The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, June 21, 2002  

Finding the Reticent Gossip in His Work

Lloyd Grove, the Washington Post’s resident gossip, last week tried to get the fur flying when, venturing far outside his area of expertise, he wrote a few strident and partisan paragraphs about an error The Rittenhouse Review made while discussing an article in the June issue of Commentary magazine.

As has been reported, TRR apologized for the error as soon as it became apparent, the mistake was duly and prominently noted at this site, and the original article was retracted. The error, as we wrote then, while regrettable, was made in good faith, based as it was on three different sources. Nonetheless, we have come to learn that Grove is characterizing the mistake in e-mail to TRR readers as “a doozey.”

The editor of TRR has telephoned Lloyd Grove five times in an effort to discuss his June 14 column and to offer Grove the opportunity to comment on apparent discrepancies in his account. None of those calls has been returned.

Grove did, however, send TRR one e-mail message, prominently labeled “OFF THE RECORD AND NOT FOR PUBLICATION,” thereby preventing us from sharing with readers the lame remarks Grove offered in his defense.

Grove’s Friday Chats

In the course of research for a possible article about Grove, TRR this week happened upon the transcripts of the gossip’s weekly “chat” with readers of his column.

Now, we’re as surprised as you are to learn that there are indeed people willing to “listen” to Grove expound on the various and sundry for an entire hour, but we’re willing to concede that everyone has his guilty pleasures.

Since Grove refuses to speak with us, we decided we would “catch up” with Grove through the transcripts of his program. These precious gems are available on their very own page at the Post’s web site, going back to April 5. (We presume earlier transcripts are available somewhere, certain as they are to be a valuable resource for future historians documenting the complete and utter debasement of the American political culture around the turn of the century.)

As most of the chatter is worthless jetsam and flotsam, with Grove making desperate and pitiable attempts at humor, we decided to limit the pain of TRR’s readers by beginning our acquaintance with a fairly recent performance, that of May 31. Join us now as we meet the inimitable Lloyd Grove in his own element.

The May 31 Chat

For his sake, we hope Grove’s May 31 “appearance” was a fleeting dud. Surely there is not a single editor at the Post who believes this chat was worth the time, money, and effort that went into it.

We quickly learn that Grove is meeting and greeting his fans not from the offices of the Washington Post, but instead from in front of his PC at home. Upon learning this we mustered all the strength we could not to derive a mental image of the scene chez Grove that fine morning. Valiantly, we press on.

Shortly thereafter we are struck by ready evidence of Grove’s erudition. For example, he manages to employ the term “learned pensees” while discussing his hate mail. No matter that he means -- we think -- “learned pensés,” or more properly, “learned penseurs,” we admire the effort.

On matters pertaining most strictly to his profession as a gossip, Grove surprised us by revealing he hasn’t a clue what’s going on in the Lizzie “Mow the Trash Down” Grubman case in East Hampton, N.Y., perhaps the best thing to happen to the gossip business in years.

Despite this knowledge gap, we learn Grove is a veritable Renaissance man, able to expound upon virtually any subject that arises from the dim-witted do-nothings that constitute his audience.

Thus, in the same program we find Lloyd Grove, Fashion Maven: “I would never say that Harrison [Ford] is having a mid-life crisis of thermonuclear dimensions and I think the earring looks cute.”

Then Lloyd Grove, Sports Prognosticator: “My intrepid producer Eleanor…advises me for some reason not to pick France. But despite the recent state [sic] of French bashing from everyone from Howard Stern to President Bush, I can’t get over my deep love of everything French. Vive la France! (Oh, they lost?)”

And even Lloyd Grove, Budding Economist: “Somebody should an expose [sic] of this secretive economic cabal,” he said in response to an inquiry from an unusually misguided fan about, of all things, the Consumer Confidence Index. True to form, Grove reveals he has no idea who compiles and publishes the monthly report and then throws in a meaningless aside about Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Much to our amazement, Grove apparently was a bit of a rake in his day, shuttling as he did, between his childhood homes in Greenwich, Conn., and Los Angeles -- bi-coastal! This emerges after a chat participant asks Grove whether he has the inside scoop about the Clinton family’s alleged problems with alcohol. Tossing in a gratuitous swipe at the former President’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, Grove writes:

“I’ve been reading as well about Chelsea’s alleged drunken misadventures in Europe. I have to say that when I was her age -- if any tabloid reporters had been paying attention -- it would have made for some rather ugly double-truck spreads.”

Our assumption is that Grove is referring to youthful mornings spent praying to the porcelain god. That’s our Lloyd Grove, party animal!

Moving on to political gossip, Grove admitted, “Neither of the Clintons seem [sic] to want to touch me with a barge pole, let alone sit down for an interview with me,” an understatement that we assure him encompasses far more people than former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Former Vice President Al Gore comes in for criticism as well. A reader draws attention to the vast disparity of wealth in this country, a gap once personified by the now all-but-forgotten master of greed, Walt Disney Co. chief executive officer Michael Eisner, by observing, “These folks make up a sliver of one percent of the US population, but own and control almost everything. The next world war will be a class war, not anything to do with terrorists. And the super duper rich, well, they should worry.”

Presumably looking for yucks, Grove responded, “I hope this is not Al Gore test-marketing some new Bob Shrum populism for 2004. In fact, I’m sure it isn’t. Might be possible house [sic] candidate Karenna.”

Grove’s cluelessness pops up again when asked what happened to long-time PBS television personality Mark Russell. Remarked Grove: “He’s a Washington political satirist who makes up funny lyrics to old standards and then belts them out while standing at the keyboard -- usually in buffalo [sic], where he tapes a show for PBS. or [sic] has taped. don’t [sic] know if it’s still on the air.”

Here’s a tip, Grove. Next time you peek at your column in print, turn a few pages forward to the TV listings in the same section. You’ll find ample evidence that Russell is still among the quick.

Finally, we found an explanation -- sort of -- for the bizarre potpourri style of Grove’s semi-weekly column: “Well, I write about a lot of stuff that could appear in any and every section of the newspaper....I like to do a whole bunch of different things in the column and keep you guessing.”

That’s right, Grove keeps us guessing. As if he weren’t as thoroughly predictable as his newfound political allies.

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