Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • Young, In Love, In Jail

    THEY WERE 14 WHEN THEY MET--A handsome, cleancut athlete and a pretty, dark-eyed honor student from a nearby town. They were inseparable all through high school, and when they went off to college this sum-mer (he to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, she to Annapolis), they had already made plans to be married, down to choosing a date in the year 2000. If they hoped for their lives to be entwined forever, David Graham and Diane Zamora will apparently get their wish. Both have been arrested and charged in the murder of a 16-year-old girl from Graham's hometown of Mansfield, Texas. ...
  • The Original Field Guide

    IT IS ONE OF THE SUBLIMEST THRILLS nature offers, to see a shape flitting through the branches (""a very tiny, slender mite, smaller even than a Chicadee, blue-gray above and whitish below . . .''), hear a call (""a thin peevish zpee'') and, paging frantically through the more than 700 species and subspecies listed in ""A Field Guide to the Birds,'' finding that this description precisely matches that of the blue-gray gnatcatcher. A bird, a wild creature, subject to no human laws, grubbing out a meager living from bugs that not even most other birds would bother eating, somehow manages to turn out looking just like Roger Tory Peterson painted him. How did it know? ...
  • The Dream Turns To Nightmare

    A pipe bomb explodes in Centennial Olympic Park, shattering the Games' celebratory mood and emphasizing America's vulnerability. ...
  • The Happiness Meter

    I DON'T WANT TO CLAIM TOO MUCH credit for overturning 24 centuries of Western philosophy, since psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen did so much of the basic research. I just want to point out that the working title of my autobiography (""Will Dr. Kevorkian Take Me If I Just Have a Bad Cold?'') anticipated a key finding in their recent paper in the journal Psychological Science. ""It may be,'' they wrote, ""that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller, and therefore is counterproductive.'' I came to this realization intuitively, after discovering that it was counterproductive to attend movies, concerts and sporting events because I spent the whole time worrying if I'd find a parking space when I got home. Lykken and Tellegen, who are both psychologists at the University of Minnesota, had to sift through a study of more than 2,000 twins born in that state between 1936 and 1955. But in the end we arrived at the same conclusion, which is that the pursuit of...
  • It's The Olympic Spirit That Still Moves Them

    THE FIRST RECORDED Olympic chant of the modern era, fittingly, was ""Nike! Nike!,'' which is the Greek word for ""victory.'' The first man to hear it was James Connolly, an American hop-step-and-jumper, who dropped out of Harvard to compete in the 1896 Games. Arriving in Athens the night before the start of the Games (having, according to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, miscalculated the gap between the American and Greek calendars), Connolly entered the triple jump on the first day and won, easily, with a jump of just under 45 feet. The first-place medal that year was silver, not gold, but it came accompanied by a certificate and an olive branch. Connolly, who went on to become a well-known war correspondent and novelist, apparently never regretted choosing Olympic immortality over a degree from Harvard.There were only around 300 athletes altogether at that first modern Olympiad -- drawn from a world population of a little more than a billion and a half, or less than half the...
  • The Death Of A Model

    SHE GOT BY IN LIFE ON JUST ONE EXpression, which may have been her downfall as an actress but her salvation as a person: a smile of such simplicity that not even a 20-year career slide could cloud it. Not even lolling around Studio 54 with Halston in the 1970s could make Margaux Hemingway look decadent. Nude in the pages of Playboy, she could achieve no more than a faint imitation of sultriness. Whatever her troubles, and they were many, she kept smiling through them. In any event, when she was found dead last week at the age of 41, a world eager for details of her last miserable years discovered, astonishingly, that she seemed to have escaped the lonely, bitter, squalid end that our culture prescribes for former stars whose careers are eclipsed by their kid sisters'.Bulimic, alcoholic, irresponsible (she had filed for bankruptcy in 1991, claiming debts of more than $800,000 and some $6,000 in assets) -- Margaux was all of those, and afflicted with epilepsy to boot. She was...
  • Yes, We Redo Windows

