Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • Unbeliever's Quest

    CARL SAGAN, THE FAMOUS SCIENTIST and author, never asked for anyone to pray for him, although in his final illness many people did anyway. For two years prayers for his health filled the great Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. They rose (if prayers do rise) to the heaven Sagan had never seen in all his years of searching the sky, and were heard (if prayers are heard) by the God Sagan never called on. And God (if he exists) let Sagan die anyway, late last year, at the untimely age of 62, leaving behind a wife, five children and much unfinished work on the earth he loved so well. But he died in what amounted, for him, to a state of grace: resisting the one temptation to which almost everyone submits in the end, the temptation to believe. ...
  • The Nus Of The Weak

    One Jew said to another: ""They say a poor man has no mazel. Do you believe that?'' ...
  • 'Your Baby Has A Problem'

    THERE IS A PROBLEM," THE doctors say. But even before the words are out you've seen it in their eyes, sensed it in the way they peered at the baby as it struggled into life, bearing the mark of a moment when, in the twining dance of chromosomes that we call conception, something microscopic stuck or came undone. A problem. Two soft folds of tissue, groping toward one another in the darkness of the womb, failed to meet, somewhere in the three-dimensional complexities of the embryonic heart. Or the skein of nerves, spreading intricately from the bulb of the brain, left an unaccountable gap where no sensations flow, no muscles feel the impulse to move. And of all the things you might have wished for your child--wisdom or beauty or simple happiness--you are left forever after with one simple desire, a word that now embodies all your hope and longing: normal. ...
  • It's A Wise Father Who Knows. . .

    His is often the face the newborn sees, looming out of the dimness of the delivery room, open-mouthed with wonder at the creature springing into being from his wife's very body. Men who witness the birth of their child almost invariably react the same way, says Dr. Kyle Pruett, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale University Child Study Center; they are "taken over" by the experience, electrified to realize that they have brought a human being into the world, a new life whose fate is inextricably and eternally bound up with theirs. Women, he adds, "describe the experience quite differently. Long before the baby's born, they've already been taken over." ...
  • He Gave At The Office

    DOES CHUCK FEENEY EVER WON- der what it would be like to be a billionaire? Someone, say, like Robert Miller, his college friend and former business partner. According to newspaper accounts, Miller has homes in New York, Gstaad, Paris and Hong Kong, as well as a 32,000-acre estate in Yorkshire, England, where he is restoring the grouse moor. When his daughter married Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a party at Claridges. The same accounts describe Miller as ""obsessed with secrecy,'' although when you throw three-day parties where your wife arrives in a hot-air balloon dressed as a South American princess, it's hard to keep your name out of the papers altogether.Feeney could have had all that, too, except that back in 1984 he turned over his share of the business he and Miller founded together, Duty Free Shoppers, Ltd. (DFS), to a charitable foundation he created. Including other investments, Feeney gave the foundation something like $500 million, an amount...
  • Fast And Furious Fun

    IT IS THE PROMISE OF AMERICA, FULFILLED. A NATION OF limitless, unbounded fun, of mountain majesties iridescent with Gore-Tex-backed rock climbers and skies filled to the vast horizon with direct-satellite broadcasts of minor-league hockey games. It is a vision that dates from the very dawn of America, when John Adams wrote of studying war and diplomacy so that succeeding generations could be schooled in agriculture, industry, music, art and poetry--never imagining that casino gambling, Snowboarding, golf and gourmet dining would join that roster as indispensable amenities in the nation he helped found. It was for this that Lewis and Clark trudged relentlessly through the finest backpacking terrain in the world, and generations of comics risked dying night after night on the spotlit floors of Las Vegas--a city where, if the number of hotel rooms (now about 100,000) continues to increase at 10 percent a year, sometime around the year 2074 the entire population of the United States...
  • The Strange World Of JonBenet

    IN PHOTOGRAPHS, HER CHARACTERISTIC expression is a fixed smile of concentration, earnest and studied. It could be perky, coy or sweet, although the only sure way to tell is by her costume. Strapless ball gown, sailor suit, swimsuit--JonBenet Ramsey, who was found murdered in the basement of her parents' home in Boulder, Colo., the day after Christmas, worked hard at winning beauty contests, but her mother must have worked even harder. And her father paid for her portfolio of professional photographs, a world beyond the artless family-album snapshots we are accustomed to seeing when a child is killed. But the effect is distancing rather than illuminating: in all the miles of film that were lavished on JonBenet it is hard to find one frame that captures her soul.But that's the point--the pictures come from a world in which she was rewarded precisely for appearing to be something other than what she was, a 6-year-old little girl. Awful enough that a child should die, and JonBenet's...
  • In The Shadow Of Their Past

