Sally Quinn
Sally Quinn
The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining
ISBN: 0684811448
The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining
Sally Quinn talked about her book, "The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining," published by Simon and Schuster. She talked about what makes a good guest at a dinner party and her ideas and conceptions of what makes a good hostess. Ms. Quinn writes a column for the Style section of the Washington Post.
Search Audible
Video Clip Search is not avaialbe for this video.
TRANSCRIPT
The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining
Program Air Date: December 28, 1997

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Sally Quinn, author of "The Party," if you wanted to put eight people around a table right now, beside yourself and your husband, who would they be to have a good party?
Ms. SALLY QUINN, AUTHOR, "THE PARTY: A GUIDE TO ADVENTUROUS ENTERTAINING": Well, you certainly would be one of them.
LAMB: Thank you.
Ms. QUINN: You know, people ask me that often, and I think it's a very dangerous question because if you name any of your friends, then the others who don't get named are gonna be furious.
LAMB: But you do name a lot of people in your book.
Ms. QUINN: Yes, I do, and there--there--there are more than eight. I dust--I do think N--Nelson Mandela would be somebody that I would have at the table. I'd definitely want him at the table.
LAMB: What makes a good guest?
Ms. QUINN: Somebody who makes an effort. I mean, it's really that simple. A good guest is someone who comes to play, who comes in--you can tell it the minute they walk in the door. You know, they walk in, and they've got this smile on their face and they're looking around, and--and they--and it's like, `I'm here to have a good time, and I'm gonna help make sure that everybody else has a good time, too.' And they get out, and they talk to people and they make an effort and they have energy and--and they're enthusiastic. And as far as I'm concerned, that's the greatest gift and the greatest thank you that I could ever get as a hostess, is to have a guest who comes and--and makes an effort.
LAMB: What was it like at the Arianna Huffington party?
Ms. QUINN: Well, I don't think that really qualified as a party.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. QUINN: Not in my book. I--it was more--it was more like a--sort of a seminar. It was billed as a kind of spiritual evening, and there were, I don't know, 14 of us or something and probably 10 of the most cynical journalists in Washington.
LAMB: Meg Greenfield, Richard Cohen, Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Sullivan and others.
Ms. QUINN: Those were some of them. Maybe I shouldn't say cynical. Maybe I should say suspicious. But w--the--the topic was spirituality, and I--and I--a lot of us had come just out of curiosity and because it was in honor of Norman Lear, who was our houseguest. Otherwise, I can't imagine ever have--having gone to something like that.

But it--it just seemed--I think it was to promote a television show she was doing or a book she was writing or something. So all of us felt a little bit used anyway just being there because there were sort of junior producers in little black dresses running around giving us handouts about the book and the TV show.

So it wasn't--but nobody quite knew what to expect when we got there, so we were a little surprised when we started getting all these handouts. And--and then the--the conversation just kind of disintegrated when she tried to sort of keep it sort of an upbeat spirituality conversation. I mean, everybody felt as though--as though this were for public consumption and not for a real philosophical discussion.

And then the--the--the--the crowning blow was that as we were finishing dessert, Richard Cohen looked over and saw one of the--the little producers walk over to a table--side table and turn a tape over. And he turned to Arianna and said, `What's going on here?' And she said, `Well, I'm taping the dinner--the conversation.' Everybody was horrified. Then Dick said, `I just have visions of us all in--looking at--like--out of that New York Magazine article on the--when Leonard Bernstein had the party for the Black Panthers.' You know, he said, `I could just see us all in New York Magazine at this spiritual dinner.' But I would not--I would not define that as--as a party, really.
LAMB: What--whatever happened to the tape?
Ms. QUINN: I don't know. That's a very good question. We--we need to get r--get ahold of that tape and destroy it.
LAMB: You went to a party at Averell Harriman's house one night and walked out. Why?
Ms. QUINN: Well, this was in the old days when the--when the ladies separated after dinner. And the Harrimans, Averell and Pamela Harriman, were having a party for Senator Frank Church. And Frank Church, at that point, was trying to decide whether or not to run for president. And I had been assigned to do a profile of Frank Church for The Washington Post. And so I--of course, we accepted the dinner invitation.

And as we got finished with dinner, Pamela sort of went tink, tink, tink on her glass. `And now the ladies will join me upstairs for coffee while the gentlemen will go into the library with Senator Church and he will talk about his presidential plans or aspirations.'

Well, I went completely crazy. I mean, I just thought, `I can't sit here. I mean, this is--I don't want to go upstairs with the ladies. I want to go in there when--and listen to what he has to say.' So I tried to signal Ben, my husband, who, coward that he was, knew that I would be wild and had sort of slinked out into the other room hoping--hoping that he wouldn't get caught. And I decided I wasn't going to make a scene, but I would walk through the room and get Ben quietly; let's make our excuses and just say we're leaving and--and walk out.

But Ha--Harriman got me as I was halfway across the room, grabbed me by the arm and said, `Miss Quinn, the ladies will go upstairs.' And I said, `But--but, Governor'--he said, `Miss Quinn, this is my house, and in my house the ladies go upstairs.'

So I said, `Well, good night, Governor,' and I stormed out of the house, got outside. And there I was freezing cold, no money, no car keys, no house keys. What was I to do? And there was a limousine right in front; somebody's--in the house had a limousine, so I climbed in the limo with the driver and sat there. I did make a few phone calls from the--from the--from the car phone to tell people what had happened, my plight and--but expected Ben to come rushing out. You know, he was clearly gonna defend my honor. And he didn't come and he didn't come and he didn't come, and I was really getting upset.

