Did Katharine Graham and Adlai Stevenson canoodle the night he dropped dead in London?

The above picture is of Katharine Graham at one of her black and white balls. (She is not standing next to Adlai Stevenson in this photo — in fact, I can find no photos that picture the two together. Kay is standing next to Truman Capote, whom she almost assuredly did not bonk.)

Man, things are grim.

Amazon, if you’re interested. I got my copy from a take-a-book/leave-a-book pile at an AirBnb in Berkeley. It’s also on Audible.

It’s going to be years before we can muster anything approaching prurient interest in the social lives of this administration (with several notable exceptions). That’s why I’ve been taking comfort in reading gossipy accounts about media influencers from decades past.

Here’s one: Gregg Herken’s “The Georgetown Set,” which profiles the group of DC journalists and politicians (Phil Graham! Joe Alsop! JFK!) who hobnobbed for a couple decades following WWII. The book leads you to believe that most Cold War policy was devised while completely toasted — and, as this NY Times review points out, there seem to be some fact-checking issues. (“If anyone ever referred to Mrs. Graham as “Krusty Kay” or “Our Lady of the Potomac,” I doubt it was a resident of Georgetown.”)

That’s fine, it’s fine, it’s a fun, juicy book. The main thing it makes me want to do is reread “Personal History,” Katharine Graham’s fantastic autobiography. This is what I really want to talk about right now. I’d been thinking about Kay Graham and the book a lot since watching “The Post,” which I did around 2 a.m. in London a couple months ago while jet-lagged.

I regret to inform you that this is the shape they put sausages in at British hotels.

It was enjoyable! I’m an easy mark! I will watch any movie with a scene where a female Style reporter holds a phone and breathlessly recites a verdict to a silent newsroom. Then all the men grin and grasp each other’s meaty forearms in triumph.

Aside from that, I’m tickled by how salty the current NY Times is about that movie, because they were sort of the Yuri Gagarin of the Pentagon Papers.

Amazon. I stole my copy from my friend, Kate, and didn’t return it until years later, when I bought another for $1 at The Last Bookstore. Sorry, Kate, Graham estate.

This is all to say I recommend “Personal History” heartily. The second half of the book covers Katharine Graham’s ascendancy to publisher of the Washington Post after her husband’s suicide. (Her father, Eugene Meyer, bought the paper in 1911 and handed it over to son-in-law Phillip Graham in the ’40s, about which much can be said. One of the things that can be said is: I don’t understand the many accounts, at the time and now, that describe Phil Graham as attractive, when all pictures show him to be kind of toothy and having a convex chest.)

Anyway, there’s a passage in this book that vexes me. It vexed Nora Ephron too, according to her 1997 NY Times review of it.

[Nora and I were old pals. I’ll never forget what she told me one time at the Connecticut Avenue Politics & Prose, at a signing for her book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck.”

“Lucy,” she said to me (she liked to call me “Lucy”). “Is that L-U-C-Y?”]

This is from Nora’s review of “Personal History”:

“Mrs. Graham is extremely circumspect about her romantic life in the years since her husband’s death. I had to read page 378 several times, and I’m still not sure, but I think she’s saying that she had sex with Adlai Stevenson the night before he dropped dead on the street in London.”


Here is the passage in question:

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J’accuse! I have many straight male friends (this is a lie, but let’s bear it out), and they do not take off their ties and their glasses to hang out and shoot the shit platonically. What I do know is that something that happens before sex is stuff comes off. (Not to brag, but, *Italian voice* I know how-a da sex works.)

Katharine Graham also devotes many paragraphs in her book to her good friend (and ours), Warren Buffett, who was one of WaPo’s most influential investors, and she goes to great pains to indicate the friendship was only that.

[Side note, I once had to write a lead-gen article about the Myers Briggs types of various personal finance gurus, and so determined through a close reading of the annual Berkshire Hathaway letters to shareholders that Warren Buffett is an INTP.]

Anyway. Kay does not do these verbal acrobatics with Adlai, so I think they definitely did seck-soo-al acrobatics. Good for her and him, I hope his last night on earth was a happy one.

I was terrible at money until I became a personal finance writer (and I’m still pretty terrible, but now I know better)

Recently, I’ve been noodling about the times in my life I’ve been the most miserable. (This is a super helpful, non-therapist-approved exercise to convince myself Life Is Great/We’re Going to Make It Through This Year If It Kills Us; much like how my mother read the Gulag Archipelago while giving birth to my big-headed brothers and me.)

Here’s what I’ve landed on:

  1. First major breakup (I am dramatic, this was just primed for me to be deliciously morose).
  2. Two weeks at sleepaway camp every summer from ages 8 to 13. My parents were convinced I loved camp, but I white-knuckled my way through it every year, taking approximately one and a half poops and making very few friends the entire time. [I was prickly and sullen and did things like accusing my bunkmate of stealing my Gatorade (she didn’t, I probably just drank it and forgot).]
  3. Third grade, when my mom had cancer. Probably? I don’t actually remember being particularly unhappy, it was just a long slog and I got very tired of the chicken and brownies everyone brought over. If you’re making food for a Family of Cancer, DON’T BRING OVER CHICKEN AND BROWNIES, it will be the fifth time they’ve eaten that this week and it will put them off brownies for life.
  4. Nov. 9 through current, natch.
  5. Age 22, just out of college, broke beyond my own comprehension.

