Name: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Occupation: Deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program. Author, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
My grandmother Frances Spielman, a legendary distributor of independent film, who worked in New York on independent film from the 1940s to the late 1990s. She founded First Run Features and was really a role model for me.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
An egg cream from the diner across from Barneys. They’re really hard to find outside of New York, no one can do them. People have no clue what the ratios are. (Do not ever try to get one in L.A. It is disgusting.) Also, my friend Biola Odunewu runs Pillow Café in Fort Greene — we used to work together at CNN. She makes amazing homemade hummus. I’m vegan (except for when I have egg creams), so I go for that.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
Write about women and foreign policy.
What was your first job in New York?
In 1997, posting video and writing news stories as an associate producer at ABC News. I worked at ABCNews.com at a time when nobody knew what “dot com” was.
What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Speed the Plow, ages back with my cousin Maxine. I guess just like every New Yorker I say I’m going to go see shows, and I really mean to, but then I run out of hours. I’m really curious about Spider-Man, though; I’m really curious to see it. I think [Julie Taymor] is an incredibly talented artist, and I just really want to see what her vision was before they come in and “fix it.”
Do you give money to panhandlers?
What’s your drink?
Chopin vodka martini with extra olives. Sometimes they joke that I’m having some martini with my olives. I have very big olives in my martini.
How often do you prepare your own meals?
Almost never, is the honest answer. The truth, you know that Lifethyme health food store on Sixth Avenue? It’s brilliant, because you don’t have to make anything. I’m more of a “warmer” than a “cooker.” But I don’t even usually do that, because being vegan you don’t notice the difference. It still has the same texture whether it’s cold or warm.
What’s your favorite medication?
Cipro comes in handy in Afghanistan.
What’s hanging above your sofa?
Absolutely nothing. Only because my husband and I live together now is there anything on our walls. In fact, almost every place I’ve ever lived I have never even taken art out of their boxes. I could live with boxes, also, very comfortably. You could either call it lazy or you can call it “minimalist.” I prefer to call it minimalist.
How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
How good is the haircut?
I have never had one. It’s great [with a new baby], because it actually makes you justified if you didn’t sleep before. People never expect you to sleep afterward.
Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
The new one. I feel better walking through it at night.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
I don’t often think of Donald Trump, but his daughter is very smart. She’s a woman working in real estate, which is predominantly men, and she’s both savvy and articulate about her business and her business acumen.
What do you hate most about living in New York?
No taxis in the rain. When I was seven months pregnant I waited on Sixth Avenue for 30 minutes in a nor’easter for a taxi to take my luggage and me uptown.
Who is your mortal enemy?
When’s the last time you drove a car?
January, I think. I’m a really bad driver. When I’m in L.A. my husband always has to park the car for me, because I’m likely to hit something.
How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
A lot of my friends from business school have changed or lost jobs. Most of them have either waited awhile and then found another job in investment banking, or gone into different companies. I finished business school in 2006 so a lot of people got that last of the boom and then faced the real brunt of the cutbacks and the real hit of the financial crisis.
Times, Post, or Daily News?
Times and “Page Six.” You cannot go up in ABC News without reading “Page Six” because, we used to joke, that’s how you know if we still have a job. “Page Six” is required reading.
Where do you go to be alone?
What makes someone a New Yorker?
They think it is normal to be out six nights a week until 11:30 p.m. I am too old for that now.