American Pie 04.09.03

The North Lawn of the White House, where television crews do their stand-up reports, is getting a facelift. Excavators are moving tons of earth and gravel – which is how the spot got its nickname, Pebble Beach – and will replace it with clean-looking Pennsylvania fieldstone paving. After years of complaints that the site was an eyesore, it reportedly took Laura Bush to get things moving. The White House maintenance men are also happy. They complained that the heat from the camera lights was playing havoc with the trees and some were beginning to leaf in mid-winter. Some newsmen are wary of the change – they fear it’s a ploy to move them further away from the White House.

At last count, 26 journalists have died in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. Well remembered is the kidnapping and murder in Pakistan of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Now his French-born wife, Mariane, who was pregnant at the time, has written a book about their life together, the agony of his death, and how she is making a new life in the US with their son Adam, now 15 months old. She was helped to write it by former Newsweek reporter Sarah Crichton, who described it as an emotional rollercoaster. A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl goes on sale this month.

What’s claimed to be the largest collection of cartoons in the world is now in the American Library of Congress. The donor is 76-year-old Washington cartoonist Arthur Wood, who worked as a political cartoonist for several US papers and also for Time and Newsweek and has been collecting cartoons for most of his life. The collection runs to more than 36,000 drawings by 2,800 artists and is worth an estimated $20 to $30m (£12.7m to £19.1m).

While Tina Brown has been hosting celebrity luncheons, husband Harry Evans has been toiling away at another major book. This time, it’s a collection of war reporting called War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict from the Crimea to Iraq. Coinciding with its publication is a new exhibition which he has put together for the Washington Newseum.

What won’t Anna Wintour leave home without? Answer: her desk. The Britishborn editor of Vogue, who has just celebrated her 15th year in the job, loves her desk so much, she has had it shipped twice across the Atlantic when she has changed jobs. It’s a long, lean-looking desk of ebonised mahogany with a black steel top. It was designed for her in 1966 by one of New York’s most famous decorators, Alan Buchsbaum. She took it back with her to London when she was appointed editor of British Vogue, then shipped it back to New York when she joined House & Garden. A year later she took it to Vogue. “It’s a bit quirky,” she admitted. For one thing, it has no drawers. “I like everything in the open.”

Not since the trial of OJ Simpson have there been so many foreign journalists in California. It’s the recall of the state’s governor – and the celebrity-studded list of would-be replacements, including actor Arnold Schwarzenegger – that has brought correspondents all the way from Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, Britain and, of course, Austria. Most expect to sit it out until the election and if the muscled actor gets elected, for many weeks afterwards. The only people unhappy are headline writers who have to fit Schwarzenegger’s name into a line of type.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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