This is Bess Levin’s last week at The House that Bess Built, so we are turning it into a tribute site for the next few days with some “Best Of Bess” and a few guest posts from Dealbreaker friends and family.
"Which one is Bess?"
"That little white girl is THE Bess Levin?"
I expected Bess to be more obviously BESS when I first met her. A woman with that kind of power in a man's world should be easy to recognize, I thought. The other known quantities at Breaking Media - David Lat and John Carney - had pretty much met my expectations of them, based on their writing, I assumed that the lady who held Wall Street by the balls would have a pair mounted on her desk. Or something.
Instead, she was just a regular person, checking her emails, writing posts, no air of ass-kicking about her. Her most common question to the room is "does this sound strange to you?" Her next most-used question is "what's a good word for...?"
I kept waiting for her to say "I'm going to break my foot up off in [so-and-so]'s ass." But that's not her process.
On the phone, she's all Clark Kent, never Superman. I've never heard her raise her voice, I've never heard her get angry or even flustered on a phone call. If not for the subject matter, I couldn't tell you if she was talking to the head of a bank or her cable provider.
She maintains that equanimity regardless of what is going on at the other end of the line.
How is this mild-mannered woman with low-ego and good phone skills such a force to be reckoned with? Well just say something strange in front of her:
"Elie, did you mean to write that?"
"Do you understand why people might be offended?"
"Oh, you don't care. Well, that's interesting. Don't you think you should?"
"How far would you take that? What if I said [blah blah blah]?"
In four questions, Bess had me screaming in the middle of my office, arguing for the posthumous prosecution of suicide victims, like a damn fool.
Bess doesn't claim victims, just volunteers.