by James Crotty
March 31, 1999
Babe of the Beltway
ome to D.C. and
you will immediately recognize
Monica Lewinsky. She is everywhere.
At Starbucks. At the Watergate Safeway. At
the local political bar. There are Monicas
all over this town. Young, impressionable,
doe-faced girls, enamored with power,
and with powerful men, with not enough hipness
to make it in New York, not enough beauty
to make it in L.A.., and not enough creativity to
try something truly revolutionary.
These are good women. Nice women. Not
exceptionally bright women. With some vague
ideas about public service. Eminently square
Nancy "Blush" Bagley is everything a
Monica Lewinsky is not, though she has played
around the D.C. scene since graduating Boston's
Simmons College in 1990. Unlike the
Monicas who descend on the nation's capital
during the Congressional year, this Georgetown
native has lived in Washington most of her life,
creatively, if not brazenly, stretching
the boundaries of what D.C. society will allow.
The eldest daughter of a prominent
Democratic fund-raiser and close Carter
confidante, Smith Bagley, and leading D.C.
socialite and businesswomen, Vicki Bagley
(owner of Washington Life Magazine and
Celebrity Service International), Nancy's sipped
champagne, nibbled canapés, schmoozed
and partied with Washington's rich and powerful,
as well as sat yoga, slam danced
and REALLY partied with their rebellious
offspring. Her Grandmother is Nancy Susan
(of that itsy-bitsy tobacco company, R.J.
Reynolds). Her step-mom of 15 years, Elizabeth
Bagley, was Ambassador to Portugal from 1993
Through her family connections and own
personal chutzpah, Nancy was able to secure
a job in the early Clinton White House, working
on the health care initiative. Before
that, she was on the advance staff for the
Clinton-Gore campaign of 1992, and was
one of the event coordinators for the '92
Inaugural. She's also spent time in New York
City working for Lorne Michaels of Saturday
Night Live (if you wanted to get into
the green room or coveted conference room,
you had to go through Nancy). Quite simply,
Nancy has enjoyed the kind of easy proximity to
power and celebrity that the Monica Lewinskies
of the world can only dream of. But she hasn't
let it cramp her style.
While the ubiquitous Monicas prefer colorful
dresses, Nancy prefers black leather.
While the Monicas consider a thong undie a bit
risqué, Nancy goes much further afield
in taste and adventure. And yet because of her
to-the-manor born savvy and discretion,
Nancy manages to remain within the good
graces of the town's power elite, editing
articles for her mom's society rag, Washington
Life, while serving as vice-president
of ARCA ("Latin for "treasure
chest"), her family's multi-million dollar
foundation. Though historically ARCA has
backed projects for population control, toxics
abatement and campaign finance reform, Nancy
hopes to steer money to a few of her
own pet causes, such as the abolition of the
death penalty and the legalization of
hemp. If anyone could pull that feat off, it would
be the delightful Ms. B.
If you want to grasp the pedestrian dreams of
the standard issue D.C. intern, think
Monica Lewinsky. If you want that rare
breed--a young, free-spirited, magnanimous
Washington insider, who intuitively grasps that
vital D.C. distinction between on
and off the record--think Nancy "Blush"
JIM MONK: What would you say are the
elements of D.C. style----if there are any
of D.C. style?
NANCY BAGLEY: As far as style goes, it's
definitely more conservative. Not a lot of
black like New York. A lot of suits. Hillary Clinton
is the perfect example, to me,
of Washington style. It's diplomatic. It's
Washington. Here I know political people.
I know congressmen, Senators, social people and
White House people. People might not
want to dress up in a coat and tie every day,
but they do. I mean everyone here wears
a coat and tie. You can't get away with not
MONK: Is it an unwritten code that you cannot
deviate? Are you ostracized if you do?
NB: I was told that I should tone down my style.
I've been told that people will laugh.
I go out sometimes a little hippie-ish or a lot of
black. Working in the White House
we were told absolutely how we should
MONK: And what would that be?
NB: Well, not a lot of short skirts.
MONK: Do women who work in the White
House talk? What do they say about Bill? I mean
the guy is attractive.
