Our favorite movie of all time is All About Eve (1950). It’s the story of a brilliant but aging stage diva, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), and an aspiring actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Margo befriends Eve, taking the star-struck youngster under her wing. But then the exceedingly ambitious Eve starts to threaten her mentor’s reign as queen of the theater.
The small Supreme Court press corps can be compared to the clubby world of the theater. It’s populated by distinguished veterans, like Tony Mauro, and emerging younger talents, like Dahlia Lithwick. (Expressed in Broadway terms, Mauro and Lithwick could be compared to, respectively, Christopher Plummer and Sutton Foster.)
The stage has its great divas — e.g., Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera — and so does the SCOTUS press corps. Nina Totenberg is certainly one of them. But the undoubted queen of Supreme Court correspondents is Linda Greenhouse, of the New York Times.
Greenhouse has been covering the Court for almost three decades, since 1978. She enjoys unmatched access to the justices, especially those in the middle and left wings of the Court. Supreme Court justices are notoriously media-shy. But Linda Greenhouse can magically reach them on their cell phones, at any hour, and get them to spill their deepest and darkest secrets. If you want to know whether there was blood in a justice’s stool this morning, ask Linda G.
So here’s our question:
If Linda Greenhouse is the Margo Channing of Supreme Court reporters, does that make Jan Crawford Greenburg into Eve Harrington?
Just like Eve Harrington, Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News is a talented and attractive young woman, whose star is on the rise. In the past three months, she has scored coveted in-person interviews with almost half of the Supreme Court:
(1) Chief Justice John Roberts, in Miami;
(2) Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, here in Washington; and
(3) earlier this week, Justice John Paul Stevens (his first network television interview ever).
For all of you non-journalist types, please understand: these are MAJOR COUPS.
And there’s more. As Howard Bashman notes, later this month, Greenburg has a “top-secret” new book on the Court coming out. That book, Supreme Conflict, is being touted as drawing upon “unprecedented access to the Supreme Court justices and their inner circles.”
(Note to Greenburg’s book publicist: We’d love to get a reviewer’s copy, if you wouldn’t mind sending one our way.)
Call it Greenhouse v. Greenburg. Linda Greenhouse’s historic domination of Supreme Court coverage is under siege, as Jan Crawford Greenburg makes some serious inroads at One First Street. And we’re not the only ones who have taken notice. Check out Howard Bashman’s great interview with La Greenburg, posted just this morning, in which he accurately describes the trajectory of her career as “meteoric.”
We will surely piss off some people with this question, but we’ll ask it anyway:
Could Greenburg’s status as a hottie be contributing in any way, however small, to her journalistic success?
In All About Eve, you will recall, Eve Harrington uses her beauty and charm to seduce theatre critics, writers, and directors.*
Some of you might object: “This whole ‘All About Jan’ theory is ridiculous. Linda Greenhouse has been covering the Court since Jan Crawford Greenburg was in footsie pajamas. Do you really think LG is about to be supplanted as Empress by some upstart kid?”
We respond by quoting this exchange from All About Eve, between Margo Channing and her lover, Bill Sampson:
BILL: Darling, [to succeed in the theater,] you’ve got to keep your teeth sharp. All right. But you will not sharpen them on me — or on Eve…
MARGO: What about her teeth? What about her fangs?
BILL: She hasn’t cut them yet, and you know it!
But Jan Crawford Greenburg HAS sharpened her pearly whites (which we’ve admired up close). And she’s ready to sink them into Linda Greenhouse.
* Rumor has it that back in the day, as a young and attractive reporter, Nina Totenberg was not averse to “workin’ it.” If you can confirm this rumor or shed more light on it, please drop us a line.
N.B. We are NOT suggesting that Nina Totenberg pulled The Full Judith Miller. We’ve simply heard that Totenberg, back when she was a youthful beauty, was highly skilled at deploying feminine charm in getting her sources to talk.
Update: This comment is one of the best compliments we have ever received in our entire life. Addison DeWitt is our idol. Thanks, Michael Doyle!
Interview of Jan Crawford Greenburg by Howard Bashman [How Appealing]
Jan Crawford Greenburg [NewsHour Extra: The Road Taken]
Linda Greenhouse bio [Wikipedia]
All About Eve [IMDb]
All About Eve screenplay [Screenplays for You]
Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court [Amazon]