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Vanity Fair Profiles The Frantic Existence of Sally Quinn

First Posted: 06/02/2010 6:24 pm Updated: 05/25/2011 4:40 pm

Sally Quinn, American journalist, was for a long while best known for her Washington Post column, "The Party." From that perch, she offered Washington's riff-raff elegant advice on how they should comport themselves at ritzy Beltway cocktail parties and relentlessly jumped up and down on the heads of anyone who dared to take a place within the Washington limelight without the proper breeding -- like former White House party planner Desirae Rogers, who was, to Quinn, a walking example of the cardinal sin of being "not of Washington."

Then, in February, Quinn took to her column to pen a long lamentation of the troubles that arose in her personal life when a set of dueling weddings caused a ton of recriminations from various estranged family members. For reasons that are permanently bound within the recesses of Quinn's furtive imagination, she came to believe that this was a matter of great concern to Post readers, if not America. Naturally, those same readers -- wisely recognizing that this column was better suited for SallyQuinnOversharesAboutHerPersonalProblems.tumblr.com and not one of the nation's most storied newspapers -- reacted badly, and in the end Marcus Brauchli basically came to his senses and killed the column, leaving Quinn to write about religion with Jon Meacham for confused people on the internet.

Now, Evgenia Peretz takes on the whole fooferaw in a Vanity Fair piece entitled "Something About Sally." Here's Quinn's take on the column that ended her reign over "The Party."

First, she would like to clarify that she wasn't canned; the "Party" column had been intended only as a holiday-season offshoot of her On Faith Web site, and she'd started phasing it out anyway. Second, she feels no need to apologize. After the firestorm, she entered the concrete meditation labyrinth her husband had built for her on their country estate in St. Mary's County, Maryland, to think. When she came out the other side, she was clear. "I did exactly the right thing," she says. The story of the "dueling" weddings had been out there, she explains, prompting all kinds of nasty online comments about her son and his bride-to-be. "I wrote that piece to protect them...If somebody goes after my kids, look out."

Oh, well! If the concrete meditation labyrinth said it was okay, who am I to complain about the obvious platform abuse her "dueling weddings" column represented?

Most of the rest of the profile -- which seems to be well-informed by those aforementioned "estranged family members" who collectively commiserate by sending "scheming Sally updates" to one another via email -- essentially depicts her as frightful and deranged. Her fellow Postie David Ignatius does show up in her defense, offering that she is "ferocious as a mother...a lioness," in one moment, enthusing that she and Ben Bradlee "were our movie stars," the next.

Oh, and also? Her affair with Bradlee put the paper's Watergate investigation at risk, or something:

As she tells it, in the middle of Watergate, when the Post feared it was being spied on, she confided to a friend: "I said, 'I'm just madly in love with Ben Bradlee and I don't know what to do about it. I feel like I should tell him.' And he said, 'No, no, no. You can't do that or it will be a disaster. You have to put your country first.' " When CBS came looking for a new female anchor for its morning show to challenge Barbara Walters, says Sally, "I took the job because I felt that I needed to get away from Ben." Before she left for New York, in June 1973, she asked him to take her to a farewell lunch, where she confessed her love. "That was the beginning of our relationship. We obviously didn't want publicity, although he left home immediately." (The chronology of the romance may not have been quite so cut-and-dried. A fellow reporter recalls how, a couple of years later, Sally jollily reminisced to another colleague over lunch: "Remember when I was sleeping with Ben and it was before I left for CBS and you said to me, 'Sally, you've got to stop sleeping with Ben. The Post is in the middle of Watergate, and if Nixon finds out that Bradlee, a married man, is sleeping with one of his reporters, Nixon's going to use it against you.' ")

Anyway, it's times like this that I find myself thinking about how it's too bad Edgar Allan Poe isn't around to write a sequel to The Masque Of The Red Death, you know?

RELATED:
Something About Sally [Vanity Fair]
The Shadow Editors: Sally Quinn, Disinvited [The Awl]

PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Somehow, This Sally Quinn Column Is Happening In The Washington Post

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