Cover image for American rhapsody
American rhapsody
Eszterhas, Joe.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 432 pages ; 25 cm
"The setting: Washington, Hollywood, and the landscape of the American Republic. ... The stars: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John McCain, Ken Starr, and Monica Lewinsky. The supporting players: Warren Beatty, James Carville, Sharon Stone, Larry Flynt, Vernon Jordan, Linda Tripp, Matt Drudge, and Bob Packwood (with cameos by Richard Nixon and Farrah Fawcett, Eleanor Roosevelt and David Geffen, Robert Evans and Richard Gere). ... A fun-house mirror held up to our own morals, hypocrisies, and desires."--Dust jacket.
General Note:
Non-fiction and fiction. The author puts passages and chapters in bold typeface to indicate the writing that he intends to be fiction.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E886 .E89 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E886 .E89 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E886 .E89 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The setting . . . Washington, Hollywood, and the landscape of the American Republic. The writer . . . Joe Eszterhas, ex-Rolling Stonereporter, National Book Award nominee forCharlie Simpson's Apocalypse,and screenwriter of such blockbusters asBasic InstinctandJagged Edge. The stars . . . Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John McCain, Ken Starr, and Monica Lewinsky. The supporting players . . . Warren Beatty, James Carville, Sharon Stone, Larry Flynt, Vernon Jordan, Linda Tripp, Matt Drudge, and Bob Packwood (with cameos by Richard Nixon and Farrah Fawcett, Eleanor Roosevelt and David Geffen, Robert Evans and Richard Gere). The story . . . The most basic, and basest, in many years -- an up-close and personal look at the people who run our world. A tale filled with humor, tragedy and romance; suspense, absurdity and high drama; and, of course, lots and lots of sex. InAmerican Rhapsody, Eszterhas combines comprehensive research with insight, honesty, and astute observation to reveal ultimate truths. This is a book that flouts virtually every rule, yet joins a rich journalistic tradition distinguished by such writers as Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe. A brilliant, unnerving, hugely entertaining look at our political culture, our heroes and villains,American Rhapsodywill delight some and outrage others, but it will not be ignored.  What Joe Eszterhas has produced is a penetrating and devastating panorama of all of us, a fun-house mirror held up to our own morals, hypocrisies and desires. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Joe Eszterhas has been awarded the Emanuel Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award for work dedicated to the memory of the holocaust in Hungary.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Just when you thought the visual image of Clinton and his cigar was fading, and just when everything that needed to be said about Monica had finally been strained into gruel, along comes a book so gossipy, so irreverent, so witty, silly, and profound that it makes it seem as if the whole impeachment mess was nothing more than a dung heap made to grow this rose. The gardener is screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, best known for his hit film Basic Instinct (and his disaster, Showgirls). For Eszterhas, however, this is not just a story about the Clinton scandal. It's about the '60s and the Boomers, blacks and whites, drugs and rock 'n' roll. There's Clinton portrayed as the first rock president (and the first black president); there's lots about the Hollywood-Washington connection; and there's a tad too much about Eszterhas himself. The title is apt because Joe's prose--knowing, smart, dirty, veering off into filthy--is like music: rock, blues, musical comedy, even a little (soap) opera. And, of course, jazz, especially in a series of verbal riffs when the typeface changes and "the twisted little man" inside Eszterhas (as he puts it) takes over and writes hysterically from the heads of Dole, Gore, Lewinsky, both Clintons, McCain, and W. Bush ("Thanks to Bill Clinton's pecker, I'm gonna set myself up in the White House"). The denouement is a soliloquy spoken by Clinton's famous member itself--here named Willard--who explains it all. This readably outrageous romp will have everyone talking. Buy lots. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

