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I am Vlad the Impaler, Joe Eszterhas' penis. You know Joe, right? Bigfoot-looking son of a bitch, like Jerry Garcia after he swallowed Brian Wilson on an Acapulco Gold high? The guy who wroteBasic Instinct andShowgirls andFlashdance and a whole lotta crap for which he was paid inexplicable millions? My pal's the most famous screenwriter in America, and you'd better believe he knows it too. Joe swears that he hates being famous, that it's too much trouble, but it's all bullshit. Being famous gets you a young wife, young kids, a "safe house" in Maui, and a publishing deal with Knopf even when the whole world swears your new book is nostalgic juvenilia, jerk-off rants about Monica and Bill and Ken and Hillary--a big effin' joke. But that's my Joe, God love him. I know he loves me and only me. He writes about me constantly in his new book, about how I used to get him in trouble back in the 1970s, when he was "balling" all the chicks atRolling Stone, doing coke and cooz on Jann Wenner's desk. Yeah, like I made him cheat on his old lady; like I made him go home to her, reeking of dope and sex sweat. But that's Joe--can't let go of the past, can't let go of me. We make a good team. Without me, he'd be nothing more than a fat guy with a tan, broke and forgotten somewhere on the beach. I am his Bill Clinton, his Sharon Stone, hisRolling Stone, his Elizabeth Berkley, hisShowgirls. I am his master, his pet, his hobby, his obsession, his Adolph Hitler, his ice pick, his David Caruso, his Sly Stallone, his Britney Spears, his screenplay...his doom.
Joe Eszterhas' new book, American Rhapsody, ends with a chapter titled "Willard Comes Clean," in which Bill Clinton's penis speaks and, God help us, raps. It is, by far, the most compelling chapter in a book otherwise full of so-what anecdotes (Farrah Fawcett once took a dump on a Hollywood producer's lawn while New Line head of production Mike DeLuca was out getting a blow job on the balcony), ho-hum revelations (Chinatown producer Robert Evans' description of Sharon Stone as "a lying dumb cunt who's had all the brains in her head fucked out"), and far-flung lunacy (Bill and Monica's "oral-anal" contact, as referenced in Ken Starr's report). The book is indeed the summer's must-read: You must read it to believe what absolute insane garbage it really is. And you thought Showgirls was bad.
By the time you get to the chapter about Clinton's talking pecker (called Willard because it's longer than Willie, or so says Gennifer Flowers), you'll merely shrug, then collapse into a mass of giggles--as Jon Stewart did last week on The Daily Show, when the author read the final two paragraphs of his book, in which Willard delivers his one-eyed monologue. ("I am his banana peel, his smoking gun, his Mannlicher Carcano rifle..." and so forth.) Stewart looked as though he'd wet his pants, and Eszterhas, who wrote the book during a three-year period spent watching ImpeachTV at his Maui home while poring over The Starr Report a dozen times, took it as a compliment. He was quite pleased, a smirk poking out of his bushy beard.
And maybe he ought to be. Maybe this book--part confessional, part obsessional (not a real word, which never stopped Joe)--is one 432-page punch line to the national joke known as Bill Clinton. Maybe it's a big put-on, a nyuk-nyuk rant-and-rave for which Alfred A. Knopf paid a hefty hunk of change to publish alongside the works of John Updike and Toni Morrison--neither of whom ever hinted, wink-wink, that Bill Clinton slept with Sharon Stone and Barbra Streisand. How can you take seriously a book in which Sasquatch insists Stone rubbed herself to climax on his corpulent flesh? Even Stone has insisted she was unaware Joe could write comedy.
The 56-year-old, Hungarian-born Eszterhas, talking from a hotel room in Chicago, likes to call the book a "mutant"--meaning, it's neither fact nor fiction, neither memoir nor exposé. At most, it's a mishmash of previously published "truths" and whispered rumors--say, Hunter S. Thompson dishing dirt with Matt Drudge over Thai stick and tequila, or Ken Starr penning porno for Henry Miller freaks. American Rhapsody bounces from reflections of days gone by ("We were the free-speech generation of the sixties, the generation of free love and communal sex, of one-night stands and no guilt, of bedroom experimentation..." blahblahblah) to bitchy backstabs about Hollywood whores and Washington weenies. Pick it up, and you can't put it down. That, or you'll hurl it against the wall just to see whether it sticks.
"It's an outrageous, in-your-face, middle-finger-extended kind of book, especially in a politically correct world that I think in some ways is Stalinist in its politically correctness," Eszterhas says. "It's a full-scale, full-frontal assault, and I knew there would be people who would love it and there would be people who would hate it, and that seems to be what's happening."
At this point, what does Joe Eszterhas have to lose by writing American Rhapsody, otherwise known as The Media Event of the Summer of 2000? Not a damned thing. He's easily the most famous and most vilified writer in Hollywood, the man who helped turn movies into music videos (Flashdance), who made Sharon Stone's vagina a star (Basic Instinct, for which he was paid the then-unheard-of sum of $3 million), and who made nudity boring (Showgirls). He's a once-great writer (for Rolling Stone and in his two long-out-of-print books of the mid-'70s, Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse and Nark) relegated to laughingstock, at least before Hollywood tried to forget about him altogether: Eszterhas has no fewer than nine screenplays, some of them two decades old, languishing about town. Only two are anywhere near being made.