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The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital [Paperback]

C. David Heymann
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 Nov 2004
In this definitive portrait of the political and social life of Georgetown, bestselling biographer C. David Heymann chronicles the dinner parties, correspondence, overlappings, and underpinnings of some of the most influential women in Washington's history. "The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club" - a term coined by Ronald Reagan - comprises a list of formidable and fascinating women, among them Katharine Graham, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Pamela Harriman, and Sally Quinn. Their husbands, government officials and newsmakers among them, relied on the ladies for their sharp wit and sensitivity, refined bearings, and congeniality. In a city characteristically and traditionally controlled by men, the Georgetown wives were, in turn, afforded an abundance of behind-the-scenes political clout. Filled with intriguing and often startling insights into Washington life, from the latter days of the Kennedy and Truman administrations to the Clinton era and the advent of President George W. Bush, The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club is a compelling testament to the sex, lies, and red tape of American politics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; Reprint edition (2 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743428579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743428576
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 816,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The Toronto Sun" An informative and entertaining book -- like the women it profiles.

About the Author

C. David Heymann is the internationally known author of such bestselling books as Bobby and Jackie, Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor, and A Woman Named Jackie: An Intimate Biography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Three of his works have been made into award-winning NBC-TV miniseries. He lives and works in Manhattan.

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FOR MANY YEARS two invitations were particularly cherished in Washington. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power of Georgetown Influence 25 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover
"The Georgetown Ladies Social Club" by C. David Heyman is an incredible book that explains some of the powerful women who have indirectly/directly shaped past political elections. The following are some excerpts of entertaining details featured in this interesting book:
Chapter Eight Page 161: Mary Meyer was allegedly one of President Kennedy's favorite mistresses. He included her in many of his political dealings because of his admiration for her beauty and intellect. To further add to the controversial scandal, there was talk that both the president and Mary were sometimes high on acid while being intimate with each other. Mary Meyer supposedly obtained her drugs from Timothy Leary. It is listed that Mr. Leary was a full-time faculty member of the psychology department at Harvard University.
Chapter Nine Page 182: Kay Graham looked to Averell Harriman and Alice Longworth as human models of aging gracefully. She chose to read more and abstain from drinking in order to emulate them.
Chapter Nine Page 199: President Nixon's decision to distance himself from the Georgetown crowd may have affected him politically. Washington hostess Anna Chennault was purported to be one of the few women that he opened up to on a friendship level. In addition, it was discussed that Kay Graham was instrumental in leaking the Watergate story.
Chapter Nine Pages 202-207: Kay Graham was purportedly a charming women who at one time simultaneously attracted the affections of Warren Buffett and Robert McNamara. The book lists how a close friend by the name of Polly Fritchey was aware of the love triangle, and was quoted as saying, "Kay adored Mr. Buffett but loved Bob McNamara.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heymann's Writing is Entertaining and Informative 1 Nov 2003
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
C. David Heymann, a quintessential New Yorker, has written a book about some quintessential Washingtonians --- five women who through their marriages, friendships, and careers set the scene of mid-to-late twentieth-century D.C. The women are Katharine Graham, Evangeline Bruce, Lorraine Cooper, Pamela Harriman and Sally Quinn (the only one of the quintet still living), along with dashes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor (presumably Heymann couldn't help himself, having written biographies of those two in the past).
Heymann is an entertainment writer (several of his books have been TV miniseries), and this book does not try to act as history --- instead, it's a fast-moving mix of interviews, hearsay, anecdotes, quotes and fact. New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith said the book is "one juicy story after another." However juicy they may be, most of the stories in THE GEORGETOWN LADIES' SOCIAL CLUB have been told before: Phil Graham's mental illness and suicide, Joe and Susan Mary Alsops's sham marriage, Jackie Kennedy's distraught widowhood, Mary Pinchot Meyer's still-unsolved murder, Pamela Harriman's easy-to-bed, easy-to-wed persona, Elizabeth Taylor's gluttonous time in Virginia --- these have all been fodder for Smith and her ilk for decades.
What hasn't been told before is how these women were interconnected. One of the most fascinating things Heymann shows readers is just how small Georgetown is, and therefore just how amazing it is that all of these women had residences within minutes of each other. However, between all of the marriages, affairs, divorces, births, deaths, scandals, elections and parties, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of who knew whom when and why. A timeline would not have been a bad addition to the book, along with some kind of historical exegesis, especially considering that there are huge gaps of more than years between the English Pamela Digby's wartime wedding to Winston Churchill's son and Smith graduate Sally Quinn's seventies marriage to recently divorced Ben Bradlee.
Despite the sometimes breathless and rushed pace, Heymann's writing is entertaining and --- when it comes to the two women whose stories have rarely been told --- informative as well. Evangeline ("Vangie") Bruce, wife of Ambassador David Bruce, and Lorraine Cooper, wife of Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper, were very powerful women in their own right, although the general public did not hear their names with the same frequency as Graham's or Harriman's or Quinn's. After all, neither Bruce nor Cooper had a spouse who killed himself, a string of wealthy lovers, or a career as a sharp-nibbed reporter.
The work of these women was behind the scenes, as they carefully crafted dinner parties and cocktail hours with all of the cunning and cleverness of four-star generals. Both had high standards for themselves and others, going so far as to tell members of Congress where to find a good tailor and providing safe havens for presidential misbehavior. It was Ronald Reagan who coined the term "the Georgetown Ladies' Social Club," and no wonder --- the politician from Hollywood recognized others who were involved in acting.
If the world of the Georgetown Ladies no longer exists, then this book is an intriguing look at an underrated part of American history. If the world of the Georgetown Ladies still exists, albeit in another guise, then this book is an intriguing let-the-players-beware...
--- Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous dish and finally Washington as it truly is! 22 Oct 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book portrays the female movers and shakers of Washington DC and reads like a novel. The characters are interconnected and in this highly privileged world, it is clear that money talks. Kay Graham and Pamela Harriman wielded power and achieved something great; lesser known ladies such as Evangeline Bruce and Lorraine Cooper typified the 1960's and 1970's in Washington; Sally Quinn still rules the roost. There is high camp in the chapter profiling the obese wannabe senator's wife, AKA movie actress Liz Taylor. There is mystery, with the death of Mary Pinchot Meyer. What was the role of the CIA in Georgetown? That is an intriguing sidelight in this rarified world. Georgetown Ladies' Social Club is the first social history of Georgetown, the exclusive enclave that controls Washington DC. The writing is crisp and fun to read. I really recommend this book and couldn't put it down.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These were not "ladies" 11 Feb 2005
By HeyJudy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
THE GEORGETOWN LADIES' SOCIAL CLUB is a fascinating read.

