Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2004 / 5 Adar, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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McCain predicts a nasty campaign; the misdirected missive; Janet Jackson, the interview; more | NEW YORK — With the vaunted McCain-Feingold campaign finance law enacted two years ago, Sen. John McCain tried his level-best to civilize American politics.

Apparently, the law isn't working.

"It's going to be the nastiest presidential campaign we've ever had," the Arizona Republican told me last weekend during the Writers Guild of America, East awards dinner at the Pierre Hotel, where McCain was honored for his work as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to block the corporate consolidation of broadcast outlets.

Why so nasty?

"Because both sides are playing to their base, and not to the independent voters," he said. "We have to fight that kind of campaigning, but it's going to be difficult."

McCain added that the recent unsubstantiated but widely reported sex rumors surrounding his fellow Vietnam War veteran and Democratic front-runner, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, "make it clear that if you want to get anything into the national media, you can do it by using the Internet. You can put just about anything out there."

At which point Writers Guild member Arlene Hellerman — editor of the group's literary mag, On Writing — chimed in to gush: "I am just so honored to speak to you. I love so much of what you stand for. If you were a Democrat, you'd be president."

The senator grinned and corrected, "I really doubt that. I'm for NAFTA and I'm pro-life, just to start with."

Looking suddenly very grim, Hellerman gave McCain a stern and lengthy lecture about abortion rights and correct terminology. "I'm pro-life. You're anti-choice!"

Then Hellerman demanded to know how McCain could allow his daughter to make her own decision about whether to obtain an abortion — as he said he'd do when he ran for president four years ago — and deny that same right to women in general.

McCain seemed a tad uncomfortable with this line of questioning. "Oh here's my daughter right here," he told Hellerman, pointing out 19-year-old Megan McCain standing a few feet away.

Luckily, Megan seemed to be an old hand at tuning out her dad's random conversations — and didn't hear the discussion about her hypothetical impending abortion decision.

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Is imprisoned ImClone founder Sam Waksal — whose company's stock price is at the center of the Martha Stewart trial — penning letters from behind bars to the woman known as "Generation X's Martha Stewart"?

I certainly wondered Monday after learning about a recent letter from the 56-year-old Waksal from his federal prison in Pennsylvania to a certain "Katie Brown."

Last Friday, a prison-issue envelope from Waksal, who's serving a 7-year sentence on his securities fraud conviction, turned up in the lobby of a classy Park Avenue building, where a doorman gave it mistakenly to one of this column's spies.

"His name and prison number were handwritten at the top, and then underneath that was printed FCI Schuylkill," the spy said. "The letter was handwritten. It was more than one page. It was heavy."

Of course, this column's supporters are law-abiding citizens, so the letter was returned unopened to the doorman — who presumably got it to the right Katie Brown.

Was it the same 40-year-old Katie Brown whose weekend show on the A&E Network, "All Year Round with Katie Brown," is touted as a hipper, sassier version of "Martha Stewart Living"?

Apparently not, alas.

"She has never met or communicated with Sam Waksal," a rep for A&E's Brown told us. "She's never lived on Park Avenue. She's fairly amused though."

Waksal is about six months into his jailtime at Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution, a minimum security prison 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Apparently he earns 16 cents an hour at the barracks-like lockup by cutting grass and scrubbing floors.

On Monday, prison officials passed on this column's request to interview Waksal about the misdirected missive, and Waksal politely declined.

Messages left for a Katie Brown on Park Avenue were not returned.


THE BURDENS OF HIGH OFFICE: I hear that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has cancelled plans to attend Sunday's Academy Awards and the Vanity Fair Oscar party at Morton's in Beverly Hills. Turns out that the governator, who was hoping to show up with wife Maria Shriver, is just too darned busy trying to persuade voters to pass Proposition 58 and dig his state out of its financial hole.

JANET JACKSON, THE INTERVIEW: It's been almost a month since the rip seen 'round the world, when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast during the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime show on CBS. Jackson has gone on camera to apologize for the flap — for which the Federal Communications Commission is considering fines on CBS — but the pop diva has yet to submit to a televised grilling. Now I've heard that Diane Sawyer has beat out the competition, including her ABC News colleague Barbara Walters, for the right to sit down with the pop diva for a "Prime Time" show in mid-March. That is, just in time for the release of Jackson's latest CD. ABC News and Sawyer declined to comment Monday. "She can't talk about an interview that she hasn't done yet," a spokesman told me.

