The Breakfast Table

Private-Jet Sex

Here’s a cute-but-frightening true fact I just discovered: My 9-year-old daughter knows the name of Rupert Murdoch’s new wife. I’ll be sure to forbid her from traveling on private planes.

You are, of course, completely correct about the chick-magnet effect of Lears and Bombardiers and Gulfstreams. Private jets undoubtedly get rich men laid–for guys inhabiting HerbAllenWorld, a Gulfstream is a ‘Vette to the Third Power. In fact, as you know, my novel contains several private-jet scenes, and a main character specifically imagines his wife fucking her boss on the boss’ private jet. (However, just to make clear that fiction isn’t necessarily autobiographical: My own wife, when she worked for Viacom, once flew across the Atlantic on the corporate jet with the company’s chairman, and I never entertained any thoughts at all about onboard fornication involving her and Sumner Redstone.)

Dustin Hoffman generated Nora Ephron’s ghastliest show-business moments? Was this on All the President’s Men? Jeez … how perfectly, amazingly, uncannily apt. I thought of Hoffman the other day as I watched The Insider, the forthcoming All the President’s Men-ish movie in which Al Pacino plays a crusading high-strung TV news producer. (By the way, in the movie, Don Hewitt, the producer of 60 Minutes, is portrayed as a completely craven asshole. I think he’ll be unhappier than any of the other real people depicted in the film, including the tobacco-company P.R. man John Scanlon, who is portrayed merely as evil, not unlikable.) Anyhow, watching Pacino, I wondered who feels more professional jealousy or competitiveness for the other ethnic hyper-acting 1970s superstar from Greenwich Village–Hoffman toward Pacino or Pacino toward Hoffman? I also thought: How astounded we would have been, 25 years ago, to be told that the All the President’s Men-ish movie of 1999 would portray CBS News as villainous and the attorney general of Mississippi as a hero.

No, I haven’t read Jesse Ventura’s book. What’s frightening about it? To me, his libertarianism and call-a-spade-a-spade plain-spokenness seem attractive–since moral authoritarianism (Gary Bauer, Pat Buchanan, et al.) and mealy-mouthed temporizing (practically every politician except the moral authoritarians Bob Kerrey and Bill Weld) are the things that scare and disgust me most in contemporary politics. I do confess that every time I actually hear Ventura speak I sort of hate him. However, if elections are won by Authenticity + Balls (your version of my Happiness + Guyism), then Ventura looks like a winner, doesn’t he? And in any case, by both our reckonings, Al Gore is a sure loser.

By the way, I disobeyed you. And Coliseum Books was relieved when my publisher called and suggested we might want to think about rescheduling the reading there on account of Floyd’s torrents. So, when you get back, I’ll come to your apartment, read all the passages about private jets out loud, and sign your copy of the book.

P.S.: You say, apropos of the fact Bush seems authentic and ballsy, that “this is why W. is so dangerous.” I don’t quite get this. I guess this is why I’m not a good Democrat. First, aren’t authenticity and ballsiness good things? And “dangerous”? Tell me how a George W. Bush administration would be dangerous. Yes, I’d rather have Al Gore picking Supreme Court justices than George Bush, and I’d rather have Bill Bradley than either of them … but Bush doesn’t scare me. This is, conversely, among the many reasons I could never be a good Republican–I just don’t get the anti-Clinton apoplexy. He’s sort of creepy, sure, but … so what? Clinton and George W. Bush kind of seem like the same guy to me, humanly and ideologically–fun but slippery guys without much there there.