Keeping Up With Hillary Since 1992.

The Hillary Clinton Quarterly has been keeping up with Hillary's career since 1992 when she became First Lady. As Secretary of State, Hillary carries out the President's foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States. She was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States on January 21, 2009.

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THE REAL STORY OF THE HILLARY CLINTON QUARTERLY

by Frank Marafiote

 

The first issue of the Hillary Clinton Quarterly was published in January, 1993. Almost 20 years have passed since that first issue hit the newsstands around the country. At one point, we were publishing more than 10,000 copies and were regularly contacted by reporters asking us to comment about Hillary Clinton and events taking place in the Clinton White House. I had regular contact with the White House, was a member of the National Press Club, and was frequently part of the press corps that covered Hillary's live events. Because I had always fancied myself a writer and a publisher, this was no small deal to me, though in retrospect, I suspect that most people view it as a minor accomplishment.

I've been asked many times what it was like to start the first publication about an American First Lady. Fortunately, I kept a diary of my experiences and thoughts during those early days. At some point during the spring of 1993, I was asked to be the main speaker at the annual dinner of the Concord, NH, YMCA. There were about 200 people there for a taste of chicken and Hillary. What follows is the speech that I gave that evening.


November 3.
Election day. It’s raining hard in Concord, New Hampshire, but that doesn’t stop the voters from lining up at the local polling station in record numbers. At 10 a.m. I go out to do my civic duty, confident in my vote for Bill Clinton. As I enter the polling booth, I remind myself that there’s more at stake here than the mere presidency of the United States. I want to do The Hillary Clinton Quarterly. If Bill and Hillary don’t win, suicide is the only sane alternative.

 

November 4. It’s 2:00 a.m. and my electoral college map is just about filled in. We’ve got a new president. And I’ve got a newsletter to publish.

 

November 5. This morning I write up a press release and a subscription flyer announcing my intention to publish The Hillary Clinton Quarterly. I have no idea what will be in the first issue, but I try to make the release sound like I know what I’m talking about. In the afternoon I bring it to the printer and ask for 200 copies. I mentally rehearse some of the questions the media will likely ask. “Why are you doing this?” My official media answer has something to do with being fascinated with Hillary. And I am. After all, she will be our first baby-boomer first lady, our first first lady with an established career and political agenda. But the real reason is that I’m 41, bored, and the tunnel of life keeps getting narrower and narrower. It might be cold outside, but it’s time to open all the windows and doors, let in some fresh air. Hillary, my dear, you’re my way back to enlightenment.

 

November 6. I spend the entire day working on my media list. I go through newspapers and magazines at the local library looking for the names of people who have written about the Clintons. By the end of the day, I have 200 TV, radio, and newspaper contacts ready to go. In the afternoon, I pick up my press releases from the printer. That night I go out and get incredibly drunk.

 

November 7. It’s 1:00 a.m. I’m barely sober and feeling terribly anxious. Is it legal to write about the First Lady? Where will I find anyone to write for this thing? Will the FBI come up to Concord and start going through my trash? Are my mother and father up there in Republican heaven drawing up papers to disown me? It’s the loneliest night of my life. Who do you call at this time of night to ask, Would I be a total jerk if I put out a publication about the First Lady?” I put some music on the stereo and get down on my office floor on my hands and knees and start stuffing envelopes and licking stamps. It’s 3:00 a.m. when I go to bed. I lay there for another hour before drifting off -- who the hell is Hillary Clinton, anyway

 

November 8. Showtime! I drive to the post-office with my press-releases. I can’t stop laughing. Living dangerously is the best revenge, I tell myself. The worst that can happen is that no one is interested. No, idiot, I correct myself: the worst that can happen is that someone is interested. Then what?

