All Puff and No Daddy

Combs Verdict a Tabloid Bonanza

Hmm. Housed "a block or so south" of Dupont Circle, New Terrain is a hotbed of politicos, including an "arrogant" literary editor with gleaming hair by the name of Lionel Heftihed. Sladder soon makes the acquaintance of Madeleine Whitbridge, a gossipy widow who, he claims, "was unfairly labeled a 'Georgetown hostess.' " Other familiar types make appearances along the way, including a skirt-chasing senator named Bob Hudnut and an aging talk-show host known as Morton Manatie.

The Washington Post has already seen in Sladder a few hints of Sidney Blumenthal and George Will, and no doubt the book will get a lot of publicity as insiders speculate about the real people on whom these caricatures are based. But what makes my skin crawl is the slowly unfurling pattern of manipulation and betrayal that underlies Sladder's brilliant career. Every woman he meets is a stepping stone; every social invitation turns out to be fungible in the event a better one comes along. And for every insightful piece Sladder writes, it seems he is doomed to publish something so naive and wrongheaded that it boomerangs, bringing disgrace on his employers.

Frank was formerly an editor for the Outlook section of The Washington Post, but he says that has nothing to do with his fictional descriptions of the daily Washington Telegram, where Sladder finally lands his dream job. Shortly after our hero is hired, he inserts a pro-Vietnam spin into an unsigned editorial, whereupon the newspaper's owners embrace him and his colleagues denounce him as a government "shill."

No sooner does Sladder become a Telegram political columnist than karma kicks in and this sleazy bastard begins to get what's coming to him, over and over again. It's an ugly story, but a necessary one that should put the fear of God in us all.

Peter Noel's coverage of Puff Daddy in the Voice.

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