Jerry Adler

Stories by Jerry Adler

  • 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." ...
  • Their Amazing Grace

    It is vouchsafed to each of us, the gift of transcendence, if we but know how to use it. Justice Thurgood Marshall, who died last week at 84, surely did; seldom has the language been put to higher use than when Marshall appeared before the Supreme Court and by force of argument overcame the legal subjugation of 16 million of his--our!-fellow Americans. And Thomas Dorsey, born nine years earlier and buried on the same day ... well, he was a transcendent figure, too. From 30,000 churches across the land every Sunday, voices are raised in the music he put there, the words of salvation improbably joined to the rhythms of blues and stride piano to create the sound he called gospel. When Marshall opened the door to the promised land to his brothers and sisters, they were ready for it; they'd been singing about it in church for a generation already. ...
  • Loving Lorenzo

    Like most mothers, Michaela Odone was certain that her handsome, gifted son, Lorenzo, was destined for great things. That was before, at the age of 6, he began falling down and slurring his words, before his vision and hearing began to fail-baffling symptoms that were finally diagnosed as adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare, inherited nerve disorder that typically causes death within months or years. Now, eight years later-eight years in which Lorenzo has not spoken a word or taken a step-she is more sure of it than ever. Out of his suffering, and his parents' perseverance in seeking a cure, has come a lifesaving treatment for hundreds of children like him, and ideas that may lead to a cure for multiple sclerosis. "You are special," Odone tells her son every day. "You are the most important boy in the world." This is the bedrock of her faith. If she had ever stopped believing it, he would have been dead years ago. ...
  • There's 8 Million Stories

    O you storied land of America: a nation awash in anecdotes, in monologues echoing from every street corner, in oral histories rising from every porch in the land. Statistics bear this out. America has more New York cabbies, Georgia filling-station proprietors and Oklahoma truck-stop waitresses than all of Western Europe. If current trends continue, by the next century every single person in America will be over 65, the prime years for reminiscence. To Will Ackerman, who made a tidy fortune peddling the glib chimes and bells of New Age music as founder of the Windham Hill label, all this undocumented anecdotage was a precious resource going to waste. Armed with a tape machine and a stack of contracts, he set out to record America's rich heritage of ... well, stuff that happened to people. ...
  • It's Not Easy Being Green

    The first environmental decision of the Clinton-Gore administration didn't involve endangered species, the greenhouse effect or the other high-concept issues facing the world in the 21st century. Instead, the vice president-elect injected himself into a local dispute over licensing an incinerator in a depressed industrial town of eastern Ohio-an issue so obscure that the protest movement had to settle for Martin Sheen as its official celebrity. Last week it wasn't so obscure anymore as full-page ads blossomed in The New York Times and The Washington Post calling on President-elect Clinton to allow the plant to open on schedule. The ads were an early warning of the problems Clinton will face in "putting people first," when people worried about their next meal square off with those who worry about their next breath. ...
  • Winter Of Discontent

    Too bad: it was shaping up to be a great season in Aspen, for those who call it their second home. The weather was great, and even if the weather turned lousy there were the holiday parties ahead, and even if the parties ended up being not so hot ... well, you'd still be rich, or you wouldn't even be there. Everything was fine until gay activists in Los Angeles called for a boycott of Colorado in reprisal for the state's narrow vote in favor of an amendment that would overturn local gay-rights laws. This posed what passes for a moral dilemma in the lives of people like Don Johnson, Vanna White, Jack Nicholson, George Hamilton and Goldie Hawn: whether to spend Christmas on the slopes of Aspen, or go to Tahoe or Jackson Hole instead. ...
  • Typing Without Keys

    As a financial writer for Newsday, a suburban New York daily, Susan Harrigan had what once was considered one of the safest jobs around: she sat at a desk and typed. The pain in her arms and hands began without warning in the spring of 1989, and soon she found herself unable to so much as hit a typewriter key. For more than a year, Harrigan, now 47, couldn't work, cook a meal or even turn a doorknob; she tied strings to her dresser drawers so she could open them with her teeth. "I didn't know I was capable of being in that much pain for so long," she says. She was given a variety of diagnoses, but they came down to this: that three years of typing against deadline on a word processor had caused permanent damage to the muscles, nerves and tendons of her arms. She was, as she contends in a lawsuit filed against the manufacturer of Newsday's word-processing equipment, a victim of her keyboard. ...
  • And You Thought Things Couldn't Get Any Worse

