Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • 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. ...
  • She Gets So Emotional

    Janet Jackson has jumped back into the public eye, but, unlike siblings Michael and LaToya, she's packing more product than pathos: a smoky, new album, "Janet," has spawned a chart-busting single, "That's the Way Love Goes." And her first feature film, "Poetic Justice," John Singleton's feminist follow-up to "Boyz N the Hood," is due in July. Janet plays Justice, a South-Central L.A. beautician with an emotional sideline in poetry. Of the new record, she says, "It's a lot warmer than 'Rhythm Nation.' It shows a side of me that only close friends have seen."
  • You Know What Really Bugs Charles And Di?

    You'd think the British Isles would have run out of tape by now. Last week the English tabs published yet another supposed royal transcript-from an alleged quarrel between the Waleses. This time, say the tabs, the regal family was taped in the comfort of their own home. The Sun, which broke the story, insists that the M.I.5 a sort of British FBI, is doing the bugging. Kenneth Clarke, the home secretary, who oversees M.I.5, called the charge "nonsense" but added, surprisingly, "It does look as if someone is bugging the royal family." If they are, here's what they got: Asks she: "Have you considered the implications of a custody battle?" " For what?" says he. "The children," says she. "Oh, don't be so silly. No, no I haven't." Later in the tiff: "Could [you] put yourself out and think of me?" she asks. He: "How the hell do you have the nerve to say that? I've done nothing but think of you and the children ever since this damn thing started." Later still, she says: "Must you always run...
  • A Headache Loose In New York

    It's the job Roger Clinton was born to hold, and much of his life-spent drinking, getting into trouble and trying to start a singing career-was the ideal preparation for it. Last week, though, 100 (or so) days into his term as the President's Brother, the 36-year-old lead singer for a band called the Politics found himself on the defensive in the press, or at least the New York Post. The news that week should have been devoted to Clinton's band's New York debut at the Palace nightclub. Instead, a fellow Knicks fan at Madison Square Garden accused Clinton of trying to choke him. According to the Post, Clinton said the other guy "was being very crude" and "insulting my brother"; later he told The New York Times that there was "no fight, no nothing." But the whole incident could lead concerned White House aides to wonder: is Roger Clinton losing his focus? ...
  • Barbarians At Divorce Court

    In the 1980s, Henry Kravis specialized in mergers and acquisitions. Now, one of those mergers maybe dissolving. Kravis and his wife, fashion designer Carolyne Roehm, have embarked on a "trial separation." Some of their other ventures haven't done much better: Henry's glorious $25 billion buyout of RJR Nabisco has lost its luster as the company's stock tumbles. And Roehm watched her luxe couture line go belly-up in 1991-despite the $20 mil that Henry pumped into it. Now she's running a mail-order fashion business. "I need something and he needs something that we just can't give each other right now," she told columnist Liz Smith last week. "We will always be very close friends." But will she say the same after the settlement?
  • The Joys Of Living Large

    It is the miracle ingredient in virtually every staple of the American diet, from canned guacamole to Betty Crocker Supreme Chocolate & Toffee Dessert Bar Mix; the key to the quintessential experience of the '90s: mouth feel. Without fat, ice cream would run off the tongue like rain on AstroTurf, and a hamburger would taste like ... well, like the McLean Deluxe, McDonald's low-fat burger that after two years has virtually disappeared from the company's advertising. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in search of substitutes, but nothing duplicates the voluptuous lubricity of real grease oozing from a potato chip as you mash it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Palates trained early on Nacho Cheese Doritos accept no substitutes for fat. It's delicious by itself or spread on a bagel, and best of all, it's guaranteed not to add ugly pounds. ...
  • Sex In The Snoring '90S

    They're the sorts of questions any average American male-Alexander Portnoy, say, or Holden Caulfield-might have asked himself: How many times a night should I be having sex? In what grade should I start? Is 20,000 women too many? But there is nowhere to turn for answers. If you wanted to know something the government considered important, like the size of the sardine catch, you could look it up in a minute. That's because people pay money for sardines, but they usually get sex free-or, in any case, they don't pay taxes on it, so the government has no reason to keep track of it. The Statistical Abstract of the United States, in its relentless emphasis on the material at the expense of the sublime, skips over sex, going directly from "Sewers" to "Sheep." That gap in our national education has been filled by the media, which give us Amy Fisher (Joey Buttafuoco, she says, could copulate six or eight times a night, easy), the Spur Posse (some of whose members presumably had to be driven...
  • How Much Is That Demi In The Window?

