Roped into her world

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A 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith rolling by. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023. Happy Birthday out there, all you August Firstians. Yesterday was a great day weather-wise; even cooler breezes after sundown. We are grateful for it.

The only social activities around these parts for those of us who are still in town and likely to remain, is going out to eat. I do it four, five, even six times a week. It’s my entertainment, my stiumulous and my dinner.

DPC in a pre-dinner daze at his corner table Settle Mezzo.

If I don’t have a dinner date, I go solo, order, eat, leave. In the meantime I’ve had the experience of seeing people arrive to fill up the place. I go to Sette Mezzo often enough to recognize the restaurant faces (familiar those who patronize the same establishment frequently).  

It’s a neighborhood crowd — middle Upper East Side Park and Fifth. Along with “friends of.” Often interesting characters and so New York. On many levels it’s the home of enterprise, arts and culture, architecture, neighborhoods, universities  libraries, hospitals and everything else. 

And literally millions of other New Yorkers from all walks and all talks of life.  So little David here can go out at the end of the day, get a table, order, eat, drink, read, watch and by the time I’ve finished a very good dinner (under an hour), I’ve had my fill of it all, and I am thankful.

Pamela Harriman Churchill and son Winston Churchill II on the cover of Life, January 27, 1941

Now. Pamela. Mrs. Harriman. I wrote yesterday’s piece because she was fascinating to me. If she hadn’t been an upperclass daughter and within the purview of a young Randolph Churchill, it would have been a different life. That meeting when she was seventeen was the door that opened her up to another world entirely — a world of power and money.

I know people who knew her and didn’t like her, and for what you’d call “good reason.” And I’ve known people who knew her and always liked her. A number of years ago, I met a man at a cocktail party who worked at Clinton’s White House. Naturally, I wanted to know more about whatever that was like. It turned out that he worked in a part of the White House that was not near the Oval Office or the offices of his senior staff, so he rarely saw Clinton. He did tell me that those around the office kept count of how many times they “saw” the President over the course of a day. The higher the count, of course, told you everything.

Then the man told me he had been transferred from his job at the White House to the American Embassy in Paris. Under Mrs. Harriman (who was then Clinton’s Ambassador to France). I asked the man how he liked Mrs. Harriman. His facial expression became taut: “Evil!” he said, almost under his breath. 

“How?” I asked.

“Evil,” he said very seriously, “the most evil person I’ve ever known.” Whatever it was that affected him, it was profoundly powerful.

It was a cocktail party; that was the end of our conversation. I was left with the sharp expression on his face. I can’t imagine that that “evil” would be. As charming as she could obviously be, there was easily a harsher side of a strong personality who is naturally motivated to have things her way.

Pamela in D.C., 1989 (c) 2017 Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock.

Yesterday we received an email from a reader about his personal experience(s) with the lady. Our correspondent is known for his clear eye …

“Loved your remembrance of Pamela … I was willingly roped into her world when we opened our business in Middleburg, where she kept a beautiful weekend Estate home with “The Governor” … she enjoyed having some equestrian buddies and single men around for weekend brunches and cocktails …

“On more than one occasion I tried to converse with Governor Harriman who was deaf as a bat … she had to yell at him across the dining table as he cupped his hand to his ear … she liked to have one or two of us fellows to swim in the covered dome pool with him, so he didn’t drown. Naked as a Jay Bird, we had to follow suit (less).

“She had the most amazing eyes … mesmerizing … and porcelain skin … she could charm men of all persuasions, dogs, horses and chickens … but she sure riled up the women … it’s said that Mrs. Mellon and Mrs O. loathed her and never would allow her into their Upperville circle … yet they all had their own ‘feminine mystique,’ catnip to rich men and lovers with deep pockets  … I think they were jealous that Pam could play the game better.

“I remember most every Friday afternoon, the big Cadillac with the New York license plate 5 (former Governor) turning the corner by the Red Fox Tavern, coming out from Georgetown for the weekend  … Pam would be at the wheel, Ave strapped into the passenger seat … he was lucky, she was lucky … I’m not sure it was Love, but it was better than Most will ever know.”

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