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They Shoot Interns, Don't They?

ABC last week gave America its first look at a fresh-faced youngster who's sure to take this country by storm one of these days. In what had to be a ratings risk, ABC devoted two hours to interviewing a virtual unknown named Monica Lewinsky, a former employee in the public sector.

From what I could gather from the interview, Ms. Lewinsky -- Monica, to those that knew her -- had run into some sort of trouble with her previous employer. It seems that in the resulting hullabaloo -- which, I'm embarrassed to admit, totally escaped my attention -- word had gotten out that Ms. Lewinsky was a woman of ill repute. The bluenoses and the puritans may turn their noses up at Monica but here's one pundit who hopes to see more -- a lot more -- of this courageous, young hussy!

Viva Lewinsky, I say. Now and forever. Amen.

Would that any of that preceding paragraph were true. But over the past year, Monica Lewinsky has been as inconspicuous as a go-go dancer in the College of Cardinals, as enigmatic as a riddle on the back of a Dixie cup. We've been beaten over the head with every frame of videotape ever recorded of this woman. We've listened to people obsess over her every movement so incessantly, even just a glimpse of a beret now sends me into convulsions. After all the pontificating and the Monday morning quarterbacking about her state of mind, the only person more intimate with Monica Lewinsky than the rest of us is probably Bill Clinton. And that all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

Myself, I didn't catch the special two-hour "Let's Wring Every Last Dime Out of This Scandal While the Body's Still Warm" interview on 20/20. I was watching something more morally uplifting -- Asian hermaphrodite porno. But apparently, I was one of the few who didn't tune in.

Some 74 million people caught at least a portion of the Lewinsky interview the other night, no doubt in large part to see if the always hard-hitting Barbara Walters could get the former intern to turn on the waterworks. The interview was a precursor to the tome Lewinsky and her ghost writer have just released chronicling her part in the scandal, officially making the Clinton-Lewinsky liaison the most chronicled affair since King David spotted Bathsheba soaping up. And if the folks at Amazon.com are to be believed, the book is flying off their virtual shelves.

This is surprising, as a poll released the day of the interview said that more than half of those surveyed weren't planning on watching the interview. And nearly 90 percent claimed they wouldn't spend a dime for the Lewinsky book.

I'm no statistician, but I think one or two of you might have told fibs to the good men and women at Gallup.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we as a nation collectively agree that we were all-Lewinsky-ied out some time ago? I mean, that was the point of the Senate trial, right? "Sure, the guy probably did it, and maybe he deserves to be run out of the White House on a rail," we all more or less said in unison. "But if we have to hear about that goddamn thong underwear one more time, we're going to have to start taking schoolchildren hostage."

And yet, just a month after all this impeachment argle-bargle came to an end, the one possible benefit of giving a caddish and irresponsible president his Get Out of Jail Free card -- i.e., that all concerned parties would have to shut their respective traps -- has yet to materialize. Post-game analysis dominates the Sunday morning chat shows. Lewinsky jokes still crop up in late-night TV monologues. Every morning zoo DJ worth his salt is spinning one song parody after another.

And to top it all off, I now have to withstand the sight of Lewinsky on my TV, talking about how she and Bubba are "sexual soul-mates" as she alternately reveals that she "cries for normalcy."

To which I say, really good job of keeping that low profile, dear.

This proves something significant about human nature, and no, it's not my long-time working hypothesis "Most Everybody's Stupid But Me." We can rant and rave until we're blue in the face about all the Jerry Springers and the "When Animals Attack" specials in the world. We can tsk-tsk exploitative programming aimed at people's basest instincts until our tongues are raw and swollen. We can proclaim our total lack of interest in trash TV.

But in the end, we're a nation of gawkers, of voyeurs, of folks who slow down at the six-car pile-ups and feel a twinge of regret when we don't spot any severed limbs. So when Monica Lewinsky goes on TV, we'll all roll our eyes and shake our heads sadly... and then lap up every last, lewd detail -- at least until the next freak show pulls into town.

That's why, our protestations to the contrary, we'll be stuck with Monica Lewinsky for a good, long while. We deserve as much. Crap, like water, rises to its own level.

In fact, the panelists on The View -- the morning program for people who find Regis & Kathie Lee too complex and esoteric -- talked last week about bringing Monica Lewinsky on the show as a replacement for intellectual equal Debbie Matenopoulos. They were probably kidding, but in this day and age, who knows? Stranger things have happened than Monica Lewinsky winding up as a panelist on The View.

Which, come to think of it, might finally bring her that obscurity she so richly deserves.


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