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No Justice for Pre-Presidential Peccadilloes : Sorry, Babe, but Candor and Campaigning Don't Mix

November 22, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

I'm out of the race.

Albert Gore doesn't have to worry anymore. Or Michael Dukakis, George Bush, even Pat Robertson. Same for all the presidential hopefuls.

OK, maybe I wasn't doing so well in the opinion polls. Maybe you didn't even know I was running.

But after being an entertainment reporter all these years, I'd gotten the itch to move on. You would too--especially if you'd been reviewing TV documentaries like "The Search for Beluga Whales" and movies like "Hellhole." And, well, presidential politics was beginning to look like fun.

The campaign trail--that's where you can hear the roar of the crowd. My advisers were undeterred by the fact that the only office I'd ever run for (and lost--by a large margin, due to a series of scurrilous charges about my algebra grades) was treasurer of my 11th grade class.

Having been on tour with woozy rock stars, I knew how to wave at the press as I hurried toward a waiting helicopter. After interviewing fun-seeking Brat Packers, summit meetings with first-strike, crazed world leaders would be a piece of cake.

But I would be more than just the first leader of the Free World who knew all the lyrics to the new single by the Jesus and Mary Chain. I had big plans: balance the budget, kill Contra aid, get rid of the designated hitter.

Then the storm clouds moved in.

Gary Hart got caught in mid-affair. Joe Biden plagiarized campaign speeches. Douglas Ginsburg admitted to smoking pot as a Harvard prof.

That inspired similar marijuana experimentation confessions from Democratic candidates Bruce Babbitt and Albert Gore (likewise, Tipper, Gore's anti-rock crusader spouse). Since then, the editorial pages have been full of fulminations about how the fall-out from youthful sins of the '60s may kill off an entire generation of political aspirants.

My advisers panicked. They sent over a 80-page form filled with questions about my junior high grades, those wild Hollywood parties and my two weeks in Vegas with Hunter Thompson. They wanted the truth, especially before some unprincipled rival leaked to it to a nosy reporter from the Metro section.

Sure, I have known some William Morris agents. Yes, I have made the acquaintance of some TV syndicators. I even found myself eating breakfast next to Michael Mann the other day. But that doesn't mean I've mortgaged my moral fiber. In Hollywood, you just see things from a different perspective.

So what if Joe Biden borrowed a few catchy phrases? Where would Billy Joel be today if he hadn't nicked all those old Beatles riffs?

Sure, it looked ridiculous for a President who's been lecturing Hollywood about glorifying drugs to nominate an admitted user to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, if all the Hollywood actors and producers who've been in detox units had to stop making movies, our theaters would be full of epics about the Albanian Civil War.

My advisers were unmoved. If you're going to be the first graduate of the rock 'n' roll generation to run for President, your only chance is to spill your guts. Just deal with the issues. Not farm subsidies, not interest rates and not the national debt. The real issues.

These are true confessions. Only the names have been changed, in the interest of avoiding libel suits and the events occasionally exaggerated, under the protection of the First Amendment:

SEX: When I was 15, I sneaked Mary Ann Millstone into my bedroom and didn't come out for three weeks. (I told my mother I had chicken-pox.) In college, I once dated a pair of identical twins. I took one home for Thanksgiving. One for Easter. My mother finally said: "Who are you bringing home for the 4th of July--the Pointer Sisters?"

DRUGS: Sure I dabbled. But I was never strung out on heroin or pig tranquilizers. What about that marijuana plantation in the Everglades? Hey, I took care of my family. One year I sold a couple extra bales of weed and bought my grandmother a canasta table for Christmas.

SCRAPES WITH THE LAW: Where to begin? I snitched my first Marvel comic when I was 10. A Steppenwolf album when I was 12. Then I got into the heavier stuff. Like 419 unpaid parking tickets in New York. Gambling debts in Detroit. Three month's back-rent in Chicago. A huge bar tab at the Poodle Lounge in Miami Beach. I moved around so much, I once voted during the same election in three different states--is that illegal or just enthusiasm?

DETERIORATING HEALTH: I've had rabies, scabies, acid flashbacks and lost all the feeling in my left foot after I camped out during a blizzard in Buffalo trying to buy Led Zeppelin tickets. In film school, I studied Jean-Luc Godard for three semesters. Then I had an eye doctor tell me never to drive or operate heavy machinery again. After 1,242 heavy-metal concerts, I can hear just about as well as President Reagan.

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