    IF YOU STAND IN THE RIGHT PLACE in the bar, you can look down at the Statue of Liberty; from your table, you can see the planes lining up to land at La Guardia, or catch that magical moment of dusk when the line of traffic waiting to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge dematerializes into a constellation of winking taillights. Setting foot in Windows on the World, the restaurant that reopened last week on the 107th floor of New York's World Trade Center, is an epiphany, like landing in America itself. The place transforms you, in the same way that it turns a chunk of goose liver into a sauterne-glazed foie gras. Stunned into an acquiescent torpor, a state of simple, infantile greed, you get through the whole menu without once nudging your wife and muttering, Jesus, $7.50 for mashed potatoes? My mother fed a family of four for less than that.It was virtually a moral imperative for the United States to re-create Windows on the World, which was closed after the terror bombing of the World...
  • Building A Better Dad

    Most men today say they are better fathers than their fathers were, caring more and trying harder. Is that true? And is the new, "sensitive' dad what kids really need? HOW DO WE ASSESS A MAN'S LIFE? THE LATE William S. Paley, founder and longtime chairman of CBS, devoted his life to the pursuit of wealth, power, fame and worldly pleasure -- just like me, come to think of it, except he was very much luckier at it. But what I remember best about him is a telling remark in one of his many fulsome obituaries. Paley, said a friend, wasn't the kind of guy to attend his kids' Little League games, but when they needed him, he was there for them. And I thought, gee, how could one of the great visionaries of American industry be such a putz? Little League games are precisely when your kids need you the most. I accept that I will never own a Czanne or sleep with a starlet, but nobody will say anything so dumb about me when I die, because I've been to more goddam ball games in the past eight...
  • High Risk

    IT IS AN AREA ABOUT THE SIZE OF A LIVING ROOM, A BRO- ken platform of rock and ice nearly six miles up in the sky. Higher than most airliners fly; so high that it sits, most of the year, in the jetstream itself, and the storms blow in at 100 miles an hour. It takes around two months to walk up to it, but once there nobody stays for more than an hour or two, because if you reached there in the first place you probably used up most of your luck with the weather. ..MR0-On a sunny afternoon just over a week ago, climbers at the Everest base camp at 17,700 feet saw the sky over the summit turn an ominous deep purple, while the handful on top felt the wind pick up with the suddenness of an opened window. Clouds boiled up from the slopes below, where the nearest shelter, a cluster of wind-whipped tents, was a 10-hour walk away in a little saddle called the South Col. Over the next 36 hours, five people would die between the summit and South Col, and three others, approaching the peak from...
  • Seattle Reigns

    WARD DUFT MOVED TO SEATTLE IN THE SPRING OF 1991 AND HE liked it right away, even though it was all a mistake. He arrived at the wheel of a 1978 Volkswagen with two friends and all the gear they'd need to spend a summer fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. They left Raleigh, N.C., and drove for two weeks, arriving just two days after the fleet had left for the season. No problem! It was the day that spring that the sun was shining; the mountains loomed across the dappled bay and on the corner you could buy a caff Americano, a mass of froth sitting atop a few sips of bitter sludge, for $1.50. ""I liked the laid-back atmosphere,'' Duft says. ""Everybody's so kind and polite you can just about bull your way into anything.'' He liked the attitude of Seattle's youth culture -- morbid, apathetic, but still, somehow, cool about it. He tended bar in a funeral parlor that had been minimally redecorated into a restaurant. He wrote hip, nihilistic advertising copy (for a sky-diving outfit: ""We make...
  • Goodbye, Damon Runyon Hello, Mickey Mouse

    AT 7:30 ONE EVENING in early spring, Times Square is a bourgeois carnival. Colorful neckties flutter in the breeze and an excited babble rises as voices in a dozen languages try to figure out if there's time for an ice-cream cone before the curtain of "Cats." The great electric signs flash wholesomeness at the universe, lighting up the night with allurements for Coca-Cola and 8 O'Clock Coffee, while the multitiered stock ticker on the new Morgan Stanley building lets theatergoers check their portfolios on the way in to the show. On a wide spot on the sidewalk, a couple of break-dancers are going through their routines, which have been playing on this corner even longer than "Cats." The break-dancers are no longer rubber-limbed boys with the gum of the projects still stuck to their sneakers, but muscular young men in matching T shirts and khakis. Even the tourists from countries where dancing on the sidewalk can get you six months to life seem unimpressed. As curtain time draws near,...
  • O Jackie! How Tacky

    THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY NOW, CRATED AND NESTLED in bubble wrap or tucked in Louis Vuitton carry-ons, carrying their little spark of cachet to Grosse Pointe, River Oaks, Malibu and many other places Jackie wouldn't have been caught dead in. Ormolu chenets! Fruitwood commodes! Fauteuils and settees, Audubon prints and oil paintings, baskets and salt shakers. Earrings, pins, necklaces, brooches, rings and bracelets dripping with . . . well, better not to inquire too closely, but please bear in mind that preciousness comes in many guises. Nothing like this has happened in Western civilization since the fourth century, when Saint Helena uncovered the True Cross on Calvary, and proved it by resurrecting a corpse with its touch. In short order, not surprisingly, fragments became the most sought-after relics in all Christendom. Miracles like that don't happen much anymore, but if you could afford anything in the world, would you prefer to be raised from the dead--or walk into your country...
  • Just Following Orders?

    a THOUSAND YEARS FROM NOW, IF books are still being written, they will be written about the Holocaust, the event that more than any other taxes our powers of understanding. For a generation, the reigning paradigm of the Holocaust was Hannah Arendt's insight into "the banality of evil"--the startling observation that the modem bureaucratic state had turned mass murder into just another government program, diffusing responsibility to the extent that even Eichmann could convince himself that he was guilty only of pushing paper for the losing side. Now Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, a young Harvard professor and the son of a Jewish scholar who barely survived the war in a Romanian ghetto, has proposed a disturbing alternative: that the German people were enthusiastic participants in their nation's moment of infamy. Hitler's Willing Executioners (Knopf $30) is Goldhagen's 619-page exegesis of a joke that crossed the Atlantic with the first Holocaust survivors. The German people, it was said,...
  • Bulldozers Of Progress

    THE CHICAGO BUILDING SOUNDS LIKE a place you ought to know, if you know Chicago, but try putting your finger on it. Even natives of Chicago, a city where office buildings carry the same cultural weight as, say, churches in Paris, may not recognize by name the drab heap of terra cotta on the corner of State and Madison Streets, winking neon diamonds at passersby from the windows of Carter Jewelers. This was a prime business comer around the turn of the century, when tenants could look down from their triplebay windows at the Schlesinger and Mayer department store across the street, now Carson Pirie Scott. The building itself, designed in 1904 by Holabird and Roche, was in the height of Chicago fashion, glowering down on pedestrians from beneath a flat, heavy cornice in a way that said "hog butcher to the world, buddy." ...
  • Hold The Kidney Pie

    BRITAIN'S 11 MILLION COWS SPENT last weekend as usual, grazing in bovine indifference to mankind, unaware of the political storm that broke over their innocent, if possibly diseased, heads last week. It began when the health secretary told a stunned Parliament that consumption of infected beef may be linked to an outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare, gruesome and invariably fatal brain disorder. Countries all over Europe banned English beef (none has been imported into the United States since 1989), London steakhouses were doing a brisk business in fish and a government commission was considering the unthinkable: exterminating every cow in England. It didn't help when the government's chief authority on the outbreak said he couldn't "deny the possibility" that CJD might be as bad as AIDS. ...
  • Israel At War

    THIS IS HOW YASIR ARAFAT deals with terrorism: careering through the muddy, storm-soaked streets of Gaza one evening last week, the crack troops of the Palestinian Preventive Security forces roared up to the four-story headquarters of the Islamic Association, trailed by enough cameramen to film the battle of El Alamein. Over the wall they leapt, unlocking the gate from the inside just in time to jump out of the way of a driver preparing to ram it with his jeep from the outside. Then a rush at the door, cameras rolling, a furious barrage of kicks by three soldiers in turn, until the door gives way to reveal -- a kindergarten, lined with class pictures, posters and balloons. If they expected to find terrorists sewing bombs into their undershirts, they were out of luck; the children were in bed. ...
  • Disneyland Of The Mind

