Women Do

I visited my Northwestern professor Franklyn Haiman. While I had thrived in the drama department, I had never felt more alive than when I was taking his class on First Amendment rights. “All my life, Professor, I’ve wanted to be an actress; it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do, and when I went to New York it was terrible. I can’t sing to save my life, my back is a mess. I want to do serious drama but it could take years to get a part. I’m afraid of being broke.” I about broke down. “I think I have a good mind…”

“You have a really good mind,” he consoled me. After a year of rejections I was glad to hear him tell me something nice.

“I think I should use it for other things.”

“Well, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t have the faintest idea.” It was true. Without my vision of myself as an actress I was bereft of a vision of the future. I mentioned how interesting I had found the communications courses I had taken with him. I mentioned teaching because that was a logical and available thing for a woman to do at the time. Maybe I should go to graduate school in communications.

Professor Haiman paused as he ran his mind over what he knew of me. “How about that First Amendment course? You did very well there.”

“I loved that course. That was my favorite course in college!”

“Why don’t you think about going to law school?”

I had never given it a moment’s thought. “Girls don’t go to law school,” I told him.

“No, but women do.”

 

The Thunderbolt

Court TV’s boss A. Thayer Bigelow and I were at the Regency, having just finished our state-of-the-network morning meal and standing to leave, when I saw Bill Bratton across the room, sitting at a table with a prominent investment banker. As I moved toward the door I excused myself and stopped at Bill’s table. I thought this would earn me big brownie points with my boss. Bratton had ascended from the Boston Police Department to become commissioner of the NYPD. He had appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and was widely credited with personally reversing New York’s crime epidemic before being forced out of office for reasons of personal pique by New York’s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Bratton rose from his seat and kissed me on the cheek. He smiled. “You look so beautiful,” he said. “If you were single, I’d marry you.”

Was this the thunderbolt from The Godfather? I was immediately and enormously attracted to this man.

“You should call me for lunch,” I said.

By the time I got back to the office, he had called.

 

On the Road Again

I squeezed into the minuscule airline bathroom, stripped down amidst the stainless steel, and put on my good clothes. Sweating in that confined space, standing with one foot on the toilet seat, my elbows bumping the doors while I put on my stockings, this was not the moment to sneak a quick peak in the mirror. It was just insane.

My travel kit was stocked with Visine, Evian spray, toothbrush and toothpaste, a thick moisturizer for the flight, and my makeup. I’d done enough of these quick-change routines to be able to do my face in three-and-a-half minutes. Back then my hair was long and straight – the Joan Baez/Buffy Ste. Marie look – so I saved a couple of minutes by only having to brush it through. Finally a quick check – a dazzling smile. “Showtime!” Very Roy-Scheider-as-Bob-Fosse in All That Jazz – and I was ready.

I would emerge from the bathroom and return to my seat.

If this happened once, it happened a hundred times – the man sitting next to me, and it was inevitably a man traveling on business, would say, “Wow, Cinderella, what a difference!” or “How did you do that?” I would chat him up – “What do you do? Here’s what I do” – and see if I could land some business for my law firm. Airplanes are a rainmaker’s heaven.

By the time I arrived at the conference center I would have gathered myself and be truly glad to be there. I would meet the hosts and guests, a group that began originally as a majority of men but grew over time to be a preponderance of young women lawyers looking for a role model. I would shake a lot of hands, smile, talk, sit for a meal, stand up and deliver my speech. I had a tattered yellow legal pad with notes for my various presentations which I carried to make me feel secure, but I really didn’t need it.

While I was onstage I was in heaven, I was flying, life couldn’t have been better. I was in the moment, unafraid to be at risk, daring to be my best. I was teaching. I was performing. Often I talked about “Theater in the Courtroom,” the concept of creating an involving drama while winning over the jury. I would involve the audience in a show of my own and at the end I would enjoy the applause.

What an adrenaline rush. “Well, of course,” I’d tell myself, “this is why I travel every weekend. This is the bee’s knees. This is what I live for!”

In the Q&A afterwards, young lawyers would bombard me with questions. It was always about success, success, success: “Can I try this?” “How do I do that?” I was thrilled to be a role model, I loved their energy, and I was more than happy to share what I knew with a new generation of attorneys, particularly eager women.

But after the rush comes the crash.

"I admire a strong woman. Rikki Klieman has played in the big leagues and survived to tell the tale."

− James Carville, author and political strategist

"A successful career and love in middle age. Now what could be better than that?"

− Ann Richards, former governor of Texas

"It's all here: how Rikki found her dream job, married the prince, and is now living happily ever after. But don't look for a magic wand. This is the real-life story of a talented, gutsy woman whose grit and determination turned her often painful personal mistakes into an invaluable primer for success. And it can, she insists, happen to you."

− Lynn Sherr, ABC News

"Rikki Klieman has written that rarest of celebrity memoirs, one that feels utterly real. Rikki has produced a book that is as vivid as her life."

− Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst, CNN and The New Yorker

"Rikki Klieman has a unique view of life and the justice system. You get it all in Fairy Tales Can Come True. "

− Michael Connelly, author of the LAPD Harry Bosch series and The Lincoln Lawyer

"Rikki has wonderful feistiness and candor that brings alive all the struggles of a high-energy, modern woman. Bravo for never compromising her dream of living out loud."

− Tina Brown, Former Editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines

"When they finally catch up with me, soaked in blood and holding a viscera-covered knife -- a dead waiter at my feet -- Rikki Klieman is my first phone call. A terrific book."

− Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential and host of CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown