WASHINGTON, D.C. — Glamour Magazine editor in chief Cynthia Leive has hired her first Washington contributing editor: Washington Post Style writer Ann Gerhart. While contract details are still being hammered out, Leive showed up in Washington earlier this week just in time to toss a party at Cafe Milano in Georgetown for Gerhart’s new book, “The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush.”
“It’s an election year and young women have so much riding on the election. We want to know how young women can take political action on issues they care about,’’ said Leive, who offered guests copies of Gerhart’s new book tied up in a white satin ribbon with the February issue of the magazine, which features Gerhart’s first contribution.
While there’s no mention of Gerhart’s new job in the issue, her byline appears on five short profiles of first lady candidates, including Laura Bush, all neatly packaged as sidebars to a first-person article by Helen Thorpe, wife of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
Glamour hasn’t had a Washington contributing editor since 1998, back when everyone knew Bill Clinton wore briefs and not boxers. Since then, women’s magazines like Marie Claire have stepped up their coverage of political and international issues of interest to women. Glamour used to cover such issues extensively under editor Ruth Whitney and Leive has said she wants to again cover those topics, especially since she believes her readers are more interested than ever in politics. One issue Leive says Gerhart will never be asked to write about is offering up tips on how to date a congressman.
“The thought never crossed my mind,’’ said Leive, who promptly turned and, introducing Gerhart to the crowd, described her new hire as a “die-hard reporter’’ who, as a young girl growing up in Lancaster, Pa., “started bleaching her hair early on so everyone would know she wasn’t Amish.’’
Gerhart, who is working hard to promote her book while covering the national political campaign for the Post’s Style section, describes her new Glamour gig as a chance “to make what’s going on in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in foreign policy just as vital as the latest hairstyle. The magazine is very interested in women’s health initiatives, issues of choice and reproductive rights. They want the Glamour News section at the back of the magazine to be a place where smart women can get information.’’
That challenge might be a lot less daunting than Gerhart’s three-year struggle to come up with an intimate portrait of Laura Bush.
“She’s an enigmatic woman,’’ said Gerhart, who manages to capture some of Bush’s mythic reserve right from her opening sentence when she confides her fascination with the First Lady began “when I heard that she wiped her shelves down with Clorox to relax and organizes her extensive literary collection according to the Dewey Decimal System.’’
Gerhart attempts to explain that reserve, dedicating her first chapter to Laura Bush’s traumatic automobile accident, when at age 17, driving one night with a friend in her hometown of Midland, Tex., she accidentally ran a stop sign and collided with another car, resulting in the death of a fellow student.
As for the handful of women who want to replace Laura Bush as First Lady, Gerhart saves her strongest concerns for Dr. Judith Steinberg, the wife of Democratic front-runner Howard Dean and the subject of a less-than-flattering profile in The New York Times this week that left the Dean camp seething because it raised the question as to why Steinberg wasn’t on the campaign trail with the former governor..
“Judith Dean is going to find what worked for her as a Vermont Governor’s wife — deciding not to go to inaugural balls or open houses — isn’t going to work for her as the presidential primary season goes forward,’’ Gerhart warned. “If Howard Dean becomes the Democratic nominee, someone on the campaign is going to have to make sure she understands that people want to see what they perceive as a close, loving relationship between the candidate and his spouse. Voters want to be able to like the candidate and to feel they can connect to him, and the first place they look to connect is through the marriage.’’