Cutting My Teeth on Celebrity Stories

Alice Garbarini Hurley
3 min readJan 11, 2021

I was young and didn’t ask the right questions.

Sometimes I still cringe over early interactions with famous people (click for high school Al Pacino blunder) as I climbed partway up the ladder, rung by rung, in the magazine world. But we learn from our slips as well as our reaches, so it all worked out.

1. Don Hewitt. My first job was at Woman’s Day, then owned by CBS Magazines. I wrote (for free, after work or at lunchtime) for the CBS employee newsletter and was dispatched in 1985 to the CBS Store at Black Rock, the network’s black stone skyscraper at 51 West 52nd Street. Task: Interview Mr. Hewitt, “60 Minutes” creator/producer, about his new book Minute by Minute, a look at the show’s history. I knew the ticking clock from Sunday night TV but was more of a Mademoiselle reader than a news hound and had no clue how busy he was. I also didn’t know what to ask, and Mr. Hewitt couldn’t waste time. I felt like a hayseed. I stammered out some questions. It was a lesson in being prepared as a reporter, which I was not sometimes. And who better to learn it from than the brains behind the news show? My article did run — a great caricature of Hewitt (by Stacy, another young WDer) saved it.

Mademoiselle Magazine cover, 1986.

2. Eileen Fisher. Now, I love her pieces— from my swingy, sequined ivory tank and organic cotton shell to a slim, forgiving skirt. But then, I knew little about the brand. I was writing a Good Housekeeping feature and the fashion department had faxed (yes, faxed, before email) questions to a few designers, who faxed answers back. All I did was edit them, but now! Now, I would follow up with the PR rep to get more details, try to talk to Ms. Fisher, tease out more info — Eileen Fisher understands women’s bodies and how to dress them. Now, I would know. Then, I did not.

3. Martha Stewart. It was just a chat at a press event in a New York City Kmart. The domestic superstar had launched a line of towels for the chain. She was lingering in the aisles. The parting gift? A set of the plump towels, which I would gladly use in my Jersey Shore apartment. I think Ms. Stewart, like many people I meet (on buses, walking in town, etc.) sensed that I was friendly. “Oh, what color did you choose?” she said. We agreed — my yellow pick was pretty. Now? IDK, I’m not sure. But I would probably introduce myself and say where I worked. I would shake hands, if we could….but Covid…

That’s it, that’s all. Just a trip down Memory Lane on a January night during the pandemic.

Alice Garbarini Hurley lives with her family in Montclair, New Jersey and often sits on the green living room couch to write. Her all-time favorite writers include Shirley Jackson, Truman Capote, Mary Cantwell, Mary McCarthy and Laurie Colwin (click that link — and read her Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen memoirs with recipes). For best bird’s-eye peeks into the New York City magazine world: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums and Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

Alice Garbarini Hurley

Magazine maven, craft coffee lover, legal guardian. Passionate about fashion and lipstick — though it may not look that way when I dash to the supermarket.