Pottker, Janice (Marie) 1948-
POTTKER, Janice (Marie) 1948-
PERSONAL: Born October 22, 1948, in Lake Forest, IL; daughter of Ralph Eugene (a small business owner) and Olga Norma (a journalist; maiden name, Somenzi) Pottker; married Andrew Stuart Fishel (a financial manager), August 17, 1969; children: Tracy Lynn, Carrie Gene. Education: American University, B.A., 1969; University of Maryland, College Park, M.A., 1971; Columbia University, M. Phil, Ph.D., 1978.
CAREER: Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, instructor in sociology, 1972-73; New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, research scientist in biometric research, 1973-74; Human Sciences Research, McLean, VA, research associate, 1974-75; Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Education, Bethesda, MD, director, 1974-79; chief of research and evaluation branch of U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, 1979—. Member of board of directors of International Institute of Women's Studies, 1970-73; president of Writer's Camp, Inc., 1984—.
MEMBER: National Writer's Union, Washington Independent Writers, Authors Guild, Investigative Reporters and Editors.
AWARDS, HONORS: University of Maryland, Alumna Emerita, Entrepreneur of the Year (College of Education), both 2002.
(With husband, Andrew Fishel) National Politics and Eliminating Sex Discrimination in Education, Lexington Books (Lanham, MD), 1977.
(Editor, with Andrew Fishel) Sex Bias in the Schools: The Research Evidence, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Madison, NJ), 1983.
(With Bob Speziale, under name Jan Pottker) Dear Ann, Dear Abby: An Unauthorized Biography of Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1987.
(Under name Jan Pottker) Born to Power: Heirs to America's Leading Businesses, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1992.
(Under name Jan Pottker) Crisis in Candyland: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire, National Press (Bethesda, MD), 1995. (Under name Jan Pottker) Celebrity Washington: Who They Are, Where They Live, and Why They're Famous: Plus Maps, Photos, Movie Locations, and Restaurants, Writer's Cramp Books (Potomac, MD), 1996.
(Under name Jan Pottker) Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
(Under name Jan Pottker) Sara and Eleanor: The Story of Sara Delano Roosevelt and Her Daughter-inlaw, Eleanor Roosevelt, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Crisis in Candyland: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire has been translated into Czechoslovakian and Russian.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Biographies of famous women that focus on the social and pyschological aspects of their family relationships.
SIDELIGHTS: Trained as a sociologist, Janice Pottker became fascinated by family dynasties, which prompted her to write biographies of the rich and, in some cases, famous. Pottker began her writing career coauthoring with her husband academic sociological books about sex discrimination. In 1987, she changed direction and wrote Dear Ann, Dear Abby: The Unauthorized Biography of Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren with Bob Speziale. Realizing she had a talent for biography, Pottker has since written about the Mars candy family, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sara and Eleanor Roosevelt, and others.
In Dear Ann, Dear Abby, Pottker and Speziale describe the lives of twin sisters Esther Pauline (Eppie) and Pauline Esther (Popo) Friedman, from their childhood in Sioux City, Iowa, to their prominence as America's most popular advice columnists. Although they did not receive permission or cooperation from either sister (in fact, both tried various methods to block the book's publication), Pottker and Speziale did interview more than 150 of the columnists' friends, coworkers, and relatives. Those who knew the Friedman twins recount the stories of their early sibling rivalries, culminating with their double wedding—Eppie to a salesman, Popo to a millionaire. When Eppie was hired to write for the syndicated "Ann Landers" column in 1955, Popo quickly garnered her own advice column, calling herself "Dear Abby"; thus began a bitter feud that has continued almost uninterrupted for nearly forty years. "Readers of Pottker and Speziale's biography may find themselves wondering how Ann and Abby dare to offer advice (about sibling relationships, anyway) considering their own stormy past," wrote a Booklist reviewer. Marcia Froelke Coburn of Tribune Books called Dear Ann, Dear Abby "an incredibly juicy story," enjoying the way the authors "spin out the delicious details of the rift, showing how and why [Eppie and Popo] have spent years trying to outdo each other. In the end, the book proves that sisterhood may indeed be powerful, but it can also be plenty catty."
