For a while there, it looked like all-purpose democratic go-to politician Al Gore might soon be in need of having his eyeballs reattached, so far out of his head had they popped. This was during a recent fund-raiser held in Beverly Hills, at the lovely home of Warner Bros, president Alan Horn. In attendance were Democratic National Committee leader Howard Dean, legendary sitcom genius Norman Lear and any number of major-motion-picture-type liberals. They wandered around, drinks in hand, lamenting the current state of the union, and then, like Gore, they saw this tall, bosomy redhead and went all kinds of goofy. Some of them dived toward her nearly headfirst. They wanted a hug. They wanted a kiss. They wanted to exchange whispery bons mots. They wanted whatever it was she was offering. As Gore said to her, leaning in close, then backing out for a full gander, "Baby, you're amazing."
And yet why — why is Arianna Huffington amazing? What makes her so special? For one thing, in the past year, her first online venture, the Huffington Post political Web site, has become an unexpectedly influential hit, drawing 3 million unique readers a month to read its big, bubbling stew of celebrity bloggers, among them Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Larry David and Deepak Chopra. Also, at the age of fifty-six, she's totally hot and, being Greek-born and Cambridge-educated, she speaks with a voice that reflects both, purringly. She has authored eleven books, some of them best sellers, from the controversial (a biography of Picasso as ultimate misogynist) to the fairly mundane (On Becoming Fearless...in Love, Work, and Life, her latest, which she is still flogging, about how more women can be "bold, bullet proof and positively bullish," just like her).
In addition, she's fantastically rich, due in large part to her failed marriage to reclusive oil heir Michael Huffington (who announced he was bisexual shortly after the union ended). Lastly, she was once a lip-flapping, hard-ball-playing, Newt Gingrich-loving Republican, but a while back, thanks to the efforts of her left-leaning buddy Al Franken, she jumped ship and became a Democrat. And that's not even the half of it, which if you think about it really is kind of amazing.
Along the way, of course, people have said some pretty great things about her. Her friends, at least one of whom is named Sugar, say she is "totally openhearted" and "very thoughtful," not to mention "silken," "spellbinding" and in possession of "such a powerful brain [that] she exudes an intellectuality that is almost sexual." Bill Maher — who has been a Huffington fan ever since she first appeared on his Politically Incorrect show in 1993 — says he has often witnessed the Huffington magic at work. "We used to joke that if we booked Arianna on the show with a guest that we hoped she would argue with, if they spent five minutes together in the greenroom, she'd have converted them [to her way of thinking]. People don't know how seductive she is."
But she's also been called "a consistent self-promoter," "evil," "the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus," a "Zsa Zsa Gabor manqué," "ruthless," "unscrupulous," a "scheming puppetmaster," "an intellectual lap dancer," "a plagiarist," "a hypocrite," "only interested in power and money," "an opportunist," "dishonest," "manipulative" and "superficial," all of it wonderful stuff, when taking the position that if even just some of it is true then it only serves to make her a more comprehensive, well-rounded and zanily fun human being than most.
Nonetheless, pro-and-con opinions about Huffington are so easy to come by that they tend to cancel each other out and render themselves meaningless, leaving you hopelessly befuddled about the true nature of the woman and how it is she can so addle men like Gore. Perhaps it's time to look elsewhere for a little insight, including back to Huffington herself, who in recent portraits somehow seems to have been overlooked as an explicator of her own self, as if she wasn't capable, or honest enough, or couldn't see what was right in front of her own nose.
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