American Rhapsody

American Rhapsody

4.4 10
by Joe Eszterhas

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  If the Watergate scandal was a previous generation's National Nightmare, then maybe the Clinton scandal was our National Wet Dream, and who better to narrate it than the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas?  In American Rhapsody, Eszterhas, whose credits include Basic Instinct and Showgirls, and Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse, for which

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  If the Watergate scandal was a previous generation's National Nightmare, then maybe the Clinton scandal was our National Wet Dream, and who better to narrate it than the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas?  In American Rhapsody, Eszterhas, whose credits include Basic Instinct and Showgirls, and Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse, for which he was nominated for a National Book Award, takes us through the events that threatened to topple a president and left most of the nation's citizens with, at the very least, a bad taste in their mouths. 
   Taking full advantage of his considerable journalistic and storytelling talents, Eszterhas gives us every fact, rumor, or innuendo surrounding the president's foibles in the context of late century American politics and entertainment.  Here Washington and Hollywood do more than just flirt with each other; they share the same bed.  From scandalmongers Matt Drudge (who began as a Hollywood gossip) and Ken Starr, to would-be president paramours Sharon Stone and Barbra Streisand, to his final, unimpeachable witness, Willard—none other than President Clinton's talking penis—Eszterhas gives us the goods on the story that nobody could stop talking about and, thanks to American Rhapsody, will be impossible to think about the same way again.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Anthony Venutolo
If there's one thing writer Joe Eszterhas knows how to do, it's how to push the envelope.

Best known for authoring such guilty pleasures as Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Flashdance, the Hungarian-born scribe might have some explaining to do after the public gets hold of American Rhapsody, a walloping 432-page uppercut that connects square on the jaws of Washington and Tinseltown.

If you like dish served on a big, flat, silver platter, look no further, because Eszterhas (after a significant hiatus from screenwriting) has returned to his journalistic roots. Only this time, instead of digging up compelling facts, he aims for the jugular in the guise of "news."
Ed Vulliamy
It's a hilarious and scandalous book, part-fact, part-fantasy, about a serious subject: Washington observed through the prism of Hollywood and vice versa.
The Observer (London)
Library Journal
Let's be honest. This review could be as negative as it wanted to be, and librarians brave enough to unleash this venomous item on their shelves would still watch it be devoured by every type of reader, from the elderly lady who wants to "tsk-tsk" over some of the seamier scenes to the political fanatics who believe Bill Clinton to be the Devil Incarnate. Eszterhas, a Hollywood screenwriter responsible for Basic Instinct and other movies and who has become the highest paid author in the industry, trains his well-turned phrases on the White House intern scandal and the diverse cast of characters who wander in and out of this sordid tale of political power gone amok. The guy can write, and he is viciously funny, but his work must be a rampant stream of free-flowing consciousness that could be difficult for some readers to follow. The audiobook solves that problem for them; actors such as Ed Asner, Susan Ruttan, and Nina Foch have worked hard on this version to corral that wandering prose thought and bring their skills to interpreting the random, disjointed text. What reads like gibberish now sounds like reality. It's not flattering to anyone, and there are some scenes that will have even the most jaded listener wincing, but the crudest, most disgusting, and degrading language is saved for Clinton and the now-famous "Willard." Eszterhas loves words and loves the damage they can do even more. Go ahead and order this program and then make certain you have a fresh supply of Customer Complaint Forms on hand.--Joseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
American Rhapsody is an intimate and comprehensive survey and history of contemporary American political culture, the personalities, conflicts, compromises, and events that held the popular (as well as political) attention of the American public over the past decade. Here are Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John McCain, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Warren Beatty, James Carville, Sharon Stone, Larry Flynt, Vernon Jordan, Linda Tripp, Matt Drudge, and a host of others who are viewed through the lens of fact, fiction and speculation. American Rhapsody is a superbly produced, unabridged, highly recommended, multi-cast audiobook featuring the talents of Ed Asner, David Dukes, Nina Foch, Melissa Gilbert, Arte Johnson, Bill Maher, Deborah Raffin, Susan Ruttan, Will Sasso, and Joe Eszterhas. REVIEW%> Hay House PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018 1-800-654-5126 REVIEW%> Three fine self-help audios are recommended picks for buyers interested in healing and self-empowerment. Bernie Siegel's Healing Meditations (1-56170-771-6, $18.95) provides the surgeon's guided imagery meditations, which provide an auto-hypnosis set of healing admonishments for overcoming physical and emotional challenges. Natural Healing For Anxiety And Depression by Harold Bloomfield and Deepak Chopra (740-6, $10.95) presents a dialogue between the two doctors, exploring the nature of mental disturbance and how to approach it holistically. The two discuss different approaches to handling anxiety. John Edward's Developing Your Own Psychic Powers (762-7) is a six-cassette course in self-psychic development. From psychic self-defense and meditations to tapping into hidden psychic potentials, thisprovides explanations of growing abilities and their uses. All are excellent self-help guides.
From the Publisher
"This is a truly naughty book, but it is also a strangely moral one." -Talk

