Who Is Eleanor Mondale?

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Eleanor Mondale: A thorn in Monica's side.

In Lewinsky's mind, at least, her words proved to be prophetic. A mere three weeks later, while trying to return a box of gifts and a goodbye letter to her boyfriend, she was stopped at the Northwest gate of the White House and overheard Secret Service officers say that the President was meeting Ms. Mondale in the Oval Office. What was more, the logs showed, she had been there for over an hour already. Lewinsky was "livid." The President's personal secretary had told her that Clinton was huddling with his lawyers this morning. In a jealous rage, Lewinsky called Currie. "You lied to me," fumed the former intern. Later Currie, shaking and crying, told the officers that the President was so furious he "wants somebody fired" for allowing Lewinsky to find out the identity of his guest.

Special Report So who is Eleanor Mondale? Who is the one woman in Washington who could make Monica turn green? Twice married, twice divorced; a leggy blonde with a self-confessed "dodgy taste in men," the 38-year-old Mondale is no stranger to the White House or to the Clintons. Daughter of former vice president Walter Mondale, Eleanor started raising eyebrows at an early age. As an outgoing 17-year-old, she first hit the headlines after President Carter's inaugural ball in 1977, where she turned up in a tuxedo. Her four years as the Second Daughter, she said later, "changed my life forever" -- but as the middle child of a Minnesota politician and a patron of the arts, who had been acting since the age of three, the teenage Eleanor was more than equal to her new position. She and her best friend would fantasize about Secret Service agents and compile secret lists -- "which were mine, and which were hers."

When Carter and Mondale lost the 1980 election to Reagan and Bush, Eleanor was far from the gloom in Washington. At the time she was a sophomore in St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.; a phys ed major who dreamed -- like so many girls her age -- of making it big in Hollywood. Unlike the other girls, however, her famous name helped take her there, and Eleanor Mondale made her TV debut in January 1981 on the ABC show "240-Robert." She played a bank teller, and spoke exactly six words: "Here's Miss Harper's file, Mr. Talmadge."

That, unfortunately, was about as far as Mondale's early screen career went. She went back to Canton, graduated, and returned to L.A. in 1983 -- where the roles didn't exactly come thick and fast. Mondale got walk-on parts in dud movies such as "Nickel Mountain" and "Sunset Limousine," and five lines in the abortive TV series "Matt Houston." A part as an aerobics instructor landed her ads for hosiery and health clubs, but for Mondale life was starting to dry up. "It was scary," she told People magazine. "I didn't like not having work and not having people return my calls."

In the middle of all this despondency, her dad ran for president. And it was in 1984, at the age of 24, that Eleanor first met Governor Clinton of Arkansas, who was helping the doomed Democratic candidate in any way he could. They struck up a friendship that, Mondale says, lasts to this day. Meantime, her work situation was still pretty dismal -- although the Mondale name now had added cachet, helping land her guest spots in "Dynasty" and "Three's Company." In the former, she played a TV anchor woman; in the latter, a medical intern who inspects John Ritter's rear end.

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