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A Talk With Monica's Main Man

April 19, 1998|IRENE LACHER

We are driving to Junior's on a crisp Easter morning, and Monica's dad is telling Linda Tripp jokes. There's this guy, see, and he's overdosed on Viagra, the new drug that fights sexual impotence. Only one thing can help him return to his pre-Viagra state.

"They pull out a picture of Linda Tripp," he says and hoots.

Dr. Bernard Lewinsky heard that one on TV. Lately, he's been hearing a lot of jokes on TV that have a familiar ring. Strange, one day you're John Q. Citizen, and the next your family and former friends are Jay Leno's monologue.

We pull up to the Westwood deli to find a clot of Angelenos who haven't maxed out on matzoh balls despite a zillion Seders the week before. We leave a name.

"Should we say Bernie Lewinsky?" snickers someone in our group.

"Should we say Bill Ginsburg?" snickers Lewinsky of Monica's limelighted attorney.

Minutes after we're seated, a young woman in a lime-green sweater set squats by our table. She's an old friend of Monica's, Michelle Glazov. Michelle is singing the FBI blues. The agency called her after she called Monica after the fur began to fly. Agents spent 20 minutes on the phone with Michelle, grilling her about names and e-mail addresses.

"If their conversation with me is indicative of how the FBI does investigations," she's telling Bernie and Barbara, his wife, "I understand why they don't find anything out about anything. I don't know anything anyway, but they didn't even ask me anything worthwhile that was interesting. It was the most boring conversation.

"When we hung up the phone, [my] attorney and I looked at each other, and I said, 'Is that normal?' "

Normal is becoming a relative term these days in Lewinskyland. At the moment, normal for Monica is limbo.

"Her life is not productive at all," says Lewinsky, a balding and avuncular 55. "You go crazy sitting in a room, no matter how big the room is. There's nothing to do. Bill Ginsburg takes her out to give her a little change of pace, but she can't go anywhere. It's lucky that the Watergate is what it is because there's a supermarket there and a coffee shop.

"But other than that, she's stuck. The FBI took her computer, so she can't get into the Internet. I gave her that for a college graduation gift. They never replaced it."

Photographers are still parked outside the Watergate at all hours. Things have gotten so cozy at Camp Monica that the photogs sent their quarry a picture of themselves. She sent back a box of cookies. Normally--if one can use that word--encounters aren't so chummy. When Monica went to a hair salon, she was stalked by a crew with telephoto lenses.

"She was on TV with her hair being shampooed," Lewinsky says. "All her privacy is gone, and it's just terrible."

Imagine waking up one day--Jan. 16 at 3 p.m., but who's counting?--and finding your daughter at the center of a sex scandal involving the president. You open the paper and read details of your own bitter divorce that you think are skewed. Your colleagues stop you at your San Fernando Valley radiation oncology clinic to say they didn't know you made so much money.

Your name is suddenly so well known that your identity is snatched by credit thieves. Your 1991 wedding pictures are sold to the Globe. Journalists stop cancer patients leaving your clinic to ask about you. Tabloid reporters call your office to sniff out a rumor that you're having an affair with someone there.

You can't talk to your daughter about anything personal--at a time when her personal needs must be great--because you think her phone is being tapped, and because you can't know anything anyway or risk being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

All the while, your daughter's legal bills are mounting at a rate of $100,000 a month. If she's charged with perjury and goes to trial, they could easily top $1 million.

And you're just a normal guy.

"Lo and behold, Monica is 24, and you can say, she's an adult, why do I have to do it? The fact is, she's my daughter. I have to help her. But nobody can make the kind of money it takes to fight the government.

"Look at [independent counsel Kenneth] Starr. He spent 40 million bucks. Clinton has a defense fund. He has a dinner party last week, and it was $15,000 a plate and he made $500,000 in one dinner for his legal bills. He's got the machinery. When you donate to the president, the big corporations will do it, but they want something back.

"The reality is, we have nothing to offer to people. They have to give because they really feel the cause is something they want to support."

You didn't see much of Lewinsky until a few weeks ago, when he went on the "Today" show to announce the creation of the Monica Lewinsky Legal Defense Fund. The fund hasn't exactly caught fire. Only $17,000 has come in to offset the tab to date of $300,000. Monica's recently remarried mother, Marcia Lewis, isn't contributing, Lewinsky says. She has her own legal bills after being subpoenaed by Starr.

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