"Part tell-all, part fiction, part rant, part history.  It's all wicked and witty and hard to ignore." - The Denver Post

"A fact-based, ranting, rocking -and-rolling screed with none of the full-frontal scissored out... a long yell of protest... extremely funny." - Christopher Hitchens,  The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

The Whole World Is Watching
"We gotta get you laid," Monica said.
"Oh, God," Linda Tripp said, "wouldn't that be something different? New and different. I don't know. After seven years, do you really think that there's a possibility I'd remember how?"
"Of course you would."
"No," Linda Tripp said.
My friend Jann Wenner, the editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, the rock and roll bible, called me excitedly the day after Bill Clinton was nominated for the presidency. He had spent the previous night at a party, celebrating with Clinton. "He's one of us," Jann said. "He'll be the first rock and roll president in American history."

I had come to the same conclusion. He was one of us. Even if, on occasion, he tried to deny it. Of course he had dodged the draft, just another white Rhodes Scholar nigger who agreed with Muhammad Ali and had no quarrel with them Vietcong. Of course he had smoked dope, inhaling deeply, holding it in, bogarting that joint.

Bill Clinton, Jann told me, had always read Rolling Stone, so I smiled when, shortly after the election, he was photographed jogging in a Rolling Stone T-shirt, the same T-shirt I had worn to my son's Little League games. Well, this really was a cosmic giggle: Good Lord, we had taken the White House! After all the locust years--after Bebe Rebozo's boyfriend, after the hearing-impaired Marlboro Man, after that uppity preppy always looking at his watch--America was ours! In the sixties, we'd been worried about staying out of jail. Now the jails were ours to run as we saw fit.

Carter had given us false hope for a while, but Bill Clinton was the real deal: undiluted, uncut rock and roll. Carter, we had discovered, wasn't one of us. Oh, sure, Jimmah allowed his record-mogul pal Phil Walden and Willie Nelson to smoke dope on the White House roof, and he had told Playboy he had "committed adultery in my heart many times," but the unfortunate, terminally well-intentioned dip was such a cheesy rube, definitely not rock and roll, with his beer-gutted Libyan-agent brother, his schoolmarm wife, and the Bible-spouting sister who was secretly having sudsy, lederhosen romps with married German chancellor Willy Brandt. No, definitely not rock and roll, proven forever when he fell on his face jogging, claiming breathlessly that a bunny rabbit had jumped in front of him, falling on his face while wearing black socks.

His Secret Service agents nicknamed Bill Clinton "Elvis," but we knew better. Elvis had been Sgt. Barry Sadler's ideological sidekick, a slobby puppet on a carny barker's strings, in love with his nark badges, informing on the Beatles, toadying up to Nixon, The Night Creature. Those wet panties hurled onstage at his concerts were size 16 and skid-marked. Bill Clinton wasn't Elvis. With his shades on and his sax gleaming, Bill Clinton looked like a pouchier Bobby Keyes playing backup for the Stones. No, that wasn't quite right, either. Not Bobby Keyes, but a pop-gutted Jumpin' Jack Flash and graying Street Fightin' Man . . . Bill Clinton was Mick on cheeseburgers and milk shakes, Taco Bell, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti.

