ALL IN A DAY’S WORK: Whether describing her five years of all-nighters during USA Today’s early days or her cue to exit Town & Country — “when my staff had become younger than my stepdaughter, I thought, ‘This is not good.’” Valerie Salembier was candid as can be Thursday discussing her career.
In a Q&A with Hearst’s Ellen Levine at the Women’s Voices for Change luncheon, the former Harper’s Bazaar publisher said at 18 she knew it was time to punch the clock. “I didn’t want to go to college — I wanted to go to work,” said Salembier. “My first paycheck was $37.50 net and I went to Bloomingdale’s and bought cashmere-lined leather gloves and symbolically that was the beginning of my life.”
Salembier, who now specializes in anti-counterfeiting as a private consultant, told the mostly female audience, “There were many bumps along the way as I am sure there has been for all of you.” And the Harmonie Club crowd — Maria Bartiromo, Kelly Rutherford, Susan Sokol, Colleen Caslin, Barbara Cirkva, Dominique Browning, Gail Sheehy, Princess Alexandra of Greece, Debbie Bancroft, Patricia Yarberry Allen, Elizabeth Hemmerdinger and Bettina Zilkha among them — was all ears.
Salembier said of her storied career, “I was the result of Katharine Graham throwing a crystal leaded ashtray at the president of Newsweek” for being male-minded.
She was also candid about her own highs and lows. Recalling being president of The New York Post, Salembier said, “When I got that job, everybody called me. Everyone wanted to know me. And I, believe it or not, believed them. I thought, ‘Oh, they like me.’ — like Sally Field.” she said. “Mayor Dinkins was calling, ‘When can you come to Gracie for dinner?’ Restaurants were calling. And I believed it was me — big mistake. We are our business cards.”
After being publicly humiliated by being fired, “The phone lines went dead. I had four phone lines. I didn’t even need one. I couldn’t get a restaurant reservation at First Wok on 33rd Street and First Avenue.”
Through it all, Salembier learned from even the missteps, encouraging guests to speak up for themselves, to confront bullies head on and not to shy away from using lawyers to negotiate contracts.
WVFC meanwhile is also stepping up its efforts. The site is now paying its writers.