FROM WIT TO WONDER, 'W' PROVES A JOY TO WATCH GROW UP

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Fairchild publications is celebrating, and well it should, the 25th anniversary of its nifty spinoff monthly called W.

It might be interesting to recall its origins.

Late in 1964, I came home from Paris to succeed John Fairchild as publisher of Women's Wear Daily and within a few years also became editorial director of the company. John's father Louis, a great man, retired, and John effectively took control of the whole company (Cousin Edgar was chairman but he dithered). Over the years John and I discussed the possibilities of a consumer spinoff from WWD.

And why not? By now our little trade paper WWD had become something of a phenomenon. Some 25,000 affluent consumer subscriptions had been added to the 50,000 or so subs in retailing and the fashion and fabric biz. The White House got 20 copies a day. TV executives and daily newspaper editors read us. So did the newsweeklies. One of our young women in Washington, Kandy Stroud, became Martha Mitchell's midnight phone pal. Kissinger called me to complain about a story. Rose Kennedy asked us to give Jackie a break and ease up on the coverage. WWD was the only American publication Coco Chanel would talk to. When Streisand wanted to meet Coco, I took her in. At the height of the miniskirt debate, WWD was on the cover of Life, the cover of Time.

With the Herald Tribune's death, we bought exclusive New York rights to Red Smith's column. We hired Eugenia Sheppard. Marty Gottfried reviewed theater. Rex Reed wrote movies. Gail Rock and Chauncey Howell and Agnes Ash (she covered Cape Canaveral) had daily bylines. G.Y. Dryansky (now European editor of Conde Nast Traveler) and Barney Leason prowled Europe and covered the Russian take-back of Czecho. Our Paris bureau employed three countesses. Chuck Mitchelmore (now a top editor at the International Herald Trib) traveled about Europe and the U.S. writing elegantly, movingly of Martin Luther King's death and how our world was changing. Kandy was in the hotel in Los Angeles the night Bobby Kennedy was shot.

Why not skim the best of this stuff each week and sell it in magazine form?

When Tom Murphy's and Don Pels' Capital Cities bought Fairchild, we were on our way. Or so we thought. We worked up several dummies. It was Mitchelmore who named it W. The letter "w" stood for wit, women, wisdom, weekly, weekend and a half-dozen other things, including "wonderful." Art director Rudy Millendorf laid it out. Fashion Editor June Weir and Mike Coady and Mort Sheinman did the editing. I wrote stuff. John wrote stuff. Everyone wrote stuff. Kenneth Paul Block did the first cover illustration, a funny painting of the Nixons, then the First Family.

It was John who suggested the dramatically white (and very expensive paper) on which we printed. We did a tabloid version, we did a broadsheet version. I was to be publisher. As I recall, Coady was to be editor. Except that, well, said the Cap Cities people, the time isn't right to spend all that money on a launch. And wouldn't a weekly be terribly expensive? And couldn't we use the WWD staff to put it out and not take on new hires? And did we have to twit the Nixons? And.*.*.

There are always reasons not to do things. So we shelved W. And each year brought it up again for our Cap Cities' masters to consider. Each year they voted it down.

Finally, in '71, on Bastille Day, I jumped ship and joined Hearst to run Harper's Bazaar. One of the reasons, though only one, the company's unwillingness or inability to give us a "go" on W.

A year later, in the summer of '72, Tom Murphy said yes. And they launched W. It wasn't a weekly and had no dedicated editorial staff (just a few ad salesmen) and John Fairchild had named himself publisher.

Even from a distance, since I was no longer a part of it, it was fun to watch it emerge and evolve and grow. It's fun today to see the powerhouse it's become. Even in its latest configuration and size, it remains a unique presence on the magazine racks. It really is something different. It really has something.

Never before or since, in all the years, had I been involved in the creation of an entirely new publishing product and I will never forget the excursions & alarums, the tumult & the shouting, the drama & the tears, the yelling & screaming, the hard work, the new ideas, the art and the photos, the hours and the days that went into creating out of nothing, a new magazine we called W.

Of course, we were younger then, so perhaps things just seemed to be better and more gratifying. More rewarding and fun. And most of us have moved on so that

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