George Christy 06-26-2009
More than 40,000 interviews are on record, and still counting. In the beginning in Brooklyn, the kid known as Zeke the Greek the Mouthpiece said he “never stopped talking.” Thus reveals one of our most influential broadcasters in his warmly readable autobiography, Larry King, My Remarkable Journey, rich with anecdotal recollections, and co-authored with Esquire’s Cal Fussman. Delving into the highs and lows during his roar of a life, Larry King’s befriended world figures for his one-on-one CNN interviews that included U.S. presidents. He describes the Who’s Who in detail, even such as Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev, who arrived snapping a pair of his own suspenders, which Larry admits he never wears during the day.
Larry quotes Woody Allen who joked that “80 percent of success is simply showing up.” Whenever Paul Newman arrived in a city halfway around the world after a long flight, he “would turn on the hotel television to see me. I was his connection to America, his connection home.”
Celebrating the publication of Larry’s memoir, Weinstein Books publisher Judy Hottenson and Phoenix Audio’s Michael Viner hosted a drinks reception at Spago, where the passed hors d’oeuvres, including Wolfgang Puck’s infamous Jewish pizza and crab cakes, are non pareil.
Renowned attorney Bert Fields, the industry’s Jim Wiatt, Variety’s Peter Bart with wife Phyllis, Phoenix Films’ Mike Medavoy, The Montage’s Frank Bowling, Rudolfo Monaco, New York Post’s Cindy Adams, who flew in on JetBlue’s pet-friendly flight with Jazzy and Juicy, Corinna Fields, Carrie Brillstein and Shera Falk joined friends toasting Larry. In one of her rare appearances since husband Peter Falk has been suffering from memory loss, Shera informs that Peter is “very comfortable and is happy with his favorite Italian dishes.”
Larry King makes no bones about his three-packs-a-day smoking habit, which led to his heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery. In the chapter, Sex, he discusses “how hung up we are on sex, I think it stems back to the Puritans. I’ve always felt sex is a private matter. I just don’t see its relevance in public life.” Yet, he doesn’t shy away from the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton liaison – “there was no getting around the fact that it would be the topic on my show for a long to come. But it was really none of my business … I tried to keep the conversations on a higher level. Sometimes it wasn’t easy.”
On that subject, I’ve finished reading American Adulterer, by Jed Mercurio, a doctor, novelist and former member of the Royal Air Force, whose BBC series, Cardiac Arrest, was a success. This is a revelatory case study of the adulterer, the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and I’m assessing it as a non-fiction novel, not unlike Truman Capote’s writings about the brutal murders of a family in Kansas in his bestseller, In Cold Blood.
Ace publicist Judy Hilsinger informs that these books are regarded as “faction,” with facts woven around fictional imaginings. An hypnotic read, American Adulterer’s a salacious spookfest, conjuring ghosts of the womanizing JFK, his iconic wife Jacqueline Kennedy, and the players in their Camelot inner circle. Mercurio cagily and shamelessly revisits the Kennedy era during the ’60s, with psychosexual asides that are illuminating and provocative, depicting “the subject,” his reference to the Commander-in-Chief, as reasonable, calculating, humane, and with love for his children and wife.
Desirous of everyday release of toxic “orgone energy,” his compulsive infidelity leads to assignations and affairs, whomever he charms daily. Interns, stewardesses, Las Vegas mafia molls and Palm Beach ladies. One day, Mercurio writes, it may be Fiddle, another day Faddle, and the following day Fuddle, along with scores of beauties and pay-for-play ladies, often several within a day. Not to be ignored are his cunning tricks of concealment. Wasn’t it Henry Kissinger who claimed that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac?”
The crippling pain racking his back, due to damages from a football injury and an attack by a Japanese destroyer during World War II, limits his participation, but not his priapic philandering. All the same, “the subject’s” quoted as telling Prime Minister Harold McMillan, “If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get terrible headaches.”
The bedding of Marilyn Monroe (“the most desirable woman in the world”) and her suicide are chronicled, as is “the subject’s” relationship with Frank Sinatra, including a Palm Springs poolside scene, where Sinatra drops his swimsuit as he jumps into the pool and proclaims to the assorted hookers in full view of his endowment and in true frat-boy conceit, “This makes me the first man.”
“As a doctor, one of the areas that I was interested in was his medical history,” Mercurio told Paul Boyer of Publishers Weekly. “I read as much material as I could … and treated it the same as for any patient when I was practicing as a physician.”
On page 83, Mercurio writes that, “An endocrinologist, Dr. K., soon becomes disconcerted by the full inventory of the presidential maladies: Addison’s disease, thyroid deficiency, gastric reflux, gastritis, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, prostatitis, urethritis, chronic urinary tract infections, skin infections, fevers of unknown origin, lumbar vertebral collapse, osteoporosis of the lumbar spine, osteoarthritis of the neck, osteoarthritis of the shoulder, high cholesterol, allergic rhinitis, allergic sinusitis and asthma.”
Mercurio explains the severity of Addison’s disease, and the debilitating effects of “the subject’s problem list” of his health concerns, and the 24-hour regimen of medications and injections. Also, the summonses for Dr. Feelgood, introduced to him by chain-smoking wife Jacqueline (who prefers the French pronunciation of her christened name, and whom he scolds for her wild wardrobe spending). Still, throughout the novel, “the subject’s” visionary strategies with civil rights and the Cuban missile crisis are woven like a tapestry throughout the 334 pages, as are his historic speeches in counterpoint to the irresistible womanizing. “The subject’s” charismatic wit and grace are in evidence, as are his idealistic and liberal leadership.
Destined to be controversial, loyalists may wonder why publish American Adulterer, considering that hundreds of books have already been written about JFK. “This is a stunning portrait of a virtuous man enslaved by an uncontrollable vice,” states Simon and Schuster. “A novel posing questions about society’s evolving fixation on the private lives of public officials, and, ultimately, igniting a polemic on monogamy, marriage and family values.” Others review this as “a book for our times.”
In our April 24th column, documenting the Norman Jewison tribute at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, we mentioned that Cher, whose Oscar-winning role in Moonstruck was directed by Norman, confided (for publication) that she would star with Christina Aguilera in Burlesque. This past Monday, Variety’s Mike Fleming headlined it as a front-page scoop. We feel honor-bound to take credit this time around, having overlooked previous situations where we at the Courier had it “first.”