And so finally, after about 35 or 40 minutes, he came charging out the door looking totally panicked, and I said, `Where have you been?' And he said, `Well, just after you left, the phone rang and it was the national desk.' And he said it--it turned out that there was a group--there was a plane circling over Chicago and--and there was a group of Croatians on the plane, and they were demanding that The Washington Post run their entire manifesto on the front page or they were gonna blow up the plane and everybody in it. And I said, `Well, Ben, that's the only excuse you could've used to--to save your skin on this one.'
LAMB: Does that ever happen anymore where women and men are separated at parties?
Ms. QUINN: It--I don't--I--let's just say I never went to a party where it happened again, and I--I think it--I think it pretty much died out shortly thereafter. And it was soon after that that Kay Graham left a party when they separated, and once she did it, it was over.
LAMB: The--the late Jack Kent Cooke is one of the rudest men you've ever met.
Ms. QUINN: Absolutely horrible man. I really detested him. I did not think he--he was not a kind, generous person. And he was particularly--he made me mad because when Ben and I got married, we--he--he was part owner of the Redskins, and the other part owner was Edward Bennett Williams, who was my husband's best friend and the godfather of my child and also a be--a best man in our wedding. And we loved Ed, and we used to go to the football games, the Redskin games, and sit in the owners' box. And when Ed had the box all to himself, we would all go in jeans and, you know, windbreakers and we'd sit there and eat hot dogs and drink beer, and it was really fun. It was like going to a football game.

And then when Jack sold--I think he sold some team he owned in Los An--I'm not a big sports person, but he own--he owned a team, he sold it and he moved East. When he got a divorce, I think he had to give his wife half his money. And so he then took over part of the box. And suddenly there were tables with white linens and butlers with black tie and little petit fours and doilies and, you know, champagne and lots of ladies from Middleburg with feathers in their hats. And it w--it was just not our scene.

And--and then Ben and I got married shortly after that, and he insisted on calling me Mrs. Bradlee. And I said to him, `Jack, I didn't change my name. My name is still Sally Quinn.' `Well, I don't care,' he said. `Women should change their names when they get married, and you're married to Ben Bradlee and, therefore, your name is Sally Bradlee, and that's the way I'm gonna introduce you.' And he would grab me by the arm every Sunday and--and drag me around the lounge saying, `I want you to meet Sally Bradlee.' And I would say, `Sally Quinn.'

But then he married somebody shortly after that named Ms. Williams, and so every Sunday after he would do his thing with me, I'd grab her by the arm and drag her around introducing her as Ms. Williams. Very petty, I have to say; I was extremely petty. But it did--he did stop it after a while.
LAMB: Strom Thurmond's hand.
Ms. QUINN: Dear Strom. I think he's now--What?--93 or 94. This is in the really old days when--when I was about 18 and my mother and father used to get invited out to a lot of Washington parties. And one of them--one night we went to a cocktail party at Gwen Kafertz's, the old Washington hostess, and she had a beautiful sloping lawn and lots of buffet tables. And my mother and I walked over to a buffet table. Now this is, I hate to say, somewhere in the neighborhood of--l--over--let's say over 30--35 years ago.

And we were standing there getting some shrimp or something together, and all of a sudden both of us went, `Ah!' And we turned around and looked, and there was Strom standing between us with one hand on my mother's behind and one hand on mine and just smiling and beaming and just feeling so pleased with himself. And, of course, my mother, who's very Southern, just the way Strom is and from Savannah, Georgia--we're both from Savannah--Mother said, `Oh, Strom, you old devil,' you know. And we just thought it was the cutest thing, and we told everybody about it, that wicked old Strom Thurmond.

Now of course, this is in the pre-feminist days. I probably wouldn't have told that story if it had been 10 years ago because I would have been too afraid of getting criticized by my sisters. But I think we're now in the post-feminist '90s, and it's OK to tell that. Now I would not advise anybody to try that today. I think this is--this is a politically--it was a politically incorrect move--or would be today, although in tho--in those days it--we thought it was perfectly acceptable.
LAMB: But you did tell a story in pub--didn't you get booed one time when you told the story?
Ms. QUINN: I did, and it was the More Convention. And I had been asked--that was an old newspaper convention; there was a magazine called More, and it was a newspaper about journalists. And I had been asked to speak on--on a panel about women journalists and the specific problems that women journalists had that men journalists did not have.

So I had prepared this speech, and I have to tell you that I really thought that I would be applauded; that I would be lauded for telling the truth. And so I got up and I talked about how I really did think that women were in a different position from men because oftentimes men would give women interviews because they were cute.

And I--and I--I think I even talked about a Gloria Steinem statement that she said whenever she went out to do an interview with a man--this is sort of before the whole feminist thing--that she would always--the first thing she'd do is say, `Oh, do you have a pencil? Do you have a piece of paper?' And then they would be completely disarmed. They'd think, `Oh, she's just a silly girl. She--what does she know?' And then they would say--tell her everything.

And so I was sort of expanding on this and saying that, you know, if you're a woman and you go in, that obviously men are gonna treat you differently, and--and--and that's a plus in some ways. And--and, in fact, women journalists can use that. You can just simply use the fact that they will respond to you differently, the same way men journalists will use the fact that they are responded to differently.

And I pointed out, for instance, that if Teddy Kennedy, who was, I think, then unmarried or a bachelor, would ask a man journalist to dinner or a--a male journalist could take him to dinner and an interview, a female journalist could never do that without being suspect or without giving the wrong impression to the person she was interviewing.

And then I went on to say--it was--it was during Watergate, and the im--and they were talking about impeachm--having hearings on impeachment--impeaching Nixon. And I said, `If--if--for example, in terms of using what you have as a woman, if I were standing at a cocktail party and I was talking to a senator, and he was about to tell me whether he was going to vote to impeach Nixon or not, the question--and he put his hand on my fanny, the--the--my big decision would be whether to take his hand off my fanny before he told me or after.'

And I said to this assembled group, `Frankly, I have to be totally honest, I'm not exactly sure what I would do in a situation like that, knowing that I would get the biggest scoop of the year if I could just wait for a second before I--before I became outraged.' Well, you've never heard anything like it. I mean, I was booed, I was hissed. People stood up, they were screaming. If they'd have had pies and tomatoes, they would have thrown them at me.

And I was completely shocked because, of course, I knew my female colleagues and I knew a lot of them who had used--Shall we say?--their female wiles or their feminine wiles to get interviews and to get stories and whatever. And so I--I couldn't believe that they were turning on me for telling something that was the truth. But, anyway, it took me a long time to live that down.

