Mary Wells, Judith Martin and Liz Smith reflect on nearly three decades of media memories, from Woodstock to Judith Exner to Monica Lewinsky and more
MARY: Woodstock? It never happened to me. I had opened my own company in ‘66 and it was extremely successful, thank God. I was working 24 hours a day and Woodstock just sort of floated by me. People talked about it and I kept wondering what was so great. Everything I saw looked so messy, so muddy, so drunken … I couldn’t figure out what everybody thought was so important about it. But I guess it really was if you experienced it.
LIZ: Well, we were ladies who had been upwardly mobile from poor beginnings. And I know that in the 1960s, I was able to go to restaurants and not look at the price on the menu for the first time in my life. And I don’t think I was concerned about all of that youthful revolt going on around me. And I certainly didn’t want to wear those kinds of clothes because they reminded me of the clothes I’d worn during the Depression. We can’t deny that it was part of a whole moment, that it has an enormous effect – you still see people dressing that way on the street.
MARY: And they’re still thinking that way.
JUDITH: Well, Woodstock passed me by also, because we had our gatherings here that were not quite so jolly but were, I would think, a lot more interesting – protest marches, civil rights marches. Our living room was often full of people camping out because they’d come down from elsewhere to participate in this, and I was sent out to cover a lot of these things – or help cover. I was never the main person on them. But for us in Washington, it was a decade of political turmoil, the civil rights movement and the beginning of the feminist revival – not of “blissing out” or whatever the term was at the time.
LIZ: I thought that particular time was really quite newsworthy and I was riveted by all that was going on. There were the Manson murders, which changed the whole atmosphere of Hollywood. It made people afraid who had never been afraid before. And wasn’t that when Teddy Kennedy drove off the bridge, in 1969? That was really sort of the end of the ongoing Kennedy dynasty. I mean, they keep going but that was the end of having another Kennedy president.
MARY: Yes, the end of the dream.
LIZ: And The Apollo moonwalk. You know, there are still people who believe that was faked and there never were any people on the moon.
MARY: And the ten-year anniversary of Bill Clinton’s Grand Jury investigation where he finally admitted he had his relationship with Monica Lewinsky … and there’s Monica Lewinsky – she is now 38 years old – and she has disappeared, and no one knows where she is anymore.
LIZ: She took the brunt for women of all of the men and their wives who “denounced the other woman.” She was just a kid, for Pete’s sake. I knew Monica Lewinsky and I felt so sorry for her. I remember being with her at the Vanity Fair party right after all of that and, you know, she was just a curiosity with everybody lining up to be photographed with her. And she finally fled the United States and went to England and worked on a master’s degree in something or other. And I don’t know what has happened to her. But I think that she was really pilloried in that and you have to always remember – she never blew the whistle on Bill Clinton. He should have been so grateful to her. She just made the mistake of telling a friend about it, who taped it and blew the whistle herself.
LIZ: Americans are very forgiving. They have short memories. I think such a human failing as Bill Clinton’s was is forgivable even if stupid. He’s a dynamic, charming, brilliant figure and he’s risen above it. In a funny way, maybe it was chastising but was good for him in the end.
MARY: Well, when he was interviewed recently he said that this is the best time of his whole life.
LIZ: Yes. He’s raised millions of dollars to fight AIDS – millions. I think he’s bent over backward to do the right thing. But speaking of Monica Lewinsky, this is like what Judith Exner said to me about being Jack Kennedy’s mistress, from the years right before he was killed. She said, “Liz, I was 25 years old and I was in love and people expected me to behave better and know better than the president of the United States.”
MARY: Yes. Yes.
LIZ: You know. So I find it hard to put down these “fallen women.” I’ve been a fallen woman myself, so I know what I’m talking about.