Pamela Harriman

updated 05/03/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The French sent us the Statue of Liberty, Brie, and Bordeaux. We are sending them Pamela Harriman. This is what is known as a fair trade agreement. Pending Senate confirmation, the 73-year-old Friend of Bill will soon become U.S. ambassador to France. The title will be new for her, but the world of international affairs will not. Without mussing her champagne hair or her regal bearing, she spun to the center of circles occupied by her three husbands—Winston Churchill's rakish son, Randolph, film producer Leland Hayward and stately presidential adviser W. Averell Harriman. (Her spare-time attachments included Frank Sinatra, Edward R. Murrow and Aly Khan.)

A British blue blood, Harriman became an American citizen in 1971 as a wedding gift to new husband Averell, who left much of his considerable fortune to her upon his death in 1986. During the Reagan years, she formed her own political action committee to rally the tattered Democrats. As she once recalled, a certain young governor from Arkansas was "one of the first people on my board." At soirees amid the Picassos and Matisses of her Georgetown mansion or at her Virginia estate, presidential wannabes unveiled their ideas and top contributors opened their wallets. In one night alone last year she raised $3.2 million. Speaker of the House Tom Foley says that no one "can take greater credit for winning the White House than Pamela." She has usually been content to go uncredited. "Basically," she has said, "I'm a back-room girl." But as our grand cadeau to Paris, the vivacious and energetic Harriman will be equally at home in the ballroom.

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