Now I was on a panel recently with Betty Friedan and Margaret Carlson and Eleanor Clift. And--and so somebody asked me about this story, and Margaret said, `Well, I'd certainly wait until after he told me before I took his hand off my fanny.' And I thought, `But how far we have come, baby.' This is definitely the post-feminist '90s.
LAMB: Now how do you get out of a party once you've accepted? And you tell a story about Susan and David Brinkley.
Ms. QUINN: Well, one of the things that I say in the book is that I really think that it is never a good idea to accept a better offer once you've accepted an invitation. And--and--and I almost 99.9 percent of the time will follow that rule. Sometimes you just can't resist. But one of the things I do say is that in Washington, the one exception to that is that if you get invited to the White House or if you get invited to a party for the president, that some--that that sa--takes precedence over everything else and that it is--it is acceptable to call someone up and say, `I've been accepted to the Whi--I've been of--asked to the White House, and I would really like to go. And can--can I take a rain check?' And, generally, people here will understand that--that, you know, a Wh--a White House invitation is more important than others. I mean, I'm not talking about your 50th wedding anniversary or something like that, but in general.

And this happened three or--well, four or five years ago, right after Clinton had been elected. And David and Susan Brinkley had sent out engraved invitations to a cocktail buffet. It wasn't for anyone in particular, and it was not a seated dinner. It was a just come for cocktail--Christmas cocktails. But they always give great parties, and everybody loves both of them, and people were really happy to come, and everyone accepted with--with great pleasure.

And then, horror of horrors, Katharine Graham sent out invitations to a party for the president, and this was the first time he would be coming to Washington and be entertained at her house. And everybody who was invited to the Brinkleys' was on Kay's list; I mean, it was practically the same list. And everybody, of course, wanted to go. I mean, all the journalists wanted to go because they knew they'd get stories out of it, and people who were the--the sort of Washington establishment. And Democrats wanted to go because everybody was trying to get a job. And--and, I mean, everybody had a reason to want to be there.

So there was this nightmare of phone calls around town, `Oh, my God, what are we gonna do? What do we d--do I dare call Susan? Do I--you know, I wanna go to this.' And so one by one people started calling Susan and saying Kay is having this party. And I--I just was dying because I thought to--to back out of Susan and David's would be just shameful and just unacceptable. On the other hand, I really wanted to go to Kay's party for the president because I--I had not seen him in that kind of a social situation, and I thought from a professional point of view as a journalist, I knew I would be writing about him and Hillary, and--and speaking about them on television, that it would--it would really be important for me to go.

So I finally bit the bullet and I called Susan and I said, `You know, I--I know what you're--I know you know what I'm gonna say. We've been invited to Kay's and I'd really like to go.' Well, she was incredibly gracious about it. I mean, just wonderful. `I understand. Of course, you have to do that. And please don't feel bad about it,' you know. I was almost in tears. She was trying to cheer me up and make me feel better about it.

And so we went to--to Kay's and--and it was a very valuable evening. I mean, out of--out of my observations, I got a column for The Post, a column for Newsweek, a scene for a novel, a lot of sort of background information for--for television talk shows that I had to do. And it was very valuable. But, frankly, I feel awful about it even now. I don't think that it was the right thing to do.
LAMB: The prospective CEO and the lemon.
Ms. QUINN: Well, this is a story that my father told when he was working for Martin Marietta. And he and a head of Martin Marietta took out someone to dinner at The Jocky Club here, which is one of the sort of fancy restaurants. And this guy they were interviewing to be the CEO and he--the six of them--their wives went with them. And this man ordered fish, fillet of sole. And the sole came and it had a little lemon wrapped in gauze. And the guy took his knife and started trying to cut the gauze off the lemon. And he was--eh, you know, it has a little sort of like a s--a metal staple on it. It's really--and he couldn't get it off and he was hacking at it and tearing at it and, `Oh, God, you can't'--and they were all dying because, of course, the gauze is there for a reason. It's to keep the seeds from falling on the--on the fish and, of course, he didn't know that. And afterward the head of the--Martin Marietta said to my father, `I can't hire this man because he doesn't know how to handle himself and--socially. And it would just be too embarrassing for the company.' I'd always thought that was a great lesson, an interesting lesson.
LAMB: Joe Alsop and the leeks?
Ms. QUINN: Well, Joseph Alsop was a Washington columnist and gadfly. And he--he had a rather ac--acerbic tongue. And one night we were at a dinner party and he was there. The hostess was someone who was an a--had--had ambitions--social ambitions. And--and this was the first time she'd ever had Joe Alsop in her house. It was the first time he had ever accepted one of her invitations, and she was extremely pleased and proud and she had really put on the dog. And she had a chef come to cook the dinner and it was her best china and silver. And they--she served leeks and, you know, leafs--leeks can be kind of tough. They're long and they can be kind of tough and stringy and they're hard to eat. And everybody was kind of fighting with the leeks at dinner.

And, finally, Joe turned to the hostess and he said, `My dear,' he said, you know, `the ne--if you ever serve leeks again, you must tell your chef to quarter the leeks. One must always quarter the leeks.' Well, I thought she was gonna die. I mean, I've never seen anybody so close to tears, and I--I felt very sorry for her and for her chef, who I'm sure heard a lot about it. But I have to say every time I've served leeks from then on, I've always made sure they were quartered.
LAMB: The finger bowl.
Ms. QUINN: The finger bowl. What is it for?
LAMB: No, no, no. You tell a story in there about how--if you don't know what the finger bowl's all about...
Ms. QUINN: Right.
LAMB: ...and you've watched people--or either know of someone that's quite embarrassed themselves.
Ms. QUINN: Right. Well, they're--the finger bowl is to--is to actually dip your fingers in after you've finished. It's served before the dessert and it's served on a porcelain dish with a dessert plate with, usually, a doily of some kind underneath it and the dessert fork and spoon. And when you get the finger bowl, you take the finger bowl and the doily off the plate, put it to the side and then take the fork and the spoon off and put it to the side so that they can serve dessert. But a lot of people have never seen finger bowls and don't know how they're used and there are--there are just sort of endless true and apocryphal stories about horrible things that have happened.