    If you can believe the movies-and who would know better?- the nation is entering the post-postindustrial lera, marked by the virtual collapse of productive economic activity except for sex. The leading industry of the 1980s, Malibu real estate, falls into a devastating decline, while such typically service-oriented occupations as bodyguards, croupiers and Elvis impersonators thrive. The middle class is driven to increasingly, desperate measures to support its standard of living, such as selling its wives to eccentric Las Vegas millionaires. As wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the prices of women escalate to insane levels-from $3,000 for a week with Julia Roberts in 1990's "Pretty Woman," to $65,000 for a weekend with Sarah Jessica Parker in last year's "Honeymoon in Vegas," to $1 million for a single night with Demi Moore in this month's "Indecent Proposal." All over America, women must be asking themselves some version of the question Moore's character had to face:...
  • America, America

    It's a very select group, the roster of American artists who rate an entire museum. Frederic Remington, Andrew Wyeth, Andy Warhol, a couple of Western regionalists ... and Norman Rockwell, the Brueghel of the 20th-century bourgeoisie, the Holbein of Jell-O ads and magazine covers. By common assent, the most American artist of all, the man whose 68-year career was dedicated to bringing to art that quintessentially American credo: give the customer what he wants. ...
  • Good Field, No Pitch

    America, the in-your-face nation! A country that dominates its opponents up close and scores at will from anywhere on the globe, like its greatest citizen, Michael Jordan. If the character of a people can be read in the heroes it exalts, then America has undergone a vast generational shift, presided over by the de facto guardians of our culture, the major television advertisers. To Jordan has gone the highest honor a democratic society can bestow on an individual, naming a sneaker after him (a tradition begun by the British, who named a boot after the Duke of Wellington). Yet to countries in the rest of the world just getting the hang of American culture, this must come as an awful shock: how could they not have a sneaker named after a baseball player? ...
  • Audubon Builds A Dream House

    Driving through the hills outside Palo Alto, or the far reaches of Fairfield County, Conn., you will see a lot of offices that represent someone's idea of environmentally sensitive architecture. These buildings are set back from the road on great big plots of land, so that the people inside have plenty of trees to look at. They use lots of natural materials and the parking lots are out of sight in the back. These buildings are beloved by tax assessors and local chambers of commerce, and they look wonderful, at least until the surrounding woods are overrun by the infrastructure of malls and gas stations their own presence calls into being. ...
  • The Empty Jogging Suit

    Decades ago, the state of the art in fitness equipment was a machine consisting of a wide rubber belt attached to a vibrating motor, which operated on the principle of sympathetic magic: that if you could shake up your fat in a rhythmic fashion, you could fool it into thinking you'd been for a run. Today, of course, we know better. We know that the only real way to lose weight is to sweat it off, which is the appeal of a machine called the Alphamassage Health Environment Capsule. At $10,000, this is one of the most expensive pieces of fitness equipment you can buy, next to purebred Arabian riding horses. It is designed in a style you might call Techno-Voluptuary, a full-length fiber-glass clamshell with an electronic touchscreen at the head end. It has 10 massage programs, including one for "creativity," and can get as hot as 180 degrees, actually 20 degrees hotter than the recommended temperature for cooking hamburger. How many devices have promised to just "melt fat away"? Here at...
  • Madonna Slept Here

    Miami Beach has been so fabulous for so long that soon no one will remember when it wasn't fabulous, when you couldn't get caught in a 2 a.m. traffic jam composed entirely of Porsches driven by Italian millionaire playboy fashion designers. Actually those days were only a couple of years ago, but the people who lived there then are disappearing, just as fast as their landlords can turn their apartments into fabulous condominiums for New York millionaire playboy restaurant owners. Even the memory of that time is fading, in a city so fast paced that this month, when nightclub promoter Louis Canales opened his latest fabulous club Byblos (his 17th since 1986) with the theme "South Beach the way it was...," it went without saying that he meant "...last year." ...