Everybody has a Shebug they secretly admire no matter how conniving she might have been. When a journalist presented me with this question, one name formed on my lips in seconds flat: Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman. Her biography came highly recommended to me years ago, when the idea to craft ‘Shebug: Dissecting the Gold Digger’ was taking root in my imagination.
Daughter of a baronet, the chubby teenage Brit ended up as Ambassador to THE best post - and the trickiest one to maneuver – on the face of planet: Paris. Even more racy, the plucky Shebug transferred over as an ambassador from her adoptive land, America. Oh là là…
The country girl from the shires possessed not so much as a single college degree. Her educational dusting went up several notches after spending a year in France, followed by another eye-opener visit to New York.
But her finest education -and contacts- came from spending countless hours in the company of her father-in-law, Sir Winston Churchill, whilst bombs dropped over London. Plus, she had the knack of giving men her undivided, laser-sharp attention.
Pamela’s appetite for instrumental and powerful husbands classifies as 'voracious': Randolph Churchill; Broadway producer, Leland Hayward; railroad heir, Averell Harriman. Her lover tally of choice movers and shakers does not disappoint either: Prince Aly Khan; Marquis Alfonso de Portago; Fiat heir, Gianni Agnelli; Baron Elie de Rothschild; writer Maurice Druon; and, of course, a Greek shipping magnate, Starvos Niarchos.
But these affairs took place post her divorces. The ‘other men’ she dallied with were also high ranking in terms of influence, like Broadcaster Edward R Murrow and US Ambassador to the UK, John Hay ‘Jock’ Whitney.
Pamela might have garnered her fair share of monikers, like European Geisha and Courtesan of the Century. But not many Shebugs, let alone women, are laid to rest with the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur on a flag-draped coffin, and get flown back to the US on Air Force One.