My Dinner With Ann

Ann Coulter was wearing a black cocktail dress, a Cartier watch and a diamond bracelet when she walked into Cafe Luxembourg. We hadn’t had dinner for a few weeks and I wanted to see what was on her mind. But first I told her that over the weekend I’d stopped by the Book Hampton bookstore in East Hampton and noticed they had just one copy of her New York Times best-seller Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism , and it was tucked away out of sight. Meanwhile there’d been bountiful displays of such liberal titles as Stupid White Men , the Radical Reader and The Chomsky Quartet .

She laughed. “They often do not have it at all,” she said, adding that friends and conservative fellow travelers alert her when a bookstore seems to be hiding her book. “Now that conservatives have an Internet community, these right-wingers are like guerrilla warriors,” she said. “They send in reports to my Web page, they post it on freerepublic.com.”

How had Barnes and Noble been treating her?

“They’ve been fantastic!” she said. “They have a floor display! Although one Barnes and Noble that’s been slow to stock my book is the one on the West Side, 83rd and Broadway. Got a lot of reports on that one!”

Ms. Coulter had just returned from a book tour in Ohio and Indiana. She got searched at the airport; she told me she wished more attention was paid to “swarthy Middle Eastern–looking men with smoke pouring out of their trousers” than to her underwear. She added that she wished passengers would “rebel and beat airport security senseless …. It’s just stupid. No one thinks it’s safer, and no one thinks it helps to goose little old ladies, to go pawing through my underwear. And what sort of person would sign up to do that? Why should we be polite to these people? These are people who would sign up for the SS.”

But she loved the Midwest.

“Man, meeting real Americans-when you spend a lot of time in New York and L.A., you forget how great the average American is,” she said. When she got back to New York, she attended Geraldo Rivera’s wedding.

She ordered white wine, chilled soup and the salmon spring rolls. She said she hopes to plug her book until Labor Day, then take it easy until mid-September when the paperback of her previous best-seller, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right , comes out.

She said she’s been thinking about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California recall.

“It’s just too much fun-it’s so great,” she said. “It’s the classic example of how Democrats govern, that’s what’s so great about it …. It’s unbelievable what they’ve done to that state. It’s mind-boggling!”

Did she think Hillary Clinton will run for President?

“She’ll wait for the opening,” she said. “I’m just glad she’s gone away and we can talk about Arnold now. And I love that the Clintons are solidly behind Gray Davis. Democrats still won’t give up on this guy. I really have moved on from the Clintons. I really consider them a bore. Arnold-now that’s interesting. That’s gonna be fun !”

She said the real danger, if any, is 2008.

“I don’t know who we’re going to run, and the Republican Party has a history of running people who they think are electable, like Gerald Ford, George Bush Sr. and Bob Dole. That is how you can have another Hillary Presidency.”

I asked if people were afraid of Treason .

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Liberals are terrified because I tell the truth, and people are reading it. And they’ve been lying about this for 50 years, and the truth is getting out there. I think there has been almost no liberal that hasn’t denounced me. Look at Slander . Every liberal book being written right now is merely a response to Slander -[Joe] Conason, [David] Brock, [Al] Franken. I mean, Treason is going to keep them tied up for the next 30 years. They’re squealing like mad, but it’s too late-I’ve redeemed Joe McCarthy, it’s done. People give me Joe McCarthy T-shirts, there’s going to be a Joe McCarthy doll, there’s another Joe McCarthy book coming out. It’s over.”

She said that liberals’ first tactic is to label any conservative as “dumb”; if that doesn’t work, the fall-back position is “crazy.”

She said she was going to Los Angeles the next day, to appear on her friend Bill Maher’s HBO show and to meet with people about her own TV project. She declined to give details other than that she’ll be the host.

We talked about an unflattering photo that Time magazine had run of her last month.

“It’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen,” she said. “You just look at that photo, and photos will never have the capacity to influence you again. That’s the strange thing about liberal attacks on me: They can’t hide me from the public. People can see me talking on TV, they can read my columns. They’re not going to be able to persuade people that I’m giving orders to Salvadorean death squads. Like Ronald Reagan said, you can always trust the American people. They know when it’s nonsense.”

After we’d eaten, we got around to Nixon’s “enemies list.” She said the actual list was a myth.

“Needless to say, it was John Dean ,” she said. “Nixon never saw it. It was a figment of John Dean’s imagination. I was always suspicious of it even before I looked it up and talked to some of Nixon’s ‘colleagues’ about it. Because it’s just inherently implausible! He needs a list? Do you need a list? I mean, anyone in America could make a list of Ann Coulter’s enemies. Nixon needed a list ? It’s so absurd! Oh, these liberals are such paranoid and insane people! It is so amazing: They really think that John Ashcroft is carefully monitoring their surfing of panties.com. They really think that.

