More recently, campaigns to secure Brown a big editing gig have fallen flat, like the push for her at Time magazine. Diller and Eisner are still her friends, but reading, writing, and party-going make up most of her days. Her eccentricities are lovable now, like her total lack of a sense of direction—“To get her to walk from point A to point B, you almost have to put her in one of those hoods for hawks,” says a writer—or any form of personal modesty. In her old offices, as she was getting ready to go out in the evening, the area around her desk could be a blur of flying undergarments. (“Her breasts are amazing,” says an ex-assistant. “We used to joke Tina’s rack was one of the seven secrets of Manhattan.”) She also still has a hard time with the generals. “One time, Tina and I met a very, very handsome decorated military man for a foreign-policy symposium we were putting together,” says a close friend, former Nightline producer Kyle Gibson. “He was strikingly handsome, like an actor portraying a military man. Tina got so flustered by his charisma that she reached out to shake his hand and dropped her purse with a splat. Her cheeks burned bright red.”
Frankly, Brown used to not care much about socking away gobs of money, but everyone else seems to care about it, and she’s very competitive, so now she wants more of it. The $2 million she received for the Diana book is good to squirrel away for husband Harry Evans’s old age, which is not that far away (he celebrated his 78th this year). A fortune would have been nice to have, or at least a position like her pal Arianna Huffington, who managed to secure for herself what Brown craves—a role on the political scene, a salon festooned with VIPs to fulfill her ego needs. Instead, with her hubris, she took the entrepreneurial plunge with Harvey Weinstein, a partner so difficult he made her second-guess her psychic connection to hotness. There was also a personal element: Her mother passed away the week before she made the fateful choice to bail out of Condé Nast. “I think my decision was influenced as much by a desire to distract myself from the terrible loss of my dearest and best friend as it was by the go-go dot-com spirit of change,” says Brown.
“Blogging isn’t a particularly good training for writing,” says Brown. “There’s too much voice, in a way.”
But while Talk in certain ways (most notably its title) seemed to anticipate the democratic cacophony of the blogosphere, it was fairly clueless as a media play, with no Internet applications and none of the market power that cushioned Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. And the association with Miramax didn’t produce synergy but, for the most part, its opposite. Still, she is not willing to concede defeat on the matter of Talk. “It was a very good magazine, and it was on the cusp of being totally fine,” she maintains, pursing her lips. Ultimately, for throwing over the editorship of The New Yorker, the best job in American magazines, she received a $1 million settlement of her Talk contract. “I might’ve wanted my fuck-you money, but I got my fuck-off money,” she says, snickering.
Brown means to use the Di brand to remind everyone of the Tina brand—that is, if anyone in this country still cares about Diana, which remains to be seen. Diana has been a kind of doppelgänger for Brown since the beginning of her career. They looked the same, with those puddly blue eyes, fluffy winged bobs, and similar upper-class carriage, at least to the untrained American eye. Brown covered Diana’s wedding and funeral on NBC and wrote lovingly of her personal encounters with Diana, first at the American embassy in London—“She was wearing a pale-blue dress that seemed to have been spun of moonbeams, and her skin had the pink sheen of a cultured pearl”—and at The Four Seasons in New York with Anna Wintour, when Diana auctioned off her wardrobe at Christie’s. “Within a few Perrier minutes, we are just a couple of mates having lunch with a famous girlfriend,” she writes. “She plainly hankers for America—for the optimism, the options, the openness.”
Certainly, Brown was smarter than Diana, a sad bulimic girl in pearls raised on romantic novels who failed her O levels twice and carefully husbanded her hamsters Little Black Muff and Little Black Puff. But they shared the same drive and ambition: Brown is a ruthless schemer, a stone-cold social climber renowned for what Evans once called her “rat-like cunning.” Diana, too, was not above stepping on toes to get her prize: At 16, when the Prince of Wales was dating her older sister, she decided when he came to shoot with her father for a day that she was going to marry him anyway. For her prince, she even managed to keep her virginity intact through the late seventies. “I knew I had to keep myself tidy for what laid ahead,” she explained.