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Monday, November 5, 2012

New York and Hurricane Sandy

This excerpt is lifted from my column appearing in "The Lady" magazine -- November 9th Issue


I am a Yorkshire girl, but life transported me to Manhattan, which is now my home. So I was stunned and terrified for our friends, loved ones and all my fellow New Yorkers when I saw the shocking footage of Hurricane Sandy sweeping over the city I love. I was traveling in Europe when Sandy struck, and I am told that my apartment (located in the mid 50s) has survived the deluge. But my heart goes out to everyone who has had to live through the disaster.

At last count, I hear it will cost $50 billion to repair the damage. But knowing New Yorkers the way I do, I know they will pull through. In fact, just like after 9/11, they will look to the future, rebuild their magnificent city - and doubtless emerge even stronger.

Barbara Taylor Bradford 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Tribute To Helen Gurley Brown

When we heard that Helen Gurley Brown had died on Monday in Manhattan, Bob and I were very sad. Helen and her husband, David Brown, had been friends of ours for many years. But almost immediately I began to smile as I thought of the happy times we had spent with them over thirty years. Such wonderful memories. Bob smiled too.
            Helen became a fan of mine, as did David, after reading A Woman Of Substance, and I had always been a fan of hers, ever since I picked up the first issue of Cosmopolitan which she edited and revamped. A staid, somewhat dull magazine became a sensational looking and fabulous publication for the modern woman. Helen and Cosmopolitan did much to change the way women thought about themselves. Like her book, Sex And The Single Girl, the magazine was the first to introduce frank and open discussions about sex in a magazine for women, as well as other subjects. The first issue came out in July 1965, and Helen was at the helm until February of 1997. Thirty-two years! No other editor that I know of has been as closely identified with a magazine as Helen. The new look and new ideas were all hers. She convinced us we could have it all… career, marriage and children, and many women have managed to do that, but not all. In any case, she changed the look and content of women’s magazines forever, and for the better. And everyone has copied her.

            Helen was slender, petite and chic. She dressed with flair, kept her weight under control, and always looked fantastic. Ambitious, driven, tough, immensely talented and highly intelligent, she was also flirty, witty, amusing and kind. Bob said to me earlier today that Helen was a nice woman, and that’s the truth. We often had dinner with them in New York and Bob and David had much in common, because they were both movie producers and movie buffs. David was a gentleman of the old school, always charming and gallant.
            There is one occasion Bob and I remember well, when we went to the Deauville Film Festival, and where I was to receive an award for my body of work in film. Bob was giving a luncheon afterward, and he invited lots of our friends to come and celebrate with us. Sure enough, David and Helen came, and so did the late fashion designer, Pauline Trigère. And many friends arrived at the French resort to be with us.
            I remember chatting to David at the cocktail reception before the lunch, and with me was Pamela Harriman, at that time the US Ambassador to France, who had presented the award to me. Suddenly, David stopped talking and rather abruptly. Pamela and I exchanged glances, and then we both smiled when he exclaimed, “Here comes Helen! Now doesn’t she look foxy?”
            And indeed she did, in a short little dress, high heels and long hair. He got it right. And they got it right together. They had the happiest marriage, somewhat like ours. They supported each other in every way until David died two years ago.

            Helen Gurley Brown died this week at the age of ninety, after a wonderful life. She will be missed by us, and all of her other friends. Farewell, Helen. Bon Voyage.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Proud Desire: Author's Romance With Hermès (Wall Street Journal)

New York City
[image]Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
Author Barbara Taylor Bradford says her collection of Hermès bags tells the story of her marriage.
"We went to Paris on a wintry day," begins Barbara Taylor Bradford. This is not a story about one of her romantic heroines but about a love of her own: her first Hermès bag.
Some people collect stamps, rocks, fountain pens or antique cars. Mrs. Bradford, a bestselling novelist, has 24 Hermès handbags in her closet.
All bought by her husband of 48 years, the bags represent significant events and intimate celebrations. Her oldest is a black leather Kelly dating from her 1964 honeymoon in Paris. The most recent is an orange Kelly purchased for Christmas 2010 in New York by that same husband, film producer Bob Bradford. "All of my handbags tell the story of my marriage," she says.
If there is just one sour note in the tale, it is the fact that there is one Hermès bag that the Bradfords haven't managed to obtain: a Birkin.
Novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford says her 24 Hermes bags tell the story of her marriage. Each one represents a chapter, such as the completion of a book (Evelyne bag) or a birthday (green crocodile Kelly bag). Christina Binkley has details on Lunch Break.
For many collectors, the difficulties of obtaining some Hermès bags have only added to their mystique. Hermès bags are a particularly feminine obsession, but purchasing one offers the sense of achievement and excellence sought by many other connoisseurs. A simple Kelly bag in fine broad-grain leather can cost $8,300, and prices can easily rise to five or even six figures, depending on the design, size and materials.
Kelly and Birkin bags, produced in limited quantities by artisans in France, have their own mythology. The Kelly is the most complex Hermès bag to make, and one can take several days to produce, the company says.
Shoppers can't get Birkins just by walking into a store. The company says a shopper might get a Birkin by requesting it, giving contact information, and waiting until one is available. (There is not a formal waiting list, as is popularly believed.) Some people, however, spend years waiting, while others seem to get Birkins quickly.

