- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2000

NEW YORK Where will they live? What will he do? How much will they pay? Etc. Etc. The avalanche of Clintonalia study of the outgoing (some say incoming) first couple is clogging the culture of this town.

Gossip columnists, usually serious pundits, talk-show hosts, party-givers and leading indicators of the so-called chattering classes can't seem to get enough of the Clintons. Maybe they won't make a clean swap of the nation's capital for the Big Apple, but having the president and the senator-elect underfoot has become a point of civic pride for some, admittedly Democrats. For others, admittedly Republicans, it's a case of "There goes the neighborhood."

The thought of the Clinton presence in the city is not something new, what with Mrs. Clinton's recent senatorial campaign and the innumerable trips both of them have made to Manhattan in the past eight years. Monumental traffic tie-ups and gazillions of dollars worth of Manhattan fund-raisers have instilled lasting memories of those heady times. To the Clintons, the Upper East Side of Manhattan is the city, and forget about the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and certainly Staten Island.

Nevertheless, now that Mrs. Clinton has a real New York job and her husband is looking for one, there is no end to the speculation about how the Clintons-in-exile will live their lives here. At Park Avenue levels, the tab is high.

"Their trajectory, Little Rock to Washington to New York, has been as well-thought-out as the Apollo moon mission," said the New York Observer, pointing out that there will be no shortage of contacts and fixers to smooth their way.

Few can forget the recent Angel Ball thrown by songwriter Denise Rich, who reportedly coughed up about $600,000 in soft money to the Democratic Party. "Bill and Hill," as the headlines call them, presided over the extravaganza, along with pop star Michael Jackson, Jordan's Queen Noor, baseball's Keith Hernandez, dozens from the film industry, and Bobby Zarem, a ubiquitous rainmaker in the Democratic circles and a frequent flyer in the Clinton set.

Mrs. Clinton's record-breaking $8 million book deal with Simon & Schuster has answered some of the questions about how the lame-duck first couple will pay their legal bills, although no one seems to know exactly how much they are and if, in fact, the Clintons themselves will write the checks. Mrs. Clinton's network of loyal feminist Democrats, many of whom seem to live on Park Avenue, is another source of comfort. Just last Monday she had tea with some of them, described by the New York Times as "women who lunch and run companies and get things done." Among those in attendance were real estate agents, decorators and actresses.

Russ Smith, editor of the feisty New York Press, sees Mr. Clinton having the time of his life, "kibitzing in New York and D.C., making gobs of cash giving speeches, and controlling the Democratic Party as well."

As for Hillary, he sees her book as the opening of her bid for the White House in 2004. "Just as she rolled compliant and not terribly politically astute media people, from Tina Brown (former editor of the New Yorker) to Vanity Fair to the New York Times, into giving her enormously favorable publicity, she completely [beat down] Simon & Schuster for a book that won't even be delivered for a couple of years."

Where they will live inspires intense speculation. Some say that the Clintons already have found a Park Avenue pied a terre for themselves, and that the president has settled for a midtown suite of offices on Lexington Avenue. The stories, which change from day to day, always include the assurance that the $1.7 million Clinton home in Chappaqua, which they purchased as Mrs. Clinton decided to run for office in her adopted state, is also up for grabs. "They'll keep it as a kind of symbolic headquarters, but won't spend much time there, and then eventually sell it," said one informed source. Mrs. Clinton isn't saying and her spokesman for the last 12 months reportedly is looking for a job.

Exclusive social clubs are pondering whether the Clintons will apply for membership. "How could we refuse her?" an official of one Park Avenue institution worried aloud. On the other hand, it's taken for granted that the Clintons will avoid considering a co-op as their residence, reluctant to risk passing muster with a governing board.

Mr. Clinton's future is a favorite conversation gambit. The New York Post gossip columnist, Neal Travis, who specializes in Clintonalia, set off a storm with a report that the president was interested in running for mayor of the city. In the inevitable follow-up interviews, however, the president did not rule it out. A poll was taken, and 51 percent scotched the idea.

"New York is a very forgiving place where people can reinvent themselves. What people care about here is intelligence, ambition and interesting dinner conversation," said Jill Brooke, editor of Avenue magazine, which is distributed in the city's affluent ZIP codes. "Say what you will, the Clintons have a social conscience, said Miss Brooke, who describes herself as "a woman who cares about choice."

One report of Clinton culture shock the impending relocation from Los Angeles to New York of Hollywood producers and Clinton friends Linda and Harry Thomason is, according to one source, not going to happen. However, Mr. Thomason did discuss the idea of a Bill Clinton TV show with his longtime Arkansas friend, Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises.

A column in the Daily News, the daily tabloid owned by Mrs. Clinton's friend Mort Zuckerman, suggested she will need a ghost writer for her book. A scene in which the first lady confronts her husband about his sexual dalliance with Monica Lewinsky is written in the style of five famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway. ("He took a drink. He took six. He looked up. He bit his lip.")

As for Miss Lewinsky, an integral part of Clintonalia, she beams regularly from either the TV screen or photo sections of celebrity magazines. But in the spirit of New York's anthem that "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" her handbag design business is thriving.

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