Tina Brown Has Nothing to Worry about except Perhaps 'Infantilism against a Backdrop of Sexuality'

By Glover, Stephen | The Spectator, October 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

Tina Brown Has Nothing to Worry about except Perhaps 'Infantilism against a Backdrop of Sexuality'


Glover, Stephen, The Spectator


As l was saying, Judy Bachrach has written a controversial book about Britain's most famous journalistic exports, Tina Brown and Harry Evans, which has recently been published in the United States. Various newspaper articles in this country have claimed that Tina and Harry Come to America is so hot that it can't be published here for fear of litigation. Tina herself has railed at Ms Bachrach in an editorial in Talk magazine while claiming that she has not read the book. (Neither Tina nor Harry would co-operate in its writing with Ms Bachrach.) America itself is split in two, with some saying that it provides great insights into two British adventurers, and others complaining that it is little better than an old-fashioned hatchet job.

Ms Bachrach may possibly have embarked on her project with such a mission in mind. She may even believe that she has accomplished it. But, whatever her intentions, Tina and Harry do not emerge as villains. Far from it. Their unremitting dynamism earns them the plaudit of being `nature's Americans' - presumably a compliment since the author is herself American - and the United States is said to be `the only country that could contain them'. Ms Bachrach suggests at the end that her two unwitting heroes may have finally run their course, but so what? Harry has had a good innings, and is into his seventies. If her fledgling Talk magazine really does go under in the coming recession, Tina will able to take up the pen that she unwisely put down so many years ago, and possibly publish her diaries which I suppose she still keeps.

I do not deny that Ms Bachrach has invited many people to dish the dirt, but on the whole they do not deliver. Almost everyone who has ever met Tina has been interviewed - Ms Bachrach is one of those tireless American writers who does not do things by halves. To my surprise I find myself saying a couple of rather unfamiliar things. Others have also succumbed to Ms Bachrach's wiles: Alexander Chancellor, Miles Kington, Simon Carr, Angela Huth, Ian Jack, Jamie Neidpath, Nicholas Monson, Murray Sayle - the list is endless. A few of them grumble a bit, but none of them is prepared to shove in the dagger. The oddest story comes from Alexander Chancellor, the former editor of this magazine. After a rather drunken lunch, he and Auberon Waugh go around to the young Tina's flat. Finding she is not there, they naturally decide to break in, and discover `an oddly decorated [flat], infantilism against a backdrop of sexuality'. What can this mean?

Ms Bachrach has some catty things to say about Tina's dress sense and her occasional alleged amnesia when it comes to shaving her legs. But in spite of herself she cannot help handing out the compliments, or charting Tina's circulation successes at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Her editorship of the former magazine is said to be 'a wild, ragging, implausible triumph ... the talk of two coasts', Tina is `aside from Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana, Britain's most famous woman'. (Can this really be true? What about the Queen? Or Hattie Jacques?) It is the same with Harry, who, we are informed, hails from the `impoverished North of England'. Ms Bachrach completely and uncritically buys all that stuff about Harry having been `the greatest editor Britain had ever known' when at the Sunday Times. …

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