Gennifer Flowers (1950–)
Gennifer Flowers is a singer and former model best known for her affair with Governor Bill Clinton. The relationship, which she claimed lasted for twelve years, was revealed by the tabloid Star in the early winter of 1992 and threatened to derail Clinton’s 1992 campaign for president.
Eura Gean Flowers, who was known growing up as Geannie Flowers, was born on January 24, 1950, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the only child of Gene and Mary Flowers. After her birth, the family left Oklahoma for Anchorage, Alaska, and then moved to Washington state and Modesto, California. They eventually settled in rural Brinkley (Monroe County), and her father developed a crop-dusting business. Flowers says that she wanted to be an entertainer from an early age, and, using Gennifer as her stage name, she made her first musical recording as an eleven-year-old in Arkansas.
After graduating from Brinkley High School, Flowers attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) but did not earn a degree. She pursued her singing career both as a solo artist and as a member of a number of different bands, working in Dallas, Texas, and then Oklahoma City before moving to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1975. She also did a few TV commercials, which led to a job as a reporter with Little Rock station KARK-TV. She met Clinton while working there in 1977; he was then serving as Arkansas’s attorney general and preparing for his first run for governor. She claims that the twelve-year-long, on-and-off affair began in 1977.
Flowers left Little Rock and worked in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Branson, Missouri; and Dallas before returning to Arkansas in the mid-1980s, upon which she claims the affair continued. Flowers claimed that Clinton urged her to get an apartment in a particular apartment building, one where a number of his aides lived, believing that visits to her apartment would draw less attention there.
Flowers continued to perform sporadically in nightclubs and other venues, and she had a couple of roles in small films including Frenchman’s Farm (1987) and Redheads (a.k.a. Desperate Prey, 1994). In 1990, Flowers came to Clinton seeking a state job and was hired at year’s end to work as an administrative assistant in the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal.
Flowers was mentioned in a lawsuit filed in late 1990 by another state employee, Larry Nichols, who alleged he was being made the scapegoat for a Clinton administration scandal. However, she did not become a national figure until 1992 when, in the midst of the presidential campaign, she alleged that she had had an affair with Clinton, who was then seeking the Democratic nomination for president. According to Flowers, she was contacted by the Star as it prepared to publish a story, one that combined her story with those of a number of women with whom Clinton had allegedly had affairs. Seeking additional corroboration, representatives of the paper met with Flowers; after talking with her and learning that she had tapes of alleged phone conversations with Clinton, they offered her a six-figure sum in return for her whole story.
Once the Star hit newsstands, Flowers found herself at the center of a scandal that threatened to upend the Clinton campaign. However, Clinton denied the allegations, appearing with his wife, Hillary Clinton, on the television program 60 Minutes to rebut the charges. He secured a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, en route to his eventual winning of both the Democratic nomination and the presidency. Ultimately, in 1997, in the course of the investigation that would ultimately lead to impeachment proceedings, Clinton did admit in sworn testimony that he had had sexual relations with Flowers, but he said it was a one-time encounter.
While Flowers was reported to be hurt by Clinton’s refusal to acknowledge her claims, as well as his subsequent treatment of her, she nevertheless took advantage of her newfound celebrity status, earning, according to a deposition she gave related to the Clinton lawsuits, about $500,000 for selling her story to the Star, posing for Penthouse magazine, and making additional television appearances both in the United States and abroad.
Flowers married stockbroker and entrepreneur Finis D. Shelnutt in November 1996; they divorced a decade later.
Flowers also co-authored two books about her experiences, Passion and Betrayal (1995) and Sleeping with the President (1998), while also playing herself in films including The War Room (1993), Play It to the Bone (1999), and Definitely, Maybe (2008). She also appeared on a number of television shows. In 2004, she briefly appeared as a replacement cast member in an off-Broadway hit titled Boobs! The Musical.
Flowers and Shelnutt ran the Gennifer Flowers Kelsto Club, a cabaret located in a one-time bordello in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. By 2007, Flowers was living in Las Vegas, Nevada, and as the 2008 presidential campaign got under way, there were reports that she was supporting Hillary Clinton.
Flowers reemerged on the public scene during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump invited Flowers to attend one of the presidential debates between Trump, support for whom Flowers had previously tweeted, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign ultimately canceled the invitation, and Flowers moved out of the spotlight.
Flowers lives in Las Vegas, where she continues to pursue an entertainment career.
For additional information:
Bragg, Rick. “After the Glare of Scandal, the Soft Glow of Celebrity.” New York Times, January 15, 2002. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/15/us/after-the-glare-of-scandal-the-soft-glow-of-celebrity.html (accessed November 17, 2017).
Declaration of Gennifer G. Flowers, Special Report, Jones v. Clinton. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/pjones/docs/flowers031398.htm (accessed November 17, 2017).
Flowers, Gennifer, with Jacquelyn Dapper. Passion and Betrayal. Del Mar, CA: Emery Dalton Books, 1995.
William H. Pruden III
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