|Name||Pamela Beryl Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman|
, , United States
|| March 20, 1920
|Died||February 05, 1997
Jul 13, 2019 12:55pm
|Info||Born to a good family, Pamela Beryl Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman started out with a great name and devoted her life to improving upon that. She arrived March 20, 1920 to Edward and Pansy in Kent, Farnborough. Pamela’s father was from an old and distinguished family. Her mother was the daughter of Baron Aberdare, a peer in the House of Lords. Pamela and her three younger sisters grew up at Magna Minterne, their large ancestral home. Grand, but not quite as grand as the houses she would later find herself in. |
There are many reports of her escapades with various rich and powerful men – but to call her a courtesan or a chameleon is a cheap and easy answer. Pamela always exhibited a firm, but stylish, hand with everything she did – even when she married another woman’s husband. Good manners always prevailed and the invitations to lunch and dinner kept coming. Perhaps women of these changing eras were a little afraid of someone who desired self-improvement – even if that meant improving her taste for life’s treasures. It is hard to fault someone for wanting a better life and if people suffered for it along the way, well, look at the Roman emperors of yore; at least no blood was shed with Pamela Digby around. Her accomplishments in the end – helping to bring the Democrats back into office during the 1980s Republican majority – can justify itself as an end game. Pamela Digby saw the available brass ring and Pamela Harriman knew how hard one must work to grab it. Having styled her life on that of her ancestor Jane Digby, herself a wildly “popular” woman, Pamela had a role model to mold herself from as she eventually came into her own.
Perhaps typical during the early 20th Century is the oppressiveness in an aristocratic English household. Young girls were raised to be young ladies and made marriageable through a minimum of education and travel and Pamela was not the exception. She was raised by a governess, attended girls school and then sent off to Europe to complete her adolescence, as was the custom at the time. One of Pamela’s greatest assets was her timing. She was sent to Germany for her finishing around 1938 and claims to have met Hitler, but that is widely believed to be false. Mostly she couldn't bear to be left out of anything, even meeting the most atrocious individual of the 20th Century. Back in England, Pamela is presented at Court to the new King George VI and his royal consort, Queen Elizabeth, which marks her entrée into society.
With not much direction Pamela finds herself another daughter of an aristocrat amongst many in pre-war London and figures out how to break free. With her gorgeous red hair, curvy body and milky white skin, Pamela was easy on the eyes. Running around London, going to this nightspot with that man, she was soon led to Lady Olive Bailie, a very wealthy American who owned Leeds Castle, one of the largest in England. Beautifully restored at enormous expense, Leeds Castle was open round the clock for international partying. Lady Bailie took the young Pamela by the hand and instructed her on the subtle differences in fine furniture, art and antiques. Pamela learned to tell the difference between a Manet and a Monet and that was important. She was also introduced to all who crossed Lady Bailie’s moat. Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Max Beaverbrook, the biggest London press baron, were just a few of the many powerful men she encountered. Beaverbrook especially was exactly the sort of man Pamela Digby learned to thrive on: rich, powerful and emotionally needy. Beaverbrook took Pamela under his wing and guided her through her early crises of young adulthood. She in turn provided the usual caregiving she would become known for. Pamela had discovered the role she was meant to play.
As Europe and England began living under the black cloud of World War II, Pamela met and married Randolph Churchill, son of the soon-to-be Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As England entered in the war against Hitler, young Pamela became pregnant with the Churchill heir in addition to being brought into the inner circle of world politics. This was easy enough as Winston Churchill took an immediate liking to his new daughter-in law. They got along famously. Once, having to share a bunker with her in-laws during an air raid she thought to herself, “One Churchill above me, the other inside.” Her husband, however, was another matter. Randolph, living under the shadow of his great father, grew into an argumentative, belligerent alcoholic. Even his parents had trouble with his temper and sympathized wholly with Pamela who was carrying their grandchild. During the war he was sent off to Cairo where he could drink and carouse while far away from the realities of his sham marriage. Some called it a wartime hitch, others called their marriage a stroke of good luck on Pamela’s part; either way, she had gone to the next level.
World War II was also a time of loosening morals. With so many being sent off to die, men and women for the first time came together to experience the pleasure of one another all while their cities were being bombed around them. A heady experience for everyone, it was under these circumstances that Pamela Churchill was first introduced to Averell Harriman, heir to the Union Pacific railroad fortune and a budding diplomat. He was in London to help develop the Lend-Lease program that sent supplies and weapons to Britain and the Soviet Union during the war. He would eventually become an ambassador to both countries. In Pamela, Averell saw a very pretty, if slightly chubby, redhead with a voluptuous body and she found a man who was far away from his wife and in need of some attention. It was a perfect wartime match and the two fell for each other instantly, carrying on a generous affair for the entire duration of the war.
