So What Do You Do,
Nancy Jo Sales? The people in your media neighborhood.
ALBERT LEE |Whether it's Chelsea
Clinton "kissing up a storm," the Hilton
hotel heiresses dancing on tabletops, or Hugh
Hefner in bed with seven women one-third his age, the subjects of Sales'
Vanity Fair profiles are sure to be colorful.
Sales, who began her career at the National Enquirer, has also written
frequently about the doings of Manhattan's obscenely rich, ne'er-do-well teens
for New York magazine.
DOB: October 15, 1964.
Occupation: Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair.
First real job: Baking pies in my parents' health food
A brief career sketch: I went from tabloids
to Peopleto New
Yorkto Vanity Fair, with a lot of freelance things in between.
Favorite book(s): Whatever I'm reading at the moment. But
the book I've gone back to most frequently is The
Great Gatsby. It's pretty near perfect.
Five latest obsessions: 1) My daughter, Zazie. 2) The extraordinary
reporting on terrorism in The New York Times. 3) Wondering how this story
was missed by every publication, including the Times, throughout the
'90s and into 2001. 4) Wondering how as journalists we can address the things
that make terrorists hate us without furthering their cause. 5) The
trials of Tony Soprano.
Heroes: In no particular order, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin,
Vincent Van Gogh, Billie Holiday, my mother and father, Martin Luther King,
the late novelist Chris Fuhrman, Graydon Carter, Kurt Andersen, and all the
people who died on September 11. Rest in peace.
Nuttiest moment she's never written about: If I didn't
write about it, it was because I couldn't, although I probably wanted to badly.
The weirdest moment I ever did write about was Dennis Rodman asking me if I'd
like to watch him have sex with Carmen Electra. Carmen vetoed the idea before
I could respond.
Nuttiest thing she's ever done: Reporting a story
for New York magazine in 1997, I tagged along while a cracked-out Times
Square crack dealer robbed a crack house in Washington Heights. It was an ingenious
plan that didn't work only because his partner robbed him of the booty.
How she feels about the kids she writes about: I think
American values in the last 20 years have dived into a pit of narcissism and
greed, and unfortunately, this had affected young people. They only imitate
Number of angry calls fielded from subjects of your profiles:
Best or worst moment on assignment: Best and worst together
Hugh Hefner was about to tell me how he has sex with seven women at one
time when I found my new tape recorder wasn't working. No problem. Hef proved
as handy with mechanics as with the female anatomy.
Note-taking tips: Write down everything. And learn to write
without looking down. (I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Sometimes you
have to nudge the tape recorder a little closer or ask someone to repeat something.)
Funniest job interview: In 1997, I was talking to The
New York Observerabout going to work for them. I had been doing a lot
of stories for New York magazine about the teenage underworld and street
gangs, and Arthur Carter, the Observer's publisher, told me, "Mary
[sic] Jo Sales, we want you to write about sle-e-e-aaze."
How to overcome writer's block: Look through your notes
or listen to your tapes and you'll find something that will get you going.
Her next Vanity Fair piece: It's about a bunch of
kids in L.A. and how they spent the summer of 2002.
The stories she's proudest of: The ones that people remember.
Smartest thing I ever did for my career: Not thinking too
much about it.