Hermès Bags Through the Years

Howard Sochurek/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Prince Rainier III of Monaco with Grace Kelly—clutching an Hermès purse—at the announcement of their engagement in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1956. The actress carried a bag that was designed by Hermès in the 1930s and became known as the Kelly bag in the 1950s.
The company is aware that it has many "passionate" clients, says spokesman Peter Malachi. Hermès doesn't track its collectors, though individual Hermès boutiques may offer good clients an inside track on the latest bag or another item.
The company's scarves, made in Lyons, France, in constantly renewed patterns, may be one of fashion's most collected products. Scarves, which start at around $325, are more affordable than bags. But Hermès says it doesn't manufacture products specifically for collectors.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
Mrs. Bradford's collection of Hermès bags
Mrs. Bradford's collection began because she loved actress Grace Kelly, who carried a bag that was designed by Hermès in the 1930s and became known as the Kelly bag in the 1950s. "I always thought Grace Kelly was so beautiful and so elegant," says Mrs. Bradford, who carries her bags with an Hermès scarf tied on the handle, "the French way."
Her husband bought each bag (often with her collaboration) to celebrate something, such as the completion of a novel (an Evelyne) or a birthday (a green crocodile bag purchased in Cannes). "She's a very classy dame," Mr. Bradford says. "I love her to be elegant."
A Birkin, which Mrs. Bradford has been unable to obtain
Some people have several dozen Hermès bags. But Mrs. Bradford's collection stands out because she has been acquiring them for so long. Collections dating from before the 1980s "are few and far between," says Tina Craig, co-founder of the BagSnob blog.
Mrs. Bradford's closet is just off her mauve-and-pale-blue bedroom, whose walls are covered in silk. On the bed, a pillow wishes, "Sweet Dreams" under a sweep of silk drapery. Her 16-year-old Bichon Frisé, Chammi, pads around the bedroom.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
This bag was purchased by her husband for her birthday in Cannes.
Mrs. Bradford has four honorary doctorates, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of the British Empire. That earned her an audience with Queen Elizabeth as well as her own family crest, which is displayed in her robin-egg-blue sitting room. Her 27 books have sold more than 85 million copies globally.
But none of that helped when she hoped to celebrate submitting her 2009 novel "Breaking the Rules" with a Birkin. An Hermès salesperson said she would have to put her name on a waiting list, says Mr. Bradford, who was upset about it. "After all these years?" he asks.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
This custom Kelly bag—based on a scarf print—was declined by the client shortly before the Bradfords happened to be at the Paris store.
The Bradfords failed to snare a Birkin again last year in Paris, when they spied a blue one in the window of the Ave. Georges Cinq store. "The woman came back and said it's not for sale," says Mrs. Bradford. Her husband bought her a scarf and bracelet instead.
Hermès says that the bag was part of a window decoration made with items that were never for sale.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
Mrs. Bradford's first Hermès bag, purchased in Paris in 1964 on her honeymoon.
Mrs. Bradford doesn't want to put down her name for a bag. "That's so shallow to put yourself on a list for a bag," she says, adding that it isn't in her character to become so obsessed with a handbag.
She does own a fake Birkin, given to her by a friend. "I never use it, but I can't get rid of it because she's in my house all the time," she says. "I feel like it's stealing intellectual property."
It isn't clear what Mrs. Bradford would need to do to obtain a Birkin. Michael Tonello, whose memoir "Bringing Home the Birkin" detailed his methods for buying and reselling the bags, says Hermès doles out Birkins based on how much people spend in their stores. "There's plenty of bags in the back room," he says.
Mimi Ritzen Crawford for The Wall Street Journal
A recent acquisition bought for Christmas 2010.
Hermès says the bag shortage is real, adding that it can't make enough to meet the demand. "I'm aware that you've read that book," Mr. Malachi said when asked.
Last month, Mrs. Bradford submitted the manuscript for her 28th novel, "Secrets From the Past." The book will be published early next year, but she says that for now, she has lost interest in getting a Birkin.
Her husband agrees. "I'm not going to go on that list. I'm too good a customer," he says.
Write to Christina Binkley at

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Cherished Letter From Clementine Churchill

One of my most prized possessions throughout my life has been a handwritten letter sent to me by Clementine Churchill, wife of legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It's a treasure that I have hung onto and prominently displayed in my home for decades. I've recently loaned this special letter to a Churchill exhibition in New York City at the Morgan Library called: The Power Of The Word. The exhibit has been arranged by an organization called "Cambridge In America." I want to share with you all now the story behind this most extraordinary letter, and some details from the exhibit opening last night...

