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Lewinsky: Return of A Dubious Celebrity

Monica Lewinsky may not be a nice girl, but she plays one on TV.

All of this may be moot after tonight if some of the dire predictions about 2000 come true. But just in case we’re all still here, listen up:

Y2Kook alert!

At least one turn-of-the-century glitch is predictable. Sunday is when the fatheads at Jenny Craig Inc. use television to affirm that anyone--however prominent a jerk--can earn a big paycheck in the U.S. if he or she can financially benefit someone else.

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That’s the day Jenny Craig’s new diet ads with a 31 pounds-slimmer Lewinsky begin running on NBC during “Brian Boitano’s Skating Spectacular,” giving viewers two figure eights for the price of one.

“One of the most amazing things about Jenny Craig for me is that I haven’t felt deprived on this program--at all,” Lewinsky is reported to say in one of two spots showing her “before” and “after.”

Lewinsky is not a convicted felon. She’s not a murderer. She’s not a pedophile. She’s not a gangster. She’s not a drug dealer. She’s not a slumlord. She’s not a spy for a foreign power. In other words, she has a right to earn an honest living any way she chooses.

It’s just a shame that her only visible means of doing so is by profiting from the infamy she attained when helping put the nation through enormous agony. And a shame that Jenny Craig is helping her.

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So being an epic drip can still pay, although it remains to be seen how successfully Jenny Craig’s new star makes the jump from giving oral sex to a lying, philandering president to giving weight-loss advice on TV and the Internet to the nation that elected him.

Much is being made now of a presumed rivalry between Lewinsky and Weight Watchers spokeswoman Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, one difference between them being that “Fergie” never came close to bringing down the monarchy.

Lewinsky’s story is well known, her insincerity well charted, making the source of her new credibility a mystery.

Her only calling card at age 26 is her earlier carnality as a fixated White House intern. It’s all that’s needed in a cynical marketplace where just about everyone is redeemable in the service of profit, and where no color shines brighter than green.

Having famous flaws is as fiscally beneficial now as when Billy Martin and New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner reenacted their mutual petulance for Miller Lite on TV, and tennis great John McEnroe redid his on-court nastiness in commercials for Bic Blades.

Lewinsky gets her own lucrative gig, of course, because of her gripping, fully realized, indelibly memorable supporting performance in the ending century’s Oval Office melodrama starring Bill Clinton, which she reprised self-servingly in her subsequent book and on TV with “Saturday Night Live” and Barbara Walters.

Her scandalous behavior with Clinton, abetted by his own, more sinister actions, led ultimately to impeachment proceedings that nearly scuttled his presidency in 1999. Her notoriety from that, combined with her bulk, which became the butt of cruel jokes, has made Lewinsky irresistible to Jenny Craig, which can always use a famous face to draw attention to the 749 weight-loss clinics it operates globally.

Jenny Craig is betting that when seeing those “before” and “after” photos, even the weight-conscious multitudes who dislike Lewinsky will heed her endorsement.

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She’s part of a growing crowd. Former Watergate jailbird G. Gordon Liddy is now a regular in a syndicated TV series. Misbehaving basketballer Dennis Rodman was rehired in 1999 as a Carl’s Jr. commercial spokesman, and re-dumped only after going haywire again. Sportscaster Marv Albert is now back at NBC two years after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault of a woman. Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris, after being embarrassed by his own sex scandal, is now spilling his guts for the Fox News Channel.

Just like them, Lewinsky is one of those boomerangs who keeps coming back. And pundits will be buzzing for weeks about whether her resurfacing on TV will strengthen or undermine Hillary Clinton’s bid to become a U.S. senator from New York.

The U.S. is either a very forgiving or forgetful nation in which fame tends to assume a life of its own if it exists long enough. So expect Lewinsky now to make some most-admired-women lists in the coming year and maybe even become one of Ladies Home Journal’s most-fascinating females of 2000. The talk shows are surely after her now, and if she gets really, really thin, she may have a shot at getting hired by “Ally McBeal.”

Speaking of chutzpah, by the way, is too late for a Lewinsky float in the Rose Bowl parade?

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Fair Postscript: A number of readers have asked how to contact Jeff Cohen, Monday’s interview subject, who heads media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. The address is 130 W. 25th St., New York, N.Y. 10001. The phone number is (212) 633-6700. The Web site is https://www.fair.org.

In response to those faulting me for being even more obnoxious than usual, when appearing to be especially testy with Cohen in our Q & A, I was hoping to achieve some balance by playing devil’s advocate. That’s because I agree with him on nearly all issues regarding media.

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Howard Rosenberg’s column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be contacted via e-mail at calendar.letters@latimes.com.


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