By far the best media quote of the year (recorded in, of all places, The New York Times) can be credited to Art Cooper, editor of GQ, regarding his boss, Si Newhouse. There was a party downtown in Manhattan at the Gotham Bar & Grill to introduce The New Yorker's new editor, David Remnick, and Mr. Newhouse showed up in a navy blazer and navy sport shirt, and actually stayed around for awhile and chatted amiably with people.
Said Mr. Cooper (to the Times's Alex Kuczynski) of this astonishing development, "I have worked with Si for 15 years and I never before realized he was this hard core party animal."
Like network TV and the school year, the magazine biz is energetically into its new season. The heat wave's broken, summer doldrums are past, vacations wrapped, everyone's back in town. As those bumper stickers used to boast of Mr. Nixon: "He's tanned, he's rested, he's ready."
And so are the magazines.
The September fashion books were as hefty as McGwire's bat. My issue of Vogue (nearly 700 pages) arrived this year literally between hardcovers. A promotional stunt, but still . . .
And consider what else is going on:
TV Guide cut its rate base and its rates and was playing around with novel formats, even a big, economy-size. That other circulation monster, Reader's Digest, was coping with a shortfall by cutting its base. And new leader Tom Ryder was selling off some of the classiest art in the country, property of the Reader's Digest Association. Cracked one insolent fellow, "Why not keep the art and sell the magazine?"
But first, the Remnick party. I'd heard good things about tall Mr. Remnick from people who'd worked with him at the Style Section of The Washington Post, which may be the best style section we have. According to these impeccable sources (okay, one of my daughters), everyone there at the time considered Remnick the best and the brightest. And also the nicest young man on the staff. Nina Hyde, then fashion editor of the paper, wanted to adopt him.
At the party previously cited, Steve Florio introduced Remnick who spoke briefly, but eloquently, about the old magazine's traditions, about its writers, and most persuasively and memorably, about its readers. The New Yorker, said its new editor, has the most gloriously maverick readers of any magazine he knows of. They write love letters, they write hate letters, they praise, they carp, they erupt in outrage, they compose paeans, they mention the magazine in their wills or damn it in perpetuity.
Such people, said Mr. Remnick in mock aggravation, seem to think The New Yorker is their magazine and not his or Mr. Newhouse's or anyone else's. Theirs! Which it occurs to me isn't a bad thing for a magazine to have, readers like that.
That same evening up at the Monkey Bar, Myrna Blyth, editor of Ladies' Home Journal and considered by many within Meredith as their "Jeanne d'Arc," launched a brand new magazine called More. I had a drink at the bar with Jerry Della Femina, his wife Judy Licht, and Myrna's Fleet Street husband, Geoff, while a woman named Joy Behar did Joan Rivers impressions and jokes about bikini waxing and Clinton. The pre-pubescent media buyers (Jerry's line, not mine) lapped it up. More is a handsome devil targeting women who are, like "Miss Jean Brodie," in their "prime." And Cybill Shepherd, on the inaugural cover and at the party, sure looked "prime" to me.
About the same time, it was announced that Ms. magazine has discovered a brilliant new concept, a breakthrough called "advertising." After preening for years their readers were so loyal Ms. didn't need to go "Grub Street" and sell filthy ads, but could pay the bills with circulation income, Gloria and associates have concluded that maybe, just maybe, they can't.
Jann Wenner said that everything was so great at his monthly US that next year he may go weekly and compete head to head with People. But no dope, he, Jann said he would do this only with a strategic partner to share the risk. In other words, a backer with plenty of "the folding," as Raymond Chandler once deliciously referred to cash.
Chris Meigher denied his Meigher Communications was "running on fumes," but Joe Armstrong left his employ, immedi- ately inspiring a rush of other media tycoons who felt Joe could be the industry's Bob Vila. Randy Jones of Worth won out, hiring Mr. Armstrong as group publisher. Steve Brill, who also had lusted after Joe, wiped away a rare tear: "I've always hoped to have Joe working with us," said Mr. Brill.
And the instant Joe left Meigher, New York Post media columnist Keith Kelly ran a column about Meigher's woes full of apparently confidential figures.