When I was growing up in Yorkshire during World War II, I wanted to do something to help the war effort. Encouraged by my parents, Winston and Freda Taylor, I held a jumble (garage) sale in my mother's garden. I invited school friends, teachers and relatives.

Small kitchen and household items, given to me by my mother, grandmother and aunts went on sale. At the end of the afternoon, everything had been sold for a few pennies each, but everyone was well pleased with the result.

I then wrote a latter to the wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs Clementine S. Churchill, and sent the money to her for her Aid to Russia Fund. Within days Mrs. Churchill wrote back to me thanking her. Can you imagine the lovely surprise for this little girl to get a personalized reply from the wife of the iconic Winston Churchill?

I have treasured that letter ever since. However, I wanted to ensure that this piece of history can be enjoyed by many more than those who visit my home. I've recently gifted it to Churchill College in Cambridge (UK) because I believe this is its rightful home. It will be delivered to the college at the conclusion of the exhibition at the Morgan Library.

On June 7th, 2012 I attended the private reception for the opening of Churchill: The Power Of The Word at the Morgan Library in Manhattan. Boris Johnson, London's colorful mayor, showed up full of good humor and clever comments. My husband, Bob, and I were surprised to see him and went over to chat. "Come and visit me, come to the London Olympics," he said. We promised to try.

Mayor Johnson was one of the evening's featured speakers. He made everyone chuckle. Also present were Sir Winston's two granddaughters, my redheaded friends Edwina Sandys, the well-known artist, and her sister Celia Sandys, the famous writer. I also spotted Andrew Roberts, the British historian and Churchill biographer, as well as lots of other New York and British notables. The exhibition is open to the public from June 8th until September. I found it very inspirational.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Letter From A Stranger US Book Tour Dates

For my readers in the US, I am pleased to announce the dates for my book tour in support of Letter From A Stranger.

Wednesday, April 11th - 6:30pm
New York, NY
MJHS Book Discussion & Signing
Hebrew Union College
1 West 4th Street
Call (212) 356-5300 to reserve your spot

Tuesday, April 17th - 11:30am
UJA Women's Brunch
Westbury, NY (Long Island)
Westbury Country Club
Book Discussion and Signing

Wednesday, April 18th - 7pm
Mount Saint Mary College
Newburgh, NY
Book Discussion and Signing @ 7pm

Tuesday, April 24th - 12:00 Noon
AMIT Luncheon, Book Discussion and Signing
Cedarhurst, NY (Long Island)
Sephardic Temple
Please call 516 295-4375 for reservations

Sunday, April 29th - 7:30pm
Teaneck, NJ

AMIT Northern NJ Book Conversation & Signing
Event To Be Held In A Private Home
Call 212 477-5465 for reservations

Sunday, May 6th - 11:00am
AMIT East Brunswick Book Brunch & Signing
East Brunswick, NJ
Young Israel Of East Brunswick
193 Dunhams Corner Rd.
Call 212 477-5465 for reservations

Wednesday, May 16 - 12:00 Noon
Chicago Women's Athletic Club
626 North Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL
Book Luncheon & Signing
Call 312 944-6123 for reservations

Thursday, May 17 - 5:30pm
AMIT of Chicago Annual Dinner
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL
Book Discussion & Signing

Sunday, May 20th - 7:00pm
AMIT West Hempstead Dinner
West Hempstead, NY (Long Island)
Contact: for event details

Thursday, May 24th
Dallas JCC
7900 Northhaven Road
Dallas, TX
Afternoon Tea & Book Discussion/Signing
Contact: Heather Cordova
Phone: 214-239-7149  -  Email:

Saturday, June 9th
Chicago Tribune Printers Row LitFest 2012
Onstage Interview & Book Signing
The Harold Washington Library Center
Chicago, IL
Time: TBA

Wednesday, October 24th
UJA Long Island South Shore
Luncheon and Book Signing
Long Island, NY
Details to come soon...

Sunday, December 16th
AMIT South Florida Dinner
Book Presentation and Signing
Boca Raton, Fl.
Details soon to come...

Monday, December 17th
Northwood University Of Florida
Author Luncheon
Palm Beach, Florida
Details TBA...

