Monthly Archives: May 2004

Well here it is, the Read of the Week : Franklin Foer on Judy Miller

Being it’s for New York Magazine it’s as gossipy as one would expect. And considering Judy’s history of writing articles on her back (Jerry Seinfeld’s “Astronaut Pen” that enables one to write upside down appears to have been tailor made for her) there’s no way to decorously avoid La Juice, even if one tried.

What is it with these Mafia nightclub owners and their daughters getting into journalism? I’ve been pretty damned snarky about Baba Wawa and her longing for a Triumph of the Will & Grace alliance with Roy Cohn. But Judy Miller’s another story entirely. Far more sinister in numerous respects.

And that’s just to mention Dear Old Dad. When it comes to Judy herself, the thought of her witnessing an execution then dashing off for cocktails with the Shiek du jour , as detailed by Foer, freezes the blood.

If only Joan Crawford were alive to player her in the movie: a three-way cross between Flamingo Road, The Damned Don’t Cry and The Best of Everything. Gore Vidal could do the script with Stephen Frears directing the action with all savoir faire he brought to The Grifters.

Actually, come to think of it, Kathleen Turner would make a great Judy.

If nothing else, Foer’s piece send me to my stash of Spy magazines. I knew theyed come in handy one day!

Foer makes mention of the “J.J. Hunsecker” column making passing mention of Judy’s affair with legendary sub-human Lee Atwater.

(All together now — EEEEWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!)

But the REAl Judy-and-“J.J.” Catch is to be found in the October 1989 issue of the much-missed mag:

There was every reason to believe that when Judy Miller was moved from her post as deputy Washington bureau chief late last year, her long-standing custom of getting indecorously close to highly placed male sources would end. She is attracted more to the power the men in her orbit have than to the men themselves; her first words upon entering a room are often “Okay, who’s important here?” The list of middle-aged, quasi- available powerguys from Judy’s colorful past is a long one, incorporating everyone from guitar-picking Republican national chairmen to anchorgirl-dating former assistant secretaries of State.

Surely Sally Quinn was more decorous.

Or maybe not.

One would think that planting Judy back in New York as deputy to cultural affairs editor Marty Arnold would afford her superiors an opportunity to keep an eye on her, thereby enabling them to stop her from doing anything that might make her feel cheap and dirty in the morning. And with a new presidential administration – and therefore a fresh stable of middle-aged, quasi-available powerguys to develop as sources – the timing of the move seemed especially propitious.

But if you don’t feel cheap and dirty in the morning was the sex any good?

It was always something of a wonder to her colleagues at the Times that Judy managed to get away with her shenanigans for so long. Tactical bum-kissing had a lot to do with it, especially in the days when Abe Rosenthal was running the paper. She could play Abe expertly, alternately toadying before him and making him feel like her daddy. Shortly after Abe walked out on his long-suffering wife Ann, he went to a dinner party at which Judy was present. Before he arrived, she regaled the assembly with details of the Rosenthal breakup. When Abe arrived looking fretful, she innocently asked him if something was wrong between him and Ann. “You are such a sensitive man,” she said. “You look like a man deeply troubled – it shows on your face.” Abe, evidently moved by Judy’s compassion, leaned toward her and complimented her on her own sensitivity and rare perception. Such interpersonal skills Judy no doubt put to good use in her days as a corre-spondent in Paris, Beirut and Cairo. Regarded by her peers as a dogged, talented journalist, she received more ambivalent reviews for her after-hours work. Fellow female correspondents in Beirut had a very rough nickname for Judy – “Egregious Cunt” – which some of them abbreviated (E.C.) and had silk-screened onto T-shirts.

Oh I want one! I need it for my collection!

Judy’s living accommodations in those far-flung outposts were ripe topics of conversation. Her bedroom in Cairo, for instance, had white shag carpeting and bedspread and curtains in an electric- blue-and-orange design. When a fellow correspondent took over her apartment in Beirut, it was discovered that although the place was to be let furnished, there were no sheets available. When news of this reached the city’s press community, one unkind journalist commented, “She didn’t want anyone to see her notes.” This past summer Judy rented a small cottage in Sag Harbor to finish her Holocaust book, a book, she told friends, that she wanted to get out in time for “the Chanukah market.” Something went wrong with her word processor, however, and, unable to print anything out, she had to periodically lug the machine over to the Sag Harbor home of her editor at Simon & Schuster, Alice Mayhew, so that she could look at the revisions on Judy’s computer screen – an inconvenience that annoyed technology-shy Mayhew considerably.

“Can I borrow a cup of pixels?”

It wasn’t long before Judy began complaining that she found her rental house too small and stuffy-an improbable complaint, given that she had spent years working in Cairo and Beirut. But in Cairo or Beirut, of course, you wouldn’t find middle-aged Jason Epstein, editorial director of Random House, with a Harbor place that just happens to be large and airy. What to do? Judy decided to move into Epstein’s house – to work, naturally. The only trouble was there’d been a rather farfetched romor around the Hamptons early morning in the summer that Epstein was dating Random House publisher Joni Evans. Judy reportedly asked a friend just how farfetched the romance rumors were. Really farfetched, the frIend reassurred her. [i]Hmmm: powerful, middle-aged[/i] and [i]quasi-available[/i].

Cue Dory Previn for a chorus of “Beware of Young Girls”

Soon enough, Judy and Jason began to be seen together, attending several parties in a single weekend. (At one dinner party after Epstein reached for a brownie, Judy playfully slapped his wrist and whispered, “Now don’t forget your diet!!”)

Hmm. Bet there was a lot more slapping involved when they got home.

One does have to be impressed by the speed at which Judy moves. In the Hamptons only a few short weeks and already she in her clasp one of the few wealthy powerful bachelors available — and one whose line of work, publishing, just happens to be the principal area of her own cultural beat at the Times! Around the time Judy moved in with Epstein, Eleanor Blau, in the Times’s culture pages, devoted 925 words (accompanied by a flattering photograph) to an editor-entrepreneur behind a mail-order bookselling scheme called [i]The Reader’s Catalogue[/i] – none other than Judy’s middle-aged powerguy, Jason Epstein

Ah but that was then. Judy now is. . . .where?

We’re all breathlessly awaiting the other shoe to drop at the NYT.

Stay Tuned.