People have drunk out of the finger bowls, and there's a famous story about someone drinking out of the finger bowl. And the--the host, wanting to save his guest from embarrassment, picks up his own finger bowl and drinks out of it. And then there--there's always the horrible story of the person wh--taking the finger bowl off, watching everybody, but not taking off the doily and then putting the dessert on top and then actually eating--eating the doily. So, I mean, it--it's--it's fraught.

I--I don't serve--I don't use finger bowls and I--and I--what I think is interesting and sort of ironic is that whenever you see finger bowls, it's always at the most elegant and swell dinners where you would never dream of handling your food with your fingers. So suddenly this finger bowl comes along and you don't need it be--you certainly don't need to wash your fingers because they're not sticky or messy. When you really need them is when you're at a barbecue, when you've got barbecued spare ribs or corn on the cob. But those dinners, it would seem really pretentious to serve a finger bowl. So it--it never--it's never made any sense to me, really, why people use them unless you have fruit.
LAMB: The Sandra Gottlieb story.
Ms. QUINN: Sandra Gottlieb was the wife of the Canadian ambassador. And she and Allan Gottlieb had come to Washington in a--in a sort of slow period and had really charged up em--embassy row. I mean, they--they were very attractive and they gave great parties, and they had the knack for knowing--for understanding the mix which makes a--a Washington party really fun and interesting, which is you get people from the White House and you get people from the Senate and the Congress and the State Department, the Pentagon and the diplomatic corps, and you get--the key thing is lots of journalists. And then you get a really good mix and you always have a lot of energy and excitement at those parties. And they--they managed to do that.

Her finest hour would have been the night that she had this party for Brian Mulroney, who was the prime minister of Canada. And she'd invited everybody who was anybody in Washington and it was a fabulous crowd. And George Bush was vice president and he was late getting there. So she sort of had Allan take the guests out to sit--it was on--on the terrace in the summer--all the guests out and had them seated while she waited on the front steps for the vice president. And the entire Washington press corps was standing right by the front steps waiting also.

As his motorcade pulled up, she turned to her social secretary and she said, `Where's Dick Darman?' Dick Darman was then the, I think, deputy Treasury secretary, a very attractive and sought-after guest. And the social secretary said, `Well, I'm sorry, but he called right--a few minutes ago to say he wasn't coming.' And with that, Sandra hauled off and slapped her across the face in full view of the entire Washington press corps. What--you can imagine people were just stunned. We didn't know anything about it. We were out happily having our dinner and didn't know about it until the next day when we picked up the paper and saw the stories and the pictures and everything. But it was--that one act more or less ended his diplomatic career. They really didn't entertain after that and--and Allan left shortly afterwards.
LAMB: `Tom and Meredith Brokaw entertain elegantly.' What's that mean?
Ms. QUINN: Well, it means that--it doesn't mean that they have to have the fanciest everything, china and silver. It means that they are incredibly gracious hosts; that they make their guests feel as if--without the par--without that particular guest, the party couldn't go on. The food is always good, but not pretentious. The apartment is beautiful. The table is always pretty, but not overdone. And they're just--they're just hospitable and kind and warm and generous. And--and all of that means elegant to me; to make your guests feel as though I--what I say in the book is that the golden rule of entertaining, which is to treat your guest the way you would like to be treated. And that's the way Tom and Meredith do.
LAMB: `Hodding Carter has drinking pants.'
Ms. QUINN: Oh, I've felt so bad about that because Hodding had these pants, I think he's had them since college. They're plaid and very baggy and they--you know, they--they look like college pants. And he's always called them his drinking pants. But--what he means is his party pants. He sort of likes to wear them. And even sometimes when it's black tie, he'll wear these plaid--or used to in the old days. And--and so whenever I invite Hodding, if he comes in his drinking pants, even if he's on the wagon, I know that the party's gonna be great because Hodding is one of the best guests in the world. He comes in, as I said to you earlier, you know, he's got this smile on his face, he anticipates having a good time, he's got a lot of energy, he's more fun than anybody, he moves around the room, he makes everyone feel great and he just turns on.

I--I--I felt bad about it because somebody picked that up and--and--and wrote a little note about Hodding and his drinking pants just as he was accepting a--a new job as the head of the Knight Foundation, which is, you know, quite a solemn and staid organization. And I--you know, I--I--I didn't mean to give the wrong impression about Hodding, which is what somebody had misinterpreted. But even when, as I say, during Lent, when he's on the wagon and he wears his drinking pants, he still is the most fun guest at the party.
LAMB: What's the gristle seat?
Ms. QUINN: The gristle seat is what one of my friends calls the really tough seat; when you've got two dinner partners, one on either side, who are really heavy duty, hard going, tough going, difficult to talk to, don't make an effort, no fun. That's the gristle seat.
LAMB: What's a safe house?
Ms. QUINN: Well, there are two definitions of a safe house. One definition of a safe house is what Joe Alsop used to say. I remember once he said to me he was never going to the Iranian Embassy again. And I said, `Why not, Joe?' He said, `It's not a safe house.' Well, I asked him what he meant by that, and he said, `You--you never know who you're gonna get at dinner. You can never be sure that you're gonna have a good seat at dinner, so it's not safe.' But when I talk about a safe house--I mean, as I say, there are two different kinds--a safe house also means someplace where you can go and talk openly and freely and--and be pretty sure that you're not gonna see your quotes in the paper the next day.
LAMB: What was the most recent story about the Greenspan-Andrea Mitchell wedding and the bus ride? And when did that happen?
Ms. QUINN: You talking about my husband...
LAMB: Yeah.
Ms. QUINN: ...Ben Bradlee?
LAMB: Yes.
Ms. QUINN: Well, Ben--actually, if you look very carefully on the cover of my book, you will see a couple standing right in the middle--in that little middle window. One of them has a red dress with pearls. That's me, as you can see, on the back of the book. And one of them has on a green turtleneck. I'm the--I'm in the pearls and Ben is in the green turtleneck. And we put that on there just as a little private joke because the day that we were invited to Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell's wedding, it was a beautiful, sunny day and--and we were going to the inn at Little Washington, which is one of the most elegant and informal restaurants in town, even though it is about an hour and a half outside in--in the Virginia countryside.

