Under normal circumstances, Salisbury is a quiet town best known as the home of Britain’s tallest cathedral. But on March 12 the tranquillity was shattered by a less august presence. Outside Ottaker’s bookstore, more than 400 people jostled and elbowed just to get a glimpse of Monica Lewinsky. “It’s a pity,” said law student Gabrielle Folliard, 22, caught in the throng. “She’s been hounded, while [President Clinton] has been forgiven.” At that, Folliard gritted her teeth and forged ahead, Monica-bound.
Welcome to Monica’s World, which now spans much of the globe. Lewinsky hit the road this month for a six-week European tour to promote her book, Monica’s Story, done in collaboration with British author Andrew Morton, whose biography of Princess Diana was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic.
Monica’s Story, too, quickly hit the Sunday Times bestseller list, but the fame that drove sales had its price. Lewinsky’s first appearance, a book-signing at Harrods in London, quickly became a free-for-all mob scene, with scores of photographers shouting for her attention and journalists crowding in close. A visibly distraught Lewinsky beat a retreat to collect herself before resuming her task. A few days later, at a signing in Bristol, she bowed her head when hundreds of spectators erupted into a soccer-style chant of “Monica! Monica!” And in Glasgow on March 15, after signing 750 books—her name only, no dedications—Lewinsky, her right shoulder sore from the penmanship, departed abruptly, disappointing some 250 people still in line.
“She is doing more than 2,000 books each day,” reports Fiona Marsh, the publicist for her publisher, O’Mara Books, who along with two sales managers, a pair of bodyguards and a chauffeur comprises Monica’s British entourage. “When we are not in the bookshops she spends all day signing bookplates that the shops can stick in the books later on.” The schedule is demanding and allows for little dawdling. Near Salisbury, Monica caught a glimpse of Stonehenge out the car window but had no time for a closer inspection. In Edinburgh, says O’Mara’s sales director David Crombie, she was so smitten with the view of Edinburgh Castle from her window at the pricey Balmoral Hotel that she asked, “Can we stay here for a few days?” Reports Crombie: “I said, ‘Sorry, we’re off to Newcastle tomorrow’ It’s just relentless. It’s work.”
At the Glasgow Hilton, Lewinsky did wander through the hotel’s shopping gallery one evening. “We have been trying to fit a bit of shopping in,” says Marsh. “We slipped into Hobbs [a chain store] the other day and bought a pair of shoes.”
Shod though she may have been, Monica, reported a friend with whom she spoke on the phone from Britain, was definitely “getting tired of the tour. But she knows it’s what she agreed to do and she’s going to do it. She honors her commitments. She’s not a prima donna. She wants people to love her.”
After her European venture is over—with visits to Germany, France and Norway, among other countries, yet to come—there are tentative plans for an American leg. As for what she might do next, “she doesn’t have a clue,” says Morton.
Those who have spent time with Lewinsky say that what she really pines for—apart from the American coffee she has been denied on the tour—is a serious romance. But as she recently moaned to Morton, “How am I going to get a boyfriend with all this going on?” She should “get away from the world of big people for a while,” he says. “It might be useful to go to a place where she is not being judged all the time and not being stared at, where she can be treated like an ordinary human being.” Sound advice. Now if only there were such a place.
Ellen Lieberman in London, Tim Dawson in Scotland, Julia Campbell in New York City and Johnny Dodd in Los Angeles