A DISPUTE WAS BEGUN in this space recently between President Bush and Gov. Mario (pronounced Marry-o) Cuomo about the accurate quotation of the philosopher Woody Allen.That being said, whether it's 80 percent or 90 percent, the goal of success or life itself, Giuliani had better show up with something amazing.
The President quoted him as saying, ''Ninety percent of life is just showing up.'' (His speechwriters later assured me that Mr. Bush has used that reference frequently; it's one of those things that get stuck in a public speaker's head and he never needs prompting to use it.) The Governor, in his equally frequent usage over the years, says, ''Most of life is just a matter of showing up,'' and the expression in a self-help best seller is ''Eighty percent of success is showing up.''
Readers were promised that clarification of this seminal thought would be sought from the author; Mr. Allen has responded to my query.
''The quote you refer to,'' Mr. Allen writes, ''is a quote of mine which occurred during an interview while we were discussing advice to young writers, and more specifically young playwrights.
''My observation was that once a person actually completed a play or a novel he was well on his way to getting it produced or published, as opposed to a vast majority of people who tell me their ambition is to write, but who strike out on the very first level and indeed never write the play or book.
''In the midst of the conversation, as I'm now trying to recall it, I did say that 80 percent of success is showing up.''
Why that particular percentage? ''The figure seems high to me today,'' Mr. Allen says, ''but I know it was more than 60 and the extra syllable in 70 ruins the rhythm of the quote, so I think we should let it stand at 80.''
Incidentally, Keith Olbermann (just this evening) compared Giuliani's strategy to those of the folks who chose to keep the shark in Jaws off camera for most of the movie, believing that absence creates suspense. He emphasized, though, that the same strategy can mask a deeper problem:
Mr. Giuliani might do well to remember that in real life they kept the shark off camera mostly because the shark machinery didn't work too well.January 30th follow up: Well, after a disappointing third-place showing in Florida, Giuliani's out of the race.
[The] first time they put the damned thing in the water it sank right to the bottom.