For 50 years, New York magazine has had an ex­tra­or­di­nary knack for cap­tur­ing the zeit­geist and get­ting it on the page

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

The great story of New York City in the past half-cen­tury has been its near col­lapse and mirac­u­lous re­birth. A bat­tered town left for dead, one that al­most a mil­lion peo­ple aban­doned and where those who re­mained had to live be­hind triple dead­bolt locks, was rein­vig­o­rated by the twinned en­er­gies of starv­ing artists and fi­nan­cial white knights. Over the next gen­er­a­tion the city was ut­terly trans­formed. It again be­came the cap­i­tal of wealth and in­no­va­tion, an engine of cul­tural vi­brancy, a mag­net for im­mi­grant, and a city of end­less pos­si­bil­ity. It was the place to be — if you could af­ford it.

Since its found­ing in 1968, New York magazine has told the story of that city’s con­stant mor­ph­ing, week af­ter week, cov­er­ing cul­ture high and low, the drama and scan­dal of pol­i­tics and fi­nance, through ju­bi­lant mo­ments and im­mense tragedies.

It was among the orig­i­na­tors of the New Jour­nal­ism, pub­lish­ing sto­ries whose au­thors in­fil­trated a Black Pan­ther party in Leonard Bern­stein’s apart­ment, launched Ms. magazine, branded a group of up-and-com­ing teen stars “the Brat Pack” and ef­fec­tively ended the ca­reer of Fox News’ Roger Ailes.

Mark­ing the magazine’s 50th birth­day, High­brow, Low­brow, Bril­liant, De­spi­ca­ble: 50 Years of New York presents an enor­mous, sweep­ing, idio­syn­cratic pic­ture of a half-cen­tury at the cen­tre of the world.

In the be­gin­ning …

The New York Times May 8, 1967: “Hope for start­ing the New York magazine, which has been a Sun­day sup­ple­ment for the World Jour­nal Tri­bune, as an in­de­pen­dent pub­li­ca­tion, was dis­closed yes­ter­day by Clay Felker, who had been ed­i­tor of that magazine. Mr Felker said he was try­ing to raise cap­i­tal for a new en­ter­prise, team­ing up with Jimmy Bres­lin, colum­nist; Tom Wolfe, writer; and Mil­ton Glaser, art direc­tor for Push Pin stu­dios.

Mil­ton Glaser (de­sign direc­tor and colum­nist, 1968-1977): I must say how in­no­cent we all were about what a magazine should be. But in some cases that kind of in­no­cence is a ben­e­fit. You don’t know what to do, so you in­vent some­thing.

Glo­ria Steinem (con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor, 1968-1971): Clay { who dies in 2008] and I had count­less lunches that we re­ferred to as “tap danc­ing for rich peo­ple”. We were pitch­ing the essence of New York — per­suad­ing New York­ers that they were im­por­tant enough and uni­ver­sal enough to have a magazine.

Tom Wolfe (con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor, 1968-1977): Jock Whitney [who had owned the Her­ald Tri­bune] had agreed to sell the name “New York” for $6500, but Clay couldn’t even come up with that. He fi­nally bor­rowed it from a writer, Bar­bara Gold­smith.

Glaser: The pre­vail­ing spirit was, we’re all in the same boat to­gether. That means you could re­pair the leaks, it’s go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion, what­ever — but it’s never about tear­ing it down. Per­son­ally I’ve al­ways felt op­ti­mistic about the city, be­cause of this idea that it’s a place where any­thing can hap­pen, and that you can’t an­tic­i­pate what that will be. The city is too com­plex to ever be sort of epit­o­mised by a sin­gle per­cep­tion. I mean it’s the worst, it’s the best, it’s the least. It’s the most ter­ri­ble peo­ple, the best peo­ple. All of that at once.

Steinem: We had a lot of other names, some of them quite funny. Tom wanted to name it “The New York Moon”, be­cause he had this vi­sion of send­ing trucks to de­liver it to news stands, go­ing too fast on pur­pose, with a big ban­ner that said “THE MOON IS OUT”.

Gail Sheehy (con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor, 19681977): One of the unique as­pects of this is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Clay and Mil­ton. Clay was very much a kind of Up­per East Side, debonair man-about-town, liv­ing in a big du­plex, and Mil­ton was very much Down­town, an artist in turtle­necks and very long, wild hair. Clay had a more hair-trig­ger tem­per, and Mil­ton was more the rabbi who worked things through. But their sen­si­bil­i­ties were to­tally in sync. They both saw be­yond the nor­mal con­ven­tions of magazine jour­nal­ism.

Glaser: We knew that we cer­tainly couldn’t beat The New Yorker at its game. We al­ways thought of New York as be­ing some­what more work­ing­class. We tried to avoid is­sues of elitism, of talk­ing down to our au­di­ence, and wanted to be just one of the guys, the peo­ple who made it.

Charles Den­son (of­fice as­sis­tant and staff pho­tog­ra­pher, 1968-1977): Clay was ob­sessed with power and how things re­ally worked in New York and what was go­ing on be­hind the scenes, and that was the magazine’s strong point.

Alan Pa­tri­cof (board mem­ber, 1968-1971): I re­ally re­spected [Clay’s] tal­ent. His abil­ity to catch trends — you look at the num­ber of peo­ple he brought to the magazine, where all those peo­ple have gone, that’s no ac­ci­dent.



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