Contending and attending this week: Clea Conner, Nick Gillespie, Rob Long, Molly Jong-Fast, Reihan Salam, Mark Jacobson, David Hershkovits, Robbie Myers, Bill Tonelli, Gary Indiana, Tobi Haslett, Andrew Marzoni, Audrey Wollen, Dean Kissick, Rachel Tashjian, Matthew Linde, and many more…
It’s been a weird, sad, terrible couple of weeks in media — the sort of weeks that brings to mind Philip Larkin’s short poem “Wires,” in which cattle blunder up against electrified fences and discover “limits to their widest senses” But even amid the layoffs, closures, and burbling anxieties, the New York media community, in all of its wildly varied permutations, continued to gather.
OUT AND ABOUT
On Wednesday, April 26, the debate series previously known as Intelligence Squared celebrated its relaunch as Open to Debate with a party at a converted firehouse on the Upper East Side, which once served as Andy Warhol’s first studio and now belongs to the group’s board member Edward Conard, who co-founded Bain Capital alongside Mitt Romney. The night’s centerpiece was a pair of less-than-serious debates hosted by Open to Debate’s resident moderator and former ABC chief White House correspondent John Donvan. The first, about the organization’s procedures, was between Open to Debate’s CEO Clea Conner and founder and chairman Robert Rosenkrantz. A staffer flipped through the loose script of their exchange on a clipboard. “The preview,” she said when she noticed this reporter reading over her shoulder. The second was between Conard and former Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie. They went back and forth over whether Warhol ruined art. Conard argued that Warhol was responsible for converting art into a practice in which concepts were more important than execution. Somehow, nobody mentioned Marcel Duchamp.
Guests were asked to write something they’d be willing to debate on a name tag. This reporter tried to fit “the end of digital media,” but the “media” got squished. (Not that digital media’s ending, just maybe it’d be for the best?) Former Cheers executive producer and National Review contributor Rob Long wrote “MDMA” on his tag. But when The Fine Print wandered into his conversation circle, Long was in the middle of a passionate and unconvincing argument in which he claimed that there was nothing wrong with his and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s “friend” Harlan Crow collecting paintings by Adolf Hitler. Long confirmed his commitment to bad taste when he mentioned he was a recurring guest on the Fox News late-night show Gutfeld! As it happens, Long appeared on the only episode this reporter has seen, which featured anti-woker-than-thou novelist Walter Kirn on an opiate and inspired a malaise that took days to wear off.
Long was just one of the stranger figures in the eclectic crowd, which included Vanity Fair special correspondent Molly Jong-Fast, Manhattan Institute president and former National Review executive editor Reihan Salam, New Yorker contributing writer Matthew Hutson, CNN Business senior markets reporter Nicole Goodkind, and GZERO Media director of content and master of puppets Alex Kliment. A small crew stuck around for an afterparty around the corner at The Penrose.
On Tuesday, May 2, magazine veterans Mark Jacobson and David Hershkovits hosted the second edition of the Meeting of the Minds social club at Nublu Classic in the East Village. The two have been friends since their alt-weekly days when Jacobson was a staff writer at The Village Voice and Hershkovits at The SoHo Weekly News. Hershkovits is best known for co-founding Paper magazine with Kim Hastreiterin 1984. The founders sold the magazine to former Condé Nast executive and Vogue publisher Tom Florioin 2017, and this year, on April 26, Adweek reported that the magazine had laid off its staff and was ceasing “editorial operations.”In retrospect, Hershkovits is happy about the sale’s timing. “It was just before COVID, so it probably worked out for the best. I don’t know how we would have survived or managed otherwise through that time,” he told The Fine Print. “It didn’t hit me in 2017 the way it did now because once the word got out and everybody started posting on social media — ‘end of an era’ — so many accolades and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m starting to get emotional about all of this now. Six years later, it finally hit me that something had changed.” Though, he added, the magazine had changed long ago. “Even in my later years there, we had moved on in the content from how I was used to doing things, which was more gut instinct, knowing shit, and going out and talking to people,” he said. “Now stories are assigned based on how many followers people have, so it didn’t need me anymore. It had the internet.”
Jacobson hosts a long-running journalism reading series at KGB Bar with an old-school feel, but the gerry-rigged variety show format of Meeting of the Minds, with its red and orange lights and cracked faux leather and cheetah print couches, feels like even more of a throwback. “One of my ways of describing this event, even though it hasn’t quite lived up to that status yet — it’s an aspiration — it’s like 92nd Street Y meets Club 57,” Hershkovits said, looking uptown and back to the East Village nightclub that closed in the early ’80s. “If we get there, I’ll be very happy.”
