The me­dia macher who wouldn’t talk

Kim­berly Quinn, new JCC fundrais­ing chief, has not given an in­ter­view since she was a front-page story. Is that why she wouldn’t an­swer Alex Kas­riel’s ques­tions?

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

WHEN THE J e w i s h Com­mu­nity Cent r e f o r L o n d o n o f f e r e d t h e J C an in­ter­view with its new de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor, Kim­berly Quinn, it was a chance to find out what made the new chief fundraiser for Dame Vivien Duffield’s brain­child tick. Or so we thought.

Quinn is well versed in the ways of the me­dia. She is the for­mer pub­lisher of The Spec­ta­tor mag­a­zine and ex-mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of Van­ity Fair and Glam­our pub­lisher Conde Nast.

Her sec­ond hus­band Stephen Quinn is man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of Conde Nast’s Vogue and GQ mag­a­zines. To­gether they have been feted by the gos­sip col­umns as a “power cou­ple” in the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try.

We were told in ad­vance that there would be at least two other peo­ple in at­ten­dance in the con­ser­va­to­rystyle meet­ing room at the JCC of­fices in Hamp­stead, North-West Lon­don, where the in­ter­view was booked. Per­haps there was a con­cern, how­ever mis­placed, that this — her first in­ter­view since the press ex­posed her re­la­tion­ship with for­mer Home Sec­re­tary David Blun­kett, who fa­thered her child — would be­come un­duly per­sonal.

But it was only when our pho­tog­ra­pher tried to take Quinn’s photo, and she in­sisted that she would only be pic­tured with her fel­low team mem­bers — Juliet Sim­mons, the artis­tic di­rec­tor, and Kather­ine Sells, the project di­rec­tor — that it be­came ob­vi­ous that the promised in­ter­view with her was not go­ing to be a sim­ple mat­ter.

Quinn, 47, who was born Kim­berly Solomon in Los An­ge­les, was com­fort­able for the first few min­utes of the con­ver­sa­tion, talk­ing about why she ac­cepted the post at the JCC.

“I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly look­ing for a job but the JCC spoke to me about this role,” she said. “I have been on the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s board be­fore, I was out of the coun­try for a year or so, and be­ing Amer­i­can I was familiar with the JCC’s ethos and how the JCC works. When I stud­ied at Vas­sar Univer­sity in New York, I went to the 92nd Street Y [Man­hat­tan’s JCC]. And when I was lit­tle I went to the LA JCC.”

But sens­ing that the line of en­quiry was be­ing di­rected solely at her — and not her JCC col­leagues — she sug­gested that the ques­tions should be shared around equally. Af­ter all, she stressed, the story was about all of them and the JCC project.

Quinn was happy to con­trib­ute to the gen­eral con­ver­sa­tion about the JCC’s fu­ture, and was par­tic­u­larly care­ful to quote her col­leagues’ thoughts and ideas.

“I go to the Wig­more Hall once a week,” she said. “I need not be think­ing I want to hear a par­tic­u­lar string quar­tet be­cause I know the qual­ity will be good. That’s how it should be at the JCC. There’ll be a nurs­ery school, there’ll be a fit­ness fa­cil­ity and a kitchen; that is what will make it ex­cit­ing. Juliet [Sim­mons] says it’s not just build­ing a build­ing, it’s build­ing a com­mu­nity. Kather­ine [Sells] says the space should be like pi­azza. Al­though I’m not sure if it will as won­der­ful as the Pi­azza del Campo in Si­enna…”

She talked about how the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in­te­grated with the Jewish com­mu­nity in San Fran­cisco af­ter the city’s JCC opened a kosher veg­e­tar­ian café.

“This is the thing that has cre­ated an in­ter­ac­tion that wasn’t there be­fore,” she said.

It was as if Quinn were on a non-stop talk­ing of­fen­sive to avoid the topic of con­ver­sa­tion stray­ing from the party line. She again in­structed that more ques­tions should be posed to her col­leagues.

It was time to point out, po­litely, that the in­ter­view we had been promised was not with her col­leagues, but with her — some­one who, given her new profile in the com­mu­nity and her pre­vi­ous cov­er­age in the me­dia, would jus­ti­fi­ably in­ter­est read­ers.

Quinn then sug­gested that the in­ter­view could be ter­mi­nated if it was not what the JC was look­ing for. The mo­ment served to clear the air. The in­ter­view car­ried on.

Quinn was then pre­pared to talk a lit­tle about her own life, in­clud­ing her Jewish iden­tity. She was born to the wealthy Jewish busi­ness­man Marvin Solomon and his ac­tress wife Lu­gene San­ders. She says she went to syn­a­gogue and Jewish folk-danc­ing with friends on Fri­day evenings. She even talked about her re­cent fam­ily Seder in which the chil­dren dressed up and acted out the Passover story.

“We rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent lev­els of Ju­daism in the com­mu­nity. I’m cul­tur­ally Jewish. I came from a mixed mar­riage,” she said, giv­ing a rare in­sight into her per­sonal life... be­fore re­vert­ing to cor­po­rate JCC mode.

“I re­ally love that about this project,” she con­tin­ued. “It re­ally makes peo­ple look back and think about your back­ground. It’s re­ally all right for ev­ery­body whether you’re com­pletely Jewish or not at all.”

Nat­u­rally, she had high praise for Dame Vivien Duffield, the founder of the JCC in Lon­don.

“She has been a great guide and aid to me in the project in my first few weeks. She’s uni­ver­sally loved, so it makes what you’re do­ing a lot eas­ier,” she said.

And then the con­ver­sa­tion was back to prais­ing the JCC ful­somely, with an eye­brow-rais­ing space-travel anal­ogy.

“It’s kind of like a rocket,” said Quinn. “Juliet is the con­trols, Kather­ine is the struc­ture and I’m the fuel. We’re all strapped in and blast-off is com­ing. We have a strong, pro­fes­sional team and that is what makes an or­gan­i­sa­tion great.”

When asked what she per­son­ally would bring to the team, she said: “I have very good con­tacts, in­clud­ing of course [for­mer Spec­ta­tor ed­i­tor and now Mayor of Lon­don] Boris John­son. He’s a good guy. He’s al­ways been sup­port­ive of the Jewish com­mu­nity.”

An­other as­pect Quinn is par­tic­u­larly happy about is work­ing in an all-wo­man team. “I worked on all-women teams at Vogue House for years,” she said. “You can say: ‘…pro­ceeds to talk in a de­tailed way about spread­sheets and tar­gets…’ be­fore drop­ping in ‘I like your shoes’ and con­tin­u­ing in the same vein there­after, and it is quite nor­mal.”

Quinn re­signed from the board of the JCC in 2004 just be­fore news of her af­fair with Blun­kett broke in the me­dia.

She had re­mained a close sup­porter of the project and was happy to ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion of JCC chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Viner to re­join, af­ter hav­ing pre­vi­ously worked as a fundraiser for Great Or­mond Street Hospi­tal and The Royal Court Theatre in Lon­don.

Quinn now has to raise two-thirds of the money re­quired to fund the build­ing of the pro­posed JCC head­quar­ters in North Lon­don.

She says she will do that by “get­ting in­for­ma­tion on the project out to as many peo­ple as fre­quently and ar­tic­u­lately and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as pos­si­ble”.

As for her telling her own story, en­thu­si­asm and ar­tic­u­lacy were con­spic­u­ously lack­ing.

PHOTO: VICKY AL­HAD­EFF

Kim­berly Quinn, the new JCC fundrais­ing chief: “I’m cul­tur­ally Jewish. We rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent lev­els of Ju­daism in the com­mu­nity”

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