I LIKE INTERVIEWING VERY SUCCESSFUL women who have an edge and are offbeat,” says entertainment correspondent Sue Carswell, who turned the tables on talk show host Sally Jessy Raphaël (page 58) for this week’s cover.
Sue has certainly met her share of such women: Recent Carswell covers include newscaster Betty Rollin, who assisted her terminally ill mother’s suicide, and Miss America Carolyn Sapp, who was abused by her boyfriend. Carswell, 30, also made headlines last summer when, suspicious about a call from a man claiming to be Donald Trump’s publicist, she determined that the caller was the madcap mogul himself.
Carswell has always had a keen ear for celebrity voices. Raised in Albany, N.Y., she was working her way through the University of Vermont as a telephone solicitor for solar water heaters when she happened to recognize 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney, who griped about her call in his syndicated column—and printed her boss’s home number. It took a while for Carswell to find her true calling. After graduating in 1983, she tried law school for six months, then held a string of odd jobs—from dog-sitter to cough counter (part of a doctor’s research into the effects of medication)—before entering what she calls “boot camp” as research assistant for author Gail (Passages) Sheehy. She enlisted at PEOPLE in 1988 as a reporter-researcher and was promoted to her current job last May.
“Sue is one of our most aggressive reporters,” says assistant managing editor Susan Toepfer, “yet there is a core of kindness that makes her subjects feel comfortable. And she can handle the most unexpected developments.” Indeed, the weekend after Carswell’s first session with Raphaël, the host’s 19-year-old son, J.J, Soderlund, was critically injured in a car crash. Yet Raphaël kept their date for a follow-up interview. Cars-well’s explanation: “She does not break promises.”
Single, Sue lives in Manhattan, where one of her hobbies is collecting pointy boots. “The pointier the better,” she explains. “You can nail the cockroaches in the corner.”