James McGreevey's 49th birthday this week, his boyfriend
threw a party for the former governor at the couple's new
home in Plainfield, N.J. The idea for the 50 friends
and family members who attended was to surprise
McGreevey as he returned from a trip to China, where
he was negotiating a deal to bring a Kean University branch
to the Chinese mainland.
What a difference
two years can make. It was August 12, 2004, when
McGreevey took a spectacular political plunge with his now
famous "I am a gay American" speech, spoken solemnly
before a national television audience. Three months
later the first-term Democrat left office.
In the 24 months
since his declaration, McGreevey has gone from closeted
to out. From married to partnered. Shunned to accepted.
Conflicted to content. "He's a totally different
person," said New Jersey state senator Ray Lesniak,
McGreevey's friend and colleague for 25 years. "He is
so much more comfortable with who he is; you can see it in
his body language."
With a new house,
a still-new relationship with Australian financial
adviser Mark O'Donnell, and a new book about to be released,
McGreevey seems to have found his stride. But Lesniak
said the nation's first openly gay governor, who is
contractually bound by his publisher from talking to
the media before his memoir hits bookstores next month, is
still molding his identity as a gay American.
stunning announcement that he'd had an affair with a man
and would resign, McGreevey headed upstate, where he
collapsed emotionally, too distraught even to get out
of bed, according to Lesniak. But the former governor
was soon up and about, leaning on friends, family, and
faith as he began a long and difficult process of
reassembling his life as he wanted it to be.
Today, that life
is quite full. His sprawling house is alive with pets
and parties, like the birthday bash, typically showcasing a
guest list that combines a mix of McGreevey's new gay
friends, old political chums such as Lesniak, and the
former governor's parents. He's got his preschool-age
daughter, a frequent presence, who he is raising along with
his second wife. Then there's his work: representing Kean
University in the China talks, plus other education
and antipoverty projects.
And there's the
book. Due in stores on September 19, The Confession
is the memoir of McGreevey's rise, fall, and
resurrection. It traces his life through two failed
marriages; his rapid political rise to the governor's
office; and the sudden, public implosion of his
For now, the
details contained in the book are a closely guarded secret.
The only hint at what it says came from limited excerpts
released in May, which told the story of a troubled
man resorting to anonymous sexual trysts at highway
rest stops as he wrestled with desires frowned on by
his Roman Catholic faith and his family.
Lesniak calls the
book a "totally honest" political memoir in which not
all New Jersey politicians are portrayed favorably. Though
McGreevey is not out to settle any scores, he did want to be
truthful and helpful to others undergoing similar
struggles, Lesniak said.
One recent poll
shows most New Jerseyans don't care about the book. The
survey released this week by the Monmouth University Polling
Institute found that eight in 10 of McGreevey's former
constituents have no interest in reading it, and only
one in 20 await its publication with a lot of
The book is to be
launched with a splash. A two-month book tour is being
planned by publisher Regan Books. It kicks off with an
appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 19
and is to be followed by a flurry of other TV spots
and book signings. (Angela Delli Santi, AP)