 

November 10 - 18. Someone is interested. A lot of someones. My big break comes after working on the reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Following the election, the entire national press corps is in Little Rock and I know that the editor, Paul Greenburg, hates the Clintons. If they run the story, every other reporter will want to pick up on it. And that’s exactly what happens. The phone starts ringing on Tuesday afternoon and doesn’t stop ringing for eight days straight. From 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. I’m on the phone talking to reporters, doing live radio shows from New York to San Francisco. The three networks call. The BBC. Radio stations in Canada and Japan. I smoke 1,000 cigarettes. Ellie Brecher of the Miami Herald tells me, “This is your 15 minutes in the limelight, Frank.” Ellie, baby, it was more like 200 hours. But instead of being delighted, I am despondent. I don’t have a single story, a single photo, a single clue about the first issue, which I tell everyone will be out the week of January 10. Right now that seems like an eternity away. I'm a pilot and like flying by the seat of my pants, but this is outrageous.

 

November 19. I crash.

 

November 21. My fever is now up to 103 degrees. I can’t breathe. I’ve lost my voice. I feel like I just ran Bill Clinton’s campaign (how did he do it for 14 months?) I drive up to the local hospital, still chain- smoking, hoping they don’t discover the lung cancer which I’m certain I’ve contracted as punishment for wanting to publish The Hillary Clinton Quarterly. They give me antibiotics and some type of methane gas which I’m supposed to inhale four times a day so that I can chain-smoke without gagging.

 

November 22. I’ve come up with a new idea. I call back some of the reporters that called me for interviews. “What do you know about Hillary?” I ask. “Nothing? Great! Want to write for us?” A surprising number say “Yes.” In the meantime, I start networking the local network -- I besiege my neighbor, Alysson, who agrees to help out. In turn she leads me to Carol, who knows something about desktop publishing. Out of the blue I get a call from a high-school student named Nicole, who wants to volunteer and “help out around the office.” “There’s a long waiting list of student volunteers,” I tell her, “but if you stop by around 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, we might be able to find something for you to do.” Nicole shows up and I quickly discover she knows more about politics and the Clintons than the rest of us. “You’ll do,” I tell her.

 

November 24 -- 29. I need some time to put my thoughts together and visit my cousin Joyce in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I love New Jersey. I go there whenever I want to feel glad that I live in New Hampshire. It works. I return to the “Live Free or Die” state alive, refreshed, and ready to put our premier issue together.

 

December 1 -- 18. I feel encouraged. Articles are starting to come in. The design is coming together beautifully. People are genuinely interested. I spend my nights reading everything I can find about Hillary and every other first lady. The more I read, the more impressive Hillary is. And lo and behold there are orders piling up on the kitchen table, sent in from people with strange names and from exotic places like San Antonio and Lauderdale by the Sea. Many put in little notes with their checks. “Don’t be too hard on her - we love Hillary!” “My husband hates her - this subscription is his Christmas present.” I work 11-12 hours a day and on the weekends and barely notice the time going by. This is fun, damn it.

 

Then, somewhere along the way, my beloved cat, Molly, perishes in a snowstorm while I’m working on the design of HCQ with Carol. I’m devastated. I feel like one of those callous workaholic fathers who ignores his affection-starved family while out all day making a buck. Another form of punishment? I try turning adversity into something positive. I call my former boss at the bank and we decide to create a “Socks Look-Alike” contest for the first issue. Molly is now on the mantle above my fireplace in something that looks like a Big Mac container -- but I think she approves of the contest and knows I’m somehow trying to make it up to her.

 

December 19 -- 24. It’s now past our editorial deadline and two of my feature writers have mysteriously disappeared -- one into the murky haze of Memphis, the other somewhere in the ethnic chaos of Brooklyn. We’ve set aside four pages for them -- what if their stories never show up? I’m beginning to panic. I alert Carol, our art director, that there might be a few last minute changes. In the meantime, I start improvising and write a few filler pieces just in case. I come up with 10 reasons Hillary should be grateful for the Gennifer Flowers story. Great leverage over Bill at cabinet meetings. Helped create the family values theme which backfired at the Republican convention. And so on. I feel guilty writing such fodder but fall off my sofa laughing. To make it up to Hillary, Nicole and I go to the Steeplegate mall and have three HCQ sweatshirts beautifully gift-wrapped and boxed. We mail them federal express to Little Rock for Christmas. Bill’s gray sweatshirt is an extra-extra large. Hillary and Chelsea’s are in Hillary’s favorite color, teal-blue.

