Interviewing Your Work Buddies for Fun and Profit

By
Jessica Pressler
Naturally, Pressler went blond for the shoot. Photo: Avenue, Patrick McMullan

In this month's Avenue (it's a society magazine, move on), Vanity Fair scribe Vicky Ward is interviewed about her upcoming book, The Devil's Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers. In a story titled — and we did not make this up — "Vicky Victorious," writer Michael Shnayerson painstakingly explains how beautiful, competent, and talented Ward is as a writer, mother, and British person. You know what's fun about this? Shnayerson and Ward are buddies from Vanity Fair, where they're both contributing editors on the rich-people beat. Here's some of what Shnayerson has to say about his pal interview subject:


At 40 Ward is a deadly combination of perfect blonde and posh Brit, oozing charm and volubility in Cambridge-modulated tones: even the grumpiest ex-Lehmanite, one senses, would spill the beans to her.

In between tales of how Ward tracked down the story of the fall of Lehman, there are more fawning details:

Ward is whip-smart, keenly ambitious, blithely self-promoting and simply unsquashable. Slam a door in her face and she'll go around the back.

"What can you say about Vicky that she hasn't already said about herself?" says Vanity Fair Editor in Chief Graydon Carter. "As a reporter, she's nothing if not dogged. And as a colleague, she can inspire feelings of amazement, exasperation, and compassion, all in equal measure." ...

One night, Ward went to the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express. She greeted a girl she'd known at Cambridge who introduced her to her new employers, the Webbers. Standing beside the Webbers, Ward realized, was Prince Edward. Only days before, a fire had broke out at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family had stayed mum on its cause and who would pay for the damage. In a twinkling, Ward was chatting up the Prince and getting his comments on the fire, a coup that Ward's editors played as front-page news.

We had no idea you could do this! Get paid money to interview your work buddies and make them sound great! We're going to start doing this. Right now!



At, um, 29, Jessica Pressler is a deadly combination of expensively highlighted auburn hair and faint middle-class Massachusetts accent, firing out wisdom and one-liners like she had a chili omelette for breakfast: Even the most curmudgeonly high dudgeon megabank spokesperson, one senses, would spill the beans to her ...

Pressler is public-school smart at the very least, increasingly beaten down by work, but somehow cautiously optimistic — probably because of the booze. Also, she's unsquishable, we think, but we've never made an attempt. Slam a door in her face and she'll open it again, invite you to walk through it, and then slam it in your face and go, "I can't believe you fell for that. Again."

"Jessica keeps a clean desk and rarely orders smelly food for lunch," says nymag.com's Lane Brown, who sits sort of near us. "One time she bought us all tequila shots at an office party."

One time, Hank Paulson used the phrase "make it work" twice in an interview about financial regulation. So Pressler had the brilliant idea of calling Tim Gunn, who coined that exact phrase on Project Runway. "I love it," Gunn said. "'Make it work' is the perfect phrase for him to use in his situation. It says 'you're not getting any extra resources. You're not getting any special treatment, you're not getting any more funds. Be creative with what you have and make it work.'" But then Pressler called a Treasury spokeswoman, who said that actually Hank "is not watching a lot of TV these days," so he wasn't really quoting the show. Anyway, that was a thing that happened one time.

Hmm. Maybe we just don't have the knack for this.

Vicky Victorious [VickyWard.com]