A loud belch commands attention. So will this hyped, bombastic take on the Clinton presidency from Eszterhas, screenwriter of Showgirls, Flashdance, Basic Instinct and other scarlet highlights in film history. Eszterhas knows how to write. His prose sizzles and spits across these hot pages to the hip rhythms of the gonzo journalism pioneered by Rolling Stone, where Eszterhas made his name some 30 years back. Much of the book is outrageously funny, particularly to readers with a healthy inner snickering teen. It's also flagrantly self-righteous, a finger-wagging indictment of how the hopes of the 1960s-embodied, to Eszterhas, in Clinton, the "first rock and roll American president," "one of us"-went astray as the mind and heart of the chief executive were waylaid by the demanding presidential penis, which, according to Eszterhas (by way of Gennifer Flowers), the commander in chief refers to as "Willard." That bit of info, plus many others equally titillating but nearly as trivial, testifies to the prodigious research that apparently went into this volume ("apparently" because it lacks bibliography and footnotes; it also features explicitly fictional chapters from the viewpoints of assorted principals, including one voiced by Willard). As Eszterhas casts the past 50 American years as a battle between forces dark (Nixon, Reagan, Packwood-i.e., Republicans) and light (the counterculture, James Carville, Larry Flynt), he makes minor news: who knew that Clinton and Monica engaged in oral-anal contact? that Nixon also had a young assistant named Monica? that the same man shot both Vernon Jordan and Larry Flynt? He also sharpens some significant points and sledgehammers them home-points about the confluence of Hollywood (on which this book is also memoir/commentary) and Washington; about how, like a Don Juan with syphilis, the '60s carried in their very excess the seed of self-destruction; about how individuals can shape history (e.g., the role of Larry Flynt in saving Clinton from conviction by the Senate in his impeachment trial, and so the nation from what Eszterhas sees as a potential coup d'etat). But gonzo guy that he is, along the way Eszterhas not only names but calls them, as he thrashes a host of celebrities, from Sharon Stone to Bob Dole and Linda Tripp. It's as if every drop of bile and brain fluid sloshing through Eszterhas has dripped into this book-a manic, mouthy, self-indulgent, impossible to ignore lament for America. 200,000 first printing; first serial to Talk. (Aug. 18) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Let's be honest. This review could be as negative as it wanted to be, and librarians brave enough to unleash this venomous item on their shelves would still watch it be devoured by every type of reader, from the elderly lady who wants to "tsk-tsk" over some of the seamier scenes to the political fanatics who believe Bill Clinton to be the Devil Incarnate. Eszterhas, a Hollywood screenwriter responsible for Basic Instinct and other movies and who has become the highest paid author in the industry, trains his well-turned phrases on the White House intern scandal and the diverse cast of characters who wander in and out of this sordid tale of political power gone amok. The guy can write, and he is viciously funny, but his work must be a rampant stream of free-flowing consciousness that could be difficult for some readers to follow. The audiobook solves that problem for them; actors such as Ed Asner, Susan Ruttan, and Nina Foch have worked hard on this version to corral that wandering prose thought and bring their skills to interpreting the random, disjointed text. What reads like gibberish now sounds like reality. It's not flattering to anyone, and there are some scenes that will have even the most jaded listener wincing, but the crudest, most disgusting, and degrading language is saved for Clinton and the now-famous "Willard." Eszterhas loves words and loves the damage they can do even more. Go ahead and order this programand then make certain you have a fresh supply of Customer Complaint Forms on hand.AJoseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Whole World Is Watching "We gotta get you laid," Monica said. "Oh, God," Linda Tripp said, "wouldn't that be something different? New and different. I don't know. After seven years, do you really think that there's a possibility I'd remember how?" "Of course you would." "No," Linda Tripp said. My friend Jann Wenner, the editor and publisher of Rolling Stone , the rock and roll bible, called me excitedly the day after Bill Clinton was nominated for the presidency. He had spent the previous night at a party, celebrating with Clinton. "He's one of us," Jann said. "He'll be the first rock and roll president in American history." I had come to the same conclusion. He was one of us. Even if, on occasion, he tried to deny it. Of course he had dodged the draft, just another white Rhodes Scholar nigger who agreed with Muhammad Ali and had no quarrel with them Vietcong. Of course he had smoked dope, inhaling deeply, holding