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Pamela Churchill Harriman has had three husbands and many male admirers, married Americans being her forte. Her first husband, Randolph Churchill, proposed the day after they met, when she was 18. The marriage was a disaster, and at 20 she had a wartime fling with the wealthy American diplomat, Averill Harriman, 30 years her senior. Many liaisons later, her high-society life reached a climax when she became US Ambassador in Paris. In 1991 Christopher Ogden was appointed by Pamela Harriman to ghost her autobiography. The arrangement was abandoned, and this unauthorized biography is the result.
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When President Bill Clinton nominated Pamela Harriman to become U.S. ambassador to France in 1993, he was rewarding an extraordinary supporter with a crown jewel from the American political spoils system. Few deserved it more. The glamorous widow of statesman Averell Harriman had sheltered the Democratic party through a dozen years of exile and had used her late husband's fortune and her own drive to raise $12 million for the party and, ultimately, Clinton's campaign. But long before she became a diplomat, Pamela Harriman had an international reputation - as courtesan of the century. The ambitious eldest child of an English baron, Pamela was eager to flee rural life when her formal education ended at sixteen. Red-haired, voluptuous, and sexy at eighteen, when she claims to have met Adolf Hitler, she married Winston Churchill's only son at the onset of World War II and moved into No. 10 Downing Street. A volatile marriage to Randolph Churchill propelled the seductive young mother into wartime affairs with such powerful men as Harriman, Edward R. Murrow, and top generals on both sides of the Anglo-American alliance. After the war, Pamela divorced, moving to France and into liaisons with wealthy playboys Aly Khan, Gianni Agnelli, and Elie de Rothschild. Her second marriage, to Sound of Music producer Leland Hayward, put her at the crossroads of Broadway and Hollywood in the 1960s. After Hayward's death, a family feud, and a flirtation with Frank Sinatra, she married the seventy-nine-year-old Harriman. The former ambassador, New York governor, and presidential candidate introduced her to a new generation of world leaders as well as Democratic party officials delighted to welcome a beautifuland energetic doyenne. Unauthorized, but based on months of exclusive talks with Pamela Harriman, plus interviews with nearly two hundred friends, relatives, and critics, Life of the Party is the first inside look at the spectacular life and rise of a remarkable woman.From Kirkus Reviews:
If the current US ambassador to France, Pamela Harriman, had spent as much time on her back as this book suggests, she would never have had the time to do the world-class housekeeping and flower arrangements that allegedly endeared her to her lovers--let alone become an authority on antiques, bring together historic personalities for global policy discussions, or raise millions of dollars for the Democratic party. Time correspondent Ogden (Maggie, 1990, a biography of Margaret Thatcher) was tapped to do the authorized Pam bio but was dumped, he says, when Ambassador Harriman got cold feet. Ogden had already keyed off ``some forty hours of interviews'' with the subject, for which he was not remunerated according to their original agreement. That may or may not have influenced his perspective when he decided to write the story anyway: He seems to view Harriman as a world-class courtesan. Chapters are for the most part named for the men in her life: Randolph (Churchill--first husband); Averell (Harriman--WW II lover and, decades later, third husband); Bill (Paley, CBS head); Ed (Murrow); JFK (misleading--she was friends with his sister); Gianni (Agnelli, Fiat head); Elie (de Rothschild); Leland (Hayward--second husband); Frank (Sinatra- -houseguest, no affair). For the first 16 (of 19) chapters, the author sniffs disapprovingly at her romantic life (more because she apparently let her lovers support her than because she was promiscuous), although he does admit that father-in-law Winston Churchill and his wife loved and protected her (even after her marriage to Randolph ended) as did most of her ex-lovers. Short on formal education but long on listening skills, Harriman trained that talent on a life lived by her own rules. This is fun to read as the names drop, but it offers more titillation than insight into a woman who rode out from a proper Dorset upbringing to adventure, wealth, power--and acknowledged achievement. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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