WORLD

Sex and success

A new book describes the ‘courtesan of the century’

CARL MOLLINS June 6 1994
WORLD

Sex and success

A new book describes the ‘courtesan of the century’

CARL MOLLINS June 6 1994

Sex and success

A new book describes the ‘courtesan of the century’

CARL MOLLINS

REPORT FROM WASHINGTON

Hers transatlantic is a riches-to-riches tale of personal story, ambia tion fulfilled. From British baron’s daughter to American political mentor, her saga spans a career of amorous adventure that carried her into the power sanctums of three capitals. The Paris-based newsmagazine Express compares her to Moll Flanders. But the real-life record of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman, now 74, is more extravagant than any fictional romance. That record now is the subject of a disputed biography, Life of the Party, a weekly serial in the London Sunday Times and a topic of attention in Paris.

Although it was always Pamela Digby’s ambition to succeed in her own right, she eagerly embraced help from famous lovers. Three, now deceased, became husbands. First to marry the restless redhead, then 19, was Randolph Churchill (1939-1945), the son of Britain’s wartime prime minister and father of her only child, “Young Winston,” a Tory MP since 1970. Next was New York theatrical agent-producer Leland Hayward (1960-1971), and finally tycoon-diplomat Averell Harriman (1971-1986), who had lived with Pamela for two years in wartime London after the collapse of her marriage to Churchill. Two other lovers—Gianni Agnelli, heir to Italy’s Fiat fortune, and Elie de Rothschild of the banking family’s French branch—helped to support Pamela Churchill

while she lived in Paris from 1948 to 1958.

Biographer Christopher Ogden, a Time magazine writer, re lates that his subject never

worried what people thought about her. Perhaps in the past, but not now. Getting the Ogden book into print met “a lot of resistance from Pamela,” says an executive of the biography’s New York City-based publisher, Little, Brown & Co. The book, says a statement is-

sued by her lawyer, “contains an extraordinary number of inaccuracies and falsehoods, many of which are defamatory.” Ogden says that his book grew out of Harriman’s 1991 re-

quest to help her write an autobiography. She withdrew, Ogden writes in his preface, when Random House offered a $2.25-million publishing con-

tract indicating that “she and I would have to

produce a full memoir.” After fruitless efforts to get paid for his time, Ogden proceeded on his own. Although Harriman herself has declined to comment on the book, she is clearly unhappy about its pandering attention to her

love affairs at the expense of political affairs.

In politics, Pamela Churchill valued her role as a wartime go-between among top political and military intimates. While pregnant in 1940, she lived at 10 Downing Street, sometimes seeking sleep during air raids in the lower berth of a cellar double bunk while a doting old Winston snored in the upper. More recently in Washington, Pamela Harriman anchored the drifting Democratic party during 12 years of Republican dominance. After Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, she began organizing policy meetings among top Democrats at her luxurious home in the capital’s Georgetown district. Her Political

Action Committee, nicknamed PamPAC, generated nearly $12 million for the party in the 1980s. She raised millions more for Clinton before his election on Nov. 3,1992.

At a postelection celebration, six months before Clinton sent her to Paris as ambassador, the president-elect toasted her as “the First Lady of the Democratic party.” Ogden’s book records that tribute, but it also describes her as “the courtesan of the century.” Either way, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman is back in the playgirl base of her younger years, this time in her own right. □