 

December 25. Christmas Day. The turkey is ready to come out of the oven when the phone rings. It’s a guy calling from Tokyo who wants the right to represent HCQ to Japanese magazines. I give him my blessing. But as I settle down to Christmas dinner, I can feel my anxiety level increasing. We have one week left to write material to fill the remaining 8 blank pages, do the final artwork, layout, and proofreading.

 

December 26 -- 31. Madness reigns at 128C North State Street. Carol is in the living room with her Macintosh, Nicole is in my office doing word processing and entering subscribers onto our database, and I’m in the kitchen writing and editing articles. Our two mystery writers have not yet reappeared. The one in Brooklyn has had her phone disconnected. The one in Memphis, I speculate, is probably lost somewhere in the vast tackiness of Graceland. I keep writing.

 

Carol, meanwhile, continues her bid for sainthood and works from 9 in the morning till 10 at night. I keep changing stories, the order of stories, the artwork for stories. I am driving this normally calm, sane school teacher to the brink of despair. Then, without warning, our fairyland world of camaraderie and shared mission collapses completely. Alysson, our contributing editor and resident feminist, accuses me of misogyny -- the hatred of women. Intelligent and articulate, she complains about a story in which Hillary Rodham Clinton runs for president in the year 2000 against conservative Rush Limbaugh. Along with digs against Hillary and Rush, we also poke fun at some feminist leaders including Germaine Greer, Catherine MacKinnon, and the president of the National Organization of Women. Alysson and I battle it out in the kitchen. “I love women,” I tell her. “It’s ideologues I can’t stand.” Ultimately, I pull rank and win the battle. However, I must now live with the sobering knowledge that all is not sweetness and light in the land of The Hillary Clinton Quarterly. I just pray that the National Inquirer doesn’t get wind of our little scandal.

 

January 1. New Year’s Day. I get a phone call from our mystery writer in Brooklyn. She’s alive, after all. “Can I fax you the story?” she asks. “Go ahead,” I tell her, “but I’m not sure we’ll have room for it in this issue. We’ll have to see.” I breathe a deep sigh of relief -- that’s 2 pages I won’t have to write myself.

 

January 2 -- 3. Carol and I work together to finish up the layout and to put the final touches on some of the stories. When she leaves on Sunday it is nearly midnight. I can tell she’s exhausted and glad to be rid of me and the stress of putting this issue together. I want to ask if she’s interested in working on the second issue but decide it would be prudent to wait a few weeks. Or months.

 

January 4 -- 8. Mimi Hall, a reporter who covers the Clintons for USA Today, calls and asks us to fax her several articles that will appear in HCQ. On Friday the 8th, her story runs on page two, complete with an excerpt from one of our stories. What follows is another avalanche of media coverage, primarily from radio stations. The one exception is a little network show called Good Morning America. A guy named Kevin wants me to fly down to their NY studio for the interview. “I can’t do it,” I tell him. “Why not?” “Because this publishing big-shot has to pick up 2000 copies, load them into his Volkswagen and deliver them to the mailing house so that his subscribers get their copies on time.” I know I’m pushing my luck, but I figure a good rule of thumb for any business is to put paying customers first. He suggests doing a remote interview from WMUR-TV in Manchester on Wednesday, January 13. I agree. He says he will check with his senior producer to see if they will carry the interview.

 

January 9. It’s Saturday but a reporter from Dallas calls with my first Hillary joke. Bill and Hillary are out for a drive when they decide to stop for some gas. Hillary recognizes the gas station attendant as a guy she used to date in high school. Bill says, “Just think, Hillary, if you had married him, you’d now be working at a gas station.” Hillary says to Bill, “Actually, I was thinking if I had married him, he would have been president.”

