Reading List: The Political Mistress

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Julia Wick is a native Angeleno who writes about literature, Los Angeles, and cities. She is currently finishing an Urban Planning degree at USC.

From Monica to the D.C. Madam, some of my all-time favorite stories on politics, sex and power:

1. ‘The Gary Hart Story: How It Happened,’ by Jim McGee, Tom Fiedler and James Savage (The Miami Herald, May 10, 1987) and ‘The Gary Hart Story: Part Two’

Gary Hart was frontrunner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when rumors of an extramarital affair began to swirl. He responded to the rumors with a strong denial and a dare: “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.” Unfortunately for him, the Miami Herald had already been doing just that. Their intrepid reporting not only uncovered an affair between the senator and a 29 year-old model, but also rewrote the rules of political reporting.

Bonus: “Those Aren’t Rumors” (Dick Polman, Smithsonian Magazine 2008) on how the Gary Hart affair changed the political reporting game.

2. ‘No Way to Treat a Lady,’ by Vicky Ward (Vanity Fair, May 2008)

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the “D.C. Madam,” delivered high-end escorts to Beltway elite, until the whole thing came crashing down with a fiery conviction, suicide and media spectacle.

3. ‘Til Death Do Us Part: A New Look at Hitler’s Mistress Eva Braun,’ by Klaus Wiegrefe (Der Spiegel, February 2010)

An evil dictator and a pretty blonde from Munich, whose official title was “private secretary,” and who was famously jealous of the Führer’s dog.

4. ‘The Scandal That Rocked Britain,’ by Clive Irving (Newsweek, April 2013)

One of the great scandals in British political history, the Profumo Affair—which paired then War Secretary John Profumo with a teenaged former showgirl—had it all: sex, drugs, photographs, spies and a proto-Clintonian denial.

5. ‘The Dark Side of Camelot,’ by Kitty Kelley (People Magazine, February 1988)

Judith Exner wasn’t just JFK’s mistress, she was also his conduit to the mob.

6. ‘Clinton and the Women,’ by Marjorie Williams (Vanity Fair, May 1998)

On Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and what the lack of protest reveals about feminism today (or, more accurately, in 1998).

7. ‘Monica Takes Manhattan,’ by Vanessa Grigoriadis (New York Magazine, March 2001)

Of course Vanessa Grigoriadis would write the perfect early-aughts New York magazine piece on Monica Lewinsky’s post-scandal second act as a Manhattan twenty-something.

8. ‘Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster,’ by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (New York Magazine, January 9, 2010)

“My friends insist you’re John Edwards,” Rielle Hunter said. “I tell them no way—you’re way too handsome.”

Yes, that Game Change excerpt. When was the last time you re-read it?

Are we missing anything? Share your story picks in the comments.


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