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'Oh, Barbara! Your Dignity!'

Lucianne on the Monica Show.

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Were she a trifle more sentimental, Lucianne Goldberg would have approached Monica Night with a certain proprietary pride. After all, it was she, as much as anyone, who set the whole soap opera in motion. But an hour before the spectacle is to begin, the literary agent is in a sour mood. "It's a fucking bore!" she growls. "If I want to watch two princesses gossiping, I can stop in at Zabar's."

Goldberg has been summoned to the Rockefeller Center studios of MSNBC's Hockenberry Show to deliver a kind of postgame analysis. "Linda Tripp refuses to watch it," she confides. "During the impeachment, the only thing she watched was the Home Shopping Network."

Dressed in a chic black pantsuit and a pearl choker, Goldberg is nonetheless a terrifying presence -- a dynamo with the shoulders of an undernourished linebacker and a tongue that chops and dices like an overactive Cuisinart. In NBC's green room, where she is greeted like visiting royalty, she lights up, ignoring the no smoking signs. "They've learned not to fuck with me," she says. "Or I walk right out. When I did Fox, Roger Ailes personally called the Fire Department to come turn off the sprinklers."

Suddenly, the door opens to reveal Joe Conason, a New York Observer editor whom Goldberg once denounced as a "sniveling Clinton toady." Smiling nervously, he takes a seat at a safe distance from his nemesis. He's soon joined by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.

As soon as the show begins, Goldberg cries, "It's worse than I imagined! She's so perky it makes me want to throw up! And what's with all the Vaseline on her teeth? Can we get a little closer to her mouth with the camera, please! They're gonna go down her throat any minute. Maybe we'll get to see her uvula!" Even Conason lets out a tiny laugh when Monica describes baring her thong to the chief executive as a "subtle flirtatious gesture." Goldberg issues a derisive snort. "Maybe I can try that trick with my Jockeys for Her."

When Walters asks Monica to define phone sex, the room erupts into raucous laughter. "Oh, Barbara! Your dignity!" clucks Lucianne. As the viewing wears on, Conason and Alter are shuttled off to the studio. Left alone, Goldberg turns antsy. "What else is on?" she asks the producer and begins flipping channels, to his dismay.

By the last saccharine segment, Goldberg is at her wit's end. "How can you stand it?" she groans. "Worse than Oprah!" Even Monica's weepy suicide confession leaves her unmoved. "We're in the homestretch, thank God. Here come the tears! It's the money shot!" By the time the producer returns to escort her to the set, she is cranky and spent. "Sometimes I don't know why I bother," she sighs. "But someone has to stand up for truth and justice. I guess it's my cross to bear."


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