Before there was Monica, there was Erik.
That's not what we meant. We're just saying Monica wasn't the first to immortalize the idea of presidential hanky-panky. A month before her name hit our lips, Erik Tarloff had started writing his new novel about presidential hanky-panky, "Face Time" (Crown).
We swear it was a coincidence, your honor.
"This is the first time timing was my friend," Tarloff told pals during a book party Monday at the L.A. aerie of Kathleen Brown and Van Gordon Sauter. "I knew when the Monica Lewinsky story broke that it would distort the way the book was read forever. I had no idea that there was such a person as Monica Lewinsky, and I had no idea . . . I had no definitive idea that anything such as this was actually going on in the White House in the time we were there."
"We" is Tarloff and his wife, Laura D'Andrea Tyson. During President Clinton's first term, Tarloff took a break from screenwriting to write speeches for the first couple and Vice President Al Gore, and Tyson was chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors and the National Economic Council.
Which would have put Tarloff in a pretty good position on the presidential poop loop.
"I was not surprised to hear that he was fooling around," he says, "but I didn't know he was fooling around. I was the recipient of probably better gossip than a lot of people because they knew that they could trust me, and I'm certainly not going to share it with you now for the same reason."
Hey, who are we going to tell?
Anyway, Tarloff says Clinton's sex life per se didn't inspire the book. "What interested me was the way in which power distorts the gravitational field around human relationships," something he's wondered about since his pubescent discovery that a friend of his parents had spent a night with President Kennedy. And bragged about it.
"Did she call him Jack or did she call him Mr. President? How did he make the first move? How does the leader of the free world risk getting his face slapped?"
It's the public's right to know.
Carolina Herrera knows how to hold onto old friends, judging from the plethora of parties for the socialite designer in L.A. this week. On Tuesday, Wendy and Leonard Goldberg celebrated Herrera with a private bash at Le Dome that included Tony Danza, Helen Mirren, Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer, George Hamilton, Robert and Rosemarie Stack and co-hosts Anne and Franklin Johnson.
The next night, Herrera joined a bevy of celebrity hosts at a dinner at Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the first stores to carry Herrera's clothing line 17 years ago. The elegant bash was a benefit, the first of two this week sponsored by the store.
And on Thursday, Saks unveiled Herrera's spring collection at a lunch honoring Sidney and Alexandra Sheldon. The event was co-hosted by the Colleagues charity group to benefit Children's Institute International, which fights child abuse and neglect. Oh, yes. The honorary chairwoman of the lunch? Nancy Reagan, an old friend and customer of Herrera's.
It's smart style to hang in there with Herrera, who has been doing elegant knee-length skirts and multilayer chiffon pieces for years. Now we get it. Of course, she's too ladylike to brag.
"That's fashion. I find it very boring when designers go around and say, 'I did that 10 years ago.' Please. So what. Let people remember if you did it or not."
Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2.