Pamela also met and had affairs with Jock Whitney, another extremely rich American and Bill Paley, the maximum leader of CBS. Coincidentally, after the war both men married two of the famous three Cushing sisters, Babe and Betsey, with whom Pamela socialized even after having affairs with their husbands. After Averell returned to the United States to begin his run for elective offices, Pamela met Edward R. Murrow, a leader in reporting whose vivid broadcasts of the war ensured American sympathy for the British. Their affair became quite serious, even though Murrow was married with a wife and child in the States. At one point Pamela had hoped to wed Murrow, but in the end, as it was with all the men she involved herself with, their careers were far too important to be disrupted. The wives of these successful men had all been with them from the beginning and understood these dalliances while they remained in the background.
After the war when her lovers resumed life with their families, Pamela found herself floating around Europe, still married to the alcoholic Randolph, their young son, Winston, already shipped off to boarding school. It was during this period that Pamela began to cast her net. Europe was on the mend and she was free to travel the Continent. She proceeded to have an affair with bachelor Gianni Agnelli, the heir to the Fiat automobile fortune. They carried on for several years, floating around the Mediterranean on his yacht, partying at all the chic European nightspots. Pamela even converted to Catholicism in the hopes Gianni would marry her too. For years after this move really hurt her in London with the senior Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of a government whose monarch was Head of the Church of England. However, Agnelli didn’t marry her; instead, he chose the already Catholic, Italian and pregnant, Princess Marella Caracciolo.
Bruised from her affair with Agnelli, Pamela next floated into a relationship with Baron Elie de Rothschild. If she thought Agnelli was rich and powerful, she certainly entered the gilded realm with Rothschild. He was from one of the most powerful and distinguished families in France. Their vineyards produced the superior Lafitte-Rothschild wines. They were leaders in the French Jewish community and also ran the prestigious Rothschild banks. Although married, Baron Elie kept Pamela in high style for several years, her good taste more finely tuned than ever. His wife Liliane looked the other way, as do all wives unwilling to relinquish their positions to the Other Woman.
Along the line she had affairs with Stavros Niachros, the Greek shipping magnate and Prince Aly Kahn, son of the Aga Kahn, the world’s Moslem spiritual leader. While she enjoyed basking in the adoration of these powerful men, Pamela eventually emerged closer to forty and divorced from Randolph. If there was any emptiness in her heart she more than made up for it by keeping her chic Paris apartment filled with valuable art and antiques, gifts from the many rich men who passed through her door. She was quite notorious on the scene, seen here, there and everywhere, often with her friend, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor - no doubt learning lessons from Master Diva Number One.
Ready for her next move, Pamela moved to New York around 1955. Taking a suite at the Carlyle, the wives of high society pricked up their ears when they heard the un-married Pam Churchill had blown into town. One of the first people to launch her on the circuit was Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, sister of Babe Paley and wife of Jock Whitney, Pam’s old flame. Immediately following her arrival Pamela suffered a serious medical condition and it was discovered that she needed a complete hysterectomy. After the operation Betsey Whitney offered to let Pamela convalesce at Greentree, the Whitney estate in Manhasset on Long Island’s North Shore. What appeared to be an act of kindness on Betsey’s part, she was most likely keeping a close eye on the roving Mrs. Churchill.
After Pamela’s recovery, the Whitney’s had an evening out in the city. They went to see a play by Manhasset neighbor and famed Broadway impresario, Leland Hayward. Sensing an opportunity or maybe pure navieté on her part, Betsey had Leland escort Pamela to the play that night. Hayward’s’ wife, Slim, was out of town, traveling in Spain with her pal Ernest Hemmingway and returned several weeks later to discover that Pamela had moved in on her man.
The Hayward marriage was practically in tatters by that point, but Slim Hayward had no intention of divorcing, or at least making it easier on Pam and Leland. She made them move to Reno, Nevada for the required six weeks to initiate divorce proceedings in an effort to thwart their plans which continued unabated anyway. Leland Hayward started his career as an agent, with a client roster of the biggest names in Hollywood and Broadway. He made the move to buying the rights of and producing Broadway plays and had some of the biggest hits on the Great White Way, including “Gypsy,” “Mister Roberts” and “South Pacific.” By the time of their marriage in 1960, Leland Hayward was as big a name as the stars of his shows.
With Pamela as the new Mrs. Hayward, the couple moved to "Haywire," a large estate in Croton-on-Hudson, north of Manhattan. Pamela chose Westchester over Long Island as the prestigious North Shore was home ground for Slim, Babe and Betsey. Ironically, Slim soon moved to England where she married Kenneth Keith, a wealthy British banker who became a Knight of the Realm and Slim Hayward would be known as Lady Keith.
The 1960’s saw the end of the hits for Leland Hayward. In 1964 he did produce “The Sound of Music,” which became enormous, but after that opus he never had a smash again. Parallel to this success his hard living caught up with him. Leland’s health rapidly deteriorated and Pamela Hayward was in her element, always the caregiver. She nursed him through the worst of times and was with him to the last.
Leland had two daughters and a son from his first marriage to actress Maggie Sullivan, all three with varying degrees of emotional problems. While stepmother Slim was good to the children, Brooke, Brigid and Billy, Pamela cut them off little by little and when Leland eventually died around 1971, the Hayward children were fully estranged from their father. There wasn’t much money left either, in fact it was alluded that Pamela had to dig into her own capital to support their rich lifestyle. Now Pamela was a widow with supposedly empty pockets. It was time to make her next, and she hoped, her last move.