 

January 11. Good Morning America calls again. They think we’ll be on Wednesday morning. He still hasn’t given me a firm commitment. Later, that same morning the Today Show calls. They will send a crew up from Boston to Concord for an interview with Bryant Gumbel at 8:20 am. Tuesday morning. I agree to the arrangements and ask my printer if we can do the remote from their offices. Victor and Bunny, the owners at Town and Country, generously oblige me. I try to finding the phone number for GMA but can’t and most of the afternoon I’m on the phone anyway with Today Show writers and production people preparing for the interview. Nicole arrives in that afternoon to put more subscribers on the database. Her sister, Mira, stops by around seven pm. They want to know if I’m nervous about doing the Today Show. I admit I am. My legs have an advanced case of Parkinson's -- I can’t get them to stop shaking. I remind myself that HCQ was my idea -- if I am about to make a fool of myself in front of 8 million people, I have no one to blame but myself. I regret ever saying that living dangerously is the best revenge.

 

January 12. When I arrive at Town and Country for the Today Show interview, I feel an unreal sense of calmness; in fact, I feel nothing. It occurs to me that the condemned are like this, waiting in their cells for the executioner’s call. Some invisible hand has scripted this event in advance and it is futile to worry about the outcome. It is best to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. I go outside for one last cigarette.

 

At 8 a.m. they call me back into the building, lead me into a small, dark room and strap me into a chair in front of the camera. A menacing spotlight glares into my face. In my left ear I wear an earpiece through which I will be interrogated by Bryant Gumbel. About 10 people are in the next room watching this execution on a monitor. I wait for my parish priest to arrive, say a few calming words, administer the last rites. He never shows. Salvation is in my own hands once again.

The producer cues me that the mic is now live and I can hear Bryant introducing me. The actual interview is anti-climatic. Most of his questions I’ve heard several dozen times before and the three minutes on air pass by quickly. When it’s over my friends and colleagues in the next room start applauding. Are they applauding, I wonder, because it was a great interview, because it was mercifully over, or because, like one of those hapless monkeys that NASA used to shoot into outer- space, I simply survived the ordeal?

My moment of glory lasts approximately 30 minutes. Back at my office my cousin Joyce calls from New Jersey to say Bryant was rude and abrasive. “Gee, I hadn’t noticed. You mean he didn’t like me?” A few moments later I get a call from the producer at
Good Morning America. He is livid. I’ve ruined his career. The network wasted mega-bucks, he says, reserving a crew for the interview. “Kevin,” I explain to him, “I’m just an old-fashioned kinda guy. I wanted a commitment from you and you wouldn’t give me one. The Today Show did.” He uses a few words never heard over the airwaves of the American Broadcasting Corporation and proclaims that I will “never, never, never do an ABC program. . .never.”

January 13. The first issue comes off the press and it looks damned good. On a hunch, I hand-deliver a copy to the Associated Press office in Concord. They decide to do a story and photo, which eventually runs in dozens of newspapers around the country. Looking at our first issue, I am enormously proud of those who contributed their time and effort -- especially Carol, Nicole, and Alysson, our local crew. I am embarrassed that only my name keeps popping up in the media when, in fact, they were the ballast and the sails that kept this ship steady and moving forward.

January 14. The Today Show experience leads to more media coverage -- more radio, more print, more TV, more subscriptions. Alysson and I have sort of made up and she does an interview along with Nicole for Channel 56 in Boston. Later, Nicole shares a phone line with me for a drive time radio interview with a Detroit station. Our magazine distributor also calls today. Someone at B. Dalton’s and Barnes & Nobles saw the Today Show and wants 2,000 copies. Plus, we get another 400 subscribers. We’ll have to go back on press again. When all this started I thought we’d be lucky to print 500 copies. We’re now up to 3,500 and still counting.

January 15. This morning I get another caller with a Hillary joke. This time it’s a reporter with Public Radio. Hillary, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are on an airplane. The plane crashes and all three die. When they get up to heaven God is sitting on his throne. He asks Al,”Who are you and what did you do?” “I’m Al Gore and I was vice president of the richest and most powerful nation on earth.” God says, “You can come in and sit on my left.” He asks Bill Clinton, “Who are you and what did you do.” Bill says, “I’m Bill Clinton and I was president of the richest and most powerful nation on earth.” God says, “You can come in and sit on my right.” He then asks Hillary, “Who are you and what did you do?” She answers, “I’m Hillary Rodham Clinton and I believe, sir, that you’re sitting in my chair.”

