Atlanta author Lisa Baron had many responsibilities as spokesperson for Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and GOP political operative. However, it is the job she performed for future George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer on her knees in a Greenville hotel room during the 2000 Republican presidential primary that is liable to cause some exploding heads at Fox News this week.
The former Sunday Paper columnist’s debut book, “Life of the Party: A Political Press Tart Bares All” (Citadel Press, $14.95) hits stores today. It’s a no-holds-barred, laugh out loud funny peek behind the political curtain. Baron, a “not-so-nice, socially liberal” Jewish girl describes how she ended up working for Reed, the aspiring Georgia Lt. Governor candidate who saw his campaign derailed by his ties to Kryptonite-carrying lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On the book jacket, New York pop culture watchdog website Gawker refers to “Life of the Party” as “‘Primary Colors’ meets ‘Coyote Ugly.'”
Over a glass of wine last week at the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead, Baron sat down with Intel to discuss the book, the reaction to it and why she chose that particular intimate anecdote to open her memoir.
“When you write a book about Ralph Reed, you talk about politics, you’ve got a little sex and you have a little alcohol mixed in, you tend to get a reaction from people,” Baron says. “When we used to go out for drinks at the end of a long day while working for Ralph, when the bartender would ask what we did, we always said, ‘real estate.’ It saved us two hours of getting bashed!”
Baron says she has no regrets about opening the book with her, um, close encounter with Fleischer. “Here’s the thing,” she explains. “Like everyone, I have boundaries. But they’re pushed really, really far out. You can’t see them with the naked eye but I know where they are. For me to write about my behavior as a 20-something, it rolls right off me. It doesn’t bother me. To other people, it’s jaw-dropping.”
In retrospect, is Baron happy that the 2000 incident occurred prior to the age of Twit Pics? “Personally, I could take it or leave it but I’m guessing that Ari is very happy about that!” Baron says laughing. “I just used it as an anecdote to show that, in politics, you work hard and you play hard. It’s all in the same field. There’s no distinction because you’re always working. There is no life-work balance. It’s all work and you try to slip the fun in when you can. I just tried to slip the fun in more often. Actually, I suppose I should probably rephrase that.”
Among the juicier factoids in the book? Former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman is described by Baron who once served as a press aide during her 1997 re-election campaign as “a total [expletive] bitch. . .Whitman treated her campaign staff like dirty laundry, with her nose pinched and her head held high. Whitman seemed to think it was beneath her to talk to us, even if we were sitting in a car with her.” Surprisingly, Reed is portrayed throughout “Life of the Party” as a kind, caring guy who even tries to set the seemingly forever single Baron up on a disastrously hilarious blind date she details in the memoir (the dinner date with a private jet-owning mattress king begins in the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room and ends with him popping out of his hotel bathroom completely naked).
“I think that’s the biggest shocker for people who haven’t read the book,” Baron explains. They go in thinking it’s going to be some hatchet job on the right and it’s not. Ralph was a sweet man. He wanted to me to get married to a rich Jewish guy,” Baron says. “It wasn’t his fault the date turned out the way it did!”
Another unexpected surprise for Atlanta morning radio listeners in “Life?” Baron describes her ex-husband and current Dave FM morning man Jimmy Baron with great kindness. The couple first met when Baron was working on 99X’s The Morning X. She continued dating him even after he fell asleep in the middle of their second date. “For a lot of girls, that would have been a deal breaker,” Baron explains. “But given that Jimmy got up in the middle of the night for work, I knew that it wasn’t personal. It was just an occupational hazard.”
In one of the book’s most touching moments, Baron describes her husband flying down a flight of stairs and out the door after her beloved dog Jack is run down by a delivery truck. Baron then rushed the dog to the vet in a futile attempt to save his wife’s prized pet.
“Our son Micah is four and God willing, he’s going to grow up and read this book,” Baron explains. “I wanted him to know that when his parents were married, they loved each other. That he was a product of love. We’re still friends and we’re committed to co-parenting together. It just wasn’t meant to be a marriage.”
As national television and radio media begins booking Baron (MSNBC’s Martin Bashir and Dennis Miller have already scheduled interviews and Vanity Fair is running an online excerpt from “Life”), Intel asked which Comedy Central show is Baron’s dream guest spot? “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart or “The Colbert Report?”
“Oh, definitely, Stephen Colbert!” Baron says without hesitation. “The man makes me laugh out loud for 30 minutes every night. He’s just incredibly brilliant.”