    In the end, when things go sour in a relationship it always comes down to the same thing, whether the parties are disposing of a pair of snow tires or a princedom: who gets what. Over the last few months, in an extraordinary series of meetings at Balmoral Castle, the world's most famously unhappy couple have worked out a tentative agreement to, in effect, live apart without benefit of divorce. And while the very royal are indeed different from the rest of us-they have their own retinues, for instance-in some ways they are no different from anyone else you might read about in the gossip pages, like the Trumps. She gets their apartment at Kensington Palace, in London, convenient to the San Lorenzo restaurant. He gets Highgrove, the stately mansion in Gloucester, 100 miles from the detested skyscrapers of the capital but tantalizingly close to the residence of his dear friend Camilla Parker Bowles. She gets to live the cosmopolitan life she enjoys, and to work for her causes: AIDS,...
  • Light Work If You Can Get It

    They are, literally, the unsung Americans. While John Henry was being a steel-drivin' man, Lord Lord, they spent the morning in the toolshed, complaining that their hammers just didn't feel right. Diego Rivera never painted them as heroic figures hanging out in the men's room reading the papers, and Studs Terkel missed interviewing them because they usually went home early with a headache. They are America's goof-offs, and if they noticed that Woody Guthrie never dedicated a ballad to the men who snuck away from building the Grand Coulee Dam to go tubing down the Columbia River. . . well, they probably were too busy with the crossword puzzle to care. Until now. ...
  • Beware the Glove Compartment

    The United States: Land of... well, states. This is so obvious that we hardly need think about it. Most maps don't show the United States as a distinct entity at all, but a crazy quilt of 48 assorted shapes filling the space between Canada and Mexico. Most of us get our notion of local geography from road maps, lushly depicting a nation composed of states whose principal features are state parks, picnic areas and rest stops. Highway maps are drawn according to a perspective unique in cartography, in which Vermont can actually take up more space than Oklahoma (24 by 36 inches, unfolded, versus 18 by 33). Beyond the borders are the shadowy regions where roads run off the edge of the paper; drab territories devoid of scenic routes or historic battlefields, places which might be labeled, like the early Renaissance charts that bore warnings of monsters beyond the sea: Here Be Strange License Plates. ...
  • Must Boys Always Be Boys?

    It's hard to be a little girl, going to school every morning with boys who believe in their wormy little hearts that girls stink. It was particularly hard for 7-year-old Cheltzie Hentz, who had to ride to her school in Eden Prairie, Minn., on a bus with boys who called her "bitch" and a driver who seemed to think it was funny. "These boys were making fun of the little girls because they don't have penises!" recalls her horrified mother, Sue Mutziger. Over five months Mutziger sent 22 pages of complaints to school officials, who lectured the boys and briefly suspended several troublemakers from riding the bus. With a new driver this year, the teasing stopped-but Mutziger still thought the schools weren't doing enough to protect her daughter. So she took stronger action: she filed a complaint with the state Department of Human Rights. ...
  • A CITY BEHIND WALLS

    In the whole, it's not too surprising that the Shatto Recreation Center near downtown Los Angeles survived last April's riots unscathed while buildings all around were looted and torched. There's not a lot to steal inside, except for some tennis racquets, and even an enraged mob would have to be exceptionally perverse to destroy its own basketball court. But it also is a building that defies you to burn it down, or even scratch your initials in it. Its roof rises from the ground in a graceful roll of galvanized steel, and the front and back facades are almost windowless expanses of textured brick--a surface designed to be as inhospitable to graffiti as a wall covered in English ivy. For many property owners, the lesson of the Shatto center in the wake of the riots is clear: if I had a steel roof on my house, it would take an atom bomb to burn it down. ...
  • From Sea To Shining Sea

