Where Are They Now: Janet Reno

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by Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

The first thing you notice about Janet Reno is her distinctive voice, like bubbles mixed with gravel.

Sitting in her room at the Regency Hotel in Miami, Reno is fresh-faced and energetic. The 6’2" former Attorney General looks much younger than her 63 years in a stylish shag haircut, low-cut green top, tight black pants, rings on her fingers, and bells on her shoes. Her easy-going manner immediately put us at ease. However, we sensed a deep sadness lurking beneath the vivacious exterior.

We asked the former Attorney General what she’d been up to since leaving office in January.

She paused for a moment. "A lot of deep thinking… thinking and shaking." She looked soulfully into our eyes and sighed. Suddenly the wave of melancholy broke, and Reno seemed, for an instant, her old, effervescent self again. She began to talk about her days as a cult-exterminating Attorney General, the role that brought her stardom, and a renomination in 1997. The current successful re-release of her 1993 horror classic, Waco – complete with restored footage and remixed sound – has again given Reno that elusive moment in the spotlight with which she has always had a love-hate relationship.

"The coolest thing in those days was that I could go to Congress and just say any damn thing I wanted to them. I could have told them that Bill Clinton had become so spiritually pure that he regularly levitated, and they’d pretty much have to accept it. I mean, who were they going to report me to, God’s Attorney General?"

Attorney General was a role she almost didn’t take. The Miami native – the daughter of Henry and Jane Reno – spent an idyllic childhood in South Florida. Her father was an immigrant from Denmark who worked as a gaffer in a series of Danish blue movies starring "Hans the Amorous Clydesdale."

When she was eight years old her family moved to a house in the Everglades, where they filled in almost 21 acres of fragile wetlands for the equestrian facilities Janet demanded. Janet filled her days with outdoors activities like riding, scuba diving, kayaking, flamingo training, and oiling her manatee.

After graduating from Coral Gables High School, she earned her B.A. in animal husbandry at Cornell University. She earned her L.L.B. From Harvard Law School, one of only sixteen "women" in her class. She had been "doing law" since 1963, and was ready for retirement when Bill Clinton called on her to join his team.

"When the Attorney General interview came along, nobody had any idea the position would reach the masses that it reached and be the phenomenon that it was," she recalls. "And as years went on I kept trying to get back to a quiet life."

But her fans knew that Janet could never sit still for long.

Now, with a new goal in mind, Janet’s life seems like it may be on the upswing again. From Florida, The Miami Herald reports: "Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno hasn’t yet committed to a gubernatorial bid, but she’s prowling for potential campaign staffers."

We asked Janet if the rumors swirling around her search for campaign staffers were true.

"I’ve been looking into the idea. I was supposed to have a meeting of my exploratory committee last Saturday. They said they’d meet me at the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly in Jacksonville, but when I got there, all I heard was a lot of snickering from the palmettos behind the store. It was sort of a let down."

Despite such setbacks, Reno remains upbeat about the potential run. She recently gave a moving speech at the Tampa aquarium, delivered to a man in a red Honda that wouldn’t start and four bro’s lampin’ forty inside the bus stop shelter. In it, she set out the themes that would define her campaign:

"Don’t cry for me, Florida! I tremble for the chance to serve you. I want to preserve your resources, give your children a strong and positive future, protect your environment, have your elderly stay in their homes as long as possible," she added. "Who wants those old codgers wandering aimlessly around town, harassing female impersonators?"

We asked her if she had spoken with President Clinton lately, and if he was enjoying private life?

"I’ve not been briefed on it, I was not aware of it, so I cannot comment," she said. "I would not comment while the matter is pending."

On the potential impact on a Reno candidacy of the seizure of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day in 1999 only to be returned to Cuba by U.S. authorities, she said:

"Like those rafters would have voted for me even if I had massaged Elian’s feet with oil every day."

The currently single barrister, who has had long-term relationships with singer Bob Dylan and athlete Dennis Rodman, lives outside of Miami and continues her search for "Mr. Right."

Gene Callahan [send him mail] has just finished a book, Economics for Real People, to be published this year by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Stu Morgenstern [send him mail] was a frequent contributor to Slick Times, until the presence of his articles drove the magazine out of business.

2001, Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

Gene Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

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