Otaku: My Favorite Monica
From his small midwestern home, Keewaydin, webmaster of the Monica WebRing, a consortium of sites devoted to Monica and Monica- related issues, bangs away at his PC, scrolling through text and pictures looking, searching, for a detail that people may have missed about the most scrutinized figure of the moment.
"Her middle name is Samille," boasts the fortysomething fan who prefers to be known only by his handle. "She said it in the video testimony and it's in the Starr Report, but not everyone paid attention."
Last week, the spotlight that for more than a year manifested a face and a voice, but never quite fully both, upped its wattage with the intensity of a thousand klieg lights. The interview and book have finally allowed Monica Samille Lewinsky to be rendered for the world in full 3-D, complete with sound and text.
But some have insisted upon her many dimensions since the beginning. "I've always liked Monica," admits Keewaydin, who launched his WebRing, members.tripod.com/ ~Mack_N_Tosh/ index-7.html, over a year ago. "All the stuff that's coming out now, it's interesting, but I've always known . . . that she's smart and interesting. She's someone I can touch base with because she's always seemed real. I like being associated with her it makes me famous to a certain extent."
He has spent up to 30 hours a week maintaining his site, looking up every article, TV news blurb, and Drudge-inspired rumor and culling them into a neat package of information all about Monica. What color lipstick did she favor before her recent PR blitz (and before last week's 20/20 interview)? Lilac. What's her favorite food? Steak. "Also, she really likes to eat in good restaurants," notes Keewaydin. "She's always eating out." For sport, says Keewaydin, she's into fly-fishing.
As if knowing her favorite food weren't enough, the Monicacam site (www.nj.com/monicacam) records her movements in D.C. Scott Orr, the Washington bureau correspondent for the Newark Star Ledger, feeds the obsession burn rate to her online otaku with his Video Blaster Webcam II camera though Orr claims he's not a Monica fan. The Webcam is cleverly placed on his desk inches away from his window directly across the street from the law offices of Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, Monica's attorneys.
"It was the biggest media scrum I had ever seen," says Orr, who created the site last July after he began keeping tabs on Monica's appearances. "During the trial, Monica would have to go back and forth between [her hotel] and her attorney's office and there'd be journalists everywhere." (The MonicaCam is still up and running, updated every 10 minutes, so voyeurs are likely to catch her whenever she's in Washington.)
The Museum of Monica Art (members.tripod.com/~cgbelcher/moma.htm) hosts artwork lovingly rendered through PhotoShop. Cut-and-paste posters show Monica as Rosie the Riveter, a blonde starlet of the '50s, and as a surfer chick.
But some Monica sites are not so adoring, reducing the affair to its basest terms: Monica equals porn. "What do you expect? She gave him a blowjob," says the webmaster of The Best of Monica Site (www.netwebsites.com/monica), who goes by the handle Bob. His site is consistently ranked in the top five on the Top 100 Monica page (gomonica.com), which rates by number of click-throughs. "That's all it's ever been about. I didn't think of it that way until fans of my site sent me pictures with Monica's head pasted over naked bodies. Then I got some showing Linda Tripp. I didn't intend it that way. That's what people think it is."
Alongside these Alyssa Milanostyle photos are scores of ad banners linking the user to porn sites. But Bob insists that he hasn't made any profit. "It helps to pay for the site, but that's it," he says. "Anyway, I don't do it for the money. I just think this is funny."
Bob might not be capitalizing financially on Monica obsession, but others are. The Shooting Gallery, an independent film production company in New York, recently cashed in after Monica appeared wearing a TSG baseball cap instead of her trademark beret. TSG began selling the cap for $19.95 at netsetgoods.com, describing it as "a hat even the President would admire." Other sites have gotten into the game selling cheesy T-shirts and bumper stickers, one even claiming to sell the same cigar brand Clinton smokes. Such plebeian acts of commercialization seem to suggest the awe and mystery of Monica are gone, that she's just another salable gimmick.
"I don't think so," says Keewaydin. "There are still things yet to come. Like, I'm waiting for the day she bumps into Linda Tripp. It's going to happen. And everyone's going to want to see that."
Otaku is a Japanese word for obsession as culture.
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