What can you say about a 30-year-old misunderstanding that will not die?

              That it's too rich to kill. That the apparent truth is
              too dull to repeat. That even as fiction it tells us
              something important.

              Word is that Democratic presidential candidate Al
              Gore once bragged that the main characters in
              "Love Story" were based on him and his wife, but
              the author denies it.

              Dozens of readers wrote to remind me of this
              example of Gore's vain, delusional dishonesty after
              my column Tuesday explained why the "Gore
              claims he invented the Internet" fable unjustly
              maligns the vice president. OK, they said, so even
              if he was the leading political figure in the
              transformation of the Internet from a tool for
              eggheads to an enormous economic and cultural
              force, he still lied about "Love Story" didn't he?

              This old tale, so much easier to grasp than most
              policy disputes, seems likely to play a role in the fall
              campaign. Accordingly, the time seems right for a
              full review and clarification: Was Gore's remark a
              brag? Not at all, said New York Times political
              writer Rick Berke, one of the two reporters present
              at the informal, late-night conversation on Air Force
              Two in November 1997, when Gore mentioned his
              connection to Erich Segal's 1970 lugubrious tale of
              Ivy League romance. Segal was a visiting faculty
              member at Harvard in the mid-1960s when Gore
              was a student there, and the two were acquainted.
              "[Gore] wasn't definitive," Berke told me. "It was
              more like someone told him or he'd read
              somewhere" that the protagonist, Oliver Barrett III,
              was modeled after Gore, and Barrett's girlfriend,
              Jenny, was modeled after Gore's college girlfriend
              (now wife), Tipper. "I didn't even think to write
              about it."

              The other reporter present, Time magazine's Karen
              Tumulty, did. Deep in a profile published the next
              month, Tumulty described Gore spending "two
              hours swapping opinions about movies [with
              reporters] and telling stories about old chums like
              Erich Segal, who, Gore said, used Al and Tipper as
              models for the uptight preppy and his free-spirited
              girlfriend in `Love Story.'"

              Was it true? No. In the media frenzy that followed,
              Segal issued what was more a clarification than a
              denial: The Oliver character was actually a
              combination of Gore and his friend, actor Tommy
              Lee Jones. Jenny was not based on Tipper.

              But, just as Berke said, Gore didn't offer the
              connection as fact, as the Time article had implied.
              Gore "said Segal had told some reporters in
              Tennessee that [the book] was based on him and
              Tipper," Tumulty told Melinda Henneberger of the
              New York Times. "He said `All I know is that's
              what [Segal] told reporters in Tennessee.'"

              Segal told Henneberger that a writer for the
              Nashville Tennessean had "just exaggerated" the
              connection to Gore in an article shortly after the
              publication of "Love Story." "Time thought it was
              more piquant to leave that out," Segal said.

              I wanted to see that old article from the
              Tennessean, figuring that the 1970 misquote would
              establish that Gore had been truthful in 1997 when
              referencing "Love Story." Tuesday, I asked the
              Gore campaign in Nashville and the Democratic
              National Committee for a copy. As they looked
              without success, Tribune researcher Colleen
              Vander Hye was exploring numerous avenues with
              a counterpart at the Nashville paper, where political
              editor Frank Gibson helped search old clipping
              files. "Nothing so far," Gibson told me late Friday.
              "But that doesn't mean it's not here. The old filing
              system isn't perfect by any means."

              And neither is human memory--though I will do my
              best to remember to tell you in this space if and
              when someone produces the source of Gore's

              Even if the article never surfaces, the story behind
              the "Love Story" aside tells us little about Al Gore:
              The main character was, in fact, modeled in part on
              him, so it was not unreasonable for him to suppose
              that the character's girlfriend was modeled after his

              But the persistence of the urban-legend version of
              this and the Internet-Al story tell us a lot about
              Gore's image problem. People smirkingly pass
              them along and never have to say they're sorry
              because the legends resonate with a perception of
              Gore as the kind of guy who'd proclaim such
              foolish lies. The fake stories symbolize real trouble

Privacy Policy
. .