Who's the woman at the center of the Edwards scandal?

Raleigh News & ObserverAugust 9, 2008 

Rielle Hunter has been an evasive figure these past nine months as rumors of her affair with John Edwards gained momentum on the Internet.

Yet she spent the past two decades living an often high-profile life, from the New York City literary party world of the '80s to Hollywood in the '90s to this decade's boutique spiritual retreats.

Hunter, 44, is the woman with whom former Sen. John Edwards on Friday acknowledged having had an affair. Edwards, 55, denied the National Enquirer's claims that he is the father of the baby girl Hunter delivered in February and that he has paid her hush money.

Apart from the Enquirer's sightings of her living in the Governor's Club gated community in Chapel Hill in December and more recently at a Beverly Hills hotel and in Santa Barbara, Calif., Hunter has dropped out of sight.

Efforts to reach Hunter on Friday were unsuccessful. The television show "Extra" reported last month that Hunter had denied the Enquirer allegations.

Most of what is known of her is what has surfaced in written records, from courthouses to magazines.

As Lisa Druck, she was a Florida girl from the time she was born in Fort Lauderdale until she left in 1984, after spending less than two years enrolled at the University of Tampa. By 1987, she had ended up in the hard-partying New York circle of novelist Jay McInerney.

McInerney, whose books portrayed the cocaine-fueled atmosphere of New York City in the 1980s, based his third novel, "Story of My Life," on his time with Druck and their friends. One character, Alison Poole, was specifically modeled after her, McInerney said in a 2005 magazine article. He said that she had "intrigued and appalled" him.

The story, in Breathe Magazine, was primarily a transcript of a discussion between Hunter and McInerney following their reunion in Manhattan that year.

"For me you're a little bit frozen in time, a little bit Alison Poole, the 21-year-old party girl in that book who runs around New York going to nightclubs, doing drugs, and abusing credit cards," McInerney said.

She replies that she did a lot of drugs, but adds that she was struck by her character's "need for truth."

"That's definitely a theme in my life -- seeker of truth," she tells him.

Hunter tells him that she left New York to move to Los Angeles to become an actress and to get away from the drug scene in New York. She said she got off drugs in California with the help of a healer.

In 1991, she married Alexander M. Hunter III, a lawyer; they lived in a $700,000 bungalow in Beverly Hills. It was there, in the heart of the movie industry, that she started using the stage name Rielle Hunter, and in 1994 legally adopted that name. which is pronounced "Riley."

She tried her hand at writing, churning out scripts for potential TV, film or stage projects with such titles as "Jupiter, Where Are You?", "So Very Virgo," "Reality Reels," "It's All About Uranus," "S- Happens: The Never Ending Search for the Perfect Diaper" and "Needy Nellie." None of the titles, which are listed in the property settlement order in the Hunters' 1999 divorce case, are in the authoritative Internet Movie Data Base.

Hunter did manage to get a project listed in IMDB in 2000 with a comedy short called "Billy Bob and Them." That same year, her divorce was finalized. According to the records, she received $5,000 a month for all of 2000 and then $4,000 a month for the next year, and then the spousal support ended. In October, Alexander Hunter declined to be interviewed and could not be reached Friday. During the ensuing years, Hunter claimed to have spent a lot of money attending spiritual retreats and by May 2004, was tired of it, according to her Breathe Magazine conversation with McInerney. She said in that state of despair she had an awakening that was so startling -- "For weeks after I couldn't even leave my house."

By the end of 2004, Hunter had started a foundation promoting higher consciousness, and set up a Web site: beingisfree.org, in which she posted the Breathe Magazine story, photos of herself and other spiritual seekers, including a swami, an astrologer and a Malibu healer. Three of those people contacted by The News & Observer during the past nine months said they hadn't seen Hunter in years and didn't know enough about her to be interviewed.

The site was taken down soon after the first National Enquirer article was published, in October.

In 2006, Edwards was widely seen as a likely presidential candidate but he had not yet formally declared his intentions. At an event with supporters and donors at a New York City restaurant, Hunter introduced herself to some of Edwards' staff and gave them her business cards, saying she was a producer, and was allowed to briefly meet Edwards, according accounts given by Hunter and Edwards' staff.

Less than a month later, she and her video production company, Midline Productions, had a six-month contract worth more than $100,000 to produce a series of videographed "Webisodes" following Edwards on the campaign trail, which included trips to Africa and Iowa. The videos were posted on Edwards' political action committee. They have since returned to the Internet on YouTube.

"He was very authentic. He was inspirational to me," Hunter told the TV program Extra in February 2007. "I was around him a lot. It was great. We went to Africa. The whole experience was life altering for me."

She said she was ignorant of politics, and added, "Politics makes Hollywood look like a spiritual community."

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