There was an old rumor about the late Danny Thomas (yeah, I know — “who?”) that I used to laugh about at parties in my early 20s. The rumor was that Thomas liked prostitutes to give him “plate jobs.” (Don’t ask.) Except this was the kind of thing that needed to be left alone. It wasn’t something you ever wanted to read about in a major newspaper or, God forbid, hear discussed on TV or radio talk shows. It was one of those urban legends about a famous and powerful person that has always properly stayed “in the box.”
Ditto Mimi Alford’s icky story about having given JFK aide Dave Powers a poolside blowjob at Kennedy’s suggestion, and with the 35th President watching. I didn’t want to know any more than the basic details, thanks. It was just as well that none of the many tales about JFK’s sexual shenanigans were ever reported on during his administration. Reporters were less salacious back then, or at least more compassionate. Private, personal, nothing to do with the Oval Office…leave it alone.
Things are way different today. Public figures always need to keep things on the down low, of course, and only the morons tweet or text themselves into trouble. Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was one of these brainiacs — a firebrand liberal politician whose erections blocked any semblance of common sense, who wasn’t smart enough to understand the pitfalls of social media…a pathetic, self-destructive hound of the first magnitude. Bulging underwear photos, “Carlos Danger”…good God.
And the poor guy roasted himself on sexting alone. No adultery, no affairs, no Clarence Thomas-style sexual workplace harassment. All he did was behave like a total fool on his cell phone.
This morning I saw Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg‘s Weiner, a fascinating, at times bitterly funny, constantly up-close account of the two Weiner sexting scandals — the first in 2011, the second during his 2013 run for N.Y. Mayor — that ended his political career for life. I thought I knew the Weiner saga up, down, backwards and forwards, but this doc throws a new light upon it. A darkly funny one, I mean.
It’s mainly about grimly strategizing and growing a tough hide while your staff sits around with neutral expressions and your entire life gradually melts into butterscotch pudding. YouTube videos of wildebeests being eaten alive by wild dogs have more human compassion than many of the events and conversations shown in this film. Oh, and the third-act McDonald’s escape run is a classic.
And poor, put-upon Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife and Hillary’s top aide who endured a form of spousal abuse during these two scandals that has rarely been equaled in any area. The looks that Huma gives her husband throughout the film are indescribable.
Has any hormonal public official ever invited such rank humiliation? Has the news media ever acted more like ravenous wolves? Has any scandal of this type ever produced a Lucretia McEvil to match Sydney Leathers, the aspiring porn star who brought Weiner down for good by revealing the particulars of sexting episode #2.
Will Weiner adversely affect Hillary’s campaign by portraying Huma (and by inference Hillary herself) as a bloodless opportunist who will do or say anything to maintain and hold onto power? All I felt was sympathy for Huma, just as most people felt sympathy for Hillary during the Monica Lewinsky scandal or ’98 and ’99. Almost all politicians have the same ravenous appetites, and almost all men are dogs. All the public asks is that they keep their canine urges private and discreet and consensual. Is that really so hard?
For some it obviously is. All they need to do is show a little dignity and leave it in the box. Ditto the news media. Fat chance.