The When and Now
Bobbing and weaving this week: Felix Salmon, Laurel Touby, Jon Fine, Jared Hohlt, Brian Stelter, Jesse Angelo, Megan McCarthy, Matt Levine, Jacob Weisberg, Drew Millard, Zach Sokol, Amy Rose Spiegel, Jeremy Gordon, Ben Widdicombe, Colleen Curtis, Lachlan Cartwright, Zackary Drucker, Mark Krotov, Lisa Borst, Sophia Stewart, and many more…
It’s tricky to put a finger on the current condition, rapidly cycling between despair and euphoria, between grieving and hope. As the weather gets warmer, the city’s supposed to get quiet as the well-to-do decamp for lusher environs. But things are just as hectic and exciting on the outside as on the inside. No matter the prevailing mood, the stuff of life ceaselessly circulates through New York’s media community.
OUT AND ABOUT
On Tuesday, May 9, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon celebrated the release of his first book, The Phoenix Economy, with a party at Mediabistro founder and managing director of Supernode Ventures Laurel Touby’s and former Inc. acting editor-in-chief Jon Fine’s sprawling loft near Union Square. The celebration attracted a healthy crowd who, after grazing on pizzas laid out on the kitchen island, made their way upstairs to the roof deck in time for sunset. The crowd included T editorial director Jared Hohlt, former CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, Goldman Sachs editor-in-chief Katherine Bell, New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar, former Vice News editor-in-chief Michael Learmonth, former Vice global president for news and entertainment Jesse Angelo, New York Times Opinion contributing writer Elizabeth Spiers, The Messenger head of audience editorial Megan McCarthy, former Gen executive editor Garance Franke-Ruta, New York Times assistant editor Edmund Lee and his wife Elizabeth Chung, former Observer executive editor Jim Ledbetter, Bloomberg Money Stuff newsletter writer Matt Levine, former Eater executive editor Matt Buchanan, Recode Media podcast host Peter Kafka, New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg, Pushkin Industries CEO and co-founder Jacob Weisberg, CNN senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon, and New York Times audience editor Michelle Dozoisalong with her husband, The Fine Print’s technical guru Rex Sorgatz.
On Thursday, May 11, former Noisey features editor Drew Millard celebrated the release of his first book, How Golf Can Save Your Life, with a party at Bushwick Country Club in Williamsburg. “Did you ever hear Drew’s thing about making it?” a friend of the author’s from college asked The Fine Print. “To make it in New York City, you have to just physically keep your body within the city limits of New York and not have to go back to North Carolina. As long as you’ve kept yourself here, you’ve made it. It’s not about being successful.” Millard has flunked out by that definition: He now lives in Philadelphia. But, purely based on party turnout, he’s made it. Despite all the factors militating against it — New Yorker staff writer Burkhard Bilgerplanned his book party for the same night; New York Times Magazine story editor Willy Staley wore the same Metalwood hat as Millard to a reading at KGB Bar on Tuesday — his party was unique. Millard’s custom-made “Golf’s Favorite” shirt helped.
The party served as a de facto reunion for Vice veterans, who were all too aware that the company was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. (They filed the following Monday.) Among the former Vice staffers and associates were Thump vertical editor-in-chief Emilie Friedlander (now the co-host of The Culture Journalist podcast and Millard’s partner), weekend editor Zach Sokol (who stumbled into unofficially shilling for Hestia, a relatively new tobacco company, after writing about them for Air Mail. “While writing the story I obviously couldn’t accept gifts. Now that the story’s out and done, the guy just sends me a carton every month. I’m not paying for cigs ever again,” he said. “Now I’m a fuckin’ influencer for cigarettes. And yes, I will either be killed by big tobacco or hired by this guy”), editorial director Amy Rose Spiegel (now health director at Self), staff writer Allie Conti (who played golf with Millard last year in Philadelphia. “I remember us tying,” she said, “but I don’t know if that’s possible”), contributor Jesse Miller-Gordon (“All the weed that could supply everybody who smokes in the country could be grown in two or three gigantic industrial warehouses in a very cheap state”), producer Trey Smith (“I’m MC’ing this whole thing, I found out a few hours ago”), and cinematography contributor Jake Moore (“I’ve seen in New York recently a lot of fashion kids wearing this really specific Florida shirt brand called Guy Harvey, which is all hand-painted illustrations of a puffer fish or a sailfin fish jumping out of the water in hyper-detail, extremely colorful, but it’s this material for being out on the boat. It’s ocean kitsch, I really fuck with that”). The following week, Sokol told this reporter that Thomas Morton, who in his long run as a participatory journalist and video host became something of an in-house mascot at Vice, managed to go mostly unnoticed in the crowd.
A slightly circumspect nostalgia hung over the gathering. “When I first met Drew, he took his shirt off to shotgun a beer and I was like this guy rules, let’s be friends for the next ten years,” recalled former Noisey weekend editor Jeremy Gordon. “He was working at Noisey at Vice, single-handedly creating the editorial voice that they would then monetize into millions of dollars for several years — I’m not even kidding. He was like, ‘I’m working 70-hour weeks, posting content, grinding, and they’re paying me not much money at all, but we get guest-listed places where rappers perform and get free alcohol.’ When you’re 24, that sounds pretty good.” He added, “Now that the whole system has collapsed, I’m trying to retain a sweetness and fondness for our younger selves.”
