There’s good gossip, and then there’s great gossip, and the news filtering out of the Hamptons and across the Atlantic Ocean over the past week or so is definitely of the Class A, red alert, Mrs. Silverman-remaining-frozen-the-teacup-still-on-the-way-to-her-mouth (still my favorite scene in Radio Days, which is also my favorite Woody Allen movie ever) variety. Are you ready? Did you put your teacup down? Because here’s what happened.
There’s this lady Lauren Silverman, whom you might have known in her previous incarnation as that girl with the really shiny hair who would never, ever speak to you in the hallway, let alone let you borrow her lip balm, and it seems she is with fetus. Mazel tov, Lauren! Except it seems the sire of said fetus is not her husband, a wealthy property developer named Andrew Silverman of the County Donegal Silvermans (no, I’m just kidding; they’re from New York), but Simon Cowell, the Simon Cowell, who was a close friend of the couple. The impregnation took place during a secret affair conducted over several months—and, according to ever-changing sources, continues to this day—and several vacations spent cruising around the Mediterranean and other chic environs on various yachts chartered by the famously high-rolling Cowell, who has now been charged as a co-respondent in Silverman’s divorce suit against his wife, meaning the mogul a) has been outed as the kind of guy who cheerfully sleeps with his friends’ wives and b) may have to disclose the true extent of the vast fortune he had amassed facilitating the ritual televised humiliation of variously challenged individuals whose caretakers have been so foolhardy as to tell them they have a pretty singing voice.
It’s the biggest, craziest, most perfectly blow-dried Jewish sex scandal (I bet you didn’t know Cowell’s father was an MOT, or did you?) since Jessica Sklar Nederlander left her husband right after the honeymoon for the recently de-Lonsteined Jerry Seinfeld, but with a jet-set international edge. It could be our version of the Happy Valley set, or all the bright (not-necessarily-so) young things surrounding the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, but somehow it all has a feel I’m choosing to call haimish-fabulous, like if Jackie Collins had written a novel set at Camp Ramah in the 1980s.
Why should this be? It might have something to do with the fact that nobody apart from the three main actors in the whole affair seems to be able to keep his or her mouth shut. Titillation depends on discretion, and that’s in pretty short supply here, folks. We’ve heard stories about what a slut Lauren Silverman was in high school, seen pictures of her with her mouth full of braces and her pre-rhinoplasty nose both before and after her bat mitzvah, heard how her husband’s schmancy parents refused to attend their wedding at the Waldorf-Astoria because they thought she was a not-fancy-enough gold-digger from southern Florida and had a bad feeling about the whole thing (go figure). No matter how tightly you keep your own mouth shut, it’s pretty hard to be, like, an International Woman of Mystery when every yenta in Miami Beach—including your own former stepfather, one Mr. Eisenberg—has something to say about you.
Which raises the question: Under these circumstances, can a modern Jewish American girl ever really be a femme fatale? We’ve come a long way from Salome, or even the shroud of secrecy, abetted by the very real need to hide ones origins, that hung around the tragic courtesans of Paris (a la the mother of Sarah Bernhardt) or even their more contemporary corollaries, like the Gabor sisters. (If you believe Cindy Adams, Zsa Zsa, the final survivor, might be able to claim the Guinness World Record for World’s Oldest Woman, if only she hadn’t been lying about her age for the better part of the last century.) There are always people who come out of the woodwork when these sorts of things happen, and it’s tempting to chalk up the torrent of personal information to our Internet-surveillance age.
But think about another, pre-Internet Jewish girl caught up in a sex scandal involving a powerful man. Somehow, the images of Monica Lewinsky sobbing in her mother’s arms while America feasted on stories about her fluctuating weight and how she was the only kid in Beverly Hills who wasn’t invited to Tori Spelling’s birthday party denied her the kind of tawdry glamour and hard-knocks dignity that has traditionally hung around other women in her position. To be a femme fatale, you have to seem to come from nowhere, belong to no one. For better or for worse, that’s a state of being that is denied Jewish women from the first moment we’re given a Hebrew name. You remember Sarah, daughter of Michael, son of Bernie? You know the one who owned all the dry cleaners and used to play gold with Grandpa before his diabetes got so bad they had to amputate his leg? Oy, you’ll never guess what happened to her.
Still, maybe it’s best not to complain. Being a mysterious beauty with a shadowy past may look good in the movies, but having a mishpochah with a very good litigator on speed dial has its own rewards, chief among them the $10 million mansion Cowell’s guilty conscience has reportedly shelled out for, in which the notorious Mrs. Silverman is expected to raise his child. So, mazel tov, Lauren. Your in-laws were right about you, and I mean that in the best possible way. And mazel tov to your lawyers, who can all fly private now to visit you.
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Rachel Shukert, a Tablet Magazine columnist on pop culture, is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great. Starstruck, the first in a series of three novels, is new from Random House. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.
Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.