And I came downstairs and--all spiffed up in my little pale blue silk suit and my pearls and, you know, my high heels ready to go to a wedding--dressed for a wedding. And there's Ben in khakis and a green turtleneck sweater and a tweed coat with the--you know, the patches on the arms. And I said, `You're not wearing that.' And he--he said, `Well, I certainly am. What's wrong with this?' I said, `Ben, we're going to a wedding.' `Well, it's a wedding in the country.' I said, `I know, but, Ben, this is at the inn at Little Washington. It's a very elegant place.' `Well, I don't care. It's still in the country.' I said, `Ben, everybody there will be in coats and ties. All the men will be in coats and ties.' `They will not.' He said, `I'll bet you $5,000 that there will be other people there in turtlenecks.' I said, `You got a deal, pal.' So we shook on it, $5,000.

So they had a--a bus at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel that was gonna take all the guests. So we went to the Ritz-Carlton, we got on the bus, of course--Ben actually did change. Now I don't know, maybe secretly in his little heart of hearts he knew that I was right, but he did go upstairs. Just to please me, he changed. But the bet was still on. We get to the bus and, of course, everybody's there in their white shirts and their beautiful ties and--all the men, and their suits and--so Ben was getting panicked. I mean, he didn't--no turtlenecks. And so I told Jim Lehrer what Ben had done and he was--went--went up and down the aisles of the bus saying, `Can you believe what Ben Bradlee wanted to wear? He wanted to wear a green tut--turtleneck. Is that the stupidest thing you've ever heard?' So Ben was getting madder at me 'cause--for having told on him, ratted on him.

So when Bill Safire got on the bus, Ben said, `Bill, if I give you $1,000, will you wear a turtleneck to this wedding?' Bill says, `Sure. No problem.' So Ben tries to get the bus driver to stop at Sunny's Surplus on the way out so he could run in and get a turtleneck and give it to Safire. He'd pay him $1,000 and then he--then he wouldn't owe me any money. But everybody on the bus vetoed that idea, refused to allow the bus driver to stop. And so Ben, to this day, still owes me $5,000.
LAMB: Now what is a PRF?
Ms. QUINN: Well, Brian...
LAMB: I thought long and hard about asking that question and how I was gonna ask it.
Ms. QUINN: The--the definition is right there if you would like to read it to your viewers.
LAMB: No, I thought I'd ask you to do that. Now you've got to tell us...
Ms. QUINN: It's a Philadelphia rat blank, blank, blank.
LAMB: The F's--is...
Ms. QUINN: And it was an expression coined by Averell Harriman's first wife, Marie Harriman, to describe a very large, loud, noisy party.
LAMB: A PRF.
Ms. QUINN: A PRF. Yes.
LAMB: Now what is that? I mean, wha--have you ever had one of those in your home?
Ms. QUINN: I'm sorry to say I haven't. And--but it's--a PRF is not--it's not a positive thing. It--it--a PRF where--is too many people and--too many people sort of, `Oh, let's just invite the so and sos, let's work 'em all in,' you know? And it gets to be huge and sort of indiscriminate. And because it's too large and too indiscriminate, it really loses its sort of sense of exclusivity and intimacy. That's a picture of a PRF right...
LAMB: A--an--and that's a...
Ms. QUINN: I try never to have PRFs. I try to be a little bit more discriminating, but sometimes it just can't be avoided.
LAMB: Who did the illustrations in your book?
Ms. QUINN: The--not only the illustrations, but the cover were--they were all done by Susan Davis, who is a brilliant artist who's done work for The Washington Post and The New Yorker and does beautiful murals and who's done a mural for our--us for our house in southern Maryland.
LAMB: Is there any other story behind any of these little--these little squares on the--on the cover?
Ms. QUINN: The little squares? Well, Colin Powell is there in one of them. Right here, I think.
LAMB: Yes. Right over there.
Ms. QUINN: And--yeah. No, I think it was--essentially, it's the New Year's Eve party.
LAMB: Your New Year's Eve party?
Ms. QUINN: Yes. We always have a New Year's or we--a lot of times we have a New Year's Eve party.
LAMB: How many people?
Ms. QUINN: Oh, about 125 to 150 max, I would say.
LAMB: Wh--what time do you want your guests there?
Ms. QUINN: Nine o'clock.
LAMB: How long should they stay?
Ms. QUINN: Well, u--people usually start peeling off about 1:00, between 1 and 2, although last year the last people left at 3 and we closed the door and--whew! And we went in the living room, and there were a whole bunch of friends from California, `Hey, it's only midnight our time.'
LAMB: Now if you--if you...
Ms. QUINN: Ben says, `I'm going to bed. You all stay and have a s--great time. I'm--I'm out of here.'
LAMB: How many people do you have to invite to get 125 people there?
Ms. QUINN: New Year's Eve you probably have to invite about--well, 120--I would say--125 to 150, you probably have to invite 350 because a lot of people go away and a lot of people go away every year. And we know they go away every year, but they're friends and we always ask them because we say, `Well, maybe some year you won't be--go to Maine to visit your parents or go skiing in Vail or go to'--wherever, you know.
LAMB: What do they wear?
Ms. QUINN: The men all wear black tie. It didn't start out black tie. It started out--I--the first year I had it, it was informal, and it just didn't have that little special thing, you know. It--people--and--and the men complained. Two of my men friends had just gone and bought tuxedos that year, the first time they'd ever owned them and not rented them, and so they said, `You know, why don't you have a black tie so we can wear our new dinner jackets?' And also, they thought they looked pretty spiffy in their jinner--dinner jackets. And I think--you know, I think the men all look really handsome in their dinner jackets, and the women always look beautiful when they're in evening dresses, and it just makes the party feel a little more special.
LAMB: Do you invite the president?
Ms. QUINN: No, I do not.
LAMB: Is there a reason y--why you do not?
Ms. QUINN: Well, I--my feeling is this: that I would only invite the president--I--I've always felt--we've in--been invited by every president to the White House since Ben and I have been together, but I've never invited the president to New Year's Eve because I always felt it would be a little show-offy or a little pretentious or something and because they weren't really good friends.

