But when I was writing my thesis I had a crisis of faith. I suddenly thought: "Why am I doing this? Twenty years from now, I'll be a junior professor at a university on the East Coast, and crying because someone down the corridor has a better view from their office." So I went back to my home city of New York, and got a job as secretary to Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan. I was a terrible secretary, because I always felt I could do what I wanted: Truman Capote called Helen once, and I had a wonderful conversation with him for 20 minutes, forgetting he was ringing because Helen had commissioned an article from him.
I went to a magazine called Woman's Day after that, and I worked on a column called the "Neighbours Column" - basically household hints and child-rearing tips for women. But I was a New York debutante, who didn't even know how to use a washing-machine, and so I was really poor choice. But I learned a lot, because I received more than 1,000 letters a day from the readers.
Then I was given a job as editor of a hugely popular trade magazine called Gifts and Decorative Accessories. This was geared towards "gifte shoppes", and it was as if someone had inserted a publishing house in an insane asylum. Everyone who worked for me was twisted in a delightful way, and it was probably the most fun I ever had in a job. I was also going out virtually every night, and there were times when I'd go into the office early in the morning still in my ballgown to finish a piece, and then be home in bed for 11am.
But in the end I thought it wasn't right for me, and decided to be a freelancer - I'd already begun to write for the Conde Nast titles Vogue Entertaining and House and Garden. But I hated not going to an office; I was very unhappy just being at home with my typewriter.
Then, in 1987, I married and moved to Britain in the same week; my husband was a banker and was being transferred to London. At this time Conde Nast was launching British GQ, but Michael VerMeulen was not interested in giving me an editorial job. So, I told Stephen Quinn, the publisher, that I'd always been interested in the business side, though it was the first time in my life I'd ever considered it. On the spot he gave me the lowest business job on the masthead, but no American would ever have given me an opportunity like that - I'd have needed tons of technical training first.
I was very annoying at GQ, always in the editor's office with ideas about the magazine, so they had to promote me. I became the promotions director, and then the marketing director, and then the communications director for Conde Nast. And when Nicholas Coleridge, who's been a huge influence on me, became managing director of the company, I wished never to leave.
But about six months ago, I realised the job of publisher at The Spectator would be coming open. I was determined to have the job, but I really wanted to have another five or 10 years under my belt first. But I thought "This is my chance - the next person in might last 20 years", so I met Conrad Black and Frank Johnson and was offered the job.
It's been a great six months, because The Spectator is like a powerful cruise ship, on the right course. With the election coming up it's very exciting - there are lots of conspiratorial conversations going on down the phone - and we've had some good stories, like last week's Neil Hamilton scoop, and the Spice Girls interview last December.
Max Hastings once said to me that it was the very strangeness of me that was my asset. I assume he meant my foreignness, rather than weirdness, but he was quite right. Being foreign means you often have a more objective view of what is going on in a society. Also, I think American women are much more comfortable in business: we are massively aggressive, and being snubbed means nothing to us. Because of that, we cut through the very quagmire of things the British sometimes have problems withn
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