Excerpt from American Rhapsody by Joe Eszterhas, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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American Rhapsody

By Joe Eszterhas

American Rhapsody
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2000,
    448 pages.
    Paperback: May 2001,
    446 pages.

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He had a Yippie-like zaniness about him we could identify with. Out on the golf course in Arkansas, one of his partners noticed that he could see Bill Clinton's underwear through his pants. "They weren't bikinis he had on," the partner said, "but it was some kind of wild underwear." Bill Clinton's favorite joke was one he had told over and over on the Arkansas campaign trail, a joke closer in spirit to Monty Python than to the Vegas lounge meisters favored by so many other presidents: "There was a farmer who had a three-legged pig with a wooden leg. And he bragged on this pig to everybody who came to visit. The farmer would tell how this pig had saved him from a fire. People would be amazed! And he'd say, 'Well, that's not all; this pig saved my farm from going bankrupt.' And the folks would be amazed. And the farmer would say, 'That's not all; this pig saved the entire town once when the dam broke.' Then somebody said to the farmer, 'Well, gosh, it's pretty amazing that you have this pig, but you never did explain why it only has three legs.' And the farmer said, 'Well, hell, you wouldn't want to eat a pig this special all in one sitting!' "

He certainly was a rock and roller. The light blue eyes, the lazy, sexy smile. The lips that were called "pussy lips" in Arkansas. Girls loved him. At age twelve, a classmate said, "Little girls were screaming, 'Billy, Billy, Billy, throw me the football.' All the girls had crushes on him. He was the center of their attention." A reporter covering one of his Arkansas campaigns said, "You could see the effect that he had on people in the eyes of the teenage girls who came to see him. Their eyes would light up. You would think that a rock star had just come into the Wal-Mart." He had rock and roll habits, too. Gennifer Flowers remembered the time he told her, "I really got fucked up on cocaine last night." There was even a Jagger-like androgyny he allowed some of his women friends to see. He put on girlfriend Sally Perdue's dress one night, high on grass, and played Elvis on his sax. He asked Gennifer to meet him at a bar dressed as a man, and he liked her putting eyeliner, blush, and mascara on his face. Underneath it was a rock and roll restlessness, what Gennifer called his feeling that he was "bullet-proof," which allowed him at times to flaunt his relationship with her.

There was no doubt he loved the music. Janis's "Pearl" . . . the Seekers' "I'll Never Find Another You" . . . Peter and Gordon's "A World Without Love" . . . "Here You Come Again" (which reminded him of Gennifer) . . . Steely Dan . . . Kenny Loggins . . . the Commodores' "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady" . . . Joe Cocker . . . Jerry Lee Lewis . . . anything by Elvis. He had his own band when he was a kid, called The Three Kings, which the other kids called Three Blind Mice because they all wore shades. A high school friend said, "I remember driving down this road and Bill singing Elvis songs at the top of his voice. He loved to sing. He just liked music and he was always playing music. I think that was one of the reasons he went to church so much as a kid. To hear the music."

One of the things that attracted him to Gennifer was that she was a rock singer with her own band--Gennifer Flowers and Easy Living--at about the same time that his little brother, Roger, had his band--Roger Clinton and Dealer's Choice. Roger was like Chris Jagger to Mick: He wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't very good. Roger's taste leaned to Grand Funk Railroad, REO Speedwagon, and Alice Cooper. But Roger shared his love of the music. Bill Clinton's memory of his first appearance on The Tonight Show was that Joe Cocker was there. "He was telling me about the show," Arkansas Democrat columnist Phillip Martin said. "He was telling me about Joe Cocker's band. He said 'Man, they were bad; they were just a kick-ass band, man!' You know, he really wanted to play with Joe Cocker rather than going out there and playing 'Summertime' on his sax. But he was afraid to ask. He was really in awe." And when Stephen Stills asked Roger up onstage once, he said, "I was so excited, I thought I would pee my pants."

Excerpted from American Rhapsody by Joe Eszterhas Copyright© 2000 by Joe Eszterhas. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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