“They are so predictable in their behavior,” she continued. “Read The New York Times ‘ letters to the editor-it’s all the same thing. They’re always, ‘I’m shocked,’ ‘I’m appalled,’ ‘I’m bewildered,’ ‘I’m frightened,’ because John Ashcroft is ‘frightening,’ ‘shocking,’ ‘bewildering,’ ‘perplexing!’ You read through the letters to the editor right now in the war on terrorism, and you realize how the myth of McCarthyism was created, this idea that people were terrified, frightened-because this is what letter-writers to The New York Times are saying every single day! It’s my favorite section of the paper, other than the obituaries now that the old Commies are dying off. The letters to the editors are hilarious . Classics. Unintentionally hilarious. John Ashcroft arrested a Muslim-’I’m frightened, I’m frightened!’ Laugh-out- loud funny! In fact, when I talk to my friends at night, that is one of things we always talk about. We can quickly identify to each other what the best letter was that day.”

Ms. Coulter said she was going to appear on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show soon and that she loved its host, Jon Stewart, who she called “the No. 1 funny liberal in America.”

Did she think she could convert him?

“Yes. Absolutely,” she said. “I’d have to spend a lot of time with him. But yes, you can see he’s someone …. The problem is, a lot of liberals just don’t care about politics, so they’ll stay liberal. But if he cared enough to engage -he’s a really smart guy, and I think I can convert anyone who’s smart. I love him.”

What does she look for in a boyfriend?

“A large portfolio. That’s a joke. I’m a look-ist. Height-very important. Funny. Right-wing. Skier. I don’t always get that one. Did I mention nice?”

How did she go about dating?

“Well, I don’t really go about anything. They have to go about dating me.”

Earlier, I’d asked her about some anti-war Hollywood actors (Tim Robbins, Ed Norton) whom she’d written off as “sissy boys putting on little girls’ plays.”

Were there any actors she liked?

“Bruce Willis. He’s a total stud. He’s a Republican. Bill Pullman. Andy Garcia.”

But her No. 1 lust object seemed to be the subject of her book.

Joe McCarthy, she said, was “a totally studly guy. He was a big bear of a man. Big, handsome man. Yes, McCarthy really would have been perfect. He was funny, he was big, he was studly, he was a boxer. Very solid on the issues. Really knew how to tick off liberals. He gets bonus points for that.” She laughed.

Actress Hilary Swank and her husband Chad Lowe were at the bar. Ms. Swank had definitely noticed Ms. Coulter and was pointing her out to Mr. Lowe and another male companion. When they passed by our table quickly on the way out, Ms. Swank said a quiet “Hi” while Mr. Lowe looked sheepishly at the ground.

Ms. Coulter told me she didn’t know who they were. She wondered if Ms. Swank might be conservative.

“Younger people are much more likely to be right-wing,” she said. “I think they get sick of their professors. It’s a natural instinct for a young person to rebel against authority. And there’s no better way to piss off your professor than to be a Republican.”

What did she think New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman was up to that evening?

“Probably writing up an article about his ‘friend Muhammad’ and how his ‘stubby Arab fingers were feeling the small of my back,’” she said. “I cannot take those articles! He’s even more of a girl than Maureen Dowd: ‘I was doing this, and he said to me and my friend, and I was in an elevator’-do I need the atmospherics ?’ Get to the point! He writes like a girl. It’s like he’s writing about his coffee klatch.”

Anyone at The Times who doesn’t write like a girl?

“John Tierney, he’s a funny writer,” she said. “I haven’t seen him that much recently-they probable got rid of him to make room for Jayson Blair.”

I got the bill. I asked her if there was any chance that liberals would one day be saying “We told you so” to her?

“Oh, they will never be able to say that,” she said. “If we lose, and the liberals are running gulags, concentration camps and madrassas, and the re-education counselors are teaching the history-that is the only circumstance in which a liberal will ever be able to say, ‘We were right and you were wrong.’ No, they are wrong about everything …. They are working ferociously to undermine America.”

She said she’s been thinking that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have had “an extremely conservatizing influence” on America, and that some former liberals may be changing their stripes.

“Who’s the dog that didn’t bark?” she said. “Where is Alan Dershowitz? Isn’t that interesting? A guy you couldn’t keep away from a camera. We haven’t heard from him since 9/11, have we? Isn’t that interesting? Where has he been? Who knows? But it’s a striking and stunning fact that he has not been all over the TV denouncing Bush, Ashcroft, saying that ‘prisoners are being tortured in Guantánamo,’ ‘we’re in the middle of a civil-liberties crisis’ …. I haven’t talked to him, I don’t know that, but he’s the dog that didn’t bark.”

-George Gurley

Pretty Girls

“Do you want to take my picture? Do you want to put me on TV?” Liesel Alexander asked TV reporters at this summer’s premiere of Camp , as movie stars Ashanti and Molly Shannon strutted down the red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theater with the film’s producer, Danny DeVito, at their side.

