Pinky Pie

Kitty Kelley & Me

Posted on: April 25, 2010

Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle in their debate

Lloyd Bentsen’s run for vice president in 1984 is remembered for one thing – his quip at a vice presidential debate, which may or may not have been pre-written.

In response to a question, Republican Senator Dan Quayle, tried to compare his experience as a prospective president with others who have sought the office. Here is a partial transcript, thanks to Wikipedia:

Quayle: Three times that I’ve had this question — and I will try to answer it again for you, as clearly as I can, because the question you’re asking is, “What kind of qualifications does Dan Quayle have to be president?” … I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency…

Judy Woodruff: Senator [Bentsen]?

Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. (Prolonged shouts and applause.)

Quayle: That was really uncalled for, Senator. (Shouts and applause.)

Bentsen: You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator — and I’m one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken.

You can read the context for the exchange at:,_you’re_no_Jack_Kennedy

That quip was in my mind this morning when I thought about the book I was reading the week that I went to see a certain billionaire’s television program. I thought it so ironic that Kitty Kelley would come out with a biography of Oprah the week before I was going to see her that I bought two copies. One was for my buddy Julie and the other for me.

Kitty Kelley is the mistress of the unauthorized biography – basically hatchet jobs of the very rich and powerful. She leaves no dis un-dissed when she writes about anyone from Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, Jackie O, Elizabeth Taylor, the Bush family, the British Royals and more.

Always she writes of her admiration for the person before dishing out the Kelley dis. These books are fun to read because they bring the powerful and mighty down a plug or two or three thousand. They are researched thoroughly and in one book she showed a photo of herself with many, many file folders of interviews.

Her bio of Oprah suggests the talk show magnate has shaded the truth about her humble upbringing and has turned into a paranoid, money hungry powerhouse who controls every aspect of her empire. The truth, I’m sure, is somewhere between that portrayal and the charming person we see on camera.

I write memoirs and biographies for a living as a personal historian. It is an accidental profession for me but one that I love.  It is a much better fit for me than newspaper reporter simply because I do not have the killer instinct except in Scrabble – and then especially with my friend Julie.

Personal history was accidental because I never would have left the newspaper business had it not been for Matt’s leukemia. I needed more flexibility in my life so I became a freelance writer, which led to writing histories of organizations, groups, families and individuals.

I prefer letting the person, group or organization tell his or her story through me. I encourage folks to look at themselves and talk about even the tough stuff in life because we all go through something like it. Writing for future generations about the resilience we had to get through the hard things is very powerful – and helpful.

This blog began about the good, the bad and the ugly of breast cancer and its treatment. I write less about cancer now, but I think my life and view of the world is shaped by all of my experiences – not just the good ones

I think it is powerful and healing to write about your life (or have me do it). You discover the strength you’ve discovered in yourself as a result of going through hard things. And I feel I am a much stronger person today than I was a year ago.

So here’s my hope. If anyone compares my work to Kitty Kelley, this is what he or she would say:

“I know Susan Hessel. Susan Hessel was a friend of mine, and she is no Kitty Kelley.”

Now I wouldn’t mind selling as many books as Kitty Kelley. But wait, I’m no Kitty Kelly.

Oh, my friend Julie claims she’s already given her interview to Kitty about me. Now I’m scared.


3 Responses to "Kitty Kelley & Me"

such good timing sue… and timing is everything, isn’t it? sunday morning just featured kitty kelley and she didn’t mention her next book being about you so you are safe for a couple more scrabble games.

Didn’t you see Sunday Morning today with Kitty talking about her new book called SUE????
Had a blast this past week but have not played any scrabble since Friday…your turn!

Shouldn’t it be titled SUSAN T?

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