Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • 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? ...
  • The Killer We Don't Discuss

    THE PROSTATE, AS PRACTICALLY any man over 40 can tell you, is a gland about the size of...you know, an average-size gland, located down there somewhere, and performs vital functions related to ummm...something to do with sperm? Cancer of the prostate typically strikes guys my father's age down in Florida, which is why it is vital that every man should have his prostate checked regularly starting next year. This, of course, points up the need for more research so I can take a pill and not have to think about it ever again. ...
  • Killing As A Cry For Help

    THE BUMPER STICKERS STARTED appearing in California in early fall, as Lyle and Erik Menendez were explaining why they had blown their mother and father to bits with 15 shotgun blasts: I BELIEVE LYLE AND ERIK. On Halloween, marchers in Los Angeles dressed as the Menendez brothers and sent a chill down the spines of every parent watching. Once or twice a generation a criminal defendant emerges from the crowd of booze-addled losers who fill our courthouses and becomes a symbol of something bigger than his own misspent life: Sacco and Vanzetti (anarchism); Jean Harris (feminism); Michael Milken (capitalism). Handsome, but vulnerable enough to cry on the witness stand; rich, but facing an early death in the gas chamber, 25-year-old Lyle and his 23-year-old brother are the prototypical defendants of the Age of Recovery: people who kill as a cry for help. In describing a history of sexual, psychological and corporal abuse that would take Oprah from now to the millennium to unravel, the...
  • Hanging By A Thread

    FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FOLLOWED the case of John Wayne Bobbitt, his acquittal last week on charges of sexually assaulting his wife, Lorena, means one thing above all: that we are one step closer to never having to think about Bobbitt and his severed penis again. Provided that the justice Department doesn't now indict him for violating his wife's civil rights, we merely have to get through her assault trial for dismembering him, the pending divorce proceedings and the TV re-enactments of the nine-and-a-half-hour operation in which his penis was reattached, and we can gratefully relegate Bobbitt's saga to the subconscious, where it belongs. Then we can stop arguing about whether Bobbitt has suffered enough or whether (as one elderly Brooklyn woman told the Daily News) Lorena should have cut off his testicles as well. A hundred million American men will say, but none more fervently than Bobbitt himself, let the healing begin. ...
  • The Last Boy Scout

    It was great to be young in the '60s, when everyone threw responsibility to the winds, but what's even better is that the very same people get to be middle aged in the '90s, which is shaping up as a great decade for stuffiness. The best example of this is former secretary of education William J. Bennett, who had a date with Janis Joplin when he was in graduate school, and has just done the second coolest thing in his life, publishing an 800-page anthology of "great moral stories" called "The Book of Virtues," which I predict will give him a good head start as a Republican candidate for president in 1996. In 1956, the then Sen. John F. Kennedy published "Profiles in Courage," which set the moral tone for his presidency with essays about the likes of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster. But different times call forth different qualities in our leaders, and now Bennett has come out with a collection that reprints the Boy Scout Oath and "The Three Little Pigs." These illustrate,...
  • Clone Hype

    IT IS ONE OF THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER coups of 20th-century journalism, along with the identity of Deep Throat and Senator Packwood's diaries--the first story that can plausibly use "human" and "clone" in the same headline. Fifteen years ago a previously (and subsequently) obscure writer named David Rorvik created a brief sensation with a best-selling book about an anonymous millionaire who had himself cloned, a story that scientists universally denounced as a hoax. Last week, The New York Times, based on an apparent misunderstanding of a paper reporting a technical advance in embryology, touched off an echo of the same hysteria with a page-one story whose headline suggested that human embryos were being cloned in the laboratory. Within days medical ethicists were gravely measuring the slipperiness of the slope on which humanity now teetered, while demonstrators marched outside laboratories insisting that no one would ever clone their DNA. This was all to the bemusement of Dr. Jerry...
  • The (Secret) World Of Dogs

