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Mondale's reputation as a party girl was one of the reasons she got the boot from WCCO-TV; her dismissal came just days before a local magazine was about to run a story headlined "Walter and Joan's Wild Child." The other reason she got fired, Mondale herself admits, was that she was no good. She moved back to Chicago in 1991, where she continued to appear in the gossip columns and got a job hosting another bad TV show, this one for the Lifetime network. It was another non-starter called the "Great American TV Poll." The poll questions ranged from "How old is too old for a miniskirt?" to "Would you tell your best friend if you knew he or she had a cheating spouse."
One year later, Governor Clinton was in the throes of his own presidential campaign. Mondale tried desperately to get on to the podium at the Clinton-Gore rally at Daley Center in Chicago that summer. Unimpressed with her TV credentials, security guards refused to let her through. A flustered Mondale insisted that her father used to be vice president. "Vice president of what?" came the reply. Nevertheless, Mondale closely followed the first successful Democratic campaign for the White House since Carter's; when Clinton won, she wrote Chelsea a letter. "This is a very exciting time in your life," Mondale told the 12-year-old First Daughter. "Just write everything down so that you have a memory of it. And really enjoy yourself and don't let what people say about you or your family get to you, because that's hard."
Just as the Clintons moved into the White House, Mondale's life started looking up. Having moved back to L.A., she got a job at E! cable channel on the now-defunct show "Q&E!," and moved swiftly to her own weekly series called "Uncut." Success begat success, and Mondale started hosting other cable shows such as "Cyberlife" and "Sex on the Great Barrier Reef." During the President's first term, she returned to the White House several times and was spotted jogging with Clinton -- once, in March 1996, while Hillary and Chelsea were in Bosnia.
But it was another three months before the Clinton-Mondale association made headlines. On June 10, 1996, while Hillary was in Detroit, Mondale attended a Clinton fund-raiser at the Hollywood home of producer Lew Wasserman. Now clearly a name in her own right, she managed to upstage fellow celebs Barbra Streisand and Richard Baskin. Gossip columnists went wild over that alone -- "Streisand sulked because Clinton only had eyes for Eleanor," reported the Daily Mail. The Washington Post added that Mondale, Streisand and others joined Clinton in his private suite for a final drink, and "stayed up late with him nibbling fruit."
Early the next morning, Clinton and Mondale went for a bracing 7 a.m. run -- a photo of which caused further titillation back in Washington. "She's a very active person," protested Mondale spokesman Steve Lefkowitz. "When the President is in L.A., she usually goes running with him," added Eleanor's brother, Minnesota political hopeful Ted Mondale. A month later, Eleanor told the Chicago Tribune that rumors of an affair between her and Clinton were "totally, totally false." As if to drive the point home to Illinois readers, she told the rival Chicago Sun-Times: "I don't think we would have carried on this affair in front of Barbra Streisand and people like that!"