Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL
PAMELA HARRIMAN HASN’T BEEN able to vamp every man. One notable holdout: biographer Christopher Ogden, now a columnist for TIME International. “She’s not my type,” he says, “she doesn’t read much, she has very little joy, and at the same time she has lived this fabulous life.”
If Ogden, 49, wasn’t attracted by Harriman’s much vaunted allure, he did want to tell the story of that fabulous life. And initially Harriman invited him to tell it. The two had friends in common, were neighbors in Georgetown, and Pamela was a fan of his 1990 biography of Margaret Thatcher. But Ogden set some ground rules. “I made it clear that this had to be a real book,” he says. “Pamela had had many relationships that we had to get into. She said she agreed.”
When Random House offered an advance of $1.6 million, Ogden says that Harriman got very cold feet. “I think she realized that for that much money she was really going to have to tell her story, and she wasn’t prepared for it,” says Ogden, who had already amassed 40 hours of taped interviews with his subject. “She was prepared to talk about life with the Churchills and about being godmother lo the Democratic party.”
When Harriman bailed out, Ogden look the book elsewhere for less money. He claims to have no hard feelings and even acknowledges admiration for his reluctant subject. “The impression of Pamela has been that she’s always had it her own way,” says Ogden, “but she’s been hurt a lot, let down, abandoned. And yet she’s always picked herself up and kept after her goals.”