What’s the best part of your job? Coming up with a cool idea. Seeing your name in print (still). Hearing that something I wrote made someone happy, or encouraged them, or improved their day on some level. Years ago, I was at a luncheon, and this very nice woman sat next to me, an Englishwoman. We started talking, and it turns out she had just bought my most recent book, which was about Elvis Presley. Her father was a giant Elvis fan, and she got the book in America and brought it to him in London. He was being treated for cancer, and while he was recuperating, she read to him from my book. I think of her, and her father, sometimes.
Which traditions from your childhood do you continue? I grew up in a family of five children – thank goodness – we are all friends and get along. But at the dinner table you had a very limited time to tell a story and get to the punch line before you lost your entire audience (ie, ‘Dad’) and they moved to the next thing. This is very good training if you ever have to be on television or radio, or get interviewed. I have noticed people like Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert (who also grew up in large Irish Catholic families) tell similar stories. I am very cognizant of not losing the audience when I write. The worst sin as a writer is to be a bore.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered when writing this book? How great Audrey Hepburn was. Sometimes when you meet/interview ‘celebrities’ there is a huge gap between what they present on screen, and who they really are… with Audrey – there is a reason she is so beloved. Still. Jeffrey Banks, one of her great friends, told me – ‘The real life Audrey was even better in real life than onscreen – if such a thing can be imagined!’ In the course of research, I met guys who met her for 15 minutes, having lunch on a film set… and they never forgot her. She had that kind of personal presence that stayed with them. There was a seamlessness between who AH really was, and what we saw onscreen – which is why she is such an iconic woman. To this day.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? I became friends with Robert Wolders, who was Audrey Hepburn’s third husband, although they never married. Also, interviewing Gregory Peck – Gosh. Need one say more?
What do you love most about Audrey? Who she was as a person. That she kept going and tried to do some good in the world, in spite of some of the disappointments she had. She kept an optimistic spirit. Plus – her smile and personal style.
Do you have a favourite Audrey Hepburn movie or dress? I think she looks perfect in everything (except for the few pieces Edith Head made her wear in Sabrina). In terms of pure fashion, the Givenchy creations in Charade are pretty stunning. I don’t think I would get my left arm into her famous Breakast at Tiffany’s dress… (Slightly off topic, Robert Wolders told me that he can’t watch The Nun’s Story because he felt that most captured ‘what she was like.’)
What was the best part about working with Hubert de Givenchy who wrote the introduction for this book? An absolute gentleman. I can see (still) how much he loved Audrey, and how he still holds her in such high esteem. I don’t think he’s ever written an introduction for any other books, so that was a great honor. He also gave me an original sketch to include in the book. (Sketched and torn from his notebook and sent to me). But you can see how/why AH loved him… a true gentleman who lives his life at a very high level. I just spoke to him last week in Paris and he is doing well.
What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? I love to bake, setting a really pretty table, arranging flowers from the garden, ironing (when I am in the mood), good linen… but mostly, people are surprised that I am a bit of a secret hausfrau…
What else would you like to write a book about? Having already written about Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Onassis, Elvis Presley (a total blast)… keeping my mind open for the next gig.
What are you working on next? I am currently writing for Vanity Fair online – vanityfair.com I wrote a piece last week about the famous model Bettina, and it was posted the next day.
Read my review of ‘Audrey Style’ here.