Georgetown’s Madame Blavatsky
We are long, long past the day when Sally Quinn and her late husband Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor, were arbiters of Washington social life. But Quinn, now in her mid-70s, has found a way to keep her name in public. In this delicious Washingtonian profile by Michelle Cottle, Quinn outs herself as an occultist. No, really. And there’s more. The profile is occasioned by the publication of Quinn’s new memoir, Finding Magic, which some of her friends think might be unwisely indiscreet. From the piece, this about how she and Ben Bradlee became an item:
By 1974, the pair were an item—quite a scandal, seeing as he was her boss, 20 years her senior, and married. The first time they had sex, in fact, was after a lunch meeting at which Quinn weepily told him she had taken a job at CBS in New York as a way to escape her forbidden love for him. Instead, the two wound up in bed. (Yes, it’s in the book.)
“What I felt for Ben was so transcendent, so sacred, so divine,” she writes of that night. “I had never experienced anything like it. It was magic in the sense that it was otherworldly, life enhancing, life transforming. . . . I merged with another being, another soul.” Quinn describes the day that their son was conceived—on the banks of the Cacapon River in West Virginia—in equally exalted terms. (Yes, that’s in the book, too.)
Ewgh. The book is her way of going public with her occult beliefs. She tells the reporter that she communicates with her dead husband through a medium. And:
Quinn also introduces the ghosts—literal, not metaphorical—she has met over the years, including at Grey Gardens, the East Hampton estate she and Bradlee bought from relatives of Jackie Kennedy. Some spirits were regulars whom Quinn knew by name; others popped up only now and again. “Big Edie” Beale, one of the deceased former owners of Grey Gardens, was forever sending Quinn messages and signs. “Did I really believe she had made everything perfect for us for so many years?” writes Quinn. “Yes, I did.”
Quinn would practice her own magic in the gardener’s cottage. “She used to take her cards out to the little thatched hut,” recalls writer Leslie Marshall, an ex-wife of Quinn’s stepson Dino Bradlee and one of Sally’s closest friends. “The place has the right ambience for the occult.”
Ouija boards, astrological charts, palm reading, talismans—Quinn embraces it all. And yes, she has been in contact with her husband since his passing. Through a medium. Repeatedly.
Some friends have voiced reservations that Quinn is now showing all her cards, so to speak. “Don’t play up the voodoo too much,” one implored. But Sally does nothing by halves. She reveals that, in her less mellow days, she put hexes on three people who promptly wound up having their lives ruined, or ended.
The first, cast in 1969, was spurred by old-fashioned jealousy. Some exotic beauty at a Halloween party inspired lust in Quinn’s beau at the time—and then killed herself just days after Sally cast her spell.
Her second victim was Clay Felker, the longtime editor of New York magazine who oversaw a brutal profile of Quinn in 1973, just before her catastrophic debut on the CBS Morning News. Quinn hexed Felker not long after flaming out at CBS and returning to Washington. “Some time afterward, Rupert Murdoch bought New York magazine in a hostile takeover, and Felker was out,” she writes. “Clay never recovered professionally. Worse, he got cancer, which ultimately caused his death.”
Target number three: a shady psychic who, the autumn after Quinn Bradlee was born, ran afoul of Sally’s maternal instincts. The woman dropped dead before year’s end.
Erm … well, I, for one, welcome the publication of the new tome by the Marie Laveau of M Street, and wish her all the success in the world.
Read the whole profile. It’s … something.