The Clintons--we have been to the White House in their administration about four times, but we've never been invited as their guests. We've always been inv--been--we've sort of been invited for some other reason, like Children's Hospital donors or something like that. So I figure that it's a little pretentious to invite the president and first lady if they've never actually personally invited you somewhere.
LAMB: There is a story in here, though, of a dinner party with 16 that the president attended that you were there. What was that story? And you tell about Walter Pincus getting up and making a toast or speeches or something like that.
Ms. QUINN: Right. Right. Well, this was a party--Anne Pincus is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and worked for the president, and Walter is a journalist for The Washington Post. And they had a party for Ward Just, who's a writer, and his wife Sarah, who were down from Martha's Vineyard, and they invited the president and first lady, who knew the--Ward and Sarah from their summer vacations in the Vineyard. And Walter is known for his toasts. Walter gives the most fabulous toasts of anybody I have ever known. They are--it's a--it's a--it's real theater and it's sort of group participation. It's kind of like theater in the round, you know, where every--wh--but the--you know, the actors are sort of wandering in and out of--but everyone has to participate.

And what Walter does is he starts out by giving this toast and it gets longer and sort of begins to ramble, and he always insults several people, and--and--and then he goes off on these irrelevant tangents. And then what happens is that people start screaming and throwing napkins at him and insulting him and screaming, `Get the hook,' and--and--and also trying to direct the toast, get it back on track and move it. And--and everybody knows about Walter's toast and everyone really looks forward to them because they're great fun. And--and part of the fun is Anne Pincus, his wife, who does this sort of `Oh, my God, I can't stand it,' and it--it's all theater.

But for outsiders, it could be quite horrifying if you don't realize what's going on, and so when Walter got up to give this toast, the president--the president and Mrs. Clinton were, I think, really appalled at the beginning at how rude we were all being to Walter. And as it slowly dawned on them as this went on and people started throwing things at him and that--that it was a thing--it was a shtick and that--but the great line was Les Aspin, who was then secretary of defense--finally, after this had gone on for about 20 minutes, said, `Bring it home, Walter. Bring it home.' And then everybody broke out laughing, including the Clintons, and it was fine.
LAMB: You also write about a party for Dick Holbrooke and--is it, Kati (pronounced kay-tee) Marton?
Ms. QUINN: Kati (pronounced kah-tee) Marton.
LAMB: Kati Marton--and names like the president, 40 people there--Jim Lehrer, Sandy Berger, Vernon Jordan, Madeleine Albright. What was that party all about?
Ms. QUINN: Well, that was a--a--a wonderful evening that--that Ka--in Washington and it was a--for Kati Marton's birthday. And the president had come and they had been asked for dinner but had--had declined because they had family back at the White House. But it had been a particularly rough week and--and he wa--had his leg in a cast. He had just had that accident where he did something to his knee, and--and she had tr--been traveling. And they came and they were clearly just ready to relax and have a good time, and they did. I mean, they were having a great time and being very relaxed.

And--and the time was passing and everybody was--it was great because there were 40 people and everybody was able to sort of have a chance to talk to them, which usually wouldn't have happened in a short cocktail period. But the time kept going on and on. Nobody quite realized what time it was. And finally, somebody looked at their watch and realized it was almost 10:00. And so they were asked to stay and they--when they saw what time it was, they lept up and left and leaving everyone basking in the glow.
LAMB: What happens to a group when the president's in it--in their midst?
Ms. QUINN: Well, everybody is on, but it's--it's--it's interesting in a Washington--in a small, private dinner party at--at a--at someone's house because everyone sort of wants to have their few moments with the president and be able to say, `Well, I said to the president yesterday,' `The president said to me.' But on the other hand, you don't wanna look like you're hogging the president either. So you kind of move in, you get your couple of minutes and then you pull away and--because you don't want it to look like you care too much or that you're too impressed.

But--but in general, everyone is r--you know, certainly the reporters are all working, even if they're not gonna actually quote the president the next day, which you wouldn't do in a private--if it's a private dinner party. But, you know, he is the president of the United States, and--and as everyone knows in Washington, there is--nothing is ever off the record, particularly if it's too good a story. I mean, it--it will ultimately end up in print, if not tomorrow, then five years from now or 10 years from now in a history book.

So everyone's aware of that. They are aware of their little moment in--in history, and so there is--there is a kind of gravitas there. Even if everybody's laughing and joking and having a good time, you're aware at any moment that the president could say something or could do something that might actually end up in the history books. And so--and I think people--even people who work in the White House and who are with the president all the time on a daily basis--I mean, even--and even people who've known any president for years before that president got to the White House will say that once they're there--I mean, that's why all these books. That's why everybody's taking notes--rushing home and taking notes, writing under the table, that kind of thing, because they know that one day this may--this may actually be important.

Sy Hersh's book right now--there was a review of Sy Hersh's book in The New York Times, and one of the things they quoted is my husband, Ben Bradlee, who wrote this book about Kennedy called "Conversations With Kennedy," which he actually had wanted to call "Notes for the Kennedy Biographers" because it was just notes of his conversations. And he told Kennedy he was doing this and that--that he would do it, and Kennedy s--and he would take notes every night when he got home. And Kennedy said, `It's fine, as long as you wait until 10 years after I'm on--out of office,' which he did, before he printed it.

But--but--but there is always that thing in the back of your head. I don't ra--rush home and take notes--but I know a lot of people that do--when I see the president. So the--the--there's always that sort of moment of history there that you're always aware of.
LAMB: You say in your book about the party, `Invite reporters at your own peril.'
Ms. QUINN: Well, as I just said to you, nothing is ever really off the record and everyone knows that, and it's not just because there are reporters there, I mean, because people other than reporters gossip and talk, so that if--if there's a party where the president attends, the next day everybody will be on the phone: `He did this, he did that, he said this, he said that.' If you weren't there and you're a reporter and you get this story, you print it--if you're a gossip columnist or if you're writing a profile of the president or a profile of somebody at the White House. I mean, it's--then it's fair game. I mean, you didn't--you didn't break any rules or go--you know, go be--behind anybody's back.

