Ms. Congeniality

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By Gail Sheehy ’70JRN, from her 2014 memoir Daring, about her career as a New Journalist and best-selling author.

Gloria Steinem was the sister everyone would have loved to have. She had started out as a receptionist [at Help] in 1960. Every man who entered that magazine office gaped at the long-stemmed beauty.

It was Gloria who was first to answer [Clay Felker’s] plea for help in raising money to start New York. At an endless series of lunches, she “tap-danced for rich people,” as she called it, which meant being witty and charming. Clay wanted Gloria to write a story for the maiden issue. She came up with the idea of writing about Ho Chi Minh’s travels in New York and other parts of the United States as a young man. Oddly enough, she said, the Vietnamese leader had been an ally of Roosevelt’s and helped to rescue downed American fliers in the jungles of Vietnam during World War II. Clay liked the offbeat idea. Gloria tried desperately to contact the president of Vietnam, but Western Union operators couldn’t grasp the spelling of a name with all those consonants. When Gloria showed up late clutching her story, she found Clay flailing to pull together the issue.

“What have you got for me?” he moaned.

“Ho Chi Minh in New York.”

He grabbed the manuscript and without a glance handed it off to a messenger to take to the printer.

“But, Clay, you haven’t read a word. You might hate it,” Gloria protested.

“How could I hate it?” he said. “It’s here.” 

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