it in, bogarting that joint. Bill Clinton, Jann told me, had always read Rolling Stone , so I smiled when, shortly after the election, he was photographed jogging in a Rolling Stone T-shirt, the same T-shirt I had worn to my son's Little League games. Well, this really was a cosmic giggle: Good Lord, we had taken the White House! After all the locust years--after Bebe Rebozo's boyfriend, after the hearing-impaired Marlboro Man, after that uppity preppy always looking at his watch--America was ours! In the sixties, we'd been worried about staying out of jail. Now the jails were ours to run as we saw fit. Carter had given us false hope for a while, but Bill Clinton was the real deal: undiluted, uncut rock and roll. Carter, we had discovered, wasn't one of us. Oh, sure, Jimmah allowed his record-mogul pal Phil Walden and Willie Nelson to smoke dope on the White House roof, and he had told Playboy he had "committed adultery in my heart many times," but the unfortunate, terminally well-intentioned dip was such a cheesy rube, definitely not rock and roll, with his beer-gutted Libyan-agent brother, his schoolmarm wife, and the Bible-spouting sister who was secretly having sudsy, lederhosen romps with married German chancellor Willy Brandt. No, definitely not rock and roll, proven forever when he fell on his face jogging, claiming breathlessly that a bunny rabbit had jumped in front of him, falling on his face while wearing black socks. His Secret Service agents nicknamed Bill Clinton "Elvis," but we knew better. Elvis had been Sgt. Barry Sadler's ideological sidekick, a slobby puppet on a carny barker's strings, in love with his nark badges, informing on the Beatles, toadying up to Nixon, The Night Creature. Those wet panties hurled onstage at his concerts were size 16 and skid-marked. Bill Clinton wasn't Elvis. With his shades on and his sax gleaming, Bill Clinton looked like a pouchier Bobby Keyes playing backup for the Stones. No, that wasn't quite right, either. Not Bobby Keyes, but a pop-gutted Jumpin' Jack Flash and graying Street Fightin' Man . . . Bill Clinton was Mick on cheeseburgers and milk shakes, Taco Bell, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti. Rolling Stone called his inauguration "the coming of a new age in American politics." Fleetwood Mac was playing "Don't Stop." That was Fleetwood Mac up there, not Pearl Bailey or Sammy Davis, Jr., or Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. That was rock and roll we were hearing, not the Sousa Muzak the big band-era pols in the smoky back rooms had forced on us for so long. Dylan, our messiah, was there. And that was Jack Nicholson at the Lincoln Memorial, Abe's words brought to life by our lawyerly Easy Rider. Bill Clinton's White House was rock and roll, too, full of young people, full of women, blacks, gays, Hispanics; a White House, as Newt Gingrich's guru, Alvin Toffler, said, "more familiar with Madonna than with Metternich." That was just fine with us. It looked like Bill Clinton was continuing what he had begun in Arkansas, where he'd been criticized for having a staff of "long-haired, bearded hippies" who came to the office in cutoffs and patched jeans. The boss himself had been seen in the governor's mansion barefoot, in jeans and a T-shirt. He had a Yippie-like zaniness about him we could identify with. Out on the golf course in Arkansas, one of his partners noticed that he could see Bill Clinton's underwear through his pants. "They weren't bikinis he had on," the partner said, "but it was some kind of wild underwear." Bill Clinton's favorite joke was one he had told over and over on the Arkansas campaign trail, a joke closer in spirit to Monty Python than to the Vegas lounge meisters favored by so many other presidents: "There was a farmer who had a three-legged pig with a wooden leg. And he bragged on this pig to everybody who came to visit. The farmer would tell how this pig had saved him from a fire. People would be amazed! And he'd say, 'Well, that's not all; this pig saved my farm from going bankrupt.' And the folks would be amazed. And the farmer would say, 'That's not all; this pig saved the entire town once when the dam broke.' Then somebody said to the farmer, 'Well, gosh, it's pretty amazing that you have this pig, but you never did explain why it only has three legs.' And the farmer said, 'Well, hell, you wouldn't want to eat a pig this special all in one sitting!' " He certainly was a rock and roller. The light blue eyes, the lazy, sexy smile. The lips that were called "pussy lips" in Arkansas. Girls loved him. At age twelve, a classmate said, "Little girls were screaming, 'Billy, Billy, Billy, throw me the football.' All the girls had crushes on him. He was the center of their attention." A