So--but I think if there are journalists there and something really important happens, it will end up in the paper. It just will. And when I'm--but when I talk about--there are two different kinds of journalists here. One is just journalist friends. Since all my friends are journalists, I--that's who I have to my parties. But--but then there are working journalists--I mean, people who say, `May I come and cover the party?' and that's what I don't like to do. And I was one of them, so I know what happens--is that--what happens is if you're there and you've got a notebook and somebody says something really stupid, you write it down, you print it in the paper, and I don't think it's fair to do that--to put your guests in that kind of perilous situation.
LAMB: How long were you a reporter?
Ms. QUINN: I was a reporter for 12 years at The Washington Post.
LAMB: Th--there's a little story you tell about Colin Powell and Larry King from one of your...
Ms. QUINN: Right.
LAMB: ...New Year's Eve parties, and the last thing you write down in the--write in the book is, `I'm not the source, Colin.'
Ms. QUINN: Right.
LAMB: What was that about?
Ms. QUINN: Well, that was last year New Year's Eve. And the--this is one of the things about a too-good story. And at midnight Larry King, who had a very attractive day, grabbed Colin Powell when they started playing "Auld Lang Syne," kissed him on both cheeks and started waltzing him around the floor in front of about 10 journalists, who were all standing there with their mouths hanging open. And at--at one point, after about the third waltzing around the floor, Colin Powell sort of turned to look at them with this kind of bemused look on his face and he said, `Don't ask, don't tell.'

And, of course, that appeared in The Washington Post about two days later and--but, you know, what can you do? I mean, every--it was a great line. It was too good to keep quiet. E--I'm sure everybody in The Post was talking about it the next day and--but I just--I--I put that in as a joke because I just wanted to signal him that I--I didn't call the paper and say, `Here's the story. Get it in.'
LAMB: Who was the insecure Rockefeller and what was that story?
Ms. QUINN: I'm not gonna tell. I'll tell the story, but I'm not gonna tell which one.
LAMB: Was the last name Rockefeller?
Ms. QUINN: Yes.
LAMB: What's the story?
Ms. QUINN: Well, I was at Kay Graham's one night and was seated next to a Rockefeller. I won't tell you which one, but--but rich and...
LAMB: How long ago?
Ms. QUINN: This is a couple year--several years ago, and--but somebody that people pay--pay a great deal of respect to. I mean, this is somebody who's a substantial human being. And so he turned to me as we were sitting down to dinner. He said, `Oh, I'm so nervous with all these people--I mean, all these famous people.' And I looked at him and said, `What are you talking about?' He said, `Well, look at who's here at this party. I mean, all these high-powered people--I just get so nervous when I come into a group like this.'

And I said, `I cannot believe you t--saying this.' I said, `How--if you get this nervous then--and you--but you're around people like this all the time. How do you handle it?' He said, `Well, I have this little song that I sing that my governess taught me when I was a child.' And I said, `Well, what is the song? Will you tell it to me?' And he started singing, `Everybody loves me, nobody hates me. Everybody loves me, nobody hates me.'

And I thought, after that, what a lesson, you know, to think that this man would be so insecure that he would--he would just feel that shy and that anxious in a group like that. It would ma--and I--I've never felt anxious since then because every time I think I might be a little nervous, I just think of this person and...
LAMB: You had a dinner party--you had David Gergen there, you had Al Hunt, you had Evan Thomas, Walter Pincus, Johnnie Apple. What happened?
Ms. QUINN: Well, we were all sitting around. There were about five or six people from the administration. This is a year or so after Clinton had been elected. And the phone rang in the library--I had some tables in the dining room and the library--and David Gergen answered the phone--I guess he was sitting right next to the phone--and it was the White House. And so he stood up and went s--st--in the corner and all of a sudden he started saying, `Oh, no. Oh, no. My God. Oh, no.'

Well, of course, you can imagine, there was a hush through the room as everybody's sort of like this: `Oh, my God, something amazing has just happened,' but nobody quite knew what it was. And with all th--th--that many journalists there, people were just sort of chomping at the bit. Well, he--he then went around the room and then went into the dining room and collected all of the people in the administration and then all--got them all out in the hall.

Well, of course, pe--the pre--the journalists were going insane because what--they thought--you know, obviously, the--the Russians are coming or who knows what. And finally somebody went out in the hall and said, `OK, we can't stand this another minute. What's going on?' And they said that the pre--they had just gotten a call from Larry King's studio, where the president was on the air with Larry King, and they had a commercial break and had been told that Vince Foster had just committed suicide. And the president had left immediately and they all got the call.

And, of course, the dinner party broke up right away. Everybody got up and--and left, and, I mean, the whole thing just disintegrated. But it was interesting, it--this goes--is in the category of what I call `memorable evenings,' that sometimes the worst disasters mean that the party will be the most memorable because of what happened that night. I mean, it's kind of like, `Where were you when Jack Kennedy died?' You remember--if you were at a party, you remember that.

And there was--Meg Greenfield wrote a column about it a w--a week or so later, not mentioning our names. And then a week after that I was--I did Charlie Rose's show and he said, `Well, you know, Meg Greenfield wrote this column about this dinner party in sort of inner sanctum Washington. Everybody was there the night Vince Foster was killed. Were you there?' he said to me. And I said, `Well, as a matter of fact, it was at my house.' And--and--and since then, people have sort of referred to that evening as the Vince Foster party, which, though it sounds tasteless, is really what happened.

I remember once when I was covering parties a Washington hostess said to me, `Oh, darling, you always want some catastrophe to happen the night of your party because it will just make it,' you know.
LAMB: You were born where?
Ms. QUINN: Savannah, Georgia.
LAMB: Your parents--one's 90, one's 80.
Ms. QUINN: Right.
LAMB: Your father's 90, your mother's gonna be 80...
Ms. QUINN: She'll be 80 in another month, yeah. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: January. Where do they live?
Ms. QUINN: They live in Arlington in the Jefferson. It's a retirement community.
LAMB: What was their career?
Ms. QUINN: Well, my father was in the military and he was a lieutenant general, a three-star general, and his last command was the 7th Army in Germany, Stuttgard.
LAMB: How many different places did you live?
Ms. QUINN: Well, I lived many places. I went to 22 different schools, but I lived more places than that because I was--before I started school, we moved a number of times. I liked being an Army brat. I--I found it very exciting. I loved the change and I loved moving around. I--I remember when we were--when I was about six or seven, you know, my father would come home from work and we'd all sort of rush to the door, `Daddy, Daddy, did you get your orders? Did you get your orders? Where are we going next?' I mean, it was--it was just very exciting.

