Matthew Nathan Drudge was born in 1966 and raised in suburban Washington, the only child of two liberal-Democrat parents who both worked for the federal government. The parents separated when Drudge was 6, and his father moved in with another woman and her kids before long. Drudge’s own version of his past is spotty. He says that he “failed bar mitzvah” and barely graduated from high school in 1984. He told Playboy he was “suspended a few times” for such infractions as “cheating … on tests.”
The divorce and child-support papers in the Maryland State Archives offer a heartrending picture. About the time Drudge failed bar mitzvah, his mother left her job as a staff attorney for Ted Kennedy, where she had worked on health issues, “because of sickness” and remained unemployed for at least two years. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has reported that she was hospitalized for schizophrenia. It appears that Drudge got his star power from his mom. He has proudly described his mother as a pioneering lawyer. She drove a Datsun 280Z. She went by several first names and changed her last name from Kudish to Drudge to Star—the last apparently her invention.
“He is a highly creative performance artist who has invented his own genre,” says Camille Paglia. “The Drudge Report is a kind of existentialist high-wire act.”
When Drudge was 15, crisis rocked the family. His mother was hospitalized, and a few weeks later Drudge was arrested. “Juvenile court told me that he was arrested on June 18 for making annoying phone calls,” his father testified in a hearing on child support. “He’s got a problem of making annoying phone calls to a girl,” Drudge’s mother testified. After the arrest, Drudge went to live with his father on a farm on the eastern shore of Maryland and go to school there. Robert Drudge was a therapist and social worker, but the boy was evidently too much for him, and Matt wasn’t cut out for the sticks—he liked to hang out at video arcades with a Walkman, listening to tapes. Robert Drudge sent Matt back to Washington. Drudge’s mother said his father “resents” the boy, and told this story in a diva’s style that her son would admire: “Robert Drudge rejected his natural son, Matthew, and returned him to my home, knowing that I am under doctor’s care and unemployed. His reason for returning Matthew to me after three weeks was that ‘his wife comes first, her two boys come second, and Matthew comes third’; that he did not want to assume any responsibility for him as his father because he has a new family; and that he hopes everything turns out all right. Robert Drudge has not communicated with his son or me since that time.” Young Drudge was placed in psychiatric treatment with Jewish Social Services. It was recommended that the boy be sent to a boarding school, “and if not the last choice will be a foster home.” (The court papers don’t say whether this came to pass.)
Drudge must have been an uncomfortable kid. He lost his books, he lost his glasses. His mother said he had “special education” needs. One friend says that Drudge started wearing the famous hat in high school to deal with premature hair loss. “This is an incredibly lonely kid. He doesn’t have a sister, his mother is in and out of hospitals, the father was beside himself. In high school they treated him like shit. He was starting to lose his hair in high school; think what that does to a kid. I find it so appealing when someone has nothing and gets somewhere.” Robert Drudge has said his son’s case proves that the schools are unequipped to deal with difficult talents.
The boy’s genius winked out even then. On his paper route, Drudge tore apart the Washington Star to see which stories and angles the editors had misplayed. In his high-school yearbook (unearthed by the Washington City Paper), he wrote, “To everyone else who has helped and hindred [sic] me whether it be Staff or students, I leave a penny for each day I’ve been here and cried here. A penny rich in worthless memories.”
Drudge’s father ultimately changed his life. After high school, the boy tried New York and Europe, then drifted to his father’s hometown, Los Angeles, where he worked for years in the gift shop at CBS studios. Worried about his son’s aimlessness, Bob Drudge insisted on buying him a Packard-Bell computer in 1994. The Drudge Report began as an e-mail sent out to a few friends. Drudge’s interests were studio gossip, often plucked from trash cans at CBS, and right-wing politics.