Like You Read About ….
In order to cover Teresa Heinz Kerry, The New York Times comes up with some polite ways to say “plumb crazy”:
“flair”; “unpredictability”; “off-the-cuff”; “lively” (Jim Rutenberg, July 27)
“forthright”; “imperious” (Alessandra Stanley, July 28)
“quirky”; “outspoken” (Joyce Purnick, July 29)
“a centimillionaire heiress to a ketchup-and-pickle fortune” (Todd S. Purdum and David M. Halbfinger, July
“dressed in bridal white” (Alessandra Stanley, July 30)
“penchant for free association” (Damien Cave, Aug. 1)
“a multilingual free spirit” (Ginia Bellafante, Aug. 3)
White Collar Beggar
It was 6:10 p.m. on a recent Thursday, and Jayson Littman was panhandling for a job on the S train.
Dressed in a white-and-orange-striped J. Crew dress shirt and
black Calvin Klein pants, the 27-year-old faced the carload of passengers-their
faces soured by the workday-and gamely launched into a loud speech.
“Ladies and gentleman, my name is Jayson, and I’m not here to ask
you for money or sell you fake batteries for a dollar,” he said. “I am looking
for a job. Currently, I work in corporate finance, but am looking to move into
a marketing, advertising or P.R. position. If you are, or are in touch with, a
hiring manager at your company, please take a copy of my résumé. Thank you and
enjoy your day.”
Mr. Littman makes $40,000 to $60,000 a year working as a
credit-risk analyst for a major investment bank he declines to name. As he
snaked his way down the crowded subway car, passengers obligingly moved out of
the way, most staring with amusement.
“Any takers?” asked Mr. Littman, holding out a stack of thin
envelopes with his résumé tucked inside. His voice now was lowered and polite,
as if he were passing out smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres. “Any takers?”
“I like your approach,” a woman with pink-tinted glasses and
curly hair told him as he passed.
Lydia Schinasi, 39, a
saleswoman at Self magazine, was
sitting wedged between two passengers. She waved him down. “I’ll pass it on to
H.R.,” she told Mr. Littman, taking a copy of his résumé.
“Condé Nast,” Mr. Littman told me with some satisfaction, but he
didn’t have time to gloat. Ignoring the “Riding Between Cars Is Dangerous”
sign, he swung open the car door and started his speech again.
Mr. Littman described himself as “very unhappy” with his current
employer. So every day except Fridays, he stumps for a job on the rails. In the
morning, he catches the No. 1/9 train at 96th Street and works it down to 42nd
Street, where he rides the Grand Central shuttle back and forth for about a
half hour. Then it’s back on the 1/9 down to his office.
In the evenings it’s the same deal, except in the opposite
direction. He varies his schedule by about 10 minutes each day to avoid hitting
the same crowd.
Mr. Littman has television good looks: a wide smile, warm brown
eyes and a neat, cropped haircut. He said he’s passed out over 700 résumés in
the one month he’s been working the rails. He’s landed five interviews, as well
as two job offers, including one from Thomson Media, publisher of American Banker and The Bond Buyer . James MacDonald, a publisher at Thomson, was
riding the 1/9 a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Littman began his speech and Mr.
MacDonald, who was reading The Wall Street Journal , told him to shut up.
People often tell Mr. Littman to shut up.
“I’d kind of had enough of it on the subways,” Mr. MacDonald, 56,
recalled. “But then he went on with his speech in kind of a charming fashion
and I thought, ‘He’s got a good presentation.’”
Mr. Littman went in for an interview but declined the job.
“Cold-call sales,” he told me, wrinkling his nose.
We were standing on a platform, taking a break. Mr. Littman had
pulled me off the train after he spotted Steve, who sells the Street News , a
newspaper covering homeless issues.
“I don’t want to impede on what he’s doing,” Mr. Littman said.
“It’s just a courtesy.”
Mr. Littman grew up in New York near 193rd Street and attended
Brooklyn College, where he majored in psychology and minored in marketing.
Since graduating, he’s worked in finance-a career, he said, “that is completely
not my personality.”
The idea to look for a job on the M.T.A. came after he watched a
homeless man collect money after performing “Under the Boardwalk” on the 1/9.
“He sang it on key,” said Mr. Littman, smiling.
Mr. Littman smiles a lot. Last April, he started a small company
called Free Hugs. Every Sunday he runs a booth in Washington Square Park, where
he gives out free hugs to strangers.
The train pulled in and we got back on. Mr. Littman started up
again. A tall, tired-looking man leaning against the door introduced himself.
He worked at Bloomberg L.P., he said, and asked for Mr. Littman’s e-mail
address. Two blond women from Revlon also offered to take his résumé, as did a
young woman in a silver spaghetti top who worked at Trent & Co., a P.R.
All told, almost 40 people had taken his resume in 45 minutes.
“Anyone who has the balls to do this deserves a job,” said Leslie
Biddle, 35, an executive assistant in public relations at designer Carlos
Falchi, tucking Mr. Littman’s résumé in her purse.