I think my brother and sister didn't thrive on it the way I did. I think they would've preferred to stay in one place, but I really loved the change, although I have to say I'm a total homebody now. I mean, I have my house and, as Ben will say, I'm gonna be carried out of there in a pine box, you know. I never wanna move again.
LAMB: How long have you and Ben Bradlee been married?
Ms. QUINN: We will have been married 20 years next October, but we've been living to--we lived together for five and a half years before that, so we will have been together 25 years in June.
LAMB: How...
Ms. QUINN: I keep thinking that we're this new scandalous couple, you know. Suddenly I realize, `Well, we've been together 25 years.'
LAMB: How old is Quinn, your son?
Ms. QUINN: He's 15.
LAMB: And what's--what are his interests? 'Cause you say some nice things about him here in your book.
Ms. QUINN: Well, he's my only child, he's Ben's fourth child, and it's been wonderful for Ben to be able to have a child because he was 60 years old when Quinn was born. His other children were born when he was sort of working his way up and was really working full time and--I mean, you know, like 15, 16 hours a day. But by the time Quinn came along, he really had some time to spend with Quinn. And so the two of them have the most wonderful and close father-son relationship I've ever had. They--we have a house in southern Maryland with a lot of woods, and they love to go out and work in the woods and clear brush and chop wood and ride the tractor and the Jeep, and they have a great time together.
LAMB: Whatever happened to Barbara Howar, and who was she or who is she?
Ms. QUINN: Well, Barbara Howar was a--was a Washington sort of personality. She was a writer. She wrote one best-selling book called "Laughing All the Way." She w--she was a friend of the--Lyndon Johnson's to begin with, and then she had a television show and went to New York and had a TV show. And she's now living in Los Angeles and working for Norman Lear. And it was Barbara who said--who made the--the famous quote, "If--if I thought my epitaph would read `Hostess,' I'd refuse to die."
LAMB: Well, you have a--something just popped out of the page, on page 100: `Ambassador Bruce, then near 80, was in my bedroom lying on the bed with the door open trying to make out with Barbara Howar.'
Ms. QUINN: Right.
LAMB: Who is Amba...
Ms. QUINN: Just another Sally Quinn party. What can I tell you?
LAMB: Who is Ambassador Bruce?
Ms. QUINN: Well, David Bruce was our ambassador to England and France, and his wife, Evangeline, was one of the great hostesses in Paris and London. And they came back to Washington, they had a beautiful house in Georgetown. And my parents were having a party--were to ha--were to have a party for Filare Coles, who was a writer who lived in London and also a great hostess. And they suddenly had to be away and asked me if I would have it, and so I said yes and the Bruces were on her guest list.

So in my little tiny Dupont Circle bachelorette apartment, I had the Bruces and Barbara Howar and--and a lot of my journalist friends and a lot of people in television. And--and total disaster of a party because my mother had given me one of her sort of cookers with--electric cookers that I had put a casserole in and, of course, had forgotten to plug it in. So at 11:00 at night everybody was half in the bag and we still hadn't served dinner yet.

But--so David Bruce had had a few drinks and ended up on th--this was a very small apartment. There were other people in the bedroom. I mean, we didn't have enough places to sit, so he and Barbara and the--several others had gone in the bedroom, and he had decided to lie down on the bed and Barbara was kind of fending him off. It was all very innocent.
LAMB: You tell the story about Carl Bernstein and--and Margaret Jay and Nora Ephron. What's that?
Ms. QUINN: Well, the--Carl and--and Nora were married, and--and Nora's one of my very good friends. She's the godmother of my child. And they were--Carl and Nora were at our house one night, and we were having a discussion about whether you could tell whether someone was having an affair with someone else if you were married, and I said something like, `Of course,' you know, `you will always know.'

And we were drinking white wine 'cause we had lobster that night and Nora asked Ben for--if he had any red wine. He said, `Red? You want red?' She said, `Yes.' So he got up and opened up a bottle of red wine, got her a new glass, and she took the red wine and went around behind Carl and--and poured the bottle of red wine over him sort of all down his--now she wrote a book called "Heartburn," which was a best-selling book and then it was made into a movie. But she changed the wine pouring into a--I think it was a lemon meringue pie or a banana cream pie, that she had thrown the pie in his face. But I thought the wine was a lot more effective, actually.
LAMB: `Sexual energy'--this is a quote: "Sexual energy is a big element of a good party."
Ms. QUINN: Well, I--I absolutely believe that. I think it's great to have a mix of men and women and to have--I--I like the idea of having an--an equal number because I think it's nice to sort of see people boy, girl, boy, girl. And I know there was a period during the--the sort of serious feminist era when people said, `Well, I don't know why women can't sit--sit next together--next to each other. I mean, women are just as interesting as men.'

Well, I certainly agree with that, but I think that it--it makes a lot more exciting party if you--if you have a man and a woman--men and women sitting next to each other because I think that they flirt, they--they preen for each other, they show off a little bit. They just respond differently to each other than women. I mean, I can--you--you--there's nothing that kills a party more than to have four women together or four men together. I mean, it just--it just doesn't have that same lift.

And I also don't like putting husbands and wives next to each other. I think it's much more fun if you have husbands and wives--I like them certainly not sitting next to each other at the same table but preferably in--different tables or, even better, in different rooms if you have more than one room.
LAMB: Who took this picture on the back?
Ms. QUINN: Sigrid Estrada.
LAMB: Where is it?
Ms. QUINN: It's the front door of my house, and I'm supposed to look like a hostess welcoming her guests. One of my friends said, `That is a campist picture, just total camp.'
LAMB: When was it taken?
Ms. QUINN: It was taken, oh, a few months ago.
LAMB: For the book?
Ms. QUINN: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LAMB: We're out of time. Thank you, Sally Quinn. This is the cover of the book and it's called "The Party."


Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.