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Coming Back for More

Monica Lewinsky reclaims her fame with "Mr. Personality" and Stephen Glass returns for his sixteenth minute.

7:50 AM, May 14, 2003 • By MATT LABASH
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After her trying year as a national punchline, she has said, "I would do anything to have my anonymity back." And she has proven it. When not serving as a Jenny Craig pitchwoman or an Internet purse retailer ("Bags are my life" she has said) she has led a quiet existence, albeit one that requires her to regularly appear on national television for hosting/soul-baring opportunities. She turned up with comedian Tom Green in Canada, for a publicity-stunt fake engagement announcement on the roof of the Little Beaver restaurant. And she has earned her chatty-Cathy stripes, pinch hitting for Barbara Walters on "The View." She has sat for an Actors Studio-style interview on HBO's "Monica in Black and White," for which she netted $150,000--hardly too much compensation to serve up introspections such as, "I wish I had a makeup person every time I cried." And recently, she has even written an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on the evils of subpoenaing parents to testify against their children. Or perhaps she had it ghost-written, since unlike her Starr report e-mails, it is not written in all caps with lots of exclamation points, and there are no indiscreet outbursts, such as "I had a good time at the spa (I did it with the nutrition guy)!!!!"

Now, Lewinsky, who once told Time magazine that when she flashed Clinton her thong, "It was very subtle," swears to Newsweek: "I really treasure my privacy. I'm trying to recognize that I'm a public person and draw the boundaries of what I'm allowed to keep private." High up on the list of things she is keeping under wraps is her sense of decorum, as she has become the host of a sleazy dating show. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your gag reflex, there's not nearly enough of Monica in "Mr. Personality." She's mainly relegated to garnish. She has gone from lead romantic actress, to the dumpy best friend. She is empathetic. She's the kind of gal who'd do your nails, who'd hold your hair back when you need to hug the porcelain after doing too many shots, who'd drive you to the mall, take you to lunch at the food court, who'd look you in the eye, and say, woman to woman, "Are you going to eat that spring roll?"

No wonder Hayley Arp said she's "More than a host, she was like my buddy . . . my confidant, the big sister I never had." On air, Monica is mostly confined to conducting traffic, uttering such memorable lines as: "Standing before you are the men that you didn't choose. They came looking for love, but ummm, it just wasn't meant to be," or "Well sweetie, are you excited?" But other times, she's a port in the storm. When Chris, the green-masked motivational speaker who is trying to brainwash Hayley with neurolinguistic programming techniques, moves in for a hug, Hayley says, "At this point, it's too good to be true, I'm really trying to find out if this is the real thing." Monica just smiles a sad smile, saying nothing. She's been there.

Other times, she plays Linda Tripp to Hayley's Monica. In one scene, after cameras had captured Pete, the orange-masked unemployed Asian guy, getting freaky with a hula girl in Hayley's absence, Monica takes her to a surreptitious monitoring room and plays the tape. "You've just got to see this," Lewinsky says gleefully. "We have something to show you that just might make your decision a little easier." As they view tape of Pete ogling a girl's jiggling backside, Monica says, "I wish you would've walked in right now. He would've been busted!" "How creepy is he?" Hayley asks, somewhat innocently. Monica's seen Bigger Creeps, saying with her eyes what she doesn't need to say with her pouty, concupiscent mouth.

One thing Monica evidences is a newfound respect for the Rule of Law. In one scene, blue-masked Brian--the guy who went upstairs with hula girl--is about to get axed at an elimination ceremony, but pulls his mask off prematurely, quitting before he's fired. He says his heart's not in this, and that although Hayley's beautiful, intelligent, and charming . . . "I'm sorry," interrupts Monica with the same fire in her eye that she gets when there's a sale at Fred Segal's, "I'm going to interrupt, there have been rules who have been set up," she says, stopping uppity Brian in his tracks, before he can go out and parlay this stunt into fake celebrityhood, possibly with the Blue Man Group.

After leaving the show, Brian, now back practicing law in St. Paul, Minnesota, told his hometown paper, "Monica Lewinsky is appalled? This is a [woman] who [performed oral sex] on the president of the United States, a married man, and she's appalled that a single guy hung out with a beautiful girl?" Poor Brian. He just doesn't get it. Monica now lives in the dimension where celebrity trumps propriety. Or maybe she's just doing her job, agreeing to host "Mr. Personality," as SNL's Tina Fey suggested, so that she could have a new answer to those who ask her, "What's the most degrading thing you've ever done?"