If last night’s episode of The Apprentice, NBC’s biz-reality show, and the latest installment in feminista Naomi Wolf’s revelations about Harold Bloom’s 20-year-old “encroachment” on her thigh when she was a Yale undergrad are any indication, the answer is: They lose it when the going gets tough.
Last night Ereka Vetrini was project manager for Versacorp, the perennially-behind-the-eight-ball team of youthful would-be corporate managers in the televised competition for a $250,000-a-year job with Manhattan mogul Donald Trump. The project this week was admittedly a dog: Compete with rival team Protege over who can unload the most bottles of Trump Ice, a bottled water whose only difference from other bottled waters seems to be the photo of a younger, combover-less Donald Trump on the label. I myself can’t tell any bottled waters apart, and when The Donald opened up the back of a Trump Ice truck to unveil case after case of the stuff to the teams, all I could think was: You poor kids.
That didn’t excuse Ereka, though. She fell to pieces on the project. She lost part of the paperwork, she turned frazzled and panicked in front of her teammates (always a management no-no), and when Trump henchwoman Carolyn Kepcher dropped by Versacorp’s hotel rooms to see how the project was going, Ereka sputtered and whimpered and nearly burst into tears. Then she committed the unforgivable sin: trying to persuade oner of her male teammates, Bill Rancic, to gang up with her to blame her other male teammate, Nick Warnock (who fancies himself a salesman but apparently can’t sell ice-scrapers to Eskimos), for the resulting fiasco and presumably get him dumped. Bill didn’t comply, and when the losing Versacorp met with Trump afterwards for its dressing-down, Ereka sputtered some more, and it was she, fortunately, who had to hear those fateful words, “You’re fired.” Commented Trump: “I like Ereka, but she’s way too emotional. In business that can just kill you.”
As for Protege, yes, the team managed to stick restaurants and bars with more Trump water than Versacorp, but the inter-female emotional landscape was just as rocky. Team witch/slacker Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth took a break for a makeup makeover on her Trump Ice peddling trips, where her strategy consisted of batting her eyelashes for a half-hour to sell a single case of the stuff. She and teammate Amy Henry bickered, and then Omarosa bickered some more with teammate Heidi Bressler, whom Omarosa had famously accused of having “no class” at a session with Trump two weeks ago. An all-out Omarosa-Heidi war seems to be in the books for next week.
And speaking of emotions, Naomi Wolf burst into tears in the middle of an interview with the New York Observer’s Rachel Donadio, who has been closely following and breaking the behind-the-scenes skinny on Wolf’s article in Monday’s New York magazine that Yale literature professor Harold Bloom had placed his hand on her thigh two decades ago. We ourselves at InkWell have been avidly following this delicious story. (See Naomi Wolf to Yale: Return My Phone Calls!, Feb 24, Is Naomi Wolf Off Her Meds?, Feb. 23, and Wicked Witch Day: Naomi Wolf and Omarosa, Feb. 20.)
Trouble was, as Donadio reveals in today’s Observer, there seemed to be a bit more to the Wolf-Bloom imbroglio, which Wolf has played as a revelation of Yale’s supposed indifference to systematic professor-student sexual harassment, than Wolf had revealed in her article, “The Silent Treatment.” For one thing, Wolf had written an earlier, names-changed account of the incident in her 1997 memoir, “Promiscuities,” in which she admitted that she was drunk when the professorial thigh-touch occurred after she invited him to dinner during her senior year at Yale in 1983 and then asked him to read her poems. (She did not mention her drunken state in the New York article, leaving the impression that she had vomited into the kitchen sink afterwards solely out of moral disgust.)
Furthermore, Donadio writes:
“According to sources close to Mr. Bloom, on at least one occasion Ms. Wolf came to Mr. Bloom’s home and left an erotic poem there for him to read. Questioned about that, Ms. Wolf said [to Donadio during their phone interview], ‘For God’s sake. Some of my poetry was racy and erotic. Some was about the Bible and Greek myths. I’m sure that I dropped off manuscripts of my poetry with all the people who were mentoring me with my poetry at the time.'”
A little later in the interview, Wolf informed Donadio that the incident had upset her so much that she had never written another poem again. She then burst into tears, hung up the phone, and then, a few minutes later, called Donadio again, still weeping:
“‘Professor Bloom is not a bad guy! He’s a good guy in many ways! That’s something I tried to make clear in this piece,’ Ms. Wolf said. ‘One stupid action shouldn’t demonize someone or victimize someone. I’m trying to reframe the debate. I’ve talked to many people who have glowing things to say about him and whom he’d mentored. I wish I could have been mentored by him.'”
Donadio also reports that at least 10 days before Yale President Richard Brodhead was accused by Wolf of “stonewalling” her in response to her queries about Yale’s handling of sexual harassment cases, she had both an e-mail from and a conversation with Brodhead discussing the university’s harassment policies in detail. In the e-mail Brodhead wrote:
“”I took it that another of your concerns was to learn how robust and accessible our grievance process is, and here I’m happy to supply details,’ Mr. Brodhead wrote. He described how sexual harassment is discussed at ‘mandatory meetings during freshman orientation,’ and that freshman counselors and residential college deans are ‘well briefed on the issue.’ He said Yale occasionally distributed leaflets on dining-hall tables ‘to remind students of the issue and of the available recourse if they seek one,’ while ‘peer counselors trained by the Health Service give presentations in the colleges, athletics departments, fraternities and sororities, and they staff confidential hot lines that students are free to call.'”
Furthermore, Donadio reports, even after the incident de la cuisse, Wolf persisted in her efforts to persuade Bloom to read those poems:
“‘My memory is, I dropped off a manuscript of poetry at the English department office,’ Ms. Wolf said. After the encroachment evening? ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘That is my best memory. I can’t imagine that I dropped it off at his house. I have to say it was 20 years ago. My memory isn’t perfect, but I can’t imagine that this is the case.’
“Sources who knew Ms. Wolf and Mr. Bloom in the early 80’s said that Ms. Wolf enjoyed her rapport with the eminent professor.”