    LIKE ALL GREAT CEO'S, DISNEY CHAIRMAN Michael Eisner wants to control everything in the world; what sets him apart is his conviction that this is for the world's own good. So he could not fail to be impressed when his wife brought him to the Chautauqua Institution, which has been improving upper-middle-class minds with lectures, concerts and sermons each summer for more than a century. Here by a lake in upstate New York was a resort with affluent demographics, a return-visit rate of 80 percent and an infrastructure consisting mostly of lecture halls and trees. If it weren't a nonprofit foundation, Eisner realized, it would be a gold mine. ...
  • Kinsley Goes For The Net

    IF YOU PLOT MICHAEL KINSLEY'S TWO decades as a journalistic wunderkind, you realize how hard he's had to work to keep up with the world's increasing production of stupidity. He started out skewering the idiocy of the Ford administration at The Washington Monthly, then moved to The New Republic, a weekly, around the time Jimmy Carter became president. Two administrations later, as it became clear that the nation's need for iconoclasm could only be satisfied on a daily basis, he became the neoliberal scourge of CNN's "Crossfire." But even television's 12-hour news cycle, from evening newscast to the next day's morning shows, has been hopelessly outpaced by the endless, incomprehensibly burgeoning flow of data on the Internet. So beginning early next year, Kinsley will move to Seattle to create and edit an online magazine of political and cultural commentary for the Microsoft Network and the World Wide Web. Now, when someone does something stupid anywhere in the world, any time day or...
  • Witness At The Creation

    Chaos Theory, one of the great mathematical advances of our age, holds that random patterns replicate themselves at different scales; the line made by water lapping a rocky shore, if you could draw it, would show the same density of zigs and zags as a map of an entire continental coast. That phenomenon seems to be at work in the picture on this page, which might be taken for columns of smoke rising from a fire into a still, starry sky. Those are, indeed, stars in the background, but the columns are of hydrogen gas and microscopic dust, and they measure roughly a light-year--6 trillion miles--from top to bottom. ...
  • The Gods Must Be Hungry

    EVEN BEFORE THERE was political correctness, civilized people would never dream of running down someone else's religion, but let's face it: sometimes you just can't help yourself. To read about a 12-year-old girl plied with liquor and left on a frigid mountaintop to die is to experience a revulsion that no degree of moral relativism can rationalize away. A revulsion, however, tinged with the faint, grim satisfaction of finding scientific evidence of an atrocity perpetrated in America that cannot by any stretch of logic be even remotely blamed on the Europeans. ...
  • O.J. Faces His Future

    AT 48, THE FACE IS STILL smooth and blandly handsome above the broad right-angled shoulders, the voice the same husky drone. He is still, indisputably, O. J. Simpson, a celebrity in that peculiar American way of being famous for being famous. When he was arrested last year he was no longer in demand as an athlete, broadcaster or actor, yet he retained all the perquisites of greatness, in-eluding a girlfriend straight from the pages of Playboy and a job as a corporate glad-hander and golfing partner. He's still the same person, except that a substantial majority of the public now believes that he slaughtered his former wife and an innocent stranger with a knife. His attempts to re-establish himself as a hero, therefore, will be an interesting test of the Warholian proposition that in America fame itself obscures every other attribute of a personality--including, ultimately, whatever one was famous for in the first place. ...
  • The Guru From Mars

    Chances are, if you're like most mature, sensitive Americans, you thought you could get through the rest of your life without having to think about John Gray. It was easy enough to skip his books ("Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" and others) and switch channels when he appeared on "Oprah." But what worked with Robert Fulghum and M. Scott Peek might not be enough to escape Gray's utterly ineluctable message. Not only does he have a new book in the works--his third since Mars/Venus installed itself on the best-seller list 122 weeks ago--plus tapes, calendars, greeting cards and an online forum, but the 20-odd "facilitators" he has trained over the years will be joined soon by hundreds of others, spreading Gray's wisdom at churches, corporate retreats and hotels and on cruise ships. And that doesn't even count the random individuals he encounters in his travels, who get the benefit of Gray doing"what I do best . . . save marriages, create romances and passions and...
  • Theme Cities