NOT IN MY EXPERIENCE: ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr hosted a blue-chip book party Monday night at Billy's for syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, author of the new collection "Paper Trail: Common Sense in Uncommon Times." During her remarks to the crowd — Ruth Westheimer, Nora Ephron, Jerry Della Femina and Federal Judge Kimba Wood, among others — Goodman told the crowd: "Writing a column is like being married to a nymphomaniac: Every time you think you're through, you have to start all over again."

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02/20/04: Introducing the Kerry sisters; cyberflap!; Snoop Dogg v. O'Reilly?; more
02/18/04: John Kerry's Friendster?; On the mend?; food for fraughtm; more
02/13/04: John & Carolyn, redux; Zell Miller shows the flag; kill Quentin?; more
02/11/04: HE FEELS BAD!; Dick Cheney, still not dead; more
02/06/04: Glittering Grammys; a laurel for Janet; Haryl's heart
02/04/04: Shriver quits NBC; "Marshmallow" Mike Tyson?; Super Bowl propriety?; MTV's next production?; more
01/30/04: The political forehead front; Alies meets Franken; the art of the hype; arrested career development?
01/28/04: Eyebrow-raising politics; call him indescribable; Woods vs. Williams; more
01/23/04: Eyebrow-raising mystery; who's punk'd anyway?; don't curb your enthusiasm; more
01/21/04: Ridiculous lives of the self-important stars; long arm of the law; all's fair in love and literature
01/16/04: Global warming at a glacial pace; targeting pop culture; Is 'the price of loyalty' too high?
01/14/04: Busting on the "cult buster"; Sarsgaard thinks globally; one angry woman; more
01/08/04: Sitcom star won't be excused from Blake murder trial; fierstein on fire; Drudge & Blumenthal, together again
01/07/04: Bono hits a brick wall; Britney, before the nuttiness; the Arianna primary; more
01/02/04: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio!?; "Bachelor" bruises; Returning to the scene of the crime?
12/31/03: Disaster for the defense; no-war Omar; the shoe must go on; more
12/19/03: Bob Shapiro's free commercial?; Are sophisticated and hip New Yawkers easily duped?; Positive Saddam fallout?; Ratty insult?
12/17/03: Magic Mystery Tour?; Russell Simmons battles ink by the barrel; Would it have killed her to say 'get well soon'?; no Gest room
12/12/03: Karenna defends her dad; now she tells us!; say it ain't so, Mo!; more
12/10/03: Man & wife, interruptus; pepperoni has feelings, too; more
12/05/03: The knives are out; Who's sorry now?; JWR in the news
12/04/03: The war of the gest-minnellis; something borrowed, something cashmere; fashion trendsetter, nailed!
12/03/03: Colombian grace under pressure; Lord of the Screwups; more
12/02/03: Curb your anti-Semitism?; fame fatigue?; bowing to pressure?; more
12/01/03: Dennis the Menace strikes again; first literary feud of the holiday season; Norma Jean & Hef in heaven?; the fog of McNamara; more
11/26/03: Catherine Crier raps Jacko's TV defender, refuses on-air hint of racism; At 50, Tina's in full cry; STAY OUT OF HER WAY!; more
11/25/03: The mogul strikes back?; go ahead, make Harvey's day; more
11/24/03: Georgette's pilfered baubles; prosecutor of pop?; absent but not missed?; Norman Mailer's prescription for education reform; more
11/20/03: Is a movie career in store for Maria Bartiromo?; People for the Unethical Treatment of Humans?; more
11/19/03: Scientologists on Razor's edge?; picking a winner?; source on a hot tin roof?; more
11/18/03: Clay Aiken neuters PETA?; THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!; a mural for Joe
11/17/03: When networks attack!; leaky Fawcett; forget the Paris Hilton video!; more
11/13/03: Publicity hounds; Prophetic priest; Dumb and Dumber
11/12/03: Not so Rosie; do you believe in miracles?; catalogue of sins; My Heart Belongs to Koppel
11/10/03: Gen. clark on the Subway diet; life of the party; MTV's Dumb and Dumber?; the hug issue; but does the $6,000 shower curtain convey?; red faces at Buckingham palace?
11/06/03: Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more
11/04/03: Herding off the hipsters; more
11/03/03: Dean's tell-all on himself?; Lisaraye vs. Mya?; the odd couple; no need to panic; just don't call him "Scooter"!; Rosie scenarios
10/30/03: Autumn of the editor?; Cynthia Nixon's split may be costly; 'Burning' questions
10/29/03: Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley
10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate