Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • 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. ...
  • Here Come The Joneses

    It's the last thing you'd think most suburban towns would be worrying about: encroaching affluence. If you announced plans to demolish a modest ranch house in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale to put up, say, a residence for unwed mothers with substance-abuse problems, you wouldn't be surprised if the neighbors were unhappy. Yet if you tear down the same house and build in its place a $1.7 million, 15-room mansion with an oak-paneled elevator and a wet bar in the master bathroom . . . they're still unhappy. So unhappy, in fact, that this fall Hinsdale took the unprecedented step of prohibiting all residential demolition, out of fear that the whole town might otherwise disappear, to be replaced by thousands of mock-Tudor mansions and faux Loire chateaus costing four times as much as what was there before. The ban lasted only two weeks before the village trustees reversed themselves under threat of legal action. But you just never know: of all the things to keep out of the suburbs, why...
  • Beyond The Bell Curve

    IF YOU'RE LIKE MOST AMERICANS, YOU'VE BEEN LAPPING UP every word of the controversy over heredity and IQ with the single, high-minded purpose of discovering what's' in it for me? As word spreads about a "cognitive elite" that supposedly occupies the best-paying jobs in our society, people will naturally clamor to get in. Much has been made of the conclusion by the authors of "The Bell Curve," Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Hermstein, that some people are going to be shut out because their ancestors didn't pass down the fight complement of genes. But before you practice repeating a string of random digits backward (one of the intellectual tasks that Murray and Hermstein say differentiate potential leaders from the rest of us), consider the possibility that they've actually spent years studying the wrong variable. Anyone who read a newspaper in the last decade. as opposed to the articles in "Multivariate Behavioral Research." could have told them that IQ is not the most...
  • Dr. Spock In Despair

    He is, arguably, the most influential American alive today. The first edition of ""Baby and Child Care'' appeared in 1946, which means that babies who were raised on it are now almost grandparents. For years it sold about 750,000 copies annually, roughly one for every two marriages in America. Conservatives still blame the book, unfairly, for subverting the discipline and patriotism of American youth, but would even they want to go back to the days when parents weren't allowed to feed a crying baby until precisely four hours after his last bottle? We are what Dr. Benjamin Spock made us, which is why he -- at an age when people usually assume that if the worst happens, they won't be around to see it anyway -- is so troubled by the miserable mess Americans have made of their society. ...
  • A Week In The Death Of America

    4:45 A.M.; July 10; Chicago CAN THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH SAVE IGOR?Human beings are distressingly easy to kill -- soft bodies crammed with vital organs, crisscrossed by blood vessels whose precious contents slosh back and forth under pressure enough to make them spurt. Cut an artery, and the heart will heedlessly pump blood out through the wound until it runs itself almost dry. Something like that is going on in the body on the gurney coming through the double doors of Cook County Hospital. Thirty minutes earlier this was a man full of blood and dreams (thinking, perhaps, of the young daughter he left behind in another country, whose picture he always carried); now he is somewhere between life and death, his heart still and flaccid in the blood-filled hollow of his chest. All that stands between him and the grave are the members of the Cook County Trauma Unit, many of them now in their 21st hour of saving the people of Chicago from themselves.He doesn't have a name. Or, rather, he...
  • 'Tis A Gift To Be Simple

    One hopes that the millions of Americans seeing "Forrest Gump" every week aren't taking its lessons too much to heart. The cultlike vogue for simple-mindedness, which until recently seemed safely confined to the nation's 14 million adolescent boys, has gone mainstream with the huge success of "Forrest Gump" -- a movie that says yes, it is possible to be dim and nice at the same time, Beavis and Butt-head notwithstanding. "Forrest Gump" celebrates innocence and slow-wittedness -- not just as a handicap to be surmounted, but the key to worldly success. Tom Hanks's character, who fondly quotes his mother on the point that "stupid is as stupid does," isn't even an idiot savant. He is an idiot courant, whose singular genius is to be able to run like hell -- on his college football team, in Vietnam and all through the 1970s, where he turns up again and again in just the right place to become famous, make a fortune or accidentally coin an immortal aphorism. As a fictional character, he's...
  • No Room, No Rest

