Car and Driver

The Countess discovers the Ladies of Vroom-Vroom, women who don’t need to stop and ask for directions.


We’ve been through women’s lib, feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment. But now we’re going through something else—a time I call Ladies of Vroom-Vroom.

These women are like those behemoth, gas-guzzling SUVs that can roll over everything and that almost every car company now wants to discontinue. But while the vehicles might face challenging times, the Ladies of Vroom-Vroom are filling up with high octane to zoom faster than ever. So what makes a Vroomy Lady? Well, to join the club you really need to be powerful and always, in the end, get your way. And whether flashy or low-key, there is an aura of strength and focus that consistently attracts attention. The members often are obvious—women who, at the mere mention of their names, elicit the response, “Oh, she’s a Vroomy!”—and you can be sure I have a long list in mind. Let’s start with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who treads heavily on the male ego and who propelled the Vroomies into the future with her formidable run for president.

Michelle Obama is also a Vroomy, but of a different kind. If Hillary is the Nineties model, then Michelle is a 21st-century hybrid Vroomy that’s sleeker and less threatening for many. Cindy McCain, with her supercoiffed blond hair, is also a sleek version, but one able to throw a case of beer in the back when the time comes. Then there’s Barbara Bush, the president’s mother, a Vroomy nonpareil—iron-willed and one who never forgets the smallest slight.

Politics seems to be filled with Vroomies. Remember Margaret Thatcher, who in the Eighties ran over male politicians like they were subcompacts? As for today, Germany’s Angela Merkel is a prickly Vroomy who complains about the hugs she gets from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Speaking of Sarkozy, his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is a romantic Vroomy who got her man in the end. In the U.S., there’s Nancy Pelosi, who has some of the Thatcherite mien; Condoleezza Rice, who takes a beating for President Bush but carries on like a good Girl Scout Vroomy; Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose Vroomdom partially doomed her husband John’s run for president; and Carly Fiorina, ex-Hewlett-Packard business Vroomy, who’s now driving for John McCain. (The new Vroomy of the business world is Indra Nooyi, chairwoman of PepsiCo.)

Enough of politics, though: There are plenty of Vroomies in the media and entertainment worlds too. Barbara Walters, who drops a tear and gets the good interviews; Maureen Dowd, who steps on the gas and deflates politicians’ egos; CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, who has tycoons dying to tell her their secrets even as she fights off newer models; Anna Wintour, the queen of the fashion jungle; and Oprah Winfrey, with a multibillion-dollar empire that actually can get people to read classic novels. Hollywood has quite a few as well, including Madonna, who keeps updating her model to match the times, and Angelina Jolie, whose Vroomdom can both publicize her charity work and get her Brad Pitt.

In fashion, think of that innovation-filled Vroomy Miuccia Prada; Diane von Furstenberg, who battles for anything she believes in with boundless energy; the sometimes hard-to-steer Donna Karan; Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera, Vroomies who purr; and Tory Burch, a made-in-Philadelphia version.

The social world’s Vroomies keep trying to pass one another. In England there’s Dame Vivien Duffield, who’s raised more money for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden than anyone, but she threatened the powers that be, so they flattened her tires. America has Elizabeth Rohatyn; Liz Smith; Anne Cox Chambers, a Vroomy with gold hubcaps who’s a big Barack Obama supporter; Marie-Josée Kravis; Mercedes Bass, a Vroomy who rapidly sped into New York society by way of the Middle East and Texas; the “conscious-living counselor” Kathy Freston, who tries to teach others how to become Vroomies; and author-fundraiser Jessica Seinfeld, wife of Jerry, who can barely keep up with her in his sports cars.

Face it, in every town and city in the world, there are Vroomies motoring around who make the place hum. They’re indispensable.

How do I know? Because, dear reader, I dream of being one.