1971 was the same year Averell Harriman’s wife, Marie died. By this time, Harriman was looking back on a stunning career: Chairman of the Union Pacific, Ambassador to both Great Britain and Russia, Secretary of Commerce under FDR, creating the Marshall Plan under Truman, National Security Advisor during the Korean War, Governor of New York State in 1954, negotiating the Vietnam peace talks under Johnson. He had done it all and it was during a party at Washington Post publisher Kay Grahams’ house following Marie’s death that he became reacquainted with Pamela.
The story goes that Pamela got herself invited to the same party and during cocktails snuck into the dining room to switch the place cards. Averell and Pamela were originally sitting side-by-side, but Pamela switched the cards so the couple would have their backs to each other. The ploy worked. Averell heard Pamela’s voice and the two kept up a playful back-to-back conversation throughout the dinner. Wasting no time they became a rather hot item. People didn’t know what to talk about first: the new couples' difference in age, he was twenty years her senior, or the Widow Hayward's new look. Pamela started out as a provocative redhead then became a matronly brunette during her Hayward years and was now a blonde who had gotten what people say was “the best face-lift in the world.”
In 1974 during their engagement party, Pamela and Averell shocked the party by announcing that they were already married in another part of the house ten minutes earlier. Harriman’s daughter, Kathleen, with whom Pamela had a close friendship during the war, was stunned to realize how stealthily Pamela moved. The newlyweds divided their time between the newly purchased Willow Oaks, set in the heart of Virginia’s horse country and their Georgetown townhouse on Embassy Row.
The 1980’s brought tumultuous change in Washington. The Republicans took charge of the White House as well as the House and Senate and the Harriman’s were not pleased with this change in leadership. Never one to be left out of anything, Pamela Harriman understood Averell’s need to keep involved and devised a way to reorganize the Democratic Party that was dear to his beliefs. They introduced a Political Action Committee (PAC). This new breath of the Democrats had a forum in which they could collect money, re-group and retain the advice of the 20th Century’s finest statesmen. Averell encouraged Pamela to speak publicly and “Democrats for the 80’s” now had a face. Pamela soon thereafter became an American citizen, pleasing Averell enormously, the clever girl.
Soon the press would call these committees PamPACs and it was at their "N" Street townhouse that Democrats retrenched and prepared to take on the Republicans. With Pam leading the charge Averell was content to remain behind the scenes as his age advanced and his health declined. Speaking at the 1984 Democratic convention in San Francisco, Pamela made a speech which added to the renewed vigor of the once-ailing party: “I am an American by choice and a Democrat by conviction.” she said and for the first time the limelight was squarely on her.
Slowly, the tides changed in Washington and the Harriman’s were in the thick of it. Unfortunately, by 1986 Averell Harriman was in failing health. His daughter Kathleen was kept at arms length during this period and so was his godson, Peter Duchin. Averell and Marie raised Peter since he was a baby. Peter’s mother, a great friend of Marie Harriman, was a Social Register debutante who died soon after giving birth to the boy and his father was Eddy Duchin, the famed bandleader. With his father on the road all the time, the Harriman’s became Peter’s surrogate parents and he kept a close relationship with them. Once Pamela Harriman came into the picture, all contact between Duchin and old Averell was shut down. Another bit of irony is that years later, Peter Duchin married Brooke Hayward, Leland's daughter.
After battling a long illness, Averell Harriman joined the majority and caregiver Pamela took care of all the details, ensuring he was given a send-off befitting a president. In fact, four Presidents attended his funeral. Although it looked as if he was being laid to rest in the family plot, he was actually being sent to a plot in Bermuda so he would be buried with Pamela. The family was furious when they found out but Pamela didn’t care. She inherited Averell’s entire $110 million-dollar fortune. She now had what is called by the very rich, “**** you money.”
Family situations notwithstanding, Pamela doggedly continued with her efforts to ensure a Democrat was elected to the White House and he finally arrived in the package of William Jefferson Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, her PamPAC raising almost $12 million dollars for his campaign. The two got along famously as his history and hers don’t seem all that different in its most basic element. The time seemed ripe for a Democrat president and 1992 was their year. Bill Clinton won the election over George Bush.
For all her efforts in helping the Democratic Party, Pamela Harriman was soon nominated as Ambassador to France, the most prestigious of all political appointments. She tried to take it in stride but couldn’t rest until after the confirmation hearings where she had the most conservative Senators eating out the palm of her lovely hand.
Pamela’s time in France was marked by her excellent skills in improving American-French relations and earned the respect of many leaders for her efforts. Everything was great going until the end came in February 1997. While swimming in the pool at the Ritz Hotel as a part of her regular exercise, she had a stroke and drowned. Her funeral was attended by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, with whom she was close as well as a phalanx of diplomats and those who knew her in her last, great incarnation. Pamela carried on with great style and in the thick of everything; the English rose had come into full flower. With the money, status and respect the Diva requires, she had lived her life under the maxim: Do as you please and please look good doing it.