The show started at 8:39 p.m. with a saxophone performance by Nublu owner Ilhan Ersahin, who Jacobson ebulliently introduced as “the Emperor of Avenue C.” He was followed by illustrator and space enthusiast Karl Tate, who brought prop models of lunar modules that spoke louder than his faulty mic. The crowd, which included former Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers, former Esquire articles editor Bill Tonelli, former Paper editorial director Mickey Boardman, and two small dogs, among others, seemed tolerant of the technical glitches. The highlight of the night was a performance by former RuPaul bandmate, Fleshtones bassist, and editor of the Cash on Cash interview collection Robert Burke Warren who sang Johnny Cash hits and explained that Cash grew up in a New Deal collective cotton farming experimental colony in Arkansas. (Cash wrote in his autobiography, “I grew up under socialism — kind of.”) The final act The Fine Print saw was a panel of 20-somethings comparing notes on having grown up in the East Village, which included Hershkovits’s oakling, Paper contributor Esther Hershkovits and former Paper fashion market editor and the club owner’s daughter Tasmin Ersahin.
On Wednesday, May 3, the city was reeling from another 1984 throwback. That year a white man, Bernhard Goetz, shot four Black teenagers on a downtown 2 train after one of them asked for five dollars, leaving Darrell Cabey, one of the teenagers, partially paralyzed and brain damaged. On Monday, subway riders passively watched as a white 24-year-old former marine killed 30-year-old Jordan Neely, a homeless Black man, by putting him in a choke hold for 15 minutes. Freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, who filmed the killing, told The New York Times that Neely had frightened passengers but hadn’t assaulted anyone. “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” Neely screamed, according to the passenger. “I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die.” The city medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. Police took the vigilante killer in for questioning but soon released him. On Wednesday afternoon, protesters gathered at the Broadway-Lafayette station.Afterward, as rain started to fall, some from the crowd made their way to St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery where former Village Voice art critic Gary Indiana was celebrating the release of a new edition of his 2003 novel Do Everything in the Dark. By the time Indiana was ready to read, all the chairs were full, and room to sit on the floor was starting to look scarce. Many of the faces were familiar, including Horse Crazyintroduction-writer Tobi Haslett, Baffler web editor Zachariah Webb (who recently finished writing his novel), T Magazine Indiana interviewer Andrew Marzoni, Nation associate literary editor Kevin Lozano, Jacobin staff writer Alex Press, New York Times editing resident Marie Solis, poet Kay Gabriel, New Yorker contributor Audrey Wollen, Semiotext(e) editor Janique Vigier, and McSweeney’s deputy editor James Yeh.
The Neely killing was the sort of story that sparked many of Indiana’s novels. “Most of my books start with some weird thing,” he said during the Q&A with fellow former Village Voice art critic Jennifer Krasinski. “With Rent Boy , somebody at dinner told me about a guy waking up in Central Park without a kidney. It was way before that became a commonplace story, and I thought I could do something.”
Do Everything in the Dark, an art world satire that started as an accompaniment to paintings by his friend Billy Sullivan, is an exception. In a recent interview Indiana, discussing Mary McCarthy’s The Oasis, a 1949 satire of her New York intellectual set, observed, “People hate reality, and they will do anything to defend themselves against it. But the reality we are in right now is so daunting. People feel so vulnerable and powerless, that maybe that kind of honesty has become intolerable.” Krasinski asked why that sort of satire was rarely received in the same way today. “I think people should toughen up,” Indiana declared on Wednesday. “All those Partisan Review people, they were tough enough. When she would write these devastating things about them, they got pissed off for a while, but then they’d think, ‘Ah, that’s Mary,’ you know? I think about Fran Lebowitz, saying in that Martin Scorsese thing, ‘Why do people care what my opinion is? I’m not in power. I’m not running their lives. It’s just my opinion.’ It’s just what I wrote. So what? Don’t read it if you’re going to be offended by it.”
On Thursday, May 4, former Spike New York editor Dean Kissick hosted a conversation with recently appointed Washington Post fashion writer and recent National Magazine Award finalist Rachel Tashjianand fashion exhibit curator Matthew Linde in the fourth installment of the Seaport Talks series at T.J. Byrnes in the Financial District. Part of the point of the series is that the talks are better in-person because they’re unrecorded, but here’s a photo.
Tuesday, May 9
➾ 6:30 p.m. Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon will celebrate his new book The Phoenix Economy with a party in a loft near Union Square.
➾ 7 p.m. Paris Review contributor Katy Kelleher will discuss her new essay collection The Ugly History of Beautiful Things with New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme at McNally Jackson Seaport.Wednesday, May 10
➾ 7 p.m. Bomb magazine will celebrate its 163rd issue with a party at the Powerhouse Arena bookstore.
➾ 7 p.m. London Review of Books U.S. editor Adam Shatz will discuss his new essay collection Writers and Missionaries with New Yorker staff writer Vinson Cunningham at McNally Jackson Seaport.
Tuesday, May 16
➾ 5 p.m. Fast Company senior editor Christopher Zara will launch his debut memoir Uneducated at the Housing Works bookstore in SoHo.
➾ 7 p.m. n+1 will celebrate its 45th issue with a party at its office at its Greenpoint office.
Wednesday, May 17
➾ 6:30 p.m. The Deadline Club will host its annual awards dinner at the Harvard Club in Midtown, featuring a conversation between David Rohde, who recently announced he was departing The New Yorker to be a senior executive editor for national security at NBC News, and CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward.
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