The setting . . .Washington, Hollywood, and the landscape of the American Republic.The writer . . . Joe Eszterhas, ex-Rolling Stone reporter, National Book Award nominee for Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse, and screenwriter of such blockbusters as Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge.The stars . . . Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John McCain, Ken Starr, and Monica Lewinsky.
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December 31, 1999
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Excerpt from American Rhapsody by Joe Eszterhas
Nearly three years ago, afraid that my public persona as a screenwriter was overwhelming my creative life, I went to the island of Maui with my wife and our three children, shut my phone down, stopped doing interviews, and pretended I wasn't a public man.
I played with my wife and played with my kids, let the sun beat me up, and thought about things. About values and success. About the sixties. About my past relationship with the women I'd used and my present relationship with the wife I adored. Somehow or other, those thoughts about my life inevitably led me to Bill Clinton.
I thought I recognized and knew Bill Clinton and what made him tick. I understood the ambition, the success, the political duplicity, the Hollywood charm. I understood the mad priapic obsession that had always fuel-driven his life... because it had driven mine until I met Naomi. I understood the fierce boom-box rhythms of his inner life the same way I understood and loved the demons shrieking in the darkness inside the Stones, the Doors, the artist now known again as Prince, and Dr. Dre.
I started reading everything ever written about Bill Clinton when we finally came back to Malibu, our phone still shut down, living a near-reclusive life now, not even calling agents, lawyers, and friends back, still refusing all interview requests. I was lost in a mirrored sea of my own creation, in snorkeling pursuit of myself and Clinton, swimming through his past in search of my own soul.
As the impeachment psychodrama began, I watched every minisecond of it, bleary-eyed, haggard, and grizzled, maniacally flicking channels, indulging gluttonously in the national bacchanal of information and bulimia of rumor. I read everything, I saw everything, digested whatever I could, and learned a lot... about myself and Bill Clinton and about America, the country I love as only an immigrant who grew up in the ethnic ghettos of Cleveland can love her.