The 12-foot aluminium Art Deco figures, representing the Spirit of Justice and the Majesty of Justice, were modestly concealed behind a curtain on Ashcroft's orders due to the former's naked tit with pert nipple and the latter's scanty loincloth.
This is a very strange story and it made me wonder about Ashcroft. Ostensibly he is a very devout man, but obviously he has not conquered certain lustful urges. Fortunately there are no secrets on the web, and after a couple of weeks trawling the Washington chat-rooms I found the truth; something far stranger, frankly, than even I had expected.
The insider I found is a man who has been close to Ashcroft for many years but was recently fired after being found with gum in his ears during a rendition of the Attorney General's self-written patriotic song 'Let The Eagle Soar'. Nevertheless, he still felt some loyalty to Ashcroft and attempted to defend his former boss.
'John got a lot of flak for putting up that curtain,' he told me, 'but the truth is he had to do it. He couldn't have controlled himself otherwise. It was driving him crazy seeing them there day after day.'
You mean, I asked him, Ashcroft is such a horny dog that the sight of a naked aluminium tit would incite impure thoughts in him, causing him to beat off frantically into his pants or hurl himself on some lissom female member of the Washington Press Corps with piratical cries of lust?
'No, you've only got half of it. It's not the tit, so much, as the fact that it was a tit on a statue. Ashcroft is horny for statues. And the Spirit of Justice is one hot piece of metal. Looking at her day after day he knew it was only a matter of time before he grabbed a stepladder and tried to diddle her.'
Are you saying...?
'I'm saying Ashcroft humps statues. I don't know what the fancy Greek name for it is but he has a sculpture fetish.'
How is it possible to...?
'There are ways, all right? You get a power drill and some of that oil he anoints himself with. With a Henry Moore, of course, often there are holes in it anyway. John always loved Henry Moores. "Look at those horny abstract stone bitches," he'd say. "They're gagging for it."'
You'd have to be very well-hung to diddle the hole in a Henry Moore.
'He is, massively, with balls to match. That's why he can't control himself.'
Frankly, I find this hard to believe.
'I'm telling you, I've known John since he was a kid. He started in a small way, with Barbie Dolls. Everyone rubs up against Barbies when they're a teenager, right?'
Right. Or you pull a leg off and stick it in the hole.
'Sure. With John, I dunno, he never got over it. He just moved on to bigger things. Department-store mannequins, at first, and then finally statues. When he was sixteen he was busted in a three-way with a couple of caryatids outside the town library, but his old man cooled it. He tried having girlfriends but they never stayed with him for long. He used to put them on a pedestal. Ordinarily that's just a figure of speech. His wife was the first woman who really turned him on. He used to rave to me about her alabaster-white shoulders and the way she'd remain perfectly still in bed. That was enough for him for a while, but in the end he went back to the real thing again. He needed that feel of cold marble or bronze.'
I'm surprised this story has never come out.
'He's real careful, of course, although a couple of times he's lost it and been lucky not to get caught. Once in the Missouri state museum he went back to the same statue of Venus twice running. He'd drilled a hole the night before, but in the meantime they'd repaired it with cement filler which hadn't quite dried yet. He ended up stuck there and had to pretend to be Adonis for 36 hours until I found him. Parties of schoolkids laughing at him and asking why Adonis had such a horrible wrinkled ass. He relaxed his anti-abortion stance for a while after that.
'I still remember the time we were in New York and he went up the Statue of Liberty. He was dribbling all the way around, literally drooling. He kept saying, "Do you think we're inside the uterus now?" in this creepy high-pitched voice. It was scary to watch. I had to get him out of there quick. All the way back on the boat he was staring at it, saying, "Sinful, so sinful. How can they just have her standing there, naked under her clothes? A man doesn't stand a chance."'
So he really is religious?
'Sure, and his problem causes him a lot of guilt. He prays for strength to resist, but the statues always win. "They call to me," he says. "Enticing me, leading me on. They make me do it. Those naughty, naughty statues."
'And the sex of the statue doesn't even mean much to him by this point. Just so long as they're cold and motionless. Another thing I had to cover up was the time he was caught frotting the leg of the Lincoln Memorial.
'He was really broken up when the Taliban blew up that huge Buddha. "Such a waste," he said. "Such a lovely big hunk of statue. They didn't have to kill it. They could have just taken a cold shower." Not that it ever helped him.'
Finally, is there any truth in the even more bizarre rumour that Ashcroft asked staff in the embassy at the Hague to make sure there were no calico cats in the building as they were the tools of evil?
'No, they misheard. He said "quality casts". Bronze statues.'
That's ridiculous. It sounds nothing like calico cats.
'Yeah, well, he sang it to them. Besides, you're tired and you had to end this somehow.'
April 12 2002