    THIS WAS TO have been the year that Europe put the second world war behind it. There were no more 50th anniversaries to commemorate; with the passing of French President FranCois Mitterrand, there was virtually no one left on the world stage who could be called to account for what he did or didn't do a half-century ago. But the war was not just an episode in Europe's thousand-year history of internecine aggression; it was a crime that will haunt the world's conscience forever. With each revelation from the archives, each new interpretation by historians, the nations of Europe, wincing, confront again the horrors in their past. ...
  • The Riches Of Rags

    THE REASON THERE IS NO FASHION designers' Hall of Fame is that most of the people who deserve admission would accept only if no one else were allowed in. So the case for the greatness of Yves Saint Laurent is, necessarily, subjective. But before Calvin and Ralph, there was Yves; before even Halston, there was Yves. If not for him, the others might have gone into catering, because Yves Saint Laurent in effect created the role of the fashion designer as a living brand name, a device for endlessly recycling fame into department-store sales. As noted in an illuminating new biography of Saint Laurent by the English journalist Alice Rawsthorn (404 pages. Doubleday. $27.50), long before there were Air Jordans, there were no fewer than 130 products bearing the YSL of ineffable chicdom. ...
  • Too Dangerous To Set Free?

    SHOULD LEROY HENDRICKS be set free? There is no question that Hendricks, 62, has done some terrible things and may be capable of doing them again. He has been committing sexual crimes against children as young as 7 for most of his life, dating back to a conviction for exposing himself to two girls when he was just 21. For years he abused his own stepdaughter and stepson, and the last time he was out of jail, back in 1984, he attempted to fondle two 13-year-old boys who had walked into a Wichita, Kans., store where he worked. At a hearing in 1994, Hendricks admitted that he most likely was still a pedophile. Asked if he could guarantee that he wouldn't molest again, he said simply, "The only way to guarantee that is to die." ...
  • Toppling Towers

    IMAGINE LEVELING WHOLE BLOCKS of decaying, crime-ridden slums in one great sweep, and building in their stead modern apartments with plenty of light and fresh air and high-rise views. Think about replacing crowded streets and decrepit playgrounds with paths for pedestrians and bicycles, winding between wide lawns. Picture that, and in 30 years or so you'll have re-created... Cabrini-Green, the notorious Chicago housing project, eight of whose 23 buildings are to be demolished in what the city administration hails as a great step forward in public housing. ...
  • King Of The Minimals

    THERE ARE 50 DIFFERENT COLORS OF white, writes British architect John Pawson in his ecstatic celebration of emptiness, "minimum" (271 pages. Phaidon/Chronicle. $95), although the only way to see them is in a perfectly empty room. Pawson, whose glisteningly spare design for Calvin Klein's New York store infuses even a $140 shirt with the sacred, Zen-like aura of "wabi," or voluntary poverty, draws his inspiration from the great minimalist architect Mies van der Robe-not just what he said and wrote, but his exquisitely eloquent silences. Pawson's architecture-austere, but ridiculously expensive; simple, yet bizarrely impractical-raises design to a kind of monomania, which helps explain his appeal to the great lifestyle monomaniac of our era, Martha Stewart. ...
  • Knocking Their Eyeballs Out

    THERE ARE MORE THAN 100 NATIVE American casinos in the United States, and the best thing you can say for their design is that no one ever got lost in one trying to find the slot machines. But for their new casino, the Mohegan tribe of eastern Connecticut, which has suffered for more than a century under the onus of James Fenimore Cooper's premature obituary, didn't want just another soulless shed for emptying wallets. They wanted a place that said ""Native American'' with a little class, which is why they turned to New York architect David Rockwell. Sheaves of wheat, peeled logs, stretched animal hides--Rockwell used all of these things in trendy Manhattan restaurants before he even met a Mohegan. When the tribal elders got a look at Rockwell's plan for a great soaring circular space whose four entrances would be themed to the seasons, it was one of the greatest moments in American gambling since some guy looked at Liberace and said, Gee, I wonder if this guy can play Vegas? ...
  • Adultery

    In the 90's, infidelity sparks more outrage than it did a few decades ago. And More of the cheaters are women. ...
  • 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. ...