Tina Brown's book The Diana Chronicles is perched prettily atop the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list. (Take that, Chris Hitchens!) All Tina's careful plans have gone exactly right. So if one takes as a given that Tina Brown is the queen of intentionality, her decision to have a discussion with Times reporter Warren Hoge (who was London bureau chief for eight years) in the overheated, scruffy surroundings of The Strand (one of her favorites, and her husband Harry Evans's as well) last evening was to be another indication, perhaps, that Tina is Of The People.
Of course, like Diana's moniker, "The People's Princess," that's not totally accurate. Brown's career has been predicated not upon writing about The People, but about writing about The Important and The Powerful. But! Brown has a deceptive accessibility about her, and what makes her a good social journalist is that she is able to get people to say things that they simply wouldn't tell other people because she purposely projects a kind of warmth and empathy to her audience. So when, during the question and answer session, the first question came from a dreadlocked man with an open shirt, who thanked Brown for hiring his "kid brother" at Vanity Fair to "do his Bruce Willis thing," Brown barely flinched, and simply smiled beneficently.
She was wearing a fitted black dress with a black patent-leather belt, high-heeled D'Orsay peep-toed shoes, and large pearl studs in her ears. A black patent-leather drawstring tote was on the floor next to her. Her hair is longer these days, less Hillary Clinton-ish. Half of her left forearm was clad in a black (of course) cast, and she was heard saying to one of the Strand staffers that it was her "signing arm." (This is not the first time her left hand has been in a cast, either.)
Her discussion with Hoge repeated the themes of the book: Diana was a "total zero intellectually" who nonetheless had an amazingly high emotional intelligence quotient. Charles never fell out of love with his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles ("She'll be a grand old trout in a big hat" when she finally becomes Queen, Brown said), whom he married in 2005. She was fatally underestimated by her future in-laws (according to Brown, Prince Philip called her "the fifth columnist"), who were horrified by and jealous of the amount of press she got—press that she skillfully manipulated until she was unable to outrun it. And that poor doddering royal family, so stuck in the past! "They should have realized Diana was the best thing to happen to the monarchy since Queen Victoria, but they kept trying to rub her out," Brown said.
Hmm. Tricky choice of words there.
"I found Diana completely riveting by the end," Brown said—in contrast to how she felt apprehensive at the beginning about being able to maintain her interest in the former Princess long enough to write her book, which took her 18 months. So riveting, in fact, that she has developed a rather uncanny imitation of Diana's voice, which Hoge implored her to demonstrate to the crowd. She took a breath, and, with her chin pointed down in a sort of Diana-ish pose, simpered, "With Charles by my side, I think everything is going to be all right."