Rolling Stone called his inauguration "the coming of a new age in American politics." Fleetwood Mac was playing "Don't Stop." That was Fleetwood Mac up there, not Pearl Bailey or Sammy Davis, Jr., or Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. That was rock and roll we were hearing, not the Sousa Muzak the big band-era pols in the smoky back rooms had forced on us for so long. Dylan, our messiah, was there. And that was Jack Nicholson at the Lincoln Memorial, Abe's words brought to life by our lawyerly Easy Rider. Bill Clinton's White House was rock and roll, too, full of young people, full of women, blacks, gays, Hispanics; a White House, as Newt Gingrich's guru, Alvin Toffler, said, "more familiar with Madonna than with Metternich." That was just fine with us. It looked like Bill Clinton was continuing what he had begun in Arkansas, where he'd been criticized for having a staff of "long-haired, bearded hippies" who came to the office in cutoffs and patched jeans. The boss himself had been seen in the governor's mansion barefoot, in jeans and a T-shirt.

He had a Yippie-like zaniness about him we could identify with. Out on the golf course in Arkansas, one of his partners noticed that he could see Bill Clinton's underwear through his pants. "They weren't bikinis he had on," the partner said, "but it was some kind of wild underwear." Bill Clinton's favorite joke was one he had told over and over on the Arkansas campaign trail, a joke closer in spirit to Monty Python than to the Vegas lounge meisters favored by so many other presidents: "There was a farmer who had a three-legged pig with a wooden leg. And he bragged on this pig to everybody who came to visit. The farmer would tell how this pig had saved him from a fire. People would be amazed! And he'd say, 'Well, that's not all; this pig saved my farm from going bankrupt.' And the folks would be amazed. And the farmer would say, 'That's not all; this pig saved the entire town once when the dam broke.' Then somebody said to the farmer, 'Well, gosh, it's pretty amazing that you have this pig, but you never did explain why it only has three legs.' And the farmer said, 'Well, hell, you wouldn't want to eat a pig this special all in one sitting!' "

He certainly was a rock and roller. The light blue eyes, the lazy, sexy smile. The lips that were called "pussy lips" in Arkansas. Girls loved him. At age twelve, a classmate said, "Little girls were screaming, 'Billy, Billy, Billy, throw me the football.' All the girls had crushes on him. He was the center of their attention." A reporter covering one of his Arkansas campaigns said, "You could see the effect that he had on people in the eyes of the teenage girls who came to see him. Their eyes would light up. You would think that a rock star had just come into the Wal-Mart." He had rock and roll habits, too. Gennifer Flowers remembered the time he told her, "I really got fucked up on cocaine last night." There was even a Jagger-like androgyny he allowed some of his women friends to see. He put on girlfriend Sally Perdue's dress one night, high on grass, and played Elvis on his sax. He asked Gennifer to meet him at a bar dressed as a man, and he liked her putting eyeliner, blush, and mascara on his face. Underneath it was a rock and roll restlessness, what Gennifer called his feeling that he was "bullet-proof," which allowed him at times to flaunt his relationship with her.

There was no doubt he loved the music. Janis's "Pearl" . . . the Seekers' "I'll Never Find Another You" . . . Peter and Gordon's "A World Without Love" . . . "Here You Come Again" (which reminded him of Gennifer) . . . Steely Dan . . . Kenny Loggins . . . the Commodores' "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady" . . . Joe Cocker . . . Jerry Lee Lewis . . . anything by Elvis. He had his own band when he was a kid, called The Three Kings, which the other kids called Three Blind Mice because they all wore shades. A high school friend said, "I remember driving down this road and Bill singing Elvis songs at the top of his voice. He loved to sing. He just liked music and he was always playing music. I think that was one of the reasons he went to church so much as a kid. To hear the music."

