Dean of the White House Press Corps, first president of the Women’s National Press Club, first female officer of the National Press Club – Helen Thomas was revered, perhaps at times feared, but almost always highly respected.
This is the image that was known to the world during her decades-long journalistic career.
But there was a human side to her that not many knew, and that’s what is so special about My Life with Helen, written by her longtime (30+ years) literary agent and friend Diane S. Nine. Author Nine, and Helen’s small group of friends dubbed “The Ladies”, knew her perhaps better than anyone – not only as a journalist but as a woman.
Insider stories about Helen’s interaction with presidents, first ladies and presidential families from the administrations of John F. Kennedy through Barack Obama are fascinating, to be sure. But equally fascinating are tales of how this seemingly all-business trailblazer openly called out comments during movie screenings or stage plays, loved to sing, broke down in tears the first time she returned to the Shenandoah Valley cabin she’d shared with her late husband Doug, and kept going through a series of illnesses and hospitalizations that few people ever knew about.
Nothing is off limits in the book, including the scandal created by Helen’s inappropriate, hateful comments to a rabbi which tarnished her career when the contents leaked in audio and video form. Yet, in the hands of author Nine, even this is handled honestly but without aiming for sensationalism.
As a journalist myself, I’d always admired Helen Thomas, associating her with her role as a powerful force in White House history. After reading My Life with Helen, I’ve gained an insight into her as a human being, as lovingly revealed by her dear friend. This book is a glimpse of history that few knew and I can highly recommend it!