Point No. 5 led me to write a Forbes article about being broke and dumb with money in your 20s, which published today. You can check it out here. Please enjoy my admission to shoplifting a toilet plunger from a Taco Bell within the first paragraph. Form an orderly queue, ladies.

It has some good tips from people better at money than myself, as well as a few that I have picked up through osmosis after years of editing articles about personal finance.

I wanted to give a little more background in a non-nationally syndicated news outlet to the many stupid financial decisions I made in my early-to-mid 20s here.

Continue reading “I was terrible at money until I became a personal finance writer (and I’m still pretty terrible, but now I know better)”

Things My Father Has Said Grimly From the Doorway About Beloved Childhood Movies I Was Watching

You’ve Got Mail

“You know why everyone in Nora Ephron movies is divorced? Because she was divorced.”


“I would never make you watch something that hurt you this much.”

It Takes Two

(You know, the prince and pauper remake starring Mary Kate and Ashley. It was the scene where the butler comes to the rescue of the twins at the end, and says to the villain “Lady, if you touch that child, I’ll pop you one, so help me God”).

“That’s not OK.”

[Ed. note: I had remembered this line being way more blasphemous, perhaps including a benediction of sorts, the sign of the cross, a reference to the Holy Spirit. No! I trawled back through a very poorly rendered transcript of the movie online.  “So help me God” was the offending line.]

Sister Act:

(Very similar situation — the scene where Reverent Mother Maggie Smith outlines the the nun rules: “The vow of poverty.” “Mm-hm.” The vow of obedience.” “Mm-hm.” “And the vow of chastity.” “I am out here with that.”)

My dad, mournfully, pained, almost disbelieving: “That’s just so sad.”

Moulin Rouge

“Turn it off, now.”

(This was in front of my friend Krystyna, who I had over for the express purpose of watching Moulin Rouge; we had pooled our money to rent it and everything. It was incredibly embarrassing. Second only to the time I got food poisoning on a field trip to a performance of “Joan of Arc,” an interminable and punishing play, and my stomach burbled merrily along during the entire first half. I remember looking down at it crossly and imploring it to shush and stop blowing up my spot. A girl I liked was sitting mere seats away.)

My Best Friend’s Wedding

“She is a horrible person.”

This is indisputably true, and also entirely the point of the movie.


I’ve blocked this out. But I know there was An Incident.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Nothing! He liked this movie! He somehow found a Catholic reading of it! Ditto, inexplicably, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”

We agree on “A League of Their Own” and “Rear Window.” Classics, both of them.

She's the one sitting on the far right.

You guys would tell me if I was being Rosemary Kennedy-ed, right?

[My context for this post: If you’re looking for a humorless romp, I’m going to enthusiastically nudge you in the direction of this recent biography of Rosemary Kennedy, which was the most fascinating stone-cold bummer I’ve read in a while.

The log line is, essentially, one of the Kennedy daughters was born with developmental issues that weren’t immediately apparent but became more pronounced as she grew up, making schooling and social integration difficult. The family dealt with this by shunting her off to various boarding schools, convents and summer camps, before the father eventually had her lobotomized without the mother’s knowledge or consent. The procedure, which is GRAPHICALLY and horrifyingly detailed in the book, left her pretty much incapacitated physically and mentally for the rest of her life. 9/10, good beach read! Would soberly recommend.]

With the help of too much time on my hands (and no doubt aided by the miasma of anxiety we all swim around in these days), I’ve recently uncovered a new paranoia.

It is this: That my whole life (but especially in the years since puberty), my family, and on their instructions, the world, has been Rosemary Kennedy-ing me.

This would explain a number of things:

  • Why I never understand the subtexts of movies, especially emotionally ambiguous ones. (My friend, Ian, tried so many times to get me to watch “Closer” in college, and then, for his efforts, he gained nothing but inane questions and then bratty antipathy.)
  • Why my handwriting is charming, but childlike.
  • Why everyone my age seems so much more capable than me at the sundry tasks of adulthood. Do you all separate whites from colors? It doesn’t seem to actually do anything. Also, apparently there are four types of things you’re supposed to wash your face with every day, and none of them is “bar soap.”
  • Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth.
  • I get migraines.
  • I throw temper tantrums, the really unflattering kind where you stamp your foot because the world is so cold and unfeeling to your needs and specialness. This happens particularly in the car during LA traffic, which is a very ill-advised time to stamp your foot.
  • I often write out the homonym of a word instead of the word I mean. Like, I do this a lot. I’ll write “are” instead of “our” or “right” instead of “write.” Ian says it’s because I “think like a talker,” but now I know that’s just because he’s a court-appointed friend.

The silver lining of this, and let’s go ahead and see it because I’m stuck in this situation until I become too unruly at a party and they have me lobotomized (in a procedure I SINCERELY HOPE has evolved since 1940):

  • My credit card debt will be wiped out by the blind trust they’ve already established in my name (which will ensure permanent care in a specialized home when I’m older and no longer able to blend into society).
  • Catsby is a specially trained service pet, not just a cat with severe separation anxiety. (Not to the Lamby Extreme™, there is no drinking of urine, but there are sometimes artfully placed turds to register disdain.)
  • Every relationship and friendship I’ve ever had has been arranged or even paid for by my parents (or maybe my brothers — is that why Peter’s so poor?) and so I can never worry about disappointing these people.
  • Free housing 4 life! Can I have my rent back, please?

Update: Because fact-checking is important to me (AND YOU), I did my best to nail down why Ian couldn’t get me to appreciate Closer. His response:

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