I used to know a writer named Mignon McCarthy, who co-authored Kareem Abdul Jabbar's second autobiography, Kareem. On that assignment, she spent two and a half months with the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s: the Magic Lakers, the Lakers of Pat Riley and two successive world championships.
Laker forward James Worthy was a regular guy. The year he signed with the team, I stood in a grocery line with him. When he saw me recognize him, he gave me a big smile and a friendly wave. I used to see him around my neighborhood, driving a Plymouth sedan with the seat pushed way back to accommodate his six foot nine inch frame.
The year after Mignon and Kareem's book came out, Worthy got busted with a prostitute in Houston.
"Worthy?" I asked, in astonishment, of Mignon.
"They all do it," she said.
BOSTON RADIO HOST JAY SEVERIN INSISTS that all driven, successful men tomcat around. He includes himself. He points out that fame has an erotic attraction, that some women throw themselves at famous men for a special kind of thrill, and that a man, being a man, is very unlikely to decline such an overture.
Lately, we've read a whole series of catch-up news stories about John Edwards' dalliance with Rielle Hunter. More of this particular affair later. For now, I ask whether Mignon's observation, and Jay Severin's opinion, are true. Do all successful men run rut?
We know that some do. This very magazine made quite a splash with its January 1994 "Troopergate" story, describing how Bill Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, had used State Troopers to solicit women for him. I heard one of those troopers interviewed on TV. Asked to describe Clinton's attitude toward women, he said, "Avid."
Yet another politician has a career that closely parallels Clinton's. Both served as State Attorneys General, then moved on to the governorship (of adjoining states). Both served as chairmen of the National Association of State Attorneys General and of the National Governors Association.
But it beggars belief to picture John Ashcroft chasing women.
NOW TO JOHN EDWARDS. Some talk show hosts have been speculating that Edwards has cheated on wife Elizabeth from the beginning. I don't agree. The Edwards-Hunter affair shows (to me) all the signs of being a one-off. Experienced womanizers go for tootsies, in quantity. They go for fun, with no commitment. Rielle Hunter is 43 years old, not particularly attractive, and sprouts all the signs of trouble: She's a New Age goof. She has no particular talent. She worms into the good graces of accomplished men. She would get pregnant, and she did. She would stick like snot on suede, and she'd pry money, which she has done.
You'd have to be a total fool to go for a woman like that when you're a handsome, high-profile guy who could knock off floozies right and left, if you just wanted to get your rocks off.
That's what's most distressing about Edwards' revelations. He made a fortune as a litigator. He got elected to the Senate. He wangled his way to his party's vice presidential nomination. And he almost won that election.
No, actually that's the second most distressing thing. Most distressing is the determined refusal of the mainstream press to cover a story that was, at the very least, convincingly provocative. Its revelation would have knocked Edwards out of the Democratic primaries last fall, and would have paved the way for a Hillary Clinton win.
Reporters are supposed to be oh-so-sophisticated these days. They tell cynical stories about how the reporters of the 1930s and 1940s covered up for FDR, as though to say they would do no such thing. But they have, and they will, and in so doing, they have manipulated the outcome of an election.
Do they all do it? Let's start asking the reporters how much tomcatting around they do when they're on the road on assignment.