    In midsummer, the waters off Maine are at the serving temperature of white Burgundy, but they hold no terror for me. Tom Bergh, the owner of the Maine Island Kayak Co., has equipped my body for immersion with the same care nature lavishes on the coconut. And although over the next two days we will never leave the sheltering arms of Penobscot Bay, skirting islands at about the average distance a Madison Avenue bus keeps from the curb, our kayaks are packed with enough survival gear to paddle to Iceland. I have on full-length polypropylene underwear, waterproof rubber pants, a wet suit and a Gore-Tex sea-kayaking jacket that all by itself cost as much as the suit I was married in. I have a sea-kayaking hat festooned with more zippers, grommets, snaps and pouches than a carry-on suitcase. The first rule of sea kayaking is to know your equipment, but the person who said that clearly never encountered a six-page instruction booklet for a hat. I have a life vest that could support a...
  • At Last, Another Bright Idea

    Consider a light bulb-the ordinary, incandescent kind, invented by Thomas Edison in 1879. It is a big improvement on the candle, but it works essentially the same way, by heating something until it glows. This obviously is not the most efficient way to produce light; some 90 percent of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs is wasted as heat, and the filament burns out after six to 12 months of normal use. A fluorescent bulb, which produces light by the excitation of phosphor atoms coating the inside of a glass cylinder, eliminates these drawbacks. But the tubular model used in most offices never really caught on in homes. "Compact" fluorescents that screw into ordinary sockets have recently become available, but even they are too big to fit some lamps and fixtures, and cannot be used with dimmer switches. Last week a small California company announced that it had solved these problems. By next year, it plans to market the "E-[for electronic]Lamp," a bulb that will be completely...
  • A Life And Death Puzzle

    There are many puzzling and disturbing things about the outbreak of birth defects in Brownsville, Texas, in recent years, not the least of which is the way it was discovered. Connie Riezenman, the infection-control nurse at Valley Regional Medical Center, recalls being mildly surprised when two mothers showed up within 24 hours in March 1991, carrying fetuses with anencephaly-an invariably fatal condition in which the brain fails to develop. A month later, in a span of 36 hours, three more mothers were admitted with the same diagnosis. "It was very scary," she recalls. "We thought, 'Oh my God, when is the next one going to happen?"' ...
  • Abortion's Long Siege

    They see themselves as the heirs of the civil-rights movement, leading a great national crusade on behalf of the weak and disenfranchised-except for those who believe they are following the early Christian martyrs, or the Dutch Resistance. They draw inspiration from Thurgood Marshall's 20-year fight against school segregation. They do have one advantage over Marshall: he didn't get to pick the justices who would rule on his case. This week, as the Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that may well mark the penultimate victory over Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents hope to show that in the calculus of American democracy, battles are won on the depth of your convictions, the strength of your arguments-and the number of justices you already have on your side. ...
  • Splashing In The Gene Pool

    Radishes as big as yams! Skim milk right from the cow! Carrots that taste like apples, cucumbers that taste like something, cotton plants that taste like rayon (to boll weevils). In the early 1970s, when scientists discovered the principles of recombinant DNA, the only miracle that seemed beyond the reach of genetic engineering was the kosher pig. At the same time, environmentalists warned that science might accidentally produce a better kudzu instead. Last week, as the White House announced that regulations would be eased on genetically engineered products in the hopes of spurring their development, it was apparent that both the fears and hopes of the early years had been exaggerated. As far as is known, none of the plagues that have descended on the head of beleaguered humanity in the last decade was the product of inadvertent (or malicious) genetic tinkering. And as for revolutionary new vegetables ... well, at least one variety has gone on sale at some supermarkets. They are ...
  • A Minaret Over Manhattan

    The most impressive new house of worship in New York City sits askew the corner of Third Avenue and 96th Street, where the high-rises of the Upper East Side begin to give way to the housing projects and tenements of Spanish Harlem. It is a big, square granite building, with a vast copper-covered dome, and atop the dome is the thin golden crescent of a nearly new moon. It is a mosque, and for nearly a million Muslims in and around New York City it is--apart from small converted storefronts and brownstones scattered here and there-the first one they have ever had. ...
  • A Hard Lesson Or A Hoax?

    Something strange is going on in Red River County. Either six high-school students in rural Johntown, Texas, are infected with HIV, the virus that causes. AIDS-a rate of infection seven times higher than the national average--or an AIDS counselor in the area has wrongly identified a horrifying epidemic. Last week officials began an investigation both of the reported infections themselves and of AIDS counselor Dona Spence, who first made them public. Whatever the investigators find, the outcome will be shocking. ...