Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections
(Page 2 of 11)

COLUMN ONE

Caught in the Middle of a Nightmare

After an affluent but rocky childhood, Monica Lewinsky went to Washington. Now, she finds herself facing public scrutiny over her private life.

February 01, 1998|From Times Staff Writers

Despite the exaggeration that divorce papers are famous for, the documents in Lewinsky vs. Lewinsky indicate Monica grew up in extraordinarily privileged circumstances. Dr. Lewinsky says he was making $37,000 a month, or nearly half a million dollars a year. Even at that, he says, the family was living beyond its means. The divorce papers quote Monica's mother as saying: "I and my children have maintained an affluent lifestyle and have traveled first class extensively. We have always provided our children with expensive extracurricular lessons and tutoring to satisfy any desires that either they or we might have. I and the children have never had to worry about the cost of anything that we reasonably desired. I have always been able to buy whatever clothes either I, or the children, needed or desired."

The family spent $20,000 a year on vacations. They drank from a wine cellar, ate off sterling silver and told time by a French clock. Monica's father drove a Cadillac Allante, her mother a Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL. The family had a Dodge Caravan for outings. Monica and her family spent $2,400 a month for clothing and shoes; Monica and her brother spent $720 a month for tennis lessons, and Monica spent $100 a month on her own hair and grooming.

She attended John Thomas Dye School, where the annual tuition is $9,700. In the fourth grade, her parents switched her to tony Hawthorne Elementary, a neighborhood public school. Still, one classmate says, "she was not a snob." She was quiet and shy, family friends say, and she got teased by her classmates for wearing thick eyeglasses. But she had corrective eye surgery, and she became more outgoing. She went to slumber parties and school dances, saw movies and hung out at the Beverly Center mall. She liked to sing in talent shows and organize fund-raisers.

"She was fun," says Erin Lotz, who lived nearby and became a close friend. "She was always smiling. She liked everybody, and everybody liked her." Payson Lederman, who grew up two doors down, says, "She was very nice, really, a genuine person--not a phony." One year, Monica threw a party. Lederman says she was a warm hostess, quick to make sure he knew other kids and had fun. "I was kind of a wallflower then," he says, "and I was so touched that she came over and introduced me around. A lot of people aren't that considerate."

Melissa Jacobs, who met Monica in kindergarten, says they became typical girlfriends: They played soccer together, took modern dance lessons together, tried on each other's clothes and gossiped. They were part of a Hawthorne Elementary clique of five girls who wore matching pink sweatshirts and called themselves the One and Onlys. A rival clique, the Raving Radicals, wore either red or black, Jacobs cannot remember which. The impulse to form the groups came from "Grease," the John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John musical about '50s teenagers.

*

Unlike the rival clique, Monica's was "much more mellow," says Maya Popkin, another member. "We were better students, less eccentric. We came from better homes--by that I mean homes where the family core was stronger. You have to understand, there were some pretty bizarre things going on in the families of kids going to Hawthorne. The ratio of divorce was about 1:3 [one set of married parents to three divorced]. There were parents doing drugs at home.

"We had great conflicts with the Raving Radicals," Popkin remembers. "Monica was the kind of girl who talked to them, had a way with words, would calm everything down. She always seemed older than her age, more mature externally and internally. You sense these things about kids, even at that age. Monica's core is that she is good-hearted. I was always in fights. She wasn't. Monica could get along with basically everybody. She was very, very smart. She had language skills, a good vocabulary. There was nothing conniving about her. She wouldn't step on anybody to get something she wanted."

As Monica's confidence grew, so did a political streak. In the eighth grade, she campaigned for student council vice president and won. Danny Shabani, who was elected president, says she often ran the student council meetings. They were at 7 a.m., and "I would never make them. So she would go in my place."

A member of the Dudical Dudes, a boys' clique, who dated her occasionally, says: "She was always a little chunky. That's what kept her from being one of the girls that all the guys went after." Shirin Mehdizadeh, a classmate, says: "She used to tell me she hated her body because she was too fat." Monica had started dieting when she was only 8, says a neighbor who baby-sat. She did it with her mother, the neighbor says, who pressured her to worry about her looks. One evening, the neighbor found Monica staring into a mirror. She turned and asked, "Do you think I'm pretty?"

*

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|