisiac. Now when I bore women, they think it’s their fault.”

So it went in that world and sadly still seems to: flattery and foolishness rampant in the name of elusive influence.

Notable today is a scarcity of actual sex.  Gen. Petraeus admits to it, but even those liaisons must have been more athletic than passionate. Can you expect afterglow from an ambitious Amazon?

Maureen Dowd, who once dated Rush Limbaugh in the line of duty, sums up today’s scene neatly:

“It features toned arms, slinky outfits, a cat fight, titillating e-mails, a military more consumed with sex than violence, a plot with more inconceivable twists than ‘Homeland,’ and a Twitter’s-delight lexicon: an ‘embedded’ mistress named Broadwell, a biography called ‘All In,’ an other-other woman of Middle East ancestry who was a ‘social liaison’ to the military, a shirtless F.B.I. agent crushing on the losing-her-shirt-to-debt Tampa socialite, a pair of generals helping the socialite’s twin sister with a custody case, and lawyers and crisis-management experts linked to Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards and the ABC show ‘Scandal.’

“’This is The National Enquirer,’ an alarmed Senator Dianne Feinstein told Wolf Blitzer of CNN. If only it were that highbrow.”

After an election in which the GOP paid a high price for demeaning women, it’s pathetic to see scandals in which women are the ones degrading themselves for influence over powerful men.

When does it all stop so people of both genders can start acting like grownups? Salesmen and politicians excluded, of course.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Realistically, how much of this is our fault as consumers of media? As the author can certainly attest, television, radio and print media are all competitive businesses that must deliver "viewers" in order to cover their bottom lines. Naturally, they are going to deliver their respective products in as appealing a package as possible in order to get as big a market-share as they can.

Regrettably, what sells to the widest variety of users seems to be the most sensationalized, violent, salacious, prurient aspects of human nature.

THIS is what we will get as consumers (and frankly as voters) until such time as we stop buying it.

John said...

What the hell are Patreaus and Allen doing they've got enough time on their hands to write thousands of emails to these women?