Rupert Murdoch’s in a fog.
These days, at least from his testimony, the guy can’t tell the difference between a phone hack and a hack writer.
But we do know for some time now he’s been suffering from a kind of Deng-y fever. That would be Deng-y as in Wendi Deng, the 80-year-old tycoon’s wife of twelve years and the woman in pink at this week’s parliamentary hearing.
Deng has become all the rage after not just sitting conspicuously by her man as he was grilled on Tuesday, but leaping to his defense as she displayed her best open-handed “rhymes with witch”-slap form.
Deng sprung into action when Jonathan May-Bowles, a/k/a Jonnie Marbles, an English comedian, heaved what has been described as a shaving cream pie onto Murdoch’s face.
When that happens what else does a dutiful wife and 5-foot-10-inch ex-volleyball star do? It was like going for a spike at the net. Poor Marbles didn’t know what hit him.
There must be something about cream pies as a solidifying force in marriage. When I told my wife, an executive for PETA, about the incident, she got all warm and fuzzy. She’s experienced in pie ambush.
“I organized PETA’s first pie protest,” she said blissfully nostalgic after I reminded her of a triumphant event in the ’90s when PETA pied the Iowa Pork Queen.
Shaving cream? Nah, tested with animals. Whipped cream? Too brutal.
“Non-dairy topping,” my wife said. If only Jonnie Marbles had consulted the experts, he could have attracted support from the vegans.
Instead, Marbles’ pie ambush has created a wave of sympathy for Murdoch. And Deng? By coming to the aid of her man, she’s practically become Mulan.
It must be strange to Wendi-Watchers-World-Wide who know her back story. If you’ve just noticed Deng blossom during the Murdoch era, you probably don’t realize that Deng’s saga makes Amy the Tiger Mom look like a domesticated pussycat.
Ironically, most of what is known about Deng’s past is contained in a Wall Street Journal article written back in 2000–PM. That would be Pre-Murdoch.
Before hubby bought that paper, a team of reporters wrote an investigative biography that clearly reveals Deng as a woman on a mission. It’s the kind of story you might have seen in Murdoch’s News of the World. And no phones were hacked in the process.
The Journal went to the jilted and deceived to piece together Wendy’s striver story.
Born Deng Wen Di in Xuzhou, China, she was the daughter of the director of a machinery factory. Described as a “good student” and “champion volley ball player,” she attended Guangzhou Medical College at the age of 16.
The girl knows her way around a cadaver.
In 1987, she met an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry from Los Angeles, who were in China because of Mr. Cherry’s business.
Mrs. Cherry had agreed to teach Deng English. When Mrs. Cherry returned to Los Angeles, Mr. Cherry, who was building a factory in China, stayed behind.
The then 19-year old Deng used the opportunity to tell Mr. Cherry of her desire to study in America. The Cherrys were so moved they sponsored Deng for a student visa to attend Cal State Northridge.
The Cherrys even let Deng live with them, where she shared a bunk bed with the Cherrys’ five-year-old daughter.
But that’s not all she shared.
In time, Deng was telling Mr. Cherry how to dress and spending evenings with him away from home. Then came a big hint. Mrs. Cherry discovered coquettish pictures of Deng with Mr. Cherry taken in a Guangzhou hotel.
That’s when Mrs. Cherry realized how her English tutee was repaying her. She was being outsourced.
Mr. Cherry married Deng, but as we know, it didn’t last. Remember, loyalty only goes so far. For Deng, life was not to be a bowl of those cherries.
Using divorce records and not phone hacks, the Journal revealed how the Cherry-Deng marriage lasted just two years–seven months longer than what was required for Deng to obtain a “green card,” allowing her permanently to live and work in the U.S. as a resident alien.
But Mr. Cherry says he and Deng actually lived together for just “four to five months, at the most,” because Deng was found to be seeing another man, David Wolf. Mr. Cherry was 53 at the time, Wolf was in his mid-20s.
So Deng went from Cherry to Wolf, but the reports aren’t clear if they ever married. They did introduce each other as husband and wife, especially when Wolf was general manager of an LA gymnastics academy run by Li Ning, the three-time Chinese Olympics medalist. Deng acted as a liaison to the gym’s Chinese clients.
No time for happily ever after, Deng went from Cal State to Yale School of Management, where she graduated in 1996.
After Yale, News Corp.
The Journal story described Deng’s rise at News Corp. as beginning with a connection to Bruce Churchill with the Fox TV unit in Los Angeles. He liked her Ivy credential and fluency in Mandarin and English. When Churchill climbed the ladder himself to the company’s struggling satellite service in Asia Star TV, he offered Deng an internship.
There’s always an intern somewhere in these stories.
From intern to full-time job to full-time Chairman’s interpreter didn’t take long. Murdoch began showing up often in Shanghai and Beijing, and in early 1998, Deng first appeared at Murdoch’s side.
By the summer of 1998, the Star TV watercooler talk was all about their romance. And then the sexual dominoes began to fall. First, the public hand-holding in Hong Kong. Then Murdoch’s separation from his wife of 31 years. And then Deng’s resignation at Star TV because it was below her pay grade: the live-in companion of Murdoch. By the next summer, they were married in New York Harbor on the Murdoch yacht, the Morning Glory.
You can’t find the Journal story in the paper’s web archive. But Wendi-Watchers-World-Wide are left to wonder if this week’s moment is a reprise of that act of love in New York Harbor?
Is our Wendi finally taking all that “going down with the ship, ’til death do us part” stuff more seriously?
Perhaps she’s showing a sign of maturity, going beyond the notion that love is more than a good business deal, a supreme merger and acquisition?
Was it just an act for probate purposes? Or a whole new phase for our gal Wendi?
Questions galore, and inquiring minds want to know. But no fair hacking any phones for answers.
The ultimate irony here is that the Wendi era may have been the beginning of the end for Murdoch. And now with it all seemingly falling apart, what better use of her gifts than to come to her patron and spouse’s aid as a media magnet and distraction?