THE GUILD PROTECTS ITS OWN:
At The New Republic, Wieseltier’s behavior became increasingly erratic. Blaming his often disheveled appearance on the stress of his collapsing marriage, he began to attract notice for all the wrong reasons. Staffers recall that by three P.M., often after a long lunch at i Ricchi, the Italian restaurant downstairs, he would be seen negotiating the corridors with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand. During a New Republic lunch for New York governor Mario Cuomo, Wieseltier, according to a participant, extravagantly gulped down his drink. When he finally asked Cuomo a question, the governor, in typical style, picked apart the premise, leaving nothing but rubble. “Well, you’ve got me,” Wieseltier weakly rejoined. “I’m two ahead of you,” he added, indicating his whiskey.
According to witnesses, Wieseltier was soon bringing to the office another habit that he also enjoyed outside the workplace: frequent cocaine use. A person familiar with Wieseltier’s indulgence estimates that at one point in 1993 he was snorting—from a petite silver spoon, dangling from a chain attached to a vial—an entire gram a day. To support this expensive pastime—all but impossible on his salary, which is in the high five figures—he regularly loaded dozens of books he received as literary editor into the trunk of his Honda Accord and hauled them to Washington bookstores, selling them to finance purchases of “truth serum.” A colleague who has witnessed Wieseltier’s snorting recalls being embarrassed into silence by the brazen display. “He dares you to tell him to stop it,” the colleague says, adding that Wieseltier’s co-workers even discussed the possibility of staging an intervention. At a New York lunch for Wieseltier’s friend Leonard Cohen, thrown by Sonny Mehta to celebrate the publication of a volume of the singer-songwriter’s poetry, Cohen passionately remonstrated with Wieseltier to stay clean, a participant in the lunch recalls. “I’m 20 years older than Leon and I do feel a certain avuncular responsibility to the man,” Cohen says when asked about the June 1993 lunch. Since late 1993, when Wieseltier began dating Twyla Tharp—a woman of daunting discipline, physical and otherwise—he has been telling friends that he quit cold turkey.
“I have nothing to say about that,” Wieseltier snaps when asked about past cocaine use.
—“The Very Busy, Very Unproductive Life of Leon Wieseltier — New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier is the egghead boy toy of such glamorous powers as Barbra Streisand, Shirley MacLaine, and Tipper Gore. But has he abandoned the life of the mind to be the life of the party? (This article first appeared in the March 1995 issue of Vanity Fair.)”
And curiously, was never uploaded to the Internet until yesterday, now that Wieseltier has seen a magazine deal with Steve Jobs’ widow scuttled, his job as a contributing editor at the Atlantic terminated, and multiple women coming out of the woodwork to complain about his allegedly skeevy past behavior at TNR. Speaking of which, in article titled “Leon Wieseltier: A Reckoning,” Michelle Cottle of the Atlantic shares a few of what she calls her “Leon stories,” along with this detail:
Seyward Darby, the executive editor of The Atavist Magazine, who held a couple of different editorial positions at the New Republic from 2008 to 2011, recalls a 2009 column Leon wrote on circumcision, its place in Jewish culture, and its effects (or lack thereof) on male pleasure. Leon sent her the document, titled “foreskin,” and then went into her office to watch her read it: “When I told him that the word foreskin as a document title had raised my eyebrows, he said sarcastically, ‘Oh, report me to HR!’ Then he left. In the same time frame, he gave a fellow female colleague ‘a book of portraits of Jesus with hard-ons.’ He told her to ‘take it home and really have fun with it tonight.’”
Of course, Wieseltier wasn’t the only powerful man whose career was protected by those with associations to TNR. As Stephen Miller tweets, “Sure are a ton of open secrets in the media/entertainment industry.”