    For a generation, the block of 42d street just of Times Square has been one of New York's great civic embarrassments, a sinkhole of iniquity that couldn't even trap any tourists worth fleecing. While other vice-oriented vacation spots like Las Vegas were encouraging visitors to bring their families, 42d Street remained a collection of tawdry bookstores and peep-shows, so backward that souvenir T shirts were being sold out of cardboard boxes on the sidewalk at three for $10, while Hard Rock Cafe customers 15 blocks away were paying $14 each. "Tourists come to Times Square filled with the desire to spend money and there's no place to do it," says New York architect Robert A.M. Stern. "They actually spend less than they brought." A place that lets tourists go home with money in their pockets clearly doesn't deserve to have any. Say what you will about Babylon, ancient Rome and Wait Disney World, that's never been their problem. ...
  • The Rise Of The Overclass

    You've probably never heard of the overclass, which is just how its members like it; they have a lot to answer for. They are the people who put Jim Carrey on magazine covers, who renamed blue-green "teal" and keep loaning money to Donald Trump--not out of any sinister conspiracy to ruin the country but because, well, it's their job. As "professionals" and "managers" they lay claim to an increasing share of the national income, but they wind up spending most of it at mirror-walled restaurants where they have to eat $10 arugula salads. They're famous for having opinions, but it's hard to know what these are, since they never call talk-radio shows. If they didn't exist we'd have to invent them, because otherwise we'd have no answer to the question, whatever happened to all those Yuppies we used to see running around, anyway?We are witnessing an epochal moment in American sociology, the birth of a new class. There is, obviously, nothing new in the fact that some people in America have...
  • Sweet Land Of Liberties

    Like millions of Mexican-American teenage girls, I still remember where I was when I learned that Selena had been shot. I was on my way to work, and I saw the story in the Times, and I said, Gee, never heard of her, and turned the page.And then I thought: Wait a minute, this happened in America, not Bangladesh! She was the biggest star in tejano music, and I'd never heard of that, either! And after reading a description of it as "a fast-paced mix of accordion, guitars and lyrics... with roots both in the oompah music of European settlers in Texas and in Mexican ballads," I still don't know what the hell it is, except that millions of other Americans were practically throwing themselves out of windows because the queen of it was dead. If it was this big, why hadn't I heard about it on National Public Radio?Perhaps we're just too big, too diverse to hold together. Thomas Jefferson surely would think so, although he probably would have thought so a hundred years ago, too. The great...
  • Senatorial Skin Flicks

    If Sen. Phil Gramm loses the Republican nomination for president because -- as he admitted last week -- he once invested $7,500 in a failed project to make a T&A movie called "Beauty Queens," at least no one will be able to accuse him of betraying his principles. To be sure, the dour, single-minded Gramm seems an unlikely candidate to get into trouble over women. Most politicians do this sort of thing more straightforwardly. In fact, on the very day Gramm acknowledged his brief soft-core foray (in response to an article in The New Republic) the Senate Ethics Committee released accusations that Gramm's colleague Bob Packwood had for years been trying to stick his tongue into the mouths of women who wandered unescorted into his office. But Gramm was true to his principles as one of America's most uncompromising advocates of free-market enterprise. When he saw naked women in a movie, according to his former brother-in-law George Caton, his first instinct was to ask how can I make...
  • Bye-Bye, Suburban Dream

    Phoenix Sprawls into the desert at the rate of an acre an hour. Greater New York City stretches clear into Pennsylvania. Strip malls, traffic, fear of crime have wrecked the tranquil 'burbs of Ozzie and Harriet's time. How can we bring civility back to Suburban life? ...
  • Bloodied But Unbowed

    It was almost impossible not to be moved by the testimony in Judge Donald Belfi's courtroom last week, but Colin Ferguson, whose main accomplishment in life has been to show how much suffering one man with a gun can inflict in three minutes, seemed to pull it off. His own court-appointed lawyer wept quietly as Joyce Gorycki read a statement by her 11-year-old daughter, Karen: Karen's father, James, was one of six people Ferguson shot to death aboard a Long Island Rail Road commuter train on Dec. 7, 1993. Through it all the defendant maintained the creepy detachment he had shown during the month-long trial, moved to tears of neither pity nor remorse. Nor did he flinch a day later, when Belfi sentenced him to 200 years in prison. But the spectators, including relatives of the dead victims and some of the 19 wounded, were, not so reticent; they burst into applause. ...
  • The Fall Of Western Civ

    Western civilization has been good to Texas billionaire Lee Bass, so it was only natural he should try to repay it, but he's still trying to figure out how. Four years ago, Bass, now 38, donated $20 million to his alma mater, Yale, to endow an intensive, yearlong undergraduate course in the great civilization that gave the world Saint Paul, Shakespeare, Descartes and Thomas Jefferson. (Along the way it produced Bass's own great-uncle, the legendary Texas oilman Sid Richardson, whose estate was the foundation for the almost $6 billion fortune Bass shares with his three older brothers, all Yale graduates.) But last week, with the program still not underway and Yale balking at his demand to approve faculty members hired under it, Bass asked for, and got, his money back. ...
  • Have We Become A Nation Of Slobs?

    When Sam Albert went to work for IBM in 1959, he assumed he'd be wearing a suit for the rest of his life. In fact, the same suit (single-breasted dark blue or gray worsted), over dark socks suspended rigidly from garters and a white shirt with a detachable collar starched to the stiffness of an annual-report cover. Feet planted in black wingtips, heads encased in steel-gray fedoras, the men of IBM achieved an uncanny uniformity, signifying not just business, but business machines. When Albert retired in 1989 as a top marketing executive, he counted 35 dress shirts in his closet, all of them white. So when he returned as a consultant to IBM's Armonk, N.Y., headquarters last week, wearing a dress shirt, suit and tie, he was prepared for anything but the sight of employees lined up for lunch in sweaters and slacks. "They looked at me," he says, "like they were asking, "Who is this guy with the suit on?' " ...
  • He'd Take A Bullet For Her

    Say what you will about O.J. Simpson, at least he didn't inflict one of those embarrassing celebrity confessions on his fans. He didn't need to; Little, Brown paid him an advance reported to be $1 million for a memoir whose most glaring admission of frailty is that he didn't take his kids to church often enough. In "I Want to Tell You," dictated in jail to journalist Lawrence Schiller, Simpson portrays himself as one of the saintliest prisoners since the Birdman of Alcatraz. He spends his days readingthe Bible and trying to concentrate onthe interminable prayers of his buddy Roosevelt Grier. When he has an allergic reaction to athlete's-foot medicine, hecompares himself to Job, whom God also afflicted with skin problems. He calls his girlfriend Paula Barbieri "a very spiritual person" (or "girl") at least four times, and boasts that for the first month and a half of his incarceration, "all we talked about was Scripture." He doesn't say what topic intervened in September, but it...
  • The Last Days Of Auschwitz

    ON THE AFTERNOON OF Jan. 27, 1945, Sal De Liema, a 30-year-old Dutch Jew, five months resident in Auschwitz, ventured into the snow outside his barracks door for the first time since the Germans had evacuated the camp nine days earlier. He had climbed into his bunk on Jan. 18 expecting the SS to blow him up along with the barracks, but as the alternative was a forced march to an unknown destination through the icy Polish winter, De Liema chose to die lying down. He slept four days, then survived by sucking on sugar cubes foraged by another prisoner who had stayed behind. On Jan. 27 he felt better, pulled himself to his feet, and walked out the door and through the gate of the camp. The first thing he noticed were a number of furry brown dogs in the snow. He thought, "Gee, what nice little dogs." Then they started to move. The dogs were Russian soldiers in fur caps and white camouflage, who had just liberated the camp. In Auschwitz even deliverance came in the guise of absurdity. ...