by OPC Past President David A. Andelman
I had the good fortune to stumble across Jackie Simon, as her vast and wondrous world really knew Jacqueline Albert Simon, more than thirty-five years ago when, in the early 1980s, as Paris correspondent for CBS News, I first wrote for the remarkable quarterly magazine, Politique Internationale. It was the founding editor and publisher, Patrick Wajsman, the French journalist, diplomat, political scientist, and philosophe, who introduced us with great pride and enthusiasm.
Jackie had taken on the role as his North American bureau chief, as well as general amanuensis and interpreter of all manners of French thinking and thinkers to American audiences—and with scarcely a second thought, the reverse of course, Americans to the French. Her conversations with so many of the great thinkers and power brokers of America, who passed routinely through the salons she held at her Fifth Avenue apartment, equally enriched the pages of issue after issue of Politique Internationale. When Patrick Wajsman would go to see, for instance, CIA Director William Casey in December 1985, Jackie was at his side. It was Jackie who introduced me to the Count Alexandre de Marenches, at that time Casey’s counterpart as chief of the French DGSE, confidant of French Presidents from De Gaulle to Mitterrand, and with whom I would a decade later collaborate on his memoirs, at Jackie’s urging of course. Presidents, Secretaries of State, great men of diplomacy, politics, and letters—she knew them all by first name. They treasured her as did we all.
How was I to know that two decades later, by then back in New York, her wise counsel and quick wit would prove of inestimable value to me during my two years as president of the Overseas Press Club where she served with such joy for so long as an officer and board member. I already was well aware of her lifelong friendship with Flora Lewis, my New York Times colleague and mentor who remained my friend when I’d moved to CBS and wound up as a neighbor around the corner from our flat in Paris’s Seventh Arrondissement a block south of the Seine. Flora and Jackie were cut from the same bolt of cloth—lovers, indeed avaricious consumers of life, makers of deep and abiding friendships, blessed with profoundly astute understandings of men, women and the societies where they swam.