Write For Us

Ninja Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Fun With Fame


© Rebecca Smeyne for The New York Times   Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Washington screening of the documentary about her, “RBG.”

By MELENA RYZIK, The New York Times

WASHINGTON — No one knew when, or even how or where, Ruth Bader Ginsburg would pop up. The Supreme Court justice was due at a screening here of “RBG,” a new documentary chronicling her exemplary life. But she was not tied to the night’s tightly scripted schedule — at some point she would just appear, “like a ninja,” an organizer said.

Gathered in a theater at the Naval Heritage Center, the crowd was amped. There were lawmakers (progressive Democrats and a smattering of conservatives); the justice’s family, friends and former law clerks; her colleague Justice Stephen Breyer; and self-described fan girls and boys.

“I just love how she takes no crap from anybody,” said Kerri Sheehan, a 49-year-old video producer, who wore a T-shirt printed, Warhol-style, with the justice’s face. “There’s no sugarcoating.”

When the justice arrived, bodyguards encircling her, the audience gave her a standing ovation, then hushed until she claimed her seat. She wore her hair pulled back with one of her beloved scrunchies, in navy velvet; a maroon tweedy blazer; slate-blue belled slacks; jewelry in just about every possible place jewelry can go; and carried her own large handbag. In front of her, arms shot up for the stealth selfie-with-a-famous-person snap. She didn’t mind.

Justice Ginsburg is an unlikely celebrity but then again, we live in an age full of those. What makes her ascendance to pop culture icon — the Notorious RBG, y’all — truly surprising is that, at 85, she is having fun with her unexpected fame, and making careful and inspired use of it for her own savvy ends.

“Ruth was so far ahead of her time that she was alone for decades,” Gloria Steinem wrote in an email, listing the ways her friend and feminist compatriot of nearly half a century has been at the forefront of cultural shifts. “Ruth acted on the intertwining of racism and sexism long before it was called intersectionality. And she was principled in her own field,” the law, even though, as a woman, she was not initially welcome in its highest ranks.

“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see her name on campus T-shirts as the Notorious RBG,” Ms. Steinem added. “A majority consciousness is finally catching up to where she’s been all along.”

Theodore B. Olson, the conservative lawyer and a longtime friend of Justice Ginsburg (he also argued Bush v. Gore, representing George W. Bush, in front of her), has seen her evolve into an idol.

“She knows the fact that she’s doing this, and embracing it, means so much to young women — because she’s teaching, every time she gives a speech or talks to people,” he said after the screening. “And that’s what this movie will do too. So she knows how valuable it is.”

Mr. Olson calls her a warrior. Ms. Steinem, in the documentary, calls her a superhero. (Marvel agrees: in “Deadpool 2,” when the title character is assembling his X Force, he flicks through a photo of her as a candidate.)

For Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the directors of “RBG,” she was, first off, a hard-to-wrangle subject. Each had interviewed her for other projects, but when they approached her about the documentary she told them she wouldn’t talk to them for at least two years. She was 82 at the time.

They persisted, interviewing colleagues and clients for whom she did landmark work. Eventually they were granted an audience with her, trailing along on family vacations, to the opera, and on a visit with her granddaughter, a recent Harvard Law graduate who calls her Bubbie. In her chambers, Justice Ginsburg traced her path from law school, where the dean asked her and the eight other female students (in a class of about 500) how they could justify taking the place of a man. Though she made the law review and graduated at the top of her class at Columbia, no firm would hire her, a Jewish woman and already a mother; she became a professor instead. If she felt any frustration at being shortchanged professionally, it didn’t erupt. “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade,” she wrote in her 2016 autobiography, “My Own Words.”

But a certain feistiness has become part of her public image. It’s in her withering dissents, each practically a social media event, and in Kate McKinnon’s frisky impression of her on “Saturday Night Live.” The likeness was not uncanny, she told the documentary directors, but she enjoyed it anyway.

Justice Ginsburg did not see “RBG” until its premiere at Sundance in January. “She laughed and she pulled out her handkerchief three times and dabbed her eyes,” Ms. West reported. She watched it again in Washington, sitting next to her daughter, Jane C. Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia Law School, but did not linger at the reception. A night owl who sometimes still pores over cases at 3 a.m., she may well have been going home to work. She catches up on sleep on weekends: the directors once arrived at her Watergate apartment on a Saturday afternoon to find her padding about in vintage loungewear, sipping the day’s first coffee.

She is still sparing with interviews — she declined to comment for this article — but encouraged her personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, to write a book, “The RBG Workout,” which features illustrations of her doing planks and push-ups.

