With a startlingly confessional new memoir, Finding Magic, Sally Quinn is back in the limelight.
The journalist, author, Georgetown hostess, gossip extraordinaire, and widow of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has penned an intimate account of her quest for love, sex, and religion. The latter led her to start a website, "On Faith.”
In her new book, she details her life as army brat (22 schools in 18 years), her stint as a celebrated Washington Post reporter, and her unbridled passion for her married boss, 20 years her senior, who ultimately became her husband.
Her search for spirituality, the theme of the new book, is broad enough to include the occult, Tarot cards, hexes, voodoo, palmistry, astrology, Ouija boards, ghosts, and psychics. Since Bradlee's death three years ago, Quinn says she has contacted him through a medium.
In conversation in the double living room of her large red-brick Georgetown home, once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln, the handsome 76-year-old writer seems to have mellowed since the days when she was known for her lethal profiles. The many illnesses of her son, Quinn, and the loss of her husband have made her more reflective and less judgmental, she says.
She is also no longer an atheist. “I am more a transcendentalist,” she says. “I believe in the mystery and magic of all of that. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have some little thing that they do, some protection. A talisman, an amulet, a St. Christopher medal, crosses, or evil eyes. I am totally protected. I have an evil eye. I have a Ganesh remover of all obstacles. People send me voodoo dolls and ask me to read their palms. I haven’t done that for a while.”
The Daily Beast: You have put hexes on people you didn’t like and they all came to a seriously bad end.
Three times and I haven’t done it in 35 years. My brother told me to stop. I can’t tell you how many of my friends have asked me to put a hex on Donald Trump. I won’t do it. I don’t wish people ill, because I don’t think it’s a good idea. If I have a problem with someone, I push it away.
At your home in the country, you have a labyrinth that Ben Bradlee gave you as a gift.
Yes, it’s a copy of the one on the floor of the Chartres cathedral in France. I use it as a meditation tool, and I walk the labyrinth every day that I am down in the country. It’s 50 feet in diameter and it’s right on a slope overlooking the river, and I go up there and I walk it quietly. Sometimes I’ll get to the center of it, and sometimes I will sit there for half an hour. Sometimes I’ve spent 3 or 4 hours there, meditating, and it’s just extremely peaceful. I usually will concentrate on something, some issue or some problem that I want to focus on. And I almost always get some kind of clarity.
Before you interview someone, you read their horoscope?
Yes, I’ll find out what their sign is, and that gives me an insight into who they are. They feel they are being understood, and they will usually open up more to me.
You have a penchant for gossip.
If you care about people, if you are interested in people, then you like gossip. Jack Kennedy was one of the great gossips of all time. When Ben used to go the White House, Jack would say, ‘Tell me the gossip. Tell me what’s going on.’ Journalists thrive on gossip. But that’s a flow of information. I have always thought, particularly in Washington, that knowledge is power. And so, the more you know …
I mean, you personally know a lot.
I do, yes. I find it humiliating when somebody tells me something that I don’t know. Somebody will say, ‘Well of course you’ve heard …” and I say, ‘Oh my God, how embarrassing, how come I didn’t know that?’
So what’s the gossip now?
You very rarely see any of the Trump people, I think they hang out at the Trump Hotel. The only ones—Kellyanne Conway, you’ll see her around, you’ll see Wilbur Ross and Gary Cohn. It’s very hard to get Republicans to come to parties. Particularly if you have a lot of journalists. They won’t go.
In the book, you are quite open about your sex life and search for romance.
I had a fabulous marriage, a real love affair for 43 years. So I would love to have again what I had with Ben. Will I find it? I don’t know. The pickings are pretty slim in Washington. I go out a lot and I entertain. I have an apartment in New York. There are more people up there but, unh huh.
You wrote a lot of stuff your friends told you not to write.
You should have seen what got taken out. Nothing was graphic. It was all emotional.
When Ben hired you and you sent him anonymous mash notes, you knew he was married. Didn’t that bother you?
I was in love with him and dazzled by him. Of course it bothered me. But I never assumed there was any possibility [of a romance], which is why I quit the Post and moved to New York. I came back and asked him to take me to lunch and told him, ‘I’m leaving the paper because I’m in love with you.’ I expected him to say, ‘There, there, have a wonderful life.’ Instead, he said, ‘I can’t believe it because I’m in love with you.’ Only a few weeks later he told his wife.
So what’s next?
A novel, a love story. I was just in Ireland doing research. And a second memoir about my life in Washington. As you get older, the things that used to matter to you don’t matter anymore. When I got upset, Ben had this expression that drove me crazy. ‘When the history of the world is written, this will not be in it.’ He was right. There were so many things I got upset over or was angry about that just didn’t matter.