NB: I definitely knew that this was a
problem----that he's very flirtatious. But he's
flirtatious with men and women. Very, very
flirtatious. Honestly I wasn't surprised
by this whole thing but the majority of my
friends in the White House were surprised,
which really surprised me. Maybe it was that
they just didn't think he'd be that stupid.
They might have known that he had a tendency
but that he would have at least been
honest with his staffers about it and not
prolonged it. I just sensed his flirtatiousness, so I
stayed away. He's a sexy man. But I never,
never, never would have. Absolutely
not. I mean, he has a family.
MONK: We've only been here a week and
already see that there are Monica Lewinskies
all over this town, that kind of innocent intern
vibe. Kind of above-average intelligent
person but kind of enamored with the
NB: Power. Power drives this town.
MONK: You said women outnumber men in this
NB: Something like that.
MONK: Incredible. Are there congressmen
getting involved with these interns?
NB: Oh yeah. Congressmen, Senators. I know
there are a lot of them, and I'm not outing
them like Larry Flynt. It would be nice to out
some of the media types who are reporting
it and going after it with a vengeance.
MONK: New York versus D.C. Which one really
has more power?
NB: In New York money is power whereas here
power is power.
MONK: If you were to pick five names that
represent the pantheon of D.C. power, who
would they be?
NB: Steve Case of AOL. My father, Smith
Bagley. He's a top fund-raiser and if you're
raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for
congressmen and Senators, that's power.
Catherine Graham is very powerful. Ben Bradlee.
Media people are very powerful. The
media runs this city, really.
MONK: In D.C. it really is about ambition and drive
and not so much about looks, as
it would be in L.A.
NB: It's not based on beauty. It's based on
intelligence and drive and on getting
the job done. It's all about ambition.
MONK: Right. So what you're saying is that to
get the girl in D.C. you'd have to be
a pretty driven, ambitious, witty, intelligent
MONK: Does the status quo culture of D.C.
make people better behaved or do people
just learn to hide things better?
NB: I think it makes them better people. I think
people know how to hide it, but a
lot of people that come here really are fairly
straight. There's certainly not a
drug culture here. It's not like in New York or
L.A. where there's a real drug culture.
Not with young people here. Not with young
people in power, and because you're in the
government, you get tested. I mean there might
be a drug culture, if you weren't
drug tested, but you can't. I know plenty of
people who would love to smoke grass
MONK: I'm going to name a name and you're
going to give me a short one sentence aphoristic
take on the person. Al Gore.
NB: Funnier than he seems. He's actually pretty
laid back. He and Tipper were big
Deadheads, and I think he smoked pot up until he
was 30. They're more laid back than
NB: Smart. I just knew her during the campaign
and she was really innocent and wide-eyed.
Sheltered. Definitely sheltered. Her mother is
very protective as anyone can tell.
NB: She's a lot more beautiful than people make
her out to be. She's really a beautiful
woman. She might not have the greatest ankles,
maybe, but she's a beautiful woman.
Warm on the inside. Tough on the outside.
MONK: If there was a place in town where you
would have a stealth affair where would
you have it?
NB: (Laughs) Why not? I actually don't like the
Watergate, but because of everything
associated with it. Or the White House, if I could
sneak in. But it wouldn't be with
the President. The Capitol steps? I don't know.
Though I'd probably go out to Middleburg. It's
beautiful. Rolling hills. It's horse country. The thing
is, it's hard to
go any place in this town without running into
someone. This is basically a very
M: Is Monica a typical archetype for young
women in D.C.?
NB: It's divided. There's a lot of really intelligent
smart women in this town who
don't want to take the easy route like that. But
then there are plenty of people
who come here looking for a wealthy man or a
M: And there's plenty of powerful men looking
for those young women. How is Nancy
Bagley different from Monica Lewinsky?
NB: The only thing that differentiates me from
Monica is that I can keep my mouth
M: In other words, you may have done the same
things, but you can keep your mouth
NB: Yeah. I also exercise an hour a day.
M: (laughs) What do you think of Monica?
NB: I think she's a sad girl. I think it's sad when
people are interested in her because
she's got nothing going. She's a wannabe.