I first met Susan Maher when her paint brushes were wet behind her ears. She was hired by Better Homes and Gardens fresh out of design school to work on the covers of the magazine. I thought she was "younger than Springtime." We worked happily together. She left the magazine to strike out for a design career in New York, which she found at Clinque. It suited her clean and discrete style. Not long after, I was in New York with Victoria about to emerge. At the beginning, Sue worked with us freelance, and then came on full-time. She was on my staff almost to the very end of my tenure.
(By the way - I used to joke that when our delivery man Nick retired, I would leave, right behind him. I retired from Victoria, but I think Nick is still in business working for former Victoria staff members!)
But "The Sue Team" began with the magazine and stayed by my side. The other member was Susan George, who produced some of our most memorable stories. They were the extravaganzas that never ceased to amaze me or enchant our readers. Our family Christmas trees were always her assignment, and I could count on a best-selling cover from her work.
One of my favorite stories was in the early days of the magazine--a fashion layout inspired by the aviatrix Amelia Earhart. We hired planes from an aerodrome that ended up flying right over our heads, the photographer asking for ever closer flybys. WOW! I said my prayers a bit longer that night.
I am writing this and sharing the photograph taken on another shoot (by Toshi Otsuki) because of something that Sue Maher recently wrote to me:
There is a great Victoria story to be told in that not only did we all have the great fortune to work together for twelve plus years, we also were genuinely good friends as well. I'm not sure that's always the case with a group of creative and talented people. It was really quite collaborative, which is what I miss most.
In the photograph here, The Sue Team is producing a fishing story for Victoria (Sue Maher on the left, Susan George on the right). Toshi Otsuki, the photographer, couldn't resist the "behind the scenes" shot that shows good nature as well as the obvious hard work involved. Knowing the women as I do, there is definitely more than a hint of that.
Work friendships are a great story. The good ones survive for years after people have gone on their way to other pursuits.
Sue Maher works her design magic in an architectural firm these days, and Susan George is still behind the camera producing advertising campaigns. But their relationship goes beyond, "Those were the days..." And there are incredible laughs when things that seemed horrendous problems at the time fade into being tall tales with humorous overtones.
There is a kind of friendship that only friends who have "been in the fire together" know. Would you like to tell us about your work friends?
On a sad note, Kim Waller, a senior writer and editor at Victoria died early this summer. Kim wrote many stories our readers loved--as well as Victoria books. Before coming to Victoria, Kim had a distinguished career at Town & Country. There was never an ordinary assignment for Kim. Give her something like a round-up of books and she'd make it into a journey. You didn't skim Kim Waller's writing. Her friends at Victoria, for all its years, will miss her.