Marilyn Manson and I have something in common besides our striking good looks. We’ve both appeared as guests on Bill O’Reilly’s now-defunct The O’Reilly Factor.
You can catch lovely Marilyn’s segment on YouTube, but my brief, humdrum appearance on The Factor is lost in space, its fading signal beaming to some distant star along with episodes of Gilligan’s Island and other terrestrial junk from TV land. I have a VHS tape of it somewhere, but I can’t find it.
Let me set the stage. It was a late summer day — September 10, 2001, to be exact. The “big news” on the eve of 9/11 was the fallout from a bacchanal in Chappaqua that featured drugs, alcohol, and a lithesome stripper who invited members of the Horace Greeley High School football team to lick whipped cream off her body. Fueling the suburban sex scandal was the fact that the party was sponsored by the parents of one of the kids at their home, which happened to be located in the aforesaid affluent hamlet, where a certain pair of famous Democrats also resided — Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The cops got involved. The district attorney got involved. And then O’Reilly and The Factor stepped in, which is how I got involved.
O’Reilly’s ostensible topic du jour was that the booze-soaked party was evidence of moral turpitude that must be exposed and eradicated. His investigation into the matter was all about “holding people accountable.” In short, O’Reilly was outraged. But what really got his goat was that he couldn’t find anyone of official status who would willingly step into O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone” and answer for the licentious behavior of minors and their indulgent adult overseers.
So, his producers resorted to two last-minute stand-ins — a local newspaper columnist, namely me, and a Westchester attorney named Bob Eber.
Eber had no connection to the stripper story, except that his kids had gone to the public schools, and he lived in Chappaqua. He rarely, if ever, watched The Factor.
“They probably went to every town official they could find, and everybody said, ‘What, are you crazy?’” Eber recalled recently. “And then they must have gone through a list of lawyers and saw that I was in Chappaqua. I had just gotten back from a vacation and stupidly said, ‘Sure, what the hell; I’ve got nothing to do.’”
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That was my rationale, too. What the hell. They dispatched a limo to White Plains, to take me to the Midtown Fox News studio.
Eber and I were clueless going in. We had no inkling of what we were supposed to talk about. There was no briefing, no advance preparation of any kind. The Great Man didn’t even meet us until just a few seconds before we went on the air.
O’Reilly was cranky and spent most of the segment talking at us, rather than to us, in a raised voice. At one point, he mispronounced my name and ignored me when I corrected him. He was especially mad at Chappaqua officials for “running away from the press” and ranted about how “millions of American children have been taught another tawdry lesson.”
This has been a recurring theme of O’Reilly’s — teaching children good moral values. In his new book, Old School, he instructs young men to adhere to the “tenets of respect and responsibility” and that when it comes to women, “No means no.”
Critics of the book have delighted in calling O’Reilly a hypocrite in light of sexual-harassment allegations that led to his dismissal from Fox. Nevertheless, Old School is a bestseller, which is certainly a testament to his enduring popularity and uncanny marketing genius.
The Chappaqua stripper story is now part of local lore. It ranks up there with panty raids, goldfish swallowing, and other idiotic stunts from days past. It’s, well, old school.
Somehow, I can see O’Reilly in his youth. He’s at the party. His hormones are raging. He’s laughing along with the rest of the red-blooded American boys.
And he’s shaking a can of Reddi-wip.
The opinions and beliefs expressed by Phil Reisman are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Magazine’s editors and publishers. Tell us what you think: email firstname.lastname@example.org