Tuesday, December 18th
Brandeis University of Florida
Afternoon English Tea
Boca Raton, FL.
Details TBA...

Monday, May 6, 2013
Brandeis University Alumni Of New Jersey
Regional Luncheon
Princeton Marriott
Princeton, NJ

Letter From A Stranger - On sale now

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Things

By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Some years ago, a British magazine called MORE! asked me to compile a list of my favorite things for a feature article. This could be anything from my favorite books, to my favorite products, foods and movies. I recently came across this page while organizing my files at home. I thought it might be fun to update it and share it with you on my blog. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

My idol, tongue-in-cheek, remains Emma Harte, the heroine of my novels A Woman Of Substance & Hold The Dream. Not only because I created her, but also because she has been an inspiration all over the world. More than 30 million copies of A Woman Of Substance have been sold to date. That accounts for a lot of readers who still embrace the concept of strong women characters (real, or in fiction). Jenny Seagrove (pictured above), played the young Emma in the miniseries. Deborah Kerr was the older Emma.

Naturally, my true idol is Margaret Thatcher, who became the most powerful woman in the world, and actually was for eleven years. My biographer, Piers Dudgeon, said that if she hadn't existed I would have invented her. He was right! Because I create women who conquer the world, and she certainly did!

When it comes to men on screen, my hero is Colin Firth. He’s got that clean-cut English look that I like. He’s handsome, sensitive and a wonderful actor. His Oscar winning role in The King's Speech is one of the best performances ever. 

My all-time favorite film is Gone With The Wind. Even when I see it on TV these days, the film still holds up beautifully. Perhaps because of the period costumes the film does not become dated. Clark Gable was the greatest sex-symbol ever. Of recent films, I absolutely adored War Horse, the Steven Spielberg WWI epic. It was a moving and touching story about a young man's love for a magnificent horse, and the horse's love for and dependence on this young man. I sat on the edge of my seat watching that extraordinary film. Spielberg is a genius.

 On TV, I’ve been absorbed by the British TV series Downton Abbey. I’ve been watching every episode on PBS (now in season two). Julian Fellowes, the creator, has written some powerful segments. His depictions of the aristocracy and the servant class in the Edwardian era is excellent, while the storylines are dramatic and realistic. Costumes beautiful; so are the settings. Gareth Neame, who took the original idea to Fellowes, had a brainstorm!

People often ask me what my favorite book is. I’ve read many great modern novels. One of my favorite’s is the spy series featuring Gabriel Allon written by Daniel Silva. But in terms of all-time classics, I’d have to go with Wuthering Heights by Emily 
Brontë. I suppose I was indirectly inspired by it. It’s a Yorkshire novel and I’m a Yorkshire writer after all. My roots will always be in the Dales. I go back there often, but my home is in New York.  

My favorite meal is fish and chips. When I was in London recently, a friend and I had an old fashioned fish and chips supper at the Dorchester Hotel of all places, in the Promenade. I had mushy peas, malt vinegar, the lot. I enjoy smoked salmon and caviar, and also like good French cooking, but I prefer English food; you can’t beat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, the latter made by a Yorkshire woman.  

When it comes to a drink, I like a glass of Billecart Salmon  rosé  champagne. I can tell the difference between champagne brands and I know when I am drinking Billecart rosé , even if I haven’t seen the bottle.

I’m a great tea drinker. I’ve got a collection at home and English Breakfast is one of my favorites. Taylor's of Harrogate, from Bettys cafe in Yorkshire, is the brand I prefer.   

I could joke and say that my favorite department store is Harte's (Emma’s store in A Woman Of Substance), but in reality it’s not. I like Fortnum and Mason. Everyone thinks that A Woman Of Substance is based on the story of Harrods. But it isn't. The story is fictional. My food department in A Woman Of Substance was similar to the one at Harrods, but that's all.

My favorite item of clothing is a simple black dress. Everyone says that I have good legs, so I like to make the most of them with opaque black stockings and high-heeled shoes.

I use Clinique cosmetics; I think blondes can look very faded without eye make-up and lipstick, so I don’t like to go without. I emphasize my green eyes with a hint of purple eye shadow. It works best over brown shadow.

Frank Sinatra is the best. My favorite song of his is One For My Baby & One More For The Road. Other artists I like include Barbra Streisand and Neil Sedaka.  

 Although I have English taste in decorating, and admire certain English painters, such as J.M.W. Turner, Gainsborough, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, I am addicted to the great Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, who were painting in France in the 1800s. Renior is my favorite, but I also love the paintings of Cézanne, Degas and Gaugin.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my list of favorite things. I would love to hear your lists of your favorites in return...