Kitty Kelley Tells (Almost) All

Georgetown’s own Kitty Kelley and “America’s bestselling investigative biographer” bedazzled her audience on the sun drenched penthouse patio of Alan and Nancy Taylor Bubes that overlooks the Potomac River. The May 2 interview was moderated by writer Carrington Tarr and organized by the Citizens Association of Georgetown.

“I came to D.C. for Sen. Eugene McCarthy,” said Kelley, who hails from Washington state. 

Later, she worked at the Washington Post and received a gift from publisher Katharine Graham. It was the exact dress Kelley had complimented her about. “She was the best dressed woman in Washington,” Kelley said.

Soon enough, Kelley began the career that made her famous — and sometimes feared or criticized. “If you’re a biographer, we learn from everyone.” Her titles include “His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra,” “Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star,” “Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography,” “Oprah” and “Jackie Oh!”

“What was it like to be sued by Frank Sinatra?” Tarr asked. “He thought he had the authority [to stop the biography],” Kelley replied. “It was one year and $100,000 in legal fees.” Sinatra’s lawyers dropped the lawsuit. 

Of Sinatra, Kelley said, “He taught me how to be tough.” She then added that Jackie made her how to dress better — and that Liz helped her to get divorced.  Of Nancy, she said she didn’t quite learn to be so thin and that Ronald Reagan could not been elected president without her.

Kelley’s defense of her work involves recording everything and having things filed under categories, such as chronology, subject and place. “A good bio takes a commitment of time,” she said. “About four years to write.” (Kelley sits on the board of Biographers International Organization to which she’s given $1 million.)

She sends a thank you to each person she’s interviewed — for them to remember the interview. One interview Kelley scheduled with a senator allowed her five minutes. It lasted three hours. The senator commented later: “Just run over by a broad.”

What question does Kelley never ask? “I never ask someone how they weigh.” Tarr then asked what book is Kelley writing these days. To which the author offered: “The only book I’m writing is my checkbook.”

When asked what was the biggest change in Georgetown since she arrived, Kelley quipped, “We need to have one-way streets. Cars are fatter — and people are fatter, too.” (Her Kitty Kelley Book Club column runs in The Georgetowner Newspaper every month.)

Host Nancy Taylor Bubes, author Kitty Kelley and Amy Titus, vice president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. Photo by Bill Starrels.


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