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Favorite Subject: Unwilling

Kitty Kelley Beat Around The Bushes for Her Book

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 14, 2004; Page C01

NEW YORK, Sept. 13

Kitty Kelley's greenish-blue eyes grow really big at the idea. What if she could pen a biography of someone who actually cooperated with her?

She says she would love it. Especially if she could write about someone she truly admires. "Nelson Mandela!" she says. "Or Elie Wiesel!"

"Nothing in the world," Kitty Kelley says, "will take the place of persistence." (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

So far that has not been her modus operandi. Kelley is known far and wide as the Biographer of Reluctant Icons. Over the years, the Washington writer has chronicled the lives of Jacqueline Onassis, Frank Sinatra, the British royal family and other larger-than-life characters -- none of whom gave her the time of day.

Her latest tome, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," is being published Tuesday by Doubleday. But, as usual, the subjects did not play along. Kelley is already under fire from the White House.

In the book, Kelley delves into the history and mysteries of the Bush family. She focuses on the sweeping political prowess and power of three generations -- Sen. Prescott Bush, his son George Herbert Walker Bush and his son President George W. Bush.

Certain controversial aspects of the book, however, are already wreaking havoc and making headlines. Kelley writes of drug use and possible personal improprieties among the Bush clan. She writes that Sharon Bush, ex-wife of President Bush's brother Neil, "alleged that W. had snorted cocaine with one of his brothers at Camp David during the time their father was President of the United States."

On the "Today" show Monday morning, Matt Lauer pressed Kelley on the matter. "This book has been vetted by four sets of lawyers," Kelley replied, "including the chief counsel of Random House."

Lauer asked her why she didn't tape her conversation with Sharon Bush. Kelley says that tape recorders don't work well in restaurants -- there's too much ambient noise.

Later in the show, Lauer spoke with Sharon Bush. He asked if she had ever heard of any instance in which George Bush used drugs at Camp David during his father's presidency. "No," she told Lauer, "I'd never heard it. That's why I was so stunned when she referenced me on that. No, I had never heard that about Camp David."

The folks at Doubleday, which is a division of Random House, spent part of the day crafting a public response, pointing out that there had been someone else at the table when Sharon Bush met with Kelley and that the publishing company and Kelley "firmly uphold the accuracy and veracity of reporting on this topic." Lou Colasuonno, a former tabloid editor, was that third person and was providing public relations advice to Sharon Bush at the time, the publisher said.

Over lunch at Jean-Georges in the Trump International Hotel & Tower on Columbus Circle, Kelley, 62, is unfazed. She has begun her publicity whirlwind and is squeezing in a three-course meal between her "Today" appearance and an interview with a Dutch journalist. She has ordered tuna, then turbot, then veal. The portions are small, overpriced and overwrought.

Kelley is in fine fettle. She is coy, coquettish and disarming. No wonder people open up to her. She touches when she talks. And winks.

She has short blond hair and a quick smile. She is wearing a gray Armani suit.

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