Slapshots: One Degree of Separation

Some writers toil for years in low-paying day jobs, scrambling a freelance life on the side to see their words in print. Some attend prestigious writing programs at Iowa or Columbia, convinced a proper education is the ticket to a successful career. Still others self-publish their work, hoping it will attract a readership on its own. And other writers just fuck the future president of the United States.

Such is the case with Gennifer Flowers, in San Francisco on a worldwide tour, promoting her newest book Passion & Betrayal, a thin $20 exercise in typing published by Emery Dalton Books in Del Mar. Her Channel 2 interview went well earlier today, but another media appearance went not so well. During a live interview on the KPIX noon news, she removed her microphone on camera and walked off the set.

Consequently, the Borders bookstore phone rings off the hook throughout the day. More calls than Norman Mailer's appearance the previous afternoon? "Oh, yeah," exclaims the manager. Also received is a threatening call, along the lines of: "Her book is smut, and you're smut for having her there. You better have extra security." By six p.m., extra rent-a-cops are in the store, wandering the periodical section. Flowers arrives and is ushered to a book-signing area, a table set up in front of the gay and lesbian section. Security guards, armed with riot club and pistol, flank her on either side, another stands about a book's throw away, giving everyone the once-over. The author is "in." A line forms, a combination of genuinely curious white trash, irony-soaked white trash and a bunch of women who keep their distance and wear an expression of amazement, like they've just come upon a washed-out bridge. These fans of the written word wait patiently until it is their turn to meet our nation's newest literary phenomenon.

Her hair is pulled back in a sensible style. She wears a high-necked black dress and gold jewelry. Her bright purple/orange lipstick color is shared by her two female assistants, hovering behind her. Unlike the dust jacket -- and every other photo in her book -- the author's cleavage is not displayed tonight. A red-faced man with a comb-over named Carl Weber is at the table. He is beaming with excitement, and can barely contain himself. "I saw you in Washington D.C.!" he bubbles, fiddling with his camera. "Oh, did you?" smiles Gennifer. "That was fun." Carl eagerly snaps her photo. The camera begins making a whining electronic sound. Automatic rewind! Shit! That was the last shot on the roll! Suddenly panicked, he scurries off to a corner, whips on a pair of reading glasses and fumbles with another roll.

The author looks up to the next person in line and smiles that smile. "I saw you on one of the TV stations this morning," I mention. "It's a shame I had to leave," says the author, neatly sidestepping the incident while inscribing the inside cover with a grand flourish. "I wish I could stay longer. I really like San Francisco." She hands back the prized collectible, her eyes sparkling and alive. The same eyes that gazed into Bill Clinton's soul, no doubt watching him huff and puff on top of her, his wobbly pale thighs barely keeping balance, his sweaty red face snuffling like a hog between her breasts for that last KFC extra crispy wing, his hands tied behind his back with a "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For George" bumpersticker, while outside in the parking lot, an Arkansas state trooper picks a nostril and turns the page of the *Democrat-Gazette*... "Thank you very much," I mumble. "It's my pleasure," she purrs. One degree of separation away from the White House! Even though she supposedly now has a boyfriend, some guy with the unfortunate name of Finis Shelnutt, she's still an incorrigible flirt, and loves the attention of men. Even if it's poor Carl Weber, still in the corner reloading that damn camera.

Someone brings the author a Diet Coke and glass of ice. A store manager dunks in a straw and quickly whisks the paper wrapper away. A white-haired man in his 50s shuffles up and offers his book. "Is it true?" he says. "It's all true," says the writer. "Who do I make this to? Ross? Nice name." Carl suddenly spins around, his red pate contrasting nicely with the blue denim shirt and smart corduroy slacks. Reloaded at last! He takes a few shots, then asks me to take one more picture of himself and the author."Come on back around here," says Gennifer. Carl hands me the camera and scampers around behind the table. He kneels down next to America's current queen of scandal, grinning like a fool. The author holds up her tell-all story, and gives the thumbs up. Carl offers up his thumb. Double prints, please!

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