Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sherman's Story

Sherman Meshenberg, a very political man, was both Jewish and gay -- or, as he preferred, "Jewish and a homophile." To the surprise of the few who he trusted, he was also Republican. He was quite pleased with his fame, such as it was, as a behind the man kind of guy -- someone who blended and never drew attention to himself but still managed to earn many a quiet plaudit.

He stood out on the backporch of his Georgetown home, not far from where Dean Acheson once lived, lit his cigarette and had a nice smoke while reviewing some of his greatest hits.

It had been Sherman, for instance, who'd thought to dub Barbra Streisand's visit to the capital, "Miss Marmelstein Goes to Washington." Who but Sherman would have been able to conjure up an obscure character from a sixties musical that could make the very mainstreamed Streisand suddenly appear so foreign, so alien?

Had he betrayed his Jewish roots? He'd wondered that briefly. You didn't have to be Abe Foxman to know that Jew bashing still went on. He was encouraging it but, in the end, he decided that the cause, in this case ridiculing Streisand or any other Democrat, far outweighed any betrayal to his own people. It still struck him as hilarious to hear the supposedly straight Fox boys using the smear with musical history roots.

That's what sometimes worried him, that his smears would lead back to him. He didn't want that. He preferred to avoid the limelight. But there was always that risk because, as he well knew, he was just to clever for his own good.

Some of the smears were just so obvious that it surprised him they'd yet to find their way back or raise an eyebrow. He wasn't complaining. He liked his lower profile. He had just enough attention, thank you very much. Plenty of back slaps and glad handing at the more fashionable parties he attended stag. People, the ones who mattered, always recognized him, always greeted him. Columnists begged him for a bon mott they could run with in print -- and pass off as their own. He never minded. It was who he was.

He liked who he was. The under the radar, go to guy.

He tossed aside the cigarette, into the rose bushes, and lit another.

Smirking, he thought about how Al Gore was attempting a comeback.

Al Gore. Smart. Thinking on his feet. Able to address any situation.

Who but Sherman could have thought of the perfect smear?

Zelig. After the lead character from the film of the same name. The little nothing who became his surroundings.

In the midst of a long drag, Sherman coughed and chuckled.

That one really took off. Al Gore as a laughing stock. Conjured up the image of him as a small, weak man. A silly little . . .

Had he Jew baited again?

Nonsense, he wasn't a self-loather. It was just a gut punch. He was proud of it.

He was proud of how it had been picked up even more. There was something so hilarious about seeing all those Irish-Catholics on TV talking about "Zelig." Or writing their columns and working in "Zelig." The film that took in eleven million at the box office, not even twice what Gigli took in, but there they all were in print and on television, acting as though they'd seen the film. Even now it made him laugh.

And filled him with a sense of power. If it weren't for him, Peggy Noonan would have kept pimping the Rhett Butler comparison. Clark Gable wasn't an insult. No damage done with that. Noonan, and others like her, would be off in space, yammering on about a thousand points of light and unable to deliver the goods if it weren't for him.

Life was good. Real damn good. He was happy with . . . No proud of. Proud of what he'd done. Proud of who he had become.

One more puff and he'd back inside spending the rest of the night with Sebastian. Uppity little hustler, insisting Sherman couldn't smoke in his own home. But Sebastian had a face like an angel and a mouth like a sewage pump. Besides, it beat trolling the Georgetown Inn. Much more . . . under the radar.
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