    AT THE FIRST CRUNCH OF TIRES ON her driveway, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's three dogs come tearing around the corner of her office as if they were expecting a car full of gophers. They greet a visitor with the alacrity of a game-show audience, until Thomas calls them off, and sniff every part of his body they can reach with their noses, roughly from the armpits down. Who knows what treasures of knowledge can be licked from his hairy cuffs? Are they still serving bagels and cream cheese on the flight from La Guardia? Did he step in what I think he stepped in? After a few minutes the visitor settles into a chair in Thomas's office, which occupies half of a garage at the edge of a field that stretches toward the stoplight-red hills of southern New Hampshire. Then the dogs stretch out on rugs and cushions and proceed to demonstrate one of the key findings of Thomas's surprise best seller, "The Hidden Life of Dogs": "When dogs feel serene and pleased with life, they do nothing." ...
  • To Dream Of Sara

    IN THE TWO MONTHS SINCE THE ABDUCTION OF HIS 12-year-old daughter, Sara, Robert Wood has dreamed of her many times, but two dreams stick in his memory. The first came after he learned that the state police, who were getting nowhere on the ground, were going to ask the CIA whether any spy satellites had been taking pictures of the area around Utica, N.Y., on the afternoon Sara disappeared. That night, Wood had a nightmare of floating like a satellite, watching helplessly from a great height as Sara pedaled along the road where the police believe she was taken. He woke up feeling as lonely and desolate as a man can feel. But the second dream was worse. He dreamed that Sara played a trick on him, hiding some household object and laughing when he couldn't find it. He hadn't heard her laugh in more than a month. What made it worse, of course, was that he woke up feeling happy. ...
  • A Holiday For 10,000 Maniacs

    THIS IS GREAT. WEDNESDAY NIGHT I get thrown out of the China Grill after one drink because Madonna has booked the place for a private party, and then Thursday morning I can't get across Fifth Avenue because something like 10,000 people are lined up outside Barnes & Noble to get books signed by Howard Stern. I haven't seen such a concentration of white men in one place in Manhattan since the hockey playoffs. You live in New York, you expect to spend a lot of time behind police barricades waiting for somebody like Idi Amin to go from his limousine into the Waldorf, but to be held up by Howard Stern is an insult. It's like getting stuck behind Kathie Lee Gifford's motorcade. ...
  • Go To Harvard. Write Jokes. Make $$$.

    CHANCES ARE, IF YOU'RE like most Americans, you've said to yourself, "I'll bet I could write for television." Maybe you saw the first episode of "Grace Under Fire" on ABC last week, and when the kids started fighting in the back seat and the cop pulled the mom over you said to yourself, "I'll bet she fakes hysterics so he doesn't give her a ticket," and when you saw you were right you thought, "Hey, I'm stupid enough to do this!" But the truth is, you're not. Because you didn't go to Harvard. ...
  • A Little Night Music With Bette

    IN 1964, SUSAN SONTAG, WHOSE IDEAS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR appreciating the intellectual context of Radio City Music Hall, described camp as "a private code among small urban cliques"--NYU grad students, for instance, crowding the revival houses to laugh themselves silly over "Dark Victory." What Sontag could not have foreseen was how that elite sensibility would someday sweep the nation. just a few years later a young Honolulu-born chanteuse named Bette Midler would wow the connoisseurs of outrageousness at New York's gay bathhouses. And now, a decade since her last tour, she's back on stage, leading a chorus line of mermaids in motorized wheelchairs flipping their tails to "New York, New York." Last month she played Washington--the city that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, is virtually the last bastion of literal-mindedness left in the world. Last week she opened in New York, and by the time her "Experience the Divine" tour leaves on Oct. 23, the cognoscenti who are in on the...
  • Is It Refuge Or Exploitation?

