When She Was Bad: The Story of Bess, Hortense, Sukhreet & Nancy

Shana Alexander, Author
Shana Alexander, Author Random House (NY) $19.95 (305p) ISBN 978-0-394-57606-0
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
The compassionate, well-reasoned analysis Alexander applied to convicted murderer Jean Harris in Very Much a Lady is missing in this facile, unbalanced account of events leading up to and including the 1988 trial of Bess Myerson, the Miss America of 1945 who went on to careers in television and public life, notably as Manhattan's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Edward Koch. Myerson, her wealthy younger lover Andy Capasso and Judge Hortense Gabel were charged--and acquitted--with conspiracy in the pretrial motions of Capasso and his wife Nancy's messy divorce, over which Judge Gabel presided. During that time Myerson gave Gabel's daughter Sukhreet a job in the Cultural Affairs office. These are the bare bones of the complex, often sordid story Alexander fleshes out with overwriting and glib psychologizing about her subjects, the extent of whose cooperation in this group portrait is unclear. Although Alexander hits her stride reporting the courtroom drama--the intricate lawyerly machinations and the pathetic self-condemning testimony of Sukhreet Gabel--it's too late to redeem this patchy, sensationalized, hastily assembled report. First serial to People; author tour. (Apr.)
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