The year was 1986, and Barbara Feinman Todd was a writer in disguise. Her mission? To crash a party— the 45th wedding anniversary of the director of the CIA, being held at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. No press was allowed, but it was her job to find out who the guests were.
Clad in a black velvet cocktail dress and armed with a notebook hidden inside her clutch, the 26-year-old slipped past the Secret Service agents. Once in the party, she scurried back and forth from ballroom to bathroom, where she wrote down the names of the Washington insiders in attendance—including Henry Kissinger and the U.S. Attorney General.
Feinman Todd’s party crashing was at the behest of her boss, investigative journalist Bob Woodward. He needed that guest list for Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981–1987, and Feinman Todd was his full-time researcher.
Feinman Todd describes that nerve-wracking night and the years that followed in her new memoir, published in February 2017. She didn’t know it then, but her collaboration with Woodward set her on the path to becoming one of Washington’s preeminent ghostwriters, crafting memoirs for the likes of Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi, one-time Republican presidential candidate Morry Taylor, and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. The memoir’s title is what she would tell her subjects to put them at ease: Pretend I’m Not Here.