The big news story this week is New York Governor Elliot Spitzer's dalliance with a prostitute; and his subsequent resignation. I do not intend to pass moral judgment on the Governor's actions – although personally, I believe this to be a matter between him and his wife; and his conscience, if he has one. It is not really the public's business; except for the suggestion that the Governor may have used tax dollars to finance his escapades. Pretty stupid to leave a paper trail, if you ask me. Even a dumb crook knows that, if you're carrying out a transaction you want to keep secret, you always pay in cash.
This article, however, is not about Governor Spitzer. It is about Ashley Alexandra Dupre. A week ago, you would have been quite justified in asking, Ashley who? But now the young lady is getting far more than her 15 minutes of fame. Her picture is already splashed across newspapers all over the world; she even got herself mentioned on CNN and BBC.
If past history is anything to go by, Ashley Dupre is about to become a very wealthy woman. Nothing sells like scandal these days. Tabloid editors and proprietors are probably salivating at the thought of getting all the juicy details – and if there aren't that many in reality, they will make them up as they go along. Tabloid readers want to be shocked and titillated – facts are secondary. Ms.Dupre is about to start a bidding war; and we are talking about millions of dollars here. That is just the beginning, of course. Talk show hosts will be scrambling to get her on their shows – she might even make it to Larry King Live. A book deal will probably follow. Did someone ask, how do we know she can write? She does not need to – just provide the bare bones facts and a talented ghost writer will fill in the blanks.
Profiting from infamy is the big 20th century phenomenon, which is going to get even bigger in the twenty first. Helen of Troy may have had an epic written about her, but I doubt if she got any financial rewards for her adultery. These days, the mantra for success is: if you're going to do something scandalous, try to do it with someone famous. Just ask the DC Madam and Princess Diana's alleged lovers. Ashley Dupre is going to make it big, primarily because she happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. She can hardly claim to be a hapless victim to the Governor's lust – and yet, ironically, her star will rise even as Spitizer's fades.
If you are shaking your head in disapproval over this perceived injustice, I'm afraid you are being a little hypocritical. The tabloids are willing to pay millions for stories like this, precisely because it is what the public wants. Remember, the folks who read the National Enquirer and the Drudge Report far outnumber those who peruse the New York Times.
Why is it so? There seems to be something in the human psyche that craves wickedness. Reading about the foibles of famous people makes us feel a little superior. Even while professing to be shocked at the transgressions of prominent public personalities, we secretly applaud them – some would say we are even a little envious. In this election year, it could partly explain why negative ads about a political opponent work so well. The good guys may be role models, but the bad guys are more entertaining.
Governor Spitzer may be about to ride off into the sunset, but Ashley Dupre is just starting to emerge from the shadows. I, for one, will follow her future career with considerable interest.