This is what you expect out of a classy magazine like The Atlantic Monthly. They hire a great writer and turn him loose on a grand theme, provide the showcase and a thinking audience. And pay the bills. Which was why I was having lunch with Managing Editor Cullen Murphy and Publisher Elizabeth Baker Keffer, and their latest prize, Bernard-Henri Levy, maybe the most influential French writer since Malraux. BHL, as he's known in Paris, long hair wildly, romantically out of control, white Charvet shirt opened at the throat, carved at his Four Seasons steak (an American soft drink, no wine), as he told me about his adventures trekking coast to coast, in the footsteps, more or less, of his 19th century compatriot, Alexis de Tocqueville. Bernard, the only Parisian I know who can't drive, was chauffeured by a young grad student on his search for what it means to be an American. From Newport, where Tocqueville began, BHL visited and wrote about prisoners at Rikers Island, a B&B in Cooperstown, N.Y., San Diego, Hispanics working as U.S. border patrolmen, a coal-miner's family in West Virginia, students at the U. of Texas (where they study Tocqueville today though the French don't!), parents in Spanish Harlem fed up with lousy schools. He even got to talk to Bush. "But let me tell you about Kerry, isolated with his wife at a poor table at the Kennedy Center Awards (Ted Kennedy had a terrific table). He's unable or unwilling to let go, accept defeat, the syringe still in his arm that he tries to pull out, but he can't." The Levy series, written in French, translated by Charlotte Mandell, started in May and will run for five issues. Is BHL bullish on America? Well, yes and no. "Since I'd been here so often, my problem was eliminating preconceptions. ... But in all this time I never had one American look into my face and say, `I don't like the French; I don't like you.' " Murphy, a delightful figure whose father created and drew the "Prince Valiant" comic, broke in, "You know, Tocqueville also wore shirts by Charvet."
Publisher Carlos La Madrid tells me May's issue of Men's Journal (Wenner) doubled its ad pages in their largest issue in 10 years. With 146 ad pages, that's an increase of 123% over May of '04. Through May it's up 30% with newsstand booming. Michael Caruso's the editor. Ole!
TV personality Bill Boggs and magazine exec Carol Campbell set the date, May 21 in Manhattan. And you thought the Prince Charles nuptials were something.
Donna Warner and Anne Triece, who run Metropolitan Home, host a Four Seasons reception April 19 to celebrate the Design 100 issue.
And at Traditional Home (Meredith), Brenda Saget Darling says the May issue is also a biggie. "Biggest revenue producing ever in the magazine's 15 years." Darling Brenda tells me nine auto advertisers including four new ones, Cadillac STS, Mercedes, Nissan and Jag, helped things along. Her mag will again be co-sponsoring the popular Spoleto Festival in Charleston this June.
Andrew Sacks and Michael Heitner are pouring champagne tomorrow evening at The Cartier Mansion in Manhattan for their agency's clients. I assume the boys still charge the usual commission.