For some reason, this situation looked like opportunity to me. I had been an intern for the Wall Street Journal Europe, so I had contacts there, and went dutifully about trying to become a stringer for the US papers – I didn’t know about Charles Brady at the time. Besides, my expenses were low. At 22, I was happy to live off of spicy Turkish pizza or bratwurst from the local Schnell Imbiss. And I had no real reason to go home.
I started sending out pitch letters typed on the electric typewriter I had received as a college graduation present. And, slowly, assignments came. For the Toronto Star, I wrote about a Berlin apartment complex with a superhighway through its basement – apparently a similar building was being considered in Toronto. Ms. magazine, an iconic feminist publication, let me write a piece about long-delayed recognition for the Trummerfrau, women who had sorted through the ruins of bombed-out Berlin. For Sports Illustrated, I wrote about a new East German boxing robot.
I wrote for anyone who would pay me. I wrote for a left-wing journal called Mother Jones about the racial harassment of Africans in Europe, something rarely discussed at the time. I contributed regularly to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal Europe, a bastion of right-wing, Reaganite thinking.
Once, I helped a Fleet Street celebrity reporter named Baz Bamigboye chase down actor Sean Penn, then known mostly for his run-ins with he press. Sean hid beneath the red banquettes of the Café de Paris when he saw me and Baz Bamigboye on the way.