Joanne Herring
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Joanne Herring

Charlie Wilson's War

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About Her

Living… in the throes of Texan royalty at the start of the 1980s. The 6th wealthiest woman in Texas, Joanne lives in a 14-bedroom mansion in Houston. She is related to George Washington’s sister, and also to a victim of the Battle of the Alamo. What could possible be more Texan than that?

Profession… former talk show host turned socialite. Joanne throws parties and fundraisers in the name of her “ultra-right wing” political interests. She is a former member of the Minute Women, one of the foremost anti-communist groups in the country. She is extraordinarily well-connected. For example, she is friends with the president of Pakistan and serves as Pakistan’s honorary consul in Houston.

Interests… looking pretty. Joanne is a former Ms. Cotton Bowl, but middle age is making inroads and she must do all she can to hold on to her beauty. That includes swaddling herself in furs and becoming immortalized in a massive oil portrait of herself in the style of John Singer Sargent’s Madame X.

Relationship Status… married. Though she enjoys a surprisingly casual friends-with-benefits relationship with U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson. 

Challenge… helping her Pakistani friends. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan has left Pakistan with millions of Afghani refugees on its hands. She is knowledgeable about weaponry and knows the Afghanis are at a substantial technological disadvantage. She sets up a meeting between Charlie Wilson and the Pakistani leadership to see if he can scrounge up some funds to help the Afghanis fight the Soviets. Or as she tells him, “Charlie, I want you to defeat the Soviet Union and end the Cold War.” 

Personality… bold, manipulative, condescending. A blunt public speaker, she defies the great political tradition of speaking in platitudes. She is especially condescending to young woman – she treats Charlie’s staff leader Bonnie like a waiter, having her fetch a “Bombay Martini, very dry,” and she calls the rest of his staff “sluts” as she walks past them out them door. She is confident in her ways. On being wrong, she says, “That would be unusual for me.”

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