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STYLE & CULTURE | THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Her own woman

Is Teresa Heinz an asset or an Achilles' heel?

February 25, 2004|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

The circle includes Diana Walker, a Time magazine photographer whose husband, Mallory Walker, is on the board of trustees of the Heinz Endowments; philanthropist Wren Wirth, whose husband Tim Wirth, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado, heads Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation; Melinda Blinken, daughter of legendary producer-director Howard Koch, whose investment banker husband Alan Blinken was Bill Clinton's ambassador to Belgium; and Allyn Stewart, a single Los Angeles film producer who, at 47, describes herself as "the little brat of the gang." They often spend winter holidays in Sun Valley; for many years they have gathered at the Heinz home, a converted 15th century English barn, for a small Christmas lunch and a bigger New Year's Eve party.

These friends, who call her T, uniformly bristle when they hear the now-familiar criticism of Teresa: she fidgets on stage next to Kerry, she doesn't look happy, she recoils at his embrace.

"I see that and I guess it's hard to define," said Stewart, "but when she's standing in front of a huge group of people, she kind of goes shy for a minute, I can sense it. She is listening. She does not drift."

The Kerry-Heinz marriage is the subject of enduring curiosity; what kind of union is formed between two accomplished, middle-aged people, one divorced, one widowed, both with long-standing public lives, large portfolios and grown children?

At rallies, Kerry, who has two grown daughters, has unabashedly told crowds "I long for her." And she is frank about craving something deeper than what is available to spouses who campaign separately "nine days a week," as she put it, and lead "not a life, but an existence."

"Since I have been married, we have had two Senate campaigns, and now this one," she said. "It doesn't leave you a lot of time, does it? Well, it's certainly a hunt ... for a relationship, right? It's hard."

As for the rigors of a campaign that has already turned personally nasty and promises to get worse, Heinz is resigned:

"You become a football field that people punt on....You know what? I just don't care. The other day I was being told that Chelsea, poor Chelsea, has a child by a Martian now. So Hillary has a Martian grandchild, can you imagine? People print this stuff? That's an aberration, but the point is, people write what they want to write, and in America the 1st Amendment is the 1st Amendment."

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