"Hillary Clinton will be her own woman in the White House," says author Gail Sheehy, whose new memoir, DARING (William Morrow) has just been published to wide acclaim. Sheehy has written the definitive books and articles in Vanity Fair on 66-year old Hillary Rodham Clinton, and she has closely observed her for many years. "Hillary told me that she was 53 before she could be her own woman and make independent decisions," said Sheehy in an interview this week. "Bill Clinton will offer his advice to her, but in the end she will make her own decisions about all major situations, and often she will go against her husband's advice." I was reminded as she spoke about Eleanor Roosevelt's remarkable candor when she said, a few weeks after Franklin's death: "For the first time in my life I can truly speak my mind." Fortunately for Hillary, she didn't have to wait that long. "Hillary is a much different candidate than she was in 2008. She knows the mistakes she made then. I am reminded of when she went to New Hampshire and she teared up and showed her true vulnerable self. A woman asked her how she could continue, and Hillary said, 'I really believe in what I'm doing and think I can help the country.'"
Gail then said to me in an aside: "She took three days to revive her spirit and her team and then said, 'We are ready to move on.' She's in a great spot now, much more appealing.....confident from being a good Senator, now a a grandmother to Chelsea's daughter Charlotte, in a wonderful relationship with Bill, one of equals...all in all she is a much more interesting, appealing character and will make a sensational President." Sheehy derided my recent Huffington post advising Hillary to name Senator Elizabeth Warren as her vice president candidate. "Hillary would never make the mistake of pushing a double threat into the faces of white male conservatives...not one but two female feminist liberals. Karl Rove would have a field day playing to the right wing paranoia.Ye gods...feminists are taking over the world."
Gail and Clay Felker in the Seventies photo by publisher.
I received my copy of the book , Daring, on Saturday afternoon and began reading it, caught up in the gripping narrative about her life and loves in the '60s, '70's and up until her more tranquil life today. Finished it early Sunday morning, wiped out by the memories it revived on our life in those exciting days in New York. I also was there, and many of the people and incidents she writes about remain fresh in my mind. I think I startled her when I mentioned that her lover and later husband, Clay Felker, was the co-best man with me at photographer Bert Stern's wedding to 17-year old ballerina Allegra Kent in the early '60. I told her that Clay gave our mutual friend, Bert, the strength to wed her against the fierce opposition of her famed choreographer George Ballanchine. "Yes, Clay was good at that....fighting the opposition. He did it all his life.
It is a riveting tale of life and love in literary Manhattan, written by the woman whose best-selling book, Passages, spent three years on the New York Times bestseller list. I remember women telling me that it changed their lives, as did another best-selling book she wrote about menopause, a subject no one discussed. We see her begin as a 1960's 'girl journalist' timidly leaving the women's page floor of her newspaper to venture to the city room populated only by men and commandered by editor Clay Felker. He responded by eventually sending her out to cover the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, and also beginning a tempestuous romance which lasted a lifetime. Gail became a fearless writer who made a career of unveiling cultural taboos. Her tenure at New York Magazine, along with Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem and my favorite, Jimmy Breslin, led to sixteen best-selling books and a hunded earthshaking articles in that magazine and later in Vanity Fair.
We see Gail as she takes on the life of a streetwalker to view the violent world of prostitution. She goes to Northern Ireland to write about the civil rights women just as British soldiers open fire on "Bloody Sunday." She interviews Egyptian President Anwar Sadat just before he was targeted for assassination because he made peace with Israel. I was beguiled by her chapter on finally getting to interview former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom she found sexier and more flirtatious than expected. There is a wild scene when Thatcher takes her on her passion-health project: an electrolyte bath....and Gail has to venture into the mildly shocking pool. (She says she slept 24 hours after the experience.) Later, when she interviews Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, we learn that Thatcher, who became very close to him, took him into the same electric bath. Talk about kookiness. I was tearful when reading about her adoption of a lovely llttle Cambodian girl whom she met on a voyage there, joining the family of Gail, her daughter, and eventually Clay. The last third if the book deals with Clay's four bouts with cancer, and how Gail became a caretaker/companion with him. Clay says that his time then teaching journalism at Stanford was the best period of his life.
DARING is a stunning book, fearless in telling her story, warts and all. She holds back very little, and that's the kind of memoir I cherish.
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