A heavy-set woman in a wrinkled T-shirt stopped him and asked him
for a résumé. Mr. Littman paused. “What’s the company?” he asked. She said it
involved housing. “Thanks, but that’s O.K.,” he said politely.
Mr. Littman’s face was shiny and flushed by now. He gave his
speech a half dozen more times, at one point straining to be heard over a
We emerged at 96th Street, and Mr. Littman checked his cell
phone. There was a message from the recruitment advertising agency McFrank
He said he believes he will land a job soon, though he may be
forced to take one he isn’t wild about: Things at his present job are getting a
A few weeks ago, he was in the middle of his spiel when he felt
someone kick his leg. It was one of his co-workers, 23-year-old Tara Pullen, a
fellow credit-risk analyst.
“She was like, ‘What are you doing, Jayson?’” said Mr. Littman.
“I told her to wait a minute and I continued my speech.”
He swore Ms. Pullen to secrecy, but another co-worker spotted him
on the subway and ratted him out to his office manager.
“My manager called me into her office and said, ‘Jayson, I know
you are actively looking for another job,’” he said. “I told her I was
passively looking for a new job.”
Oh, Daddy !
On Thursday, July 29, Vanessa Kerry strode onto the stage of the
Fleet Center in Boston and, with a sparkle in her eye and a slight toss of her
wavy blond hair, proceeded to deliver one of the raciest public displays of
affection ever to cross the lips of a candidate’s daughter.
“As someone who knows all 6-foot-4 inches of my dad best-6-foot-6
if you count the hair-I’m here to share some secrets,” Ms. Kerry began, with
words that all but silenced the raucous hall and which, had Chelsea Clinton
ever uttered them, would surely have drawn gasps across the globe. “Over the
years, I’ve come to know him in many ways,” said the 27-year-old Ms. Kerry.
“Through the silly moments, when he laughs with his head thrown back and his
shoulders rocking, and through sad moments, such as when my grandmother lay
dying, and also through warm moments when he enveloped me in that dad hug that
overwhelmed me with a feeling of safety.” Later, Ms. Kerry told how her father
fashioned a tiny tree for his mother using fall foliage and “teasing out” the branches
from copper wire.
You don’t need to be a Freudian to comprehend what Ms. Kerry’s
speech was about: not death and taxes, but sex and death. Consider the choice
of words: sharing secrets. Shoulders rocking. Lay dying. Warm moments.
Enveloped. Overwhelmed. Teasing out. In a one-page speech, Ms. Kerry mentioned
her father’s 6-foot-4 height twice, used the word “love” seven times and “gut”
two. What became apparent on Thursday was that Vanessa Kerry’s role in this
campaign is to lend a sexual dimension to her cold, New England patrician
father, to make it clear that Dad wears the pants, no matter how brash or
ballsy his billionaire wife happens to be. Even her name, Vanessa, with its
seductive hiss of S’s, helps.
Women on the Upper West Side are already sporting buttons that
say “Shove It”-Ms. Heinz Kerry’s instructions to a journalist last week-but in
many other parts of the country, Ms. Heinz Kerry’s nonscheduled persona isn’t
exactly seen as a virtue. Laura Bush, meanwhile, comes across as completely
nonthreatening, almost medicated. Then again, any woman who claims her favorite
book is Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers
Karamazov is sure to have a dark side. Lurking in the background, of
course, is the specter of Al Gore’s sloppy lip lock with Tipper before his
speech at the 2000 convention, and no one wants to repeat that.
And so it’s up to the Kerry daughters to toughen-yet also
soften-their father, to make him seem manly when their stepmother makes him
It’s an act that requires careful costuming and scripting.
Whereas Ms. Heinz Kerry favors dark pants suits and spread collars, for her
convention speech Vanessa Kerry-who took time off from Harvard Medical School
to campaign for her father-was dressed in a powder blue silk dress.
Knee-length, sleeveless and tasteful, it had one twist: An ever-so-tiny slit
ran from a hidden clasp at her high neckline to the top of her cleavage,
revealing one thin, suggestive slice of skin. The effect weirdly echoed an evening
when another blonde introduced another politician with a breathy “Happy
birthday, Mr. President, happy birthday … to … you.”
Alexandra, the more tempered brunette older sister, was no less
striking in her form-fitting, long-sleeved, high-necked red dress. After
recounting the surreal and much-puzzled-over anecdote of how their father
administered CPR to a drowning pet hamster, Alexandra, a filmmaker, painted a
picture of Mr. Kerry as a thoughtful, loving dad, one who put things in perspective
when she was a brooding 19-year-old. “Ali, this is a beautiful day. Feel the
sun. Look at the country you live in,” she recounted him saying.
Meanwhile, the Bush campaign has begun to make use of the
President’s 22-year-old twin daughters-Jenna, the frolicsome blonde, and
Barbara, the sensible brunette and designated driver-who posed wearing couture in this month’s Vogue . At the G.O.P. convention this month, one can hardly imagine what they’ll have to say about their father-all
six feet of him.