reporter covering one of his Arkansas campaigns said, "You could see the effect that he had on people in the eyes of the teenage girls who came to see him. Their eyes would light up. You would think that a rock star had just come into the Wal-Mart." He had rock and roll habits, too. Gennifer Flowers remembered the time he told her, "I really got fucked up on cocaine last night." There was even a Jagger-like androgyny he allowed some of his women friends to see. He put on girlfriend Sally Perdue's dress one night, high on grass, and played Elvis on his sax. He asked Gennifer to meet him at a bar dressed as a man, and he liked her putting eyeliner, blush, and mascara on his face. Underneath it was a rock and roll restlessness, what Gennifer called his feeling that he was "bullet-proof," which allowed him at times to flaunt his relationship with her. There was no doubt he loved the music. Janis's "Pearl" . . . the Seekers' "I'll Never Find Another You" . . . Peter and Gordon's "A World Without Love" . . . "Here You Come Again" (which reminded him of Gennifer) . . . Steely Dan . . . Kenny Loggins . . . the Commodores' "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady" . . . Joe Cocker . . . Jerry Lee Lewis . . . anything by Elvis. He had his own band when he was a kid, called The Three Kings, which the other kids called Three Blind Mice because they all wore shades. A high school friend said, "I remember driving down this road and Bill singing Elvis songs at the top of his voice. He loved to sing. He just liked music and he was always playing music. I think that was one of the reasons he went to church so much as a kid. To hear the music." One of the things that attracted him to Gennifer was that she was a rock singer with her own band--Gennifer Flowers and Easy Living--at about the same time that his little brother, Roger, had his band--Roger Clinton and Dealer's Choice. Roger was like Chris Jagger to Mick: He wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't very good. Roger's taste leaned to Grand Funk Railroad, REO Speedwagon, and Alice Cooper. But Roger shared his love of the music. Bill Clinton's memory of his first appearance on The Tonight Show was that Joe Cocker was there. "He was telling me about the show," Arkansas Democrat columnist Phillip Martin said. "He was telling me about Joe Cocker's band. He said 'Man, they were bad; they were just a kick-ass band, man!' You know, he really wanted to play with Joe Cocker rather than going out there and playing 'Summertime' on his sax. But he was afraid to ask. He was really in awe." And when Stephen Stills asked Roger up onstage once, he said, "I was so excited, I thought I would pee my pants." He was one of us, it became apparent, in another special way, too, the classic sixties child in love with, addicted to, the pleasures provided him by his penis, which he called "Willard." There was even a cartoon flyer circulated around Arkansas early in his political career that showed Bill Clinton looking down and saying, "Dick, you kept me from being the President of the United States." Excerpted from American Rhapsody by Joe Eszterhas All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xi
Act 1 Heartbreak Hotel
1 The Whole World Is Watchingp. 3
2 Monica, Andy, and Handsomep. 15
3 The Uproar Is Deafeningp. 29
4 America Gags, Hollywood Swallowsp. 34
5 Hillary Lives, Tammy Wynette Diesp. 46
6 Hillary, Barry, and Nixonp. 52
7 The President Shrieks and Shoutsp. 62
8 The War on Acid Refluxp. 69
9 Kenneth W. Starr Confessesp. 78
10 Sharon and Billp. 85
11 Hillary and Billp. 92
12 Monica, Andy, and Butt-headp. 99
13 Monica Feels His Painp. 112
14 Kathleen and the Ratwomanp. 117
15 Nixon Impregnates Monicap. 124
Act 2 Mystery Train
1 The Ratwoman and the Bag Lady of Sleazep. 137
2 David Geffen Is Angryp. 142
3 Ross Perot on Drugsp. 151
4 Bubba and the Burrheadsp. 156
5 Mark Fuhrman and the Navy Blue Dressp. 162
6 Jay Leno and the Cigarp. 169
7 Billy Can't Help Itp. 174
8 Bob Dole's Johnhenryp. 181
9 Billy Likes Doing Itp. 188
10 Better Than a Lava Lampp. 197
11 Bubba in Pig Heavenp. 206
12 The President's Piece of Cakep. 223
13 Bob Packwood's Reptile Tonguep. 231
14 The Scavenger from Cyberspacep. 239
15 Hillary Loves Eleanorp. 249
16 The Sorceress from Hellp. 255
Act 3 Suspicious Minds
1 The President Is Blackp. 269
2 Al Gore and I Want to Be Blackp. 278
3 James Carville Kicks Assp. 286
4 Larry Flynt Saves the Dayp. 305
5 The Ace of Spadesp. 315
6 Al Gorf Loves Tipper Galorep. 329
7 Hitler's Whorep. 346
8 The Ugliest Story Ever Toldp. 355
9 John Wayne McCain Chickens Outp. 365
10 The Man with the Golden Willardp. 387
11 George W. Bush Defines Himselfp. 397
12 Billy Comes Out to Playp. 411
13 Hillary Bares Allp. 418
14 Willard Comes Cleanp. 425