Ms. Alexander was among hordes of teenage girls who spent a week in New York during July for the International Modeling and Talent Convention, all hoping to be discovered so that they could one day stare out at their friends back home from the pages of Vogue or the inside of a TV set. The convention comes to town once a year, organized by the International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA). The IMTA takes young men and women from modeling and acting schools and puts them together with agents and scouts from top modeling agencies like Elite, Wilhelmina and Ford. Including airfare and expenses, it can cost aspiring mannequins upward of $3,000 to attend.

While for some the convention is simply an upscale version of theater camp or Model U.N., other participants say it’s as drama-driven and ugly as, well, the real modeling world.

Take Jaclyn, now 23, who said she recently had to declare bankruptcy because of the money she spent as a contestant at an IMTA convention at the Hilton New York Towers three years ago. At the time, she was living in Cleveland and studying modeling at the Barbizon Schools of Modeling. Jaclyn said her agent at the local Stone Model and Talent Agency assured her she’d be a sure thing.

“The people at the agency told me that I was so awesome, that there was no possible way that I could come out of IMTA with nothing,” she said. “And that this was the way my idol, Katie Holmes, got discovered. And then I didn’t get a single call-back. I was crushed, I cried my eyes out and locked myself in my hotel room afterwards. [IMTA officials] banged on my door and called security because they thought I was going to kill myself.”

(The IMTA declined to comment for this story, and Nancy Mancuso, IMTA’s vice president of operations, refused to let The Observer watch any of the competition.)

Jaclyn said that in her time at the convention, only three or four agents watched each competition, and most spent their time at the hotel bar.

The people at her agency, she said, “told us that if we’re of age, we should go down to the bar and schmooze with the agents, because that is where they hang out.” She added that the only contact she made at the convention was at the bar, with a casting director for an acting studio. “He gave me his card and said he wanted me on his show and to have my agency contact him,” she recalled.

Susan Stone, vice president at the Stone agency, denied that they told contestants to go to the bar. “We don’t encourage our kids to present themselves to agents,” she said. Ms. Stone said that many contestants do not get call-backs.

“We are not God,” she said. “We cannot predict how you are going to perform once you are there, and often many people freeze. We have our talent come back all the time and just tell us they walked in the door and froze.”

In any case, Jaclyn paid a high price for attending. “I didn’t have tons of money beforehand, but the agency just told me to charge it to credit cards and that I would make it all back within a year when I was famous,” she said. “So I charged it to eight or nine credit cards, accrued over $42,000 in credit-card interest and charges, lost my job, almost lost my apartment and ended up borrowing money left and right.” After the convention, she said, she was briefly hospitalized for depression.

She wasn’t the only one feeling bereft.

“I tried to get different opinions on the cost, but really, it’s just too much money for what it is,” said Ms. Emmanuelli D’Roses, who traveled from Puerto Rico so that her 13-year-old daughter Angelica could compete at this summer’s convention. “We don’t even know what we are getting, if anything.”

Morgan Grice, a model who happened to be at the Hilton at a casting call for a Hong Kong agency, said she and her friend, a model named Ellen, were unimpressed with the IMTA scene. “We both have pretty scathing opinions of these types of events,” she said. “Mainly because they drain a lot of unsuspecting young girls of a lot of money.”

But on the surface, success was everywhere. The IMTA shop in the Hilton lobby had television screens showing success stories of former contestants and was selling panties, bras and spandex shorts with “MODEL” or “ACTOR” written across them.

And ambition was never far away. “I was wearing a suit in the elevator this morning, and some mother kept asking me if I was an agent,” said a 17-year-old male contestant named Seth.

When an IMTA judge, a former Ford male model named Conrad Webley, volunteered to give one girl advice about her portfolio, a line 12 girls long formed within moments.

“They all thought I was an agent,” Mr. Webley said. “A lot of these girls think that being cute is enough. But no-being cute has nothing to do with modeling; you can’t just bat your eyelashes and then become a model. It took me five trips to Ford to get hired.”

But the girls keep coming. “How great would it be to get paid to look pretty and work out all the time?” said Megan, a contestant from Kentucky.

Even if they do get call-backs, it may not mean much.

“A lot of the call-backs aren’t that promising-maybe an agent just wanted a closer look at you, so that they just look and then actually decide that they don’t like you,” said Maui Kafati-Batarse, 26, who attended the convention this summer and prefers to go by “Maui.” (“When I’m famous, I’m going to just go by my first name.”)

Kim Matuka, an agent with the Online Talent Group, a management company in Manhattan, said: “I’ve been to many conventions which have a few thousand people, and I can’t even find one person that I like-and the only reason that I call people back is to be nice, because I feel like they wasted all their money.

“IMTA is lucky because they have discovered a lot of people in the past, but that is rare,” Ms. Matuka continued. “It is also easy for someone to mail a picture-making it is like getting the right lottery ticket.”

Although Ms. Matuka didn’t attend this year, she said she previously scouted someone at IMTA that she “absolutely adores now.”

Meanwhile, Jaclyn is still living in Ohio, taking acting classes and working part-time in a record store.

-Lauren A. E. Schuker