    In the summer of 1869, long before the inventions of Gore-Tex parkas and Kevlar kayaks, the great explorer John Wesley Powell led an expedition of 10 men in four boats down the Green River, through the red-rock canyons of what is now southeastern Utah. It was unlike any place he had ever seen before: "a strange, weird, grand region," he wrote; "the landscape everywhere is of rock . . . no vegetation; no sand; no soil." It has taken more than a century, but the American economy in its infinite adaptability has finally figured out a use for all that rock. The smooth, table-flat buttes turn out to be the perfect -- in fact, almost the only -- place on earth for in-line mountain skating. ...
  • 800,000 Hands Clapping

    THE WAY OF THE BUDDHA IS HARD, the eight gates narrow, the 10 steps long and steep. Also there are practical problems, especially in America: nothing closes on your holidays, it can be hard to find a temple when you're out of town, and people get funny ideas, like the emergency-room doctor who was on duty when John Daido Loori, the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York, showed up one night after slashing his palm while trying to open a coffee can with his camping knife. ...
  • The Age Before Miracles

    THEY WERE, IN THE FIRST instance, weapons part of the arsenal of democracy, defending American troops against hostile germs, whether contracted heroically at Omaha Beach or less so in the fleshpots of San Diego. After the war, antibiotics became one of the paradigmatic American technologies of the 1950s: efficient, deadly and, generally, cheap. For four decades, life without them has been as unthinkable as life without, say, the atom bomb. ...
  • The World's Biggest Diet Doctor

    DR. STUART M. BERGER NEVER ACTUALLY CLAIMED that he would live past 100; he merely wrote that he knew how to do it. He was an expert on youthfulness, having reincarnated himself once already while still living: turning from a fat, lonely, obscure kid from Brooklyn into a trim, rich, famous practitioner in the exciting new medical specialty of celebrity nutrition. His expertise in stuffing vegetables into "world-renowned artists, musicians, intellectuals, professional athletes and members of the ruling families of several continents" led to the popularity of his "Southampton Diet." This was followed in 1985 by the huge success of "Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet," which cleverly repackaged the same mounds of steamed broccoli as a preventive for almost anything that could go wrong with a human body. Among the intractable conditions he claimed he could treat with diet and vitamin therapy were cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, premenstrual syndrome and that all-purpose bugaboo of...
  • A Deal For Tonya

    TONYA HARDING SEEMED TO BE getting most everything she wanted out of life without even having to skate for it. If she wanted fame, she had more than most ordinary Olympic champions could hope for, including a permanent escort of photographers to record her wild barefoot dash to the curb to rescue her pickup from a tow truck. If, as she proclaimed after winning the national championship last month, she was dreaming of "dollar signs," she got that wish also; well-informed reports put her payment for an appearance on the tabloid TV show "Inside Edition" at about $600,000. In her quest to be loved, she admitted to a little uncertainty that her bitter rival Nancy Kerrigan would welcome the hug she said she wanted to bestow on her in Norway. But then she revealed to CBS's Connie Chung that she was going to be adopted by the parents of her best friend Stephanie Quintero, giving her the thing she's always really wanted, "somebody to love me for me." ...
  • After The Quake

    ALL OVER LOS ANGELES LAST WEEK, YOU heard about the miraculous luck of people who happened not to be in bed at 4:31 Monday morning. In Encino, at the home of Alison and Marc Taylor, a young man who was tending their three dogs while they vacationed in Hawaii fell asleep Sunday night watching TV in the living room. The earthquake flipped him off the couch like a penny. Shaken but unhurt, he searched the house, and one of the first things he saw were the doors to the bedroom closet that had been knocked off their tracks and landed on his pillow. ...
  • Farewell, Year Of The Creep

    Prince "Carl" (not his real name) is the heir to the throne of a major nation in Western Europe. Married to one of the most desirable women in the world, he nevertheless seems to Prefer having sex with a former girlfriend, who is 14 years older than his wife. His mawkish phone calls to her are secretly recorded and sold to the newspapers, making his entire country a laughingstock. The question is, who is more in need of counseling on sexual behavior and relationships: him--or a 16-year-old high-school dropout who just had her second baby? ...