"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 November 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Attack of the Killer Shrews



Nude photos of Dr. Laura

Schlessinger would strike most

right-thinking people as

insanity-inducing visions of

horror to be avoided at all

costs, something like what Prime

Cenobite has in mind when he

coos, "We have such sights to

show you!" But for the countless

innocents who are even now

messing up their lives with an

eyeful of the sonic shrew's

leathery bod, this is more

than just a peek at some

sub-Beaver Hunt dirty pictures.

It's a democratic ritual at

least as vital as an electronic

town hall - the unmasking of a

hypocrite, the fall of a

grasping Tartuffe. (In a telling

twist, the genius behind the

event is once again Internet

Entertainment Group's Seth

Warshavsky, who it seems will

eventually own nude JPEGs of

every American, the way Mormons

monopolize the nation's

genealogical data.) But if

you're looking for an end to Dr.

Laura's smuggernaut, don't hold

your breath. For all her paeans

to the Ten Commandments and

in-your-face endorsements of

practicing Judaism (though

apparently not getting any

better at it), the Doctor's

credibility was never built on

her morality. It was built on



And for that achievement, Dr.

Laura stands naked at the apex

of the era's strangest

microtrend - the rise of the

yenta. Where the civic dialog

was once sweetened by the kindly

wisdom of Dr. Ruth or Oprah's

magnanimous questing, these days

the real attention getters are

shrewish, scolding fembots,

tough girls like Judge Judy,

Doctor Laura, and the legion of

Clinton-busting blondes: Ann

Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Susan

Carpenter McMillan, and floating

above them all are the masks of

comedy and tragedy,

respectively, of Lucianne

Goldberg and Linda Tripp. And

this is probably as it should

be. If this truly is the Decade

of the Penis, it's only fitting

that permanent employment should

be found by the league of women




At first glance, these hellions

would seem to be at odds with

the spirit of the age. This is,

after all, the era of Woman as

Needy Noodge, as starved,

simpering Teletubby in the Ally

McBeal mode. And yet

yentafication answers an even

more primal casting call - the

hardcase Lady Macbeth who

harangues her dithering half-man

into strapping on a pair - the

Termagant from the medieval

mystery plays, the henpecking

tai-tai from Chinese comedy. But

if the role model is always with

us, the need is greater now than

ever before, as moral standards

decline, and outrage - like God 30

years ago - is dead.


In that sense, the power and

emergent popularity of Hillary

Clinton lies not in her public

shows of loyalty, but in the

severe, lamp-throwing self we

suspect (or hope) she shows only

at home. Team player or not,

Hillary's easy authoritativeness

invites us to conflate her with

the various right-wing harpies

who have spent most of this year

trying to neuter her husband.

And as poetic justice, it's hard

to imagine a more satisfying

version of events. After all,

what could be a more apt

punishment for an adolescent

mook like Bill Clinton than to

be slowly ripped apart, City of

Women-style, by a band of

enraged Golden Girls? Given

Bill's demonstrated ability to

screw up whenever his wife isn't

riding herd, what could be

better for the country?


And yet a survey of New Shrew

habits reveals not so much a

love of standards and practices

as a love of simple assault and

battery. Judge Judy's burden of

proof simply brings sideshow

jurisprudence to the other side

of the bench. Where Judge Wapner

played a wry Solomon to loony

plaintiffs in the more genteel

Reagan era, Judge Judy's "I

don't like you. Get out of my

courtroom" style of rough

justice (now being aped by a new

generation of male TV judges,

none of whom do it as well as

she does) turns Her Honor into

the central attraction, an

oafish My Cousin Vinny who can

have you arrested for

"contempt." Similarly,

Schlessinger's show of Mosaic

law has always been little more

than a riding crop used to beat

her legion of phone bottoms into

submission - which may be why

the Dr. Laura mode, so

entertaining on the radio,

bcomes boring lecturese when

translated into print.



Not that the comparative

sedateness of the printed word

is a natural bar to this sort of

thing. New York Times columnist

Maureen Dowd has carved out an

enviable niche for herself as

the student assigned to take

names of kids who talk while the

national Nun takes a pee break.

The target of choice in her

Liberties column has always been

Bill Clinton, not so much for

matters of domestic or foreign

policy (both of which clearly

bore the columnist to tears),

but for his unseemly style. But

again, Dowd's gift for censure

never translates into anything

approaching discernible dogma.

Lately, Dowd has even made a

gesture at showing she has

feelings like the rest of us,

entering into a romance heavy on

public displays of affection

with dimpled star Michael

Douglas. You'll note, however,

that Dowd only warmed to Douglas

after he'd typecast himself as a

cold-hearted bastard who gets

physically and mentally tortured

in Fatal Attraction, Falling

Down, Disclosure, The Game, and

A Perfect Murder. Intriguingly,

Douglas also played The American

President as a likable doofus

who has nearly lost his bearings

after the death of his wife (the

dead first lady, as in Independence

Day and Mars Attacks, being the

ideal teacher's-out-sick fantasy

of the Hillary Clinton-era). But

the Times' bloviatrix's

exclusive focus on venting her

inner-prig produces much smoke

but little in the way of

purifying fire.


Throughout the now-fading

fireworks of Monicagate, the

most entertaining commentators

have been people like Chris Rock

(and on the other side Chris

Matthews, one of Dowd's supposed

partners in that Irish Catholic

conspiracy of pontificators),

who actually seem to believe

something about the topic. Dowd

on the other hand has kept busy

hunting for angles. In a recent

and celebrated article, she

ominously painted a vision of an

unnamed, sex-obsessed,

cigar-blinded Washington

preevert, building up the reader

to believe the subject is Bill

Clinton - only to reveal in the

last sentence that he is

actually Kenneth Starr! (If the

style seems familiar, it is.

Change some nouns and this could

easily be a Paul Harvey "Rest of

the Story" in which the sickly,

picked-on kid with the gimpy leg

grows up to be President Warren

G. Harding!) Inevitably, the

column was a raging success.



Professional Clinton-haters, who

had grown fond of Dowd's nasty

spinning heel kicks, were

disappointed to see one of

Starr's best meal ticketeers

turning on him at the last. But

no man is safe when the Maenads

really get whipped up, and Starr

certainly brought it on himself.

While the Independent Counsel

has been frequently compared to

a Salem Puritan on a witch hunt,

few have considered the opposite

possibility - that Kenneth Starr

is in fact the warlock leader of

the coven, whipping his

man-hating viragoes into an orgy

of milk spoiling.

(Significantly, after a brief

struggle between good and evil,

witches this year have replaced

angels as the protagonists of

choice in movies, TV shows, and

spell-casting books). Starr's

real sin is that his brand of

man-killing juju seems to

have no effect - or worse, to

mutilate the wrong victims.

He shouldn't be surprised that

his girls are turning on him.

But while the easy response of

the embattled male might be to

blurt out - as Jack Nicholson,

playing one of the movies'

preeminent woman-haters, did so

effectively in Carnal Knowledge

("You fucking ball-busting son

of a cunt bitch!"), there's a

much more effective

can't-beat-'em/join-em response

ready at hand. After all, while

the sense of moral indignation

is new, the stridency of the New

Yenta is something drag queens

have been pulling off

effectively for years. Think how

persuasive the Starr

referral would have been if it

had been delivered by a special

prosecutor in a tulle gown.

After all, you don't need to be

a woman to be a ball-breaker.

You just have to be a bitch.

courtesy of Bartel D'Arcy

[Purchase the Suck Book here]