In Crisis in Candyland: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire, Pottker explores the Mars family, who founded and ran the Mars candy company. "If there's one point that Jan Pottker demonstrates in Crisis in Candyland … it's that Mars Inc. takes the cake for management looniness," wrote Bill Saporito in a review in Fortune. Run by Forrest, Jr., and John Mars, grandsons of company founder Frank Mars, the Mars company and family have maintained a veil of privacy and secrecy, going so far as to outlaw the writing of memos. In the book, Pottker recounts the company's growth and provides a close-up view of eccentric and contentious family and business tales. Saporito said that the book "suffers from lack of narrative" but noted that the "collection of family anecdotes" is "enough to carry things along." Writing in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer called the book "part tabloid fare, part pop history."
Pottker struck out on her own as sole author of Born to Power: Heirs to America's Leading Businesses. In the book, she profiles fifty prominent family businesses and the heirs who are likely to manage them in the future. In Celebrity Washington: Who They Are, Where They Live, and Why They're Famous: Plus Maps, Photos, Movie Locations, and Restaurants, Pottker, who conducts walking tours of Washington, DC, produced Washington's first celebrity map and address book, including information on movies filmed in the nation's capitol and where celebrities like to eat.
Pottker's revealing books about the powerful have not gone unnoticed by the subjects of her books. Pottker wrote a magazine article about Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus. As a result of the article, which Pottker planned to develop into a book, the author became the object of surveillance and a campaign designed to prevent the book from ever being written and published. Eventually, Pottker learned about these efforts through Ringling's chief financial officer. Although the book has not been written, she and her husband have filed a lawsuit. "Her hopes for exposing the real life of the circus now lie with the courts," noted Jeff Stein in a Salon article.
For her next book, Pottker chose a decidedly different subject than the circus. In Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she focuses on the relationship between the former First Lady of the United States and her mother Janet Lee Auchincloss. Pottker points out that Kennedy Onassis learned a great deal from her mother. Skills in preparing for almost any situation and presenting oneself in public helped equip the former First Lady for life as one of the twentieth century's most recognized and admired women. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Sally Bedell Smith commented, "Pottker offers a reliable and balanced account" of the mother-daughter relationship. She continued, "Pottker interviewed members of Jackie's family, as well as close friends and employees of Janet's, and had access to family papers that she used judiciously." Smith concluded that Pottker "effectively traces the ups and downs of Janet's relationship with Jackie" and that she "may provide the best window of all on the essential character of Jacqueline Kennedy." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the book was "noteworthy for its rich and nuanced portrait of Janet."
Pottker once told CA: "America's only royalty are the very rich. Yet we democratic citizens have a love-hate relationship with these families. We discount all they have given to this country—their industrial, business and financial contributions as well as their political contributions. As a writer, I want to re-examine America's great families and acknowledge their representation of the eras in which they've thrived."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, November-December, 2001, Penelope Mesic, review of Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, p. 57.
Booklist, October 1, 1987, p. 187; August, 1995, David Rouse, review of Crisis in Candyland: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire, p. 1918; September 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Janet and Jackie, p. 2.
Fortune, November 27, 1995, Bill Saporito, review of Crisis in Candyland, p. 204.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of Janet and Jackie, p. 1274.
Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Amy Strong, review of Janet and Jackie, p. 88.
London Review of Books, (London, England), June 6, 2002, review of Janet and Jackie, pp. 20-22.
New York Times Book Review, November 25, 2001, Sally Bedell Smith, review of Janet and Jackie, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, July 10, 1995, review of Crisis in Candyland, p. 53; September 3, 2001, review of Janet and Jackie, p. 73.
Tribune Books (Chicago), November 8, 1987, p. 3.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (August 30, 2001), Jeff Stein, "The Greatest Vendetta on Earth."