I wrote this last winter but didn’t post it. Sadly, it still stands.
It’s hard to describe how surreal it was to meet the man who wrote a book I grew
up with. I remember the cover. Joe McGinniss had written one of the best books
about Alaska, though controversial in the late 70’s, but if Alaska is anything,
it’s controversial. I guess I thought he was just a guy who probably lived up
the Anchor River from our cabin, why would anyone write about Alaska unless they
didn’t have anything better to write about.
Then I read The Selling Of The President. Required reading at the time, and it rocked my world.
When Joe McGinniss contacted me in November of 2008 I was star struck. After
meeting him, spending more time talking about Bobby Kennedy than Palin, I’d
fallen in love. He was a bridge to a time before my birth that seemed more
curious than current times. The same day I met him, he sent me an email with a
paragraph he’d written and asked me to keep it in confidence. I did. It wasn’t
the last time he’d ask me to keep a secret.
Last February, a manuscript was leaked to the press. It was not breaking news
that Frank Bailey, former Palin aid had written a book. The news was who
collaborated with him; Jeanne Devon of Mudflats. I knew. I hadn’t known for long,
but I knew. She’d been offered (insisted by Ken Morris, a co-author) the chance
to read over 60,000 emails from Palin, Bailey and company and she took it. I’d
have punched her if she’d turned it down. I agreed to keep confidence before I
knew the secret. I kept it.
Driving home from filming my TV show, it occurred to me who leaked it. No one
told me. I called a journalist who had received the leaked manuscript and asked.
It was confirmed.
Joe committed friendship suicide. I was asked to keep his secrets and a scourge
for keeping someone else’s.
I talked to a friend of mine in the national press this week. He said, “Joe
seduced a murderer, why did you think you were smarter?” I didn’t know. I didn’t
vet Joe. It occurred to me, this is why Sarah Palin was elected. This is why I
took Joe McGinniss in like family. Alaska has an open heart that doesn’t ask for
a history. At one point, it was rude to ask people where they were from. Many
people run away to Alaska, reinvent themselves, and carry on. When people out
themselves as both Sarah and now, Joe, we get it.
I’m sure Joe’s book will show Sarah for who she is. I’m trying not to say “It
takes one to know one” here. By releasing the unfinished manuscript of Frank
Bailey, Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon, he’s shown himself to be more like his subject.
I don’t think they are
Money. Loyalty tests. Vendettas.
Please realize how hard this is.
Joe McGinniss has stayed in my home, helped my daughter with her homework and
made me laugh like no other. His phone number is stored as “Larry David” on my
cell phone. We had one of the best weekends of my entire life in Alaska last
summer. Driving the 220 miles to my hometown of Homer, I explained to him the
detailed caution of porcupine copulation. Visiting my folks, his kindness
towards my mother and a trip to Halibut Cove on my pop’s boat.
That night, we drank fantastic scotch, talked about life’s regrets which
included missed opportunities for cannibalization, spent the night and in the
morning, after fresh eggs, stood at the grave of a dear friend of mine he’d met
in the 70’s while researching Going to Extremes. Watching soccer with him was
religious. I introduced him to Oxford Fall’s “Wake Up Crabby” Bloody Mary Mix
and shucked countless Kachemak Bay Oysters. These silly details seemed part of a
I was played.
While I watch the investment of over a year by three people evaporate because
of his fear, I still find myself mourning Joe.