Now, her “RBG” notoriety may only grow. (The nickname is a play on the Notorious B.I.G., the rapper — a fellow Brooklynite, as she likes to point out.) There is also a feature about her in the works, with Felicity Jones playing her as a young lawyer, and Armie Hammer as her doting husband, Martin Ginsburg. The justice makes a cameo, as herself.

It is the kind of attention that eluded her when she made her groundbreaking strides, helping to create the legal framework for women’s rights in the 1970s. As a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, she won five of the six cases she argued before the Supreme Court, maintaining that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause should apply to issues of gender discrimination.

“These are just stories that weren’t being told,” Ms. Cohen said of the current focus on Justice Ginsburg’s pioneering career. “It’s part of this unearthing and rethinking of parts of our history that we’ve all been ignoring for so long.”

Ted W. Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California who attended the Washington screening, was among those astonished by her accomplishments. “I’m a lawyer, and I didn’t know” about her track record, he said. “You would know some of the cases, but you never knew who argued it, or knew the strategy.”

One notion threaded through the documentary is that the diminutive Justice Ginsburg is not the usual vision of authority. Friends and colleagues remark that she is quiet, reserved — not at all what is traditionally thought of as powerful.

“She just has an unusual degree of confidence for a woman of her era,” Ms. Cohen said. “There is a way to have a commanding presence even if you’re small and quiet, which I think is a good lesson for women.”

To Harryette Gordon Helsel, who has been friends with Kiki, as she calls Justice Ginsburg, since they were in kindergarten, the dynamo in “RBG” felt familiar, the same person who introduced a teenage Ms. Helsel to a fellow who wanted a blind date. (In August the Helsels will have been married for 65 years.)

Justice Ginsburg’s collegiality and capacity for friendship are striking. Mr. Olson, the conservative lawyer, recalled New Year’s Eve parties at her home with Martin Ginsburg, when the guest list included Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife. The Champagne flowed early, and for the midnight meal, Mr. Ginsburg would cook something Justice Scalia had hunted.

“Nino would go some place like Arkansas and kill wild boar, and Marty was a real consummate chef,” Mr. Olson recalled. “He must’ve had something like 400 cookbooks. Ruth really didn’t even know where the kitchen was.” The justices, ideological opposites but close pals, sat next to each other at the short end of the table. (Mr. Ginsburg, a lawyer and an extraordinary champion of his wife for a man of his generation, died in 2010. Justice Scalia died in 2016.)

One person Justice Ginsburg now relies on is Mr. Johnson, her trainer. They’ve been working together since 1999, after her first bout with cancer. After a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2009, “she said, when can we start back?’” Mr. Johnson recalled. They meet several times a week for hourlong sessions, which have become the stuff of Washington lore. Stephen Colbert sputtered alongside recently as the justice, wearing a T-shirt that read “Super Diva!” silently went through her routine.

“The whole time that I’ve trained the justice, the one word she has never used with me is ‘can’t,’” Mr. Johnson said. “Even when I told her we were going to do push-ups — she looked me with a side-eye, like maybe I was locked on stupid and stuck on dumb. But she didn’t say anything. And when Justice Ginsburg finally did push-ups off her knees, she lit up.”

The day Mr. Colbert joined her, she did more than 30 push-ups, Mr. Johnson said, and was disappointed the clip didn’t show more of her one-legged planks. “I tell people that she’s tough as nails,” he said. “She is just consistently doing what has to be done, and exercise is one of those things. Just do the right thing, at all costs. And that’s just so inspiring.”

For those wondering about her longevity, the directors of “RBG” say they were impressed by her verve and intellectual sharpness. “It’s almost like she gives you the feeling that she’s going to be around on the court, because that’s her plan,” Ms. Cohen said. Justice Ginsburg has already hired law clerks through 2020. “Our experience going through this process is, if she says she’s going to do something, she does it,” Ms. Cohen said.


Note: If you think this story need more information or correction, feel free to comment below your opinion and reaction.
Like & Follow to Stay Updated ...


Alabama,1,Arizona,1,Barack,1,California,3,Colorado,1,Connecticut,1,Crime,531,Florida,1,Franc,1,Hawaii,8,Illinois,1,Los Angeles,2,Massachusetts,3,Mississippi,1,New York,130,U.S.,1558,Washington,4,
U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Ninja Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Fun With Fame
Ninja Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Fun With Fame
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Read More Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share. STEP 2: Click the link you shared to unlock Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy