How many women did Warren Beatty really sleep with?
Peter Biskind's new biography of Warren Beatty, "Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America," hasn't even hit bookstore shelves yet. But it's already caused an uproar after the New York Post started running some juicy excerpts from the book focusing on Topic A: Exactly how many women did the famous Hollywood lothario actually sleep with?
According to Biskind, who caused a similar media maelstrom with his 1998 book, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" -- about the excesses of '60s filmmakers -- it wasn't all that hard, based on "simple arithmetic," to come up with a perfectly plausible guesstimate. According to the Post, Biskind estimates the bedded-by-Beatty women figure at "12,775, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on." (If anyone can offer a good definition of what might constitute a Warren Beatty "drive-by," we'd love to hear it.)
Biskind's literary formula, judging from his previous books, is pretty simple, combining a shrewd analysis of the filmmaking process with salacious insider stories about sexual adventures and assorted misbehavior. Judging from the Post excerpts, there is plenty of the latter. One offers a glimpse of the young Beatty's affair with Joan Collins, whom he took up with after dumping Jane Fonda. Collins complained about Beatty's insatiable sex drive. As Biskind writes:
"One Sunday morning, exhausted, Collins stumbled out of bed. Dragging on a forbidden cigarette, she said, 'I don't think I can last much longer. He never stops -- it must be all those vitamins he takes. ... In a few years, I'll be worn out.' Later, a skeptic asked her if they really had sex seven times a day. She replied, 'Maybe he did, but I just lay there.' "
Needless to say, Beatty, now a happily married 72-year-old pater familias, hasn't been taking all of this lying down. Hollywood super lawyer Bert Fields, acting on Beatty's behalf, has popped up, loudly denying that Biskind's book was authorized in any way by the veteran movie star. (Not that anyone who has ever met Beatty would ever imagine in a million years that Beatty would ever authorize a tell-all book about his life.) Still, Fields has worked up quite a head of steam, going on the offensive by telling the Huffington Post that "Mr. Biskind's tedious and boring book ... contains many false assertions and purportedly quotes Mr. Beatty as saying things he never said."
I have two thoughts on this whole issue. First off, if Fields thinks that tossing out the words "tedious" and "boring" will stop people from trolling through the book, eager to soak up all the good, sexy tall tales, I suspect he is sorely underestimating the libido of the American nonfiction reader. And secondly, if that 12,775 figure is correct, imagine how good the late NBA great Wilt Chamberlain must be feeling right now. After all, it was Chamberlain who once famously boasted about having sex with 20,000 women. If even Beatty can't top that mark, then Chamberlain's bedded-by record, along with his career points scored totals, remain records that may never be broken.