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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  • First Published:
    Jul 2000, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 446 pages

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The Whole World Is Watching

"We gotta get you laid," Monica said.
"Oh, God," Linda Tripp said, "wouldn't that be something different? New and different. I don't know. After seven years, do you really think that there's a possibility I'd remember how?"
"Of course you would."
"No," Linda Tripp said.


My friend Jann Wenner, the editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, the rock and roll bible, called me excitedly the day after Bill Clinton was nominated for the presidency. He had spent the previous night at a party, celebrating with Clinton. "He's one of us," Jann said. "He'll be the first rock and roll president in American history."

I had come to the same conclusion. He was one of us. Even if, on occasion, he tried to deny it. Of course he had dodged the draft, just another white Rhodes Scholar nigger who agreed with Muhammad Ali and had no quarrel with them Vietcong. Of course he had smoked dope, inhaling deeply, holding it in, bogarting that joint.

Bill Clinton, Jann told me, had always read Rolling Stone, so I smiled when, shortly after the election, he was photographed jogging in a Rolling Stone T-shirt, the same T-shirt I had worn to my son's Little League games. Well, this really was a cosmic giggle: Good Lord, we had taken the White House! After all the locust years--after Bebe Rebozo's boyfriend, after the hearing-impaired Marlboro Man, after that uppity preppy always looking at his watch--America was ours! In the sixties, we'd been worried about staying out of jail. Now the jails were ours to run as we saw fit.

Carter had given us false hope for a while, but Bill Clinton was the real deal: undiluted, uncut rock and roll. Carter, we had discovered, wasn't one of us. Oh, sure, Jimmah allowed his record-mogul pal Phil Walden and Willie Nelson to smoke dope on the White House roof, and he had told Playboy he had "committed adultery in my heart many times," but the unfortunate, terminally well-intentioned dip was such a cheesy rube, definitely not rock and roll, with his beer-gutted Libyan-agent brother, his schoolmarm wife, and the Bible-spouting sister who was secretly having sudsy, lederhosen romps with married German chancellor Willy Brandt. No, definitely not rock and roll, proven forever when he fell on his face jogging, claiming breathlessly that a bunny rabbit had jumped in front of him, falling on his face while wearing black socks.

His Secret Service agents nicknamed Bill Clinton "Elvis," but we knew better. Elvis had been Sgt. Barry Sadler's ideological sidekick, a slobby puppet on a carny barker's strings, in love with his nark badges, informing on the Beatles, toadying up to Nixon, The Night Creature. Those wet panties hurled onstage at his concerts were size 16 and skid-marked. Bill Clinton wasn't Elvis. With his shades on and his sax gleaming, Bill Clinton looked like a pouchier Bobby Keyes playing backup for the Stones. No, that wasn't quite right, either. Not Bobby Keyes, but a pop-gutted Jumpin' Jack Flash and graying Street Fightin' Man . . . Bill Clinton was Mick on cheeseburgers and milk shakes, Taco Bell, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti.

Rolling Stone called his inauguration "the coming of a new age in American politics." Fleetwood Mac was playing "Don't Stop." That was Fleetwood Mac up there, not Pearl Bailey or Sammy Davis, Jr., or Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. That was rock and roll we were hearing, not the Sousa Muzak the big band-era pols in the smoky back rooms had forced on us for so long. Dylan, our messiah, was there. And that was Jack Nicholson at the Lincoln Memorial, Abe's words brought to life by our lawyerly Easy Rider. Bill Clinton's White House was rock and roll, too, full of young people, full of women, blacks, gays, Hispanics; a White House, as Newt Gingrich's guru, Alvin Toffler, said, "more familiar with Madonna than with Metternich." That was just fine with us. It looked like Bill Clinton was continuing what he had begun in Arkansas, where he'd been criticized for having a staff of "long-haired, bearded hippies" who came to the office in cutoffs and patched jeans. The boss himself had been seen in the governor's mansion barefoot, in jeans and a T-shirt.

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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