After all these years, there’s a memorable night on Northeast Knott Street that remains one of the strangest press conferences in Portland history.
Twenty-four hours after Bill Clinton announced he did not have “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky—and 10 minutes before the president launched his 1998 State of the Union address—Andy Bleiler stepped out onto his porch with his aggrieved wife.
Bleiler, who moved to Portland in 1994, told the world he’d had a five-year affair with Lewinsky, whom he first met at Beverly Hills High School, and frequently slept with while she was a student at Lewis & Clark College.
On that day, I was there. My column lede:
“Determined to prove Tonya Harding wasn’t a fluke, Portland coughed up another hairball Tuesday, the ponytailed Andy Bleiler.”
Now Kate Nason, the aforementioned hairball’s former wife, has come out with her side of the story, a recently released audiobook, Everything Is Perfect.
Nason lives in Portland and is now married to artist Tad Savinar. She largely survived Bleiler’s affair, and that press conference, with dignity intact. She did not object when Terry Giles, the lawyer emceeing the event, claimed Lewinsky had joked three years earlier that she would have her presidential kneepads at the ready when she reported for her White House internship.
And Kate did not break countenance when her then-husband, Bleiler, a philandering stage manager at a Vancouver high school, explained why he was greeting the press:
“I just know what I know,” Bleiler said. “I couldn’t in good conscience just sit on this stuff.”
Everything Is Perfect plumbs the gaping holes in that conscience and how much Nason knew about Bleiler’s liaisons with colleagues, former students and family babysitters.
“I stood next to the man I’d married, for better or worse, as he confessed his affair,” she says in the Audible Original audiobook. “He admitted his guilt in a way his president could not. For a tiny moment, I took heart in this, hoped that we’d be OK.
“But underneath that hope was something deeper, hotter: I despised him.”
Join the club. Bleiler was far creepier than the presidential paramour with the cigar. He was six years younger than Nason when they met in 1988, and she struggled to understand why this “Adonis in a tool belt”—as one of her gay friends describes him—would be drawn to a 31-year-old single mother.
She married him against her better judgment, she notes time and again. “My husband’s ability to lie and deceive was matched by my own to delude,” Nason says. “I doubted myself. I denied my intuition.”
In her telling, her husband, whom she refers to as “Charlie” throughout the nine-hour audiobook, was not only shacking up with a co-worker, but with “Mallory,” a former student of his at Beverly Hills High School, who later attended Lewis & Clark College. (The book is full of pseudonyms. I don’t pretend to understand the need.)
Lewinsky often volunteered to babysit her two children, and Nason naively thought she and Lewinsky were great friends: “I enjoyed Mallory’s bawdy humor. She always made me laugh, and always made me blush.” Nason even shared her suspicions about her husband’s marital infidelity with Monica, especially after Lewinsky scored the internship and began calling her daily from D.C.: “She was always reassuring. ‘He would never cheat on you, Kate. He loves you so much.’”
And when news broke of Bill Clinton and the blue dress?
“I now understood all the months she’d called me from Washington,” Nason tells us. “Her long hours of friendship were all an attempt to stage manage, to use me, my confidences, to keep tabs on her lover, my husband. Another betrayal. I was galled by her duplicity, my husband’s lies, and their collusion to deceive me.”
Everything Is Perfect is Nason’s attempt to make sense of what possessed her to stay with Bleiler—they finally divorced in 1999—and what brought her and that tortured smile out onto that porch.
It drags more than once. There’s too much Rumi poetry and too many occasions when Nason decides the gods are talking to her through the numbers on her bedside clock.
But there’s also a vengeful reflectiveness we didn’t hear on Knott Street or Inside Edition.
“We had to come forward, for all kinds of reasons,” Nason says. “I thought I knew something important. I knew Mallory to be someone who had no qualms about carrying on an affair with a married man.
“Looking back, I ask myself, would I have repeated things I’d assumed Mallory said to me in jest about the president had I known my uncle’s lawyer would weaponize them and turn them against her? I don’t know. I was so blindsided by my husband’s affairs, and desperate to make sense of her role in my current nightmare, at the time all felt relevant.”
Nason would eventually hand over most of her Monica material to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and sell the rest to a memorabilia dealer, including the “handwritten racy notes describing all the things she’d like to do to [Nason’s husband] when next they met.”
Ten years on, Lewinsky would send along a quiet note of apology, asking for her old friend’s forgiveness. I’m guessing it didn’t provide the closure Nason seeks in Everything Is Perfect.
LISTEN: Everything Is Perfect by Kate Nason (Audible Original)