    IF ONLY, IN THE GRAND TRADITION OF American roadside entrepreneurship, Lewis Robinson 3d had chosen to situate his grizzly bear theme park in a place that made no historical or biological sense whatsoever--Orlando, say, or the Pennsylvania Dutch Country--chances are no one would have minded. Out among the hula-dancing Orcas and alligator-wrestling Seminoles a few grizzlies behind a fence wouldn't have attracted much notice. But Robinson, 50, who made a tidy fortune as the founder of a Wall Street brokerage house, wasn't interested in just skinning a few tourists on the way to the beach. He had a vision of a great resort that would empty visitors' wallets while actually helping to preserve this cutest of all North American predators. So he built Grizzly Park on 87 acres in Montana on the edge of some of the last grizzly habitat in the continental United States: Yellowstone National Park. ...
  • Murder 90210: Crime Styles Of The Young, Rich And

    Given the straight forward facts of what Lyle and Erik Menendez did on the night of Aug. 20, 1989, it's hard to imagine feeling sorry for them. The brothers, 22 and 19 years old at the time, sneaked up on their parents in their Beverly Hills mansion with a pair of shotguns and blasted them 15 times. They constructed an elaborate alibi, feigned shock when they pretended to discover the bodies a few hours later and bid Jose and Kitty Menendez a touching farewell at a memorial service. Then they went on a spending spree with the proceeds of a $650,000 life insurance policy-Lyle buying, among other things, a new Porsche and a restaurant in Princeton, N.J., and Erik hiring a private tennis coach, Until Erik confessed to his therapist two months later and the boys were arrested nearly five months after that, they seemed likely to inherit a $14 million estate. ...
  • Troubled Waters

    The Great Flood of '93 rolled inexorably down the Mississippi, teaching everyone—even television anchormen—never to underestimate nature
  • Been There, Done That

    Your father's station wagon won't cut it anymore. On bikes, rafts or in free fall, Americans are looking for adventure. Is it madness, boredom, or are we just born to be wild? ...
  • Just Say Yes, Hit Me Again

    In tiny Tunica, Miss., one of the poorest communities in the nation, 77 of the 110 workers at the local catfish processing plant threw down their fillet knives and signed up for jobs when a new river-barge casino opened last fall. In Oneida, Wis., the Oneida Indians now have sewers and a new elementary school, paid for largely by gamblers who drive two hours from Milwaukee because they can't lose money fast enough at their own bingo games. It's every town's answer to the shrunken tax bases of the '90s-pollution-free (if you can overlook the way it has inflicted on the landscape Donald Trump's taste in architecture); a source of steady jobs (if you consider dealing blackjack a worthwhile career), and best of all, it is immune to competition from Japan (although not from the next town down the river). From Connecticut, home of the Pequot Indian casino, to Carlsbad, Calif., home of Ralph & Eddie's Card Room, communities are eying the wages of what used to be called sin and asking:...
  • Let Us Now Praise Obscure Men

    It is among the most common human failings to be preoccupied with fame, and, like most failings, writers suffer from it most and British writers are completely rotten with it. This accounts for the eight-hour BBC series "Fame in the 20th Century," which PBS will be running in many cities this week. All the writers I know will be watching it to see if they're mentioned alongside Madonna, Albert Einstein and Stalin, but they will all be disappointed. The British critic and television personality Clive James, who wrote the series and the companion book, set extremely high standards for celebrity, eliminating anyone whose name was not known to essentially every civilized person in the world during his or her lifetime. Thus the index skips, for instance, Graham Greene, in going directly from Cary Grant to Che Guevara. This rule produced a list of approximately 250 men and women who stand apart from the other 10.5 billion who have lived in the 20th century, and, unsurprisingly, everyone I...
  • I Feel Better Already

    I went to Marianne Williamson to be healed, not that I thought there was anything wrong with me, particularly. But I felt an emptiness in my life that mere material possessions could never fill-or if they could, I'd have to be richer than David Geffen, who is probably the richest of the many unimaginably rich and successful people who have sought guidance from her. If Williamson-Hollywood's hottest nondenominational preacher, writer and philanthropist-could help give meaning to the existence of Raquel Welch and Cher, I assumed no life was too empty for her to improve. Surrounded by doubt, I longed to hear from someone whose faith was so strong that she undertook the most daunting spiritual challenge of our time, officiating at Elizabeth Taylor's last marriage. ...