The title of this book actually was a phrase first coined by then-President Ronald Reagan, according to author C. David Heymann.

Heymann has attempted the unusual: A group biography which interweaves the stories of the different members of one discrete, if informal, group.

Heymann does a good job in exploring the personal histories of the members of this club, a troop which primarily included Katherine Graham, Evangeline Bruce and Pamela Harriman. Of this bunch, only Sally Quinn, the youngest, still is alive.

Heymann offers the standard versions of their lives, but he also dishes some dirt about their affairs, promiscuity and family suicides.

It is amazing how much power these women had yielded over the highest ranking members of the federal government. This power was gently applied during socializing at various festivities which ranged from barbecues to black-tie dinners.

The heyday of the ladies was during the Kennedy administration and, in consequence, THE GEORGETOWN LADIES' SOCIAL CLUB re-acquaints its readers with the Camelot myth.

Perhaps unavoidably, in the effort to be scholarly and thorough, the prose in this volume is less interesting than the women it is describing. To paraphrase an old joke, these were no ladies. Bluntly, they sound like witches, every one of 'em. Yet probably just because of this personality trait, their stories make for an fascinating read.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gossip of the highest order 6 Jan 2006
By Jonathan Groner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book falls into the "guilty pleasure" category, and does it ever succeed on that level! It's forty years or so of American political history -- the McCarthy era, the Cold War, Vietnam, Watergate, the Reagan years -- told from the perspective of the Georgetown social set. It doesn't purport to be a comprehensive history of the period. Instead, it chronicles the lives, the successes, and the follies of five wealthy, highly connected hostesses in the nation's capital. Above all, we learn about the spectacular social events that they put on.

This book is like People magazine on steroids. Nasty spats, unsolved murders, extramarital love affairs, lifelong vendettas -- all here. As can be imagined, JFK and his women play a role, as does Elizabeth Taylor in her John Warner years. (Remember the late 1970s?) Some of the sourcing is a bit dubious. Of course, most of the main characters are now deceased and can't sue for libel anyway. Pamela Harriman would not have liked her characterization, it's fair to say.

All in all, lots of fun, and if you learn something about power and privilege in America, all the better.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A BOOK 30 Oct 2006
By Sandra Cariker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I like The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club very much. I have always been fascinated by the rich and/or famous, and this fills the bill very well. All of the women portrayed are or were interesting in their own right but were first actually noticed for their husbands instead of themselves. I believe any of these women could have accomplished anything in business, just like the men did, but unfortunately women didn't count for much in the past except for decorating the husband's arm, raising children and throwing parties. I love this book and recommend it with five stars.
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