What shall she wear today? She shall wear shapely buttock-accentuating trousers, a sleeveless cowl-neck sweater (the better to show off her shoulders, the bones and hollows there that she swears are her best physical asset) and leg lengthening high heels. Also, she shall style her hair so that it achieves that saucy flip and height for which it is famous and that has almost come to seem like a moral obligation: She is never seen without it. She will, at times, apply beige lipstick to her lips, but she shall perfume herself liberally with Cartier's Le Baiser Du Dragon, for she believes that its scent (base notes of benzoin, heart notes of musk) defines her now — the kiss of the dragon. She shall not paint her nails, because she has not painted her nails in twenty years. She shall take care that her bra straps don't show, unless she wants them to show, in which case she will show them. She shall assiduously strive to deflect all future talk of the spiritual side of her life — mainly her longtime alliance with John-Roger, a New Age guru and/or savior of humanity — on the grounds that it is too easily lampooned. For the same reason, she shall, when occasion warrants, preemptively announce that she keeps to herself her favorite sexual position. She shall soon get a venti latte from Starbucks and through its lid stick a green straw, always the green one, the smaller of the two offered by Starbucks, and wrap her beige lips around it. But first, she will swing down the stairs of her cozy $7 million mansion in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles and into her cluttered. book-strewn home office, which is candlelit and full of busy HuffPost employees. And once there she will just miss the female features editor of the HuffPost saying, "Does she deal with men differently than women? Is she flirtier? I don't think so. I've gotten phone messages from her where she's like. 'Hiiii, baby, it's Ariannaaaa," in that voice of hers, and I'm like, 'Whoooo!' She's just a sensual person."
"We're leaving momentarily," Huffington herself says. "The car has arrived, and I will blow out the candles now. Do you like candles? I'm going to take extra batteries for the Black Berry. And now we're walking off into the sunset together. I am going to go get a coat and a bag. Five minutes. Can I have five minutes? Would you like some pomegranate juice? We will take my iPod with me. It has great music. We will have time for a Starbucks. I am a coffee addict. We can have endless coffees." Five minutes later, reclining in the back seat of a limo taking her to Palm Springs for a book signing, she cues up a couple of songs from her iPod, the Rivers of Babylon first, followed by Young. Gifted and Black. "Unexpected, right?" she says. And then she says, "Let's talk. Tell me about you.
What everyone wants to know is how she came to be this way. It happened while growing up in Greece, née Stassinopoulos, under the influence of a mother, Elli, who could convert total strangers into complete friends like turning on a light. Conversely, her late father. Konstantinos, a journalist, loving though he was, had learned certain inhospitable lessons in the Second World War while incarcerated in a Nazi prison camp for publishing an underground newspaper. He believed that the universe was indifferent, that life was without meaning and that his wartime suffering entitled him to endless affairs. Elli did not believe any of this and left him when their daughter was eleven. Taking after her mother, who died in 2000. Huffington is equally of the belief that everything in life has meaning. Her favorite verse from the Bible is "Not a sparrow falls but that God is behind it."
And so, on any given day. in the company of any given individual, she bubbles over with questions, looking for the intersections and overlaps, the living sparrows still crossing paths, that might prove her convictions right. "Do you like to dance?" "Can we talk about perfumes?" "Do you think the breast stroke is more feminine than the crawl?" "What do you think Leonard Cohen?" "What do you think of my lipstick?" She says this is all part of her innate "capacity for intimacy," something she inherited from her mom. But this capacity seems to have other sources as well, including the teachings of what a few University of California/Santa Cruz students in the early 1970s called Mind Fucking 101.
Actually, most people know it as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP. It was developed at the height of the human-potential movement by John Grinder, a UCSC linguistics professor, and Richard Bandler, a psychology student, who theorized that any subjective human experience could be re-programmed in the brain almost instantly, using light hypnotic trance states in conjunction with a particularly cunning way of talking. It was freaky stuff, and aficionados soon realized that the techniques could be employed in darker, more manipulative ways, to maybe persuade anyone of just about anything. These days, it's used by pickup artists to pick up girls, by the self-help guru Tony Robbins (a Huffington pal) and by car salesmen everywhere, who almost always employ it clumsily, hence that creepy snake-in-the-grass feeling you get in their presence. Huffington, though, has it down. Liltingly, musically, always with those exotic, ancient overtones of faraway Greece, the way she talks lulls you into a kind of full-blown dream state while you listen to her say things like "I have a handful of best friends, girls and boys, men and women. Some you would know, like Larry David's wife, Laurie, and Bill Maher, and some you would not know. I call them my tribe. And when you are in the tribe, you are not judged. You are just loved."
The operative sentences here are the last two. As delivered by Huffington, they impart a message that is nearly impossible to resist. You are not judged. You are just loved. This is what everyone wants, and wants to hear, and if it's all part of some grand, mysterious calculation, it does seem to be on the side of the angels, harmless enough. And thus has many a man. and not a few women, succumbed to her charms.
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