The Indiscreet Charm Of Lucianne Goldberg

Her cocktail of sex and gossip proved irresistible, if not deadly

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Before there was Linda Tripp--before there was Monica Lewinsky, even--there was Lucianne Goldberg. There's always been a Lucianne Goldberg. "This was years ago," Lucianne is saying. She's sitting in the bar of a steak-and-martini joint on Manhattan's West Side. We're done with the martinis, and now she's stabbing at a plate piled with steak tartare.

"This gal calls me, says she wants to do a book about all these Republican Congressmen she's--well--she's known." The way she says it, the word drips with such lubricity that you can't help knowing what known means.

"One chapter on each Republican," she continues. "One on [famous Republican name deleted], one on [ditto], another on [ditto]. And she has this great story about [very famous Republican name]. It turns out he would not take off his glasses--even when he was buck naked, performing a particular sex act that I will not describe. But you can imagine. Anyway, his glasses would get so steamed up he couldn't see. And he'd say, 'Baby, you look so beautiful.' And she'd say, 'How the hell would you know? You can't even see me, you [euphemism for body part deleted]!"

She laughs an unmistakable laugh--a Lucianne laugh, which begins as a moist chortle and inevitably escalates into an alarming smoker's cough before it subsides to a husky, satisfied sigh. This is how it goes during an evening with Lucianne Goldberg: martinis and heaps of red meat, high-end gossip and lots of cigarettes. And laughter--a great deal of laughter. With the scandal she midwifed and nurtured moving to an even bigger stage, Lucianne is determined to enjoy herself.

And who would expect otherwise? If a scandal hangs around long enough and becomes familiar enough, it takes on the quality of a melodrama, pushed along by characters that quickly harden into recognizable types. Depending on your point of view, Linda Tripp is a double-crossing shrew or a courageous whistle blower. Monica Lewinsky is either a vixen or a violated innocent. (An innocent in thong underwear, but still.) And Lucianne? At a minimum, she is forever sealed in history as the New York City literary agent who uttered to her friend the most ruinous sentence of the Clinton presidency: "Linda, buy a tape recorder."

In the now familiar story line--Linda tapes Monica, Linda plays tapes to Lucianne, Lucianne urges Linda to go to Kenneth Starr--Lucianne emerges as a type known to everyone, for better or worse. ONE WOMAN'S PLEASURE IS THE PRESIDENT'S PAIN: LUCIANNE GOLDBERG REVELS IN FRENZY SHE HELPED START, read a Washington Post headline early on in the scandal. "I'm not going to say that I did this because I'm some great Christian," she told the New Yorker during the scandal's first week. "I did it because it's f__ing fascinating! I love dish! I live for dish!" Goldberg was the mixer, the thrill seeker who makes mischief merely for the fun of seeing the fur fly.

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