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Is Washington Ready for Bella Abzug? Is Anybody?

As she spoke, the gentle emotion in her voice caught the people in the room. She made you remember that she has been gathering petitions, screaming on phones, pushing through hallways in the Congressional office building, standing on streetcorners and in smelly meeting rooms for just as long as this war has been on. Some came early, others came late. Bella has been there forever.

And as she kept talking, her face changed. It softened. Little crinkles set off her dark eyes. She looked beautiful.

"I think the son of a bitch is copping out on us," I said to Jack Newfield later that night. "She looked like she was from Roslyn."

"She feeds on campaigning," Newfield said. "It does the same thing for her that pregnancy does for some women."

Talking about her looks is the only way you can get around her. The other afternoon, before a conference with Arthur Goldberg, Bella fussed and fumed, "What the eff am I going to say to him and what is he going to say to me?" She barged into Goldberg's office with this attitude, and Arthur Goldberg stood up and said, "Why, Bella Abzug, you're a very pretty woman." It was over right there. He had her. It ended even more quickly the next time they met. Arthur Goldberg said to her, "I see you're wearing the same perfume you had on last time, Bella. I like it. What kind of perfume is it?"

A little bit of balance came to the picture on a subsequent night. Bella walked into the private dining room of the Dreyfus Corporation on Fifth Avenue, and Howard Stein, the president of Dreyfus, began introducing Bella around the room.

"This is Sol Linowitz," Stein said.

"How do you do," Bella said. "Are you the man that used to be head of the Xerox?"

"That's right," Linowitz said.

"I'm glad to meet a big shot. I'm in hock $35,000 on my campaign," Bella said.

At a large, square dining table, Bella was placed between Howard Stein and a man named Jacobs, whose first name she did not catch.

". . . 'Alex Rose,' Bella spits. She would like to fight him. If the fight occurs, we will see how fast Alex Rose can run . . ."

Over a fruit cocktail, Bella said to Stein, "I owe $35,000 on my campaign." Howard Stein is not exactly from Milton Academy and the Harvards. He went to Textile High School and he lived over the Stage Delicatessen on Seventh Avenue. Still, the obvious does not move him. His form is more subtle. He picked at his fruit. Bella was not going to move him in public.

So, over the soup, she turned to the man on her right, Jacobs, and she asked him what firm he was with.

"Bache and Company," Jacobs said.

"What do you do there?" Bella said.

"I'm the president of the company," Harry Jacobs Jr. said.

"I owe $35,000 on my campaign and I'm a poor woman," Bella said.

Bella got to him during the fish. "I'll try to help," Jacobs said. "I can't help a lot, but I can help a little," he said. He handed Bella his business card. "Call me," he said.

"Don't worry, baby, you can help a whole lot," Bella said. "I owe $35,000."

She is loud. "The only way you can argue with Bella," Norman Mailer says, "is to throw back your head and shout, 'You're full of - - - -!' And she'll throw her head back and shout, 'You're full of - - - -!' And then you shout, 'You're full of - - - -!' " She also can be good and rude. During last year's Lindsay campaign, a period when Bella stormed around like a Cossack, she had me down to do something or other and I never called her back and finally one day she called the house. "Look, bubbie," she said to my wife, "you're not getting my message, bubbie. Now listen, bubbie. It may not sound so important to you, but it is and he has to call me, bubbie. You understand me now, bubbie?" In my house, a voice rang out for several hours. "It may not sound important to me because I'm just a stupid housewife, huh? Well, that effin Bella Abzug is an effin . . ."

And when people do not like her, they are not bashful about it. The members of Mitch Bloom's Regular Democratic Club on East Broadway sat on folding chairs along the walls the other night and reported to Bloom, who sat at a table in the middle of the room. "They don't go for Abzug, they want this Farber," one of them said. Bella's opponent is Barry Farber, who runs a talk show on WOR.

"My people find her too radical with all this women's liberation. She comes on too strong and too loud. They resent her. They are going for Farber."


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