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Cashing In on Kerry

“I’m a slave to his success.” Filmmakers and writers root for their man.

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It was that other Massachusetts politician with the initials JFK who said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” That maxim has proved apt lately for the band of writers and filmmakers who have tied their careers to the once sputtering, now sparking campaign of John Forbes Kerry.

No one was happier about Kerry’s victory laps in Iowa and New Hampshire than Douglas Brinkley, the author of the nonfiction best-seller Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Brinkley had been worried that his book, out January 6, was headed for the remainder table. “Back in November and December, when I was trying to get media bookings, people were telling me, ‘What a dead idea—who cares about Kerry?’ ” he says. “But now I’ve been asked to do every show on the planet. I’m riding the wave. My publisher took out a full-page ad in the Times last Tuesday. It’s flabbergasting!”

Documentary filmmaker George “Pumping Iron” Butler has enjoyed a similar fillip. He had been working on a film about Kerry, a friend, but says, “I had to stop this fall, because I couldn’t raise any more money.” With 40 hours of film already in the can, he was more than relieved by the Iowa caucuses result. “By midnight, I got quite a lot of calls from investors.” He expects to complete the 90-minute documentary by September. “I’m a slave to his success,” Butler says, laughing.

So is director Paul Alexander, who this fall wrapped up a 68-minute Kerry documentary, Brothers in Arms, about the experiences of the senator and five crewmates who served on a boat in the Mekong Delta. But Alexander didn’t have a distributor. “We sent the tape to all the cable networks, and people’s reaction was, ‘Why would we want that?’ ” he says. “After Iowa, I started getting calls—‘We’d like to reconsider.’ ” He expects to sign a deal shortly.

Book sales for other candidates are also following the tracking polls. Last week, Wesley Clark’s book Winning Modern Wars saw its Amazon ranking fall to the 2,900 range, while John Edwards’s Four Trials had slipped from as high as No. 800 on Monday to around 4,000 by Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Burlington, Vermont, Peter Goldman, a Newsweek editor working on a book about Howard Dean’s campaign guru, Joe Trippi, was looking glum after Trippi’s abrupt resignation. “I intend to go ahead with the book because there’s a great tale to be told about the rise and fall of the Dean campaign,” he said bravely. “It may not be as marketable. But if I go with a university press, I’ll be happy.”


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