One of the things that attracted him to Gennifer was that she was a rock singer with her own band--Gennifer Flowers and Easy Living--at about the same time that his little brother, Roger, had his band--Roger Clinton and Dealer's Choice. Roger was like Chris Jagger to Mick: He wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't very good. Roger's taste leaned to Grand Funk Railroad, REO Speedwagon, and Alice Cooper. But Roger shared his love of the music. Bill Clinton's memory of his first appearance on The Tonight Show was that Joe Cocker was there. "He was telling me about the show," Arkansas Democrat columnist Phillip Martin said. "He was telling me about Joe Cocker's band. He said 'Man, they were bad; they were just a kick-ass band, man!' You know, he really wanted to play with Joe Cocker rather than going out there and playing 'Summertime' on his sax. But he was afraid to ask. He was really in awe." And when Stephen Stills asked Roger up onstage once, he said, "I was so excited, I thought I would pee my pants."

He was one of us, it became apparent, in another special way, too, the classic sixties child in love with, addicted to, the pleasures provided him by his penis, which he called "Willard." There was even a cartoon flyer circulated around Arkansas early in his political career that showed Bill Clinton looking down and saying, "Dick, you kept me from being the President of the United States."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Meet the Author

Joe Eszterhas was born in Hungary, spent his first six years in Austrian refugee camps, and came to the United States in 1950.  He lives in Point Dume, California, with his wife Naomi and their three children.  He has two grown children from his first marriage.  

He has been awarded the Emanuel Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award for work dedicated to the memory of the holocaust in Hungary. He has also won awards for attending every one of his son's Little League games and for writing Showgirls (the Hollywood Women's Press Association's Sour Apple Award).

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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American Rhapsody 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this has a rhythm that is sustained. it will keep you awake.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I have had more personal knowledge of Hollywood, than Washington, I enjoyed the all too true insider revelations of the entertainment industry better than the author's indictment of the past performances of our Washington cast of characters. My main complaint is that Mr. Eszterhas could have merged these two worlds and made his point in half the space. He could have used a good splicer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is basically like one big political gossip column spanning basically the entire presidency. The author is incredibly self-indulgent, but he does relate his personal experiences on the cusp of the 60s, his work at Rolling Stone and in Hollywood, and these stories often do help make the connection between Washington and Hollywood. It seems the author definitely took some artistic liberties -- which he is forward about -- but the line between truth and reality is decidedly blurred. A couple of the chapters could've been cut out without problem, but overall, it's a really interesting read and an even more interesting chronicle of Clinton and his many scandals.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its like reading a trashy, sexy novel without the guilt - its our history! Collins herself could not have written a more scandelous work and the best part of this book is we have names, faces, and administrations to put to these stories. All of the rumors and infrences the American people have heard about, but never received the full scoop on, are in this book in all the gory and sexy detail. It is definately an eye opening look at what our leaders and our idols do behind closed (and sometimes wide open) doors. You will not be able to put this book down, and you will finish it wanting more!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eszertaus leaves no stones unturned in this hilarious expose of what goes on inside the political arena. I am still laughing...and wishing for another 400 pages. Pure enjoyment from beginning to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an American History professor at a major university. I'm considering making this book required reading for all my classes. Eszterhas captures the raw essence of the 1960s, politics and American culture in a style that is both entertaining and educational.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book over the weekend and I must say it is a great read! The book not only deals with the rumors and reality of the Clinton administration, but how the author can relate because the President was from HIS generation. This book doesn't censor itself at all, and looks at all sides of the story. I highly recommend it, if for nothing else it's a quick and fun read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What will we do without Bill and Hillary.Fortunately, Eszterhas reminds us that we will still have Hollywood to pick up the slack.In this book, Bill and Hollywood are 'as advertised.' Our problem is that we either ignore or excuse the excesses.Ironically, the impeachment process exposed a very soft underbelly in Washington and Larry Flynt attacked.(Where is Newt?) Hypocrisy is the target of this work and Esterhas reveals that few baby boomers (especially politicians) are capable of throwing the first stone.The sililoquies of Bubba,Dole,McCain, George W.,Al Gorf and,of course, 'Willard' are comedic masterpieces.This is definitely a book I want to hear on audiotape.