January 16. Saturday night. I wear my HCQ sweatshirt in public for the first time as I head out for a beer at the Ramada. I make an important discovery for a single male. Intelligent, attractive, single women are very interested in Hillary Clinton. The sweatshirt becomes a surrogate for the clever opening line I began working on in high school and never perfected. I decide to wear the sweatshirt whenever I go out for a drink.

January 20. It’s Inauguration Day. I have six radio interviews scheduled, but there’s a break at noon and a chance to see Bill Clinton being sworn in. When I see Hillary, I am in a state of shock: where the heck did that czarist blue hat come from? She looks like a commissar's wife. Did Mrs. Boris Yeltsin dress her? I berate myself for trivializing the First Lady again.

The last radio interview that day is a “Hillary Clinton Special” at 8 pm with CBS radio network. This is the one I’m looking forward to the most -- two of the people on the show I recruited for CBS -- Mary Hinds, whose article on Hillary’s political agenda was in HCQ, and Judith Warner, author of a book on Hillary whom I interviewed for HCQ. I am able to pick up the broadcast on WRKO out of Boston. I’m supposed to join the show at 8:30 pm. The appointed hour comes and goes, and no call. At
8:45 I begin to understand the obvious -- I played cupid but wasn’t being invited to the wedding. By 9 pm I am storming around my office like some kind of rabid Good Morning America producer. I rehearse my diatribe against CBS radio. “I swear you’ll never, never, never get an interview with the Hillary Clinton Quarterly. . .never.” When I pick up the phone, however, I revert to my professional PR mode: “Gee, what an informative program that was. It would have been nice to have been a part of it.”

For three months I’ve been telling myself and others that all the media attention meant nothing to me personally
-- it was just a job I had to do to publicize HCQ. Tonight I discover that I am as cocky, egotistical, and filled with delusions of self-importance and infallibility as any other media junkie. It’s an important discovery. Thank you CBS, I needed that.

January 21. Media revenge. A producer at ABC World News Now wants a copy of HCQ sent overnight. She promises to run the story the following day. I hope Kevin, the Good Morning America producer, stays up late enough to watch it. My media hubris is back.

January 22. Today I get a call from the Executive Office of the President. The caller says she’s been asked to order a subscription to HCQ for the presidential library. I tell her we’ve already sent two copies, free, to the First Lady and her press secretary, Lisa Caputo. That’s OK, she says, we still want one for the president, will you bill us? What a switch --  the government owing me money! I take down the purchase order number. The next day I read in the New York Times that the White House has announced it is cutting back on subscriptions to help reduce the federal deficit. No doubt they cancelled Newsweek to pay for their subscription to HCQ.

January 24.
Saturday. Things have finally quieted down. The phone isn’t ringing all day. Alysson has moved to another apartment complex, Carol has gone back to the sanity of being a high school art teacher, Nicole hasn’t returned yet from her trip to Washington for the Inauguration. I have a moment or two to reflect on the past three months, to perhaps extract a few lessons about the experience.

Lesson #1 -- No guts, no glory. Whatever secret dream you harbor, whatever dream you fear others will ridicule -- that’s the one to pursue. It’s the one that’s truest to yourself. Life is short, regrets are forever.

Lesson #2 -- Timing is everything. If it’s a choice between being the best or the first, be the first. Then strive to be the best. It’s better to take one imperfect step right now, than to wait forever for perfection and never act at all.

Lesson #3 -- A shared mission is at the heart of any successful undertaking. When people believe in what they are doing, when they are honestly, sincerely valued for what they contribute, anything is possible.

Lesson # 4 -- In the broad scheme of things, every idea and every individual is just another pet rock. In other words, keep things in perspective
-- nothing lasts forever, not me, not Hillary Clinton, not HCQ.

It occurs to me today that we have only eight weeks before our next issue is due at the printers. I am despondent. I don’t have a single story, a single photo, a single clue about the second issue, which I tell everyone will be out in April. Who will write for this thing? I wonder if that writer in Memphis ever found her way out of Graceland?

 

 



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