Another old world was dying, and a new world struggled to be born on the tiny mini-golf course in the bar’s backyard. The course has been central to the bar for all its 18 years, but owner John Roberts saw an opportunity for a revamp when they re-opened last August. He’s only part way done. It started with the platform for the green. “Instead of wood, which would eventually rot, I used industrial walk-in refrigerated panels, the walls, because they’re aluminum, they don’t rust, they’re flat, the inside is foam core, that doesn’t rot,” he said. “I was at an auction where they had a lot of them and it was dirt cheap, so I rented a U-Haul and literally packed it to the gills. I couldn’t fit any more in and I actually had to leave a couple panels.” The holes he’s created don’t quite meet US ProMiniGolf Association regulations, but they are labor-intensive. One holdover element from the old course is a windmill made of PBR cans, though this one’s bigger and better. “I probably spent about 200 hours on it,” Roberts said. “Very tedious, because I’m literally cutting every single can.”
After we’d exhausted the course’s intricacies, The Fine Print felt obliged to ask what a bar called Bushwick Country Club was doing in Williamsburg. Roberts cited no less an authority than Hellfire author Nick Tosches. “I used to be a drinking buddy of his,” he said. “When I told him where it was, he’s like, ‘That’s Bushwick.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, it’s East Williamsburg.’ He’s like, ‘Well, I guess they call it that now, but no, that was always Bushwick.’”
As the sun started to set, Millard stepped onto the refrigerated panel platform, or “stage,” as he called it, and prepared the crowd, which also included Rolling Stone contributor Jayson Buford and Harper’s senior editor Elizabeth Bryant, for a series of readings. Gordon read from the first issue of Still Alive magazine, Smith questioned the title of 50 Cent’s “21 Questions,” Club Leftist Tennis co-founder Michael Nicholasdeclaimed from a manifesto against pickleball, former Vice and Gawker social media editor Darcie Wilderread her ruminations on the Mets (“Robert Moses invented the Mets so that he didn’t have to step foot in the Bronx”), Millard’s friend Kevin Munger did a David Foster Wallace impression after frantically searching for a bandana, writer Ruby Thelot reminisced about watching Tiger Woods with his father, and relaunched Creem editor-at-large Zachary Lipez mused on his hatred of sports. “I hate sports so much that I smoke to stay thin, shaving years off my life just to avoid any helpful advice that might lead to working out. And when I do occasionally lapse into going through more blocks of cheese than I do packs of Parliament, and for vanity’s sake, some exercise is required, I don’t stretch,” Lipez read. “I do, however, see readings as competition, and you can’t win if you don’t play. So, in a tradition of athleticism that has been maintained in this space since the day that Bushwick Country Club first opened, here I am, limbered up and ready to trade, Mean Joe Greene style, my sweat for coke.”
Millard closed the readings with two selections from his book while someone in an apartment overlooking the backyard pressed their body against a window, looking down, before receding to the shadowy depths.
On Tuesday, May 16, eras clashed at a party featuring prosecco, chocolate, and cupcakes, for the new Hulu documentary Queenmaker, about how blogs upended New York’s high society and gossip landscape, at the SoHo chocolate shop MarieBelle. The show was adapted from Page Six, TMZ, Daily News, and New York Times gossip and party reporting veteran Ben Widdicombe’s memoir Gatecrasher, so The Fine Print came ready for meta-quotes. We weren’t disappointed. “Even when I worked at TMZ, I did not have a loaded and operating voice recorder in my pocket,” Widdicombe noted. “Do you have a little piece of sticky tape over the red light?”
Widdicombe was far from the only experienced gatecrasher on the scene. “I remember when I was at Us Weekly, for a year we got into a ton of really, really, really high-security events by everyone dressing in black and wearing headsets,” said Colleen Curtis, a former editor at Marie Claire, the Daily News, and AOL, who left journalism to become director of digital content in the Obama White House. “The year after that they went with electronic wristbands.” What was the best party she’d ever been to? Tina Brown’s Talkmagazine launch party in 1999 on Liberty Island, of course. “That was back when we would do a lot of stuff in a night,” she said, “so I decided to do two other things that night.”
Daily Beast media reporter Lachlan Cartwright, who had a wild call with Roger Ailes’s widow earlier this week, is as scrappy as anyone. But when he began writing the Daily News gossip column after Widdicombe, he didn’t have to identify himself as Gatecrasher. The name had changed to Confidential, which is only a short hop from the name of his Daily Beast newsletter Confider. “Colin Myler, when he came to the US to run the Daily News, he blew the column up,” Cartwright said. “I was at a lunch straight after he blew up Gatecrasher, and I’m sitting near Frank [DiGiacomo], who used to edit the column, and he’s like, ‘Thank God that name’s gone. I would try and get into parties, I would call them and say, “Hey, it’s Frank from Gatecrasher,” and they’re like, “We don’t want a gatecrasher at our party.”’”
New York writer Brock Colyar read Widdicombe’s memoir when they started party reporting but was glad to just be showing face, not working, at this party. “This is my only stop for the night. I’m going to behave,” they said. “This is the only time I’ve left the house today, and I’m so happy about that.”
Posing for photos seemed to outrank conversation as the primary mode of this party. An armada of photographers’ flashes fired when a birthday cake was brought out for the documentary’s director Zackary Drucker. But who were all the other people being photographed? Most weren’t journalists. “I got invited by Impact Agency,” said singer Robyn Adele Anderson. “I got an email, and I said okay.” Tap dancer Demi Remick tagged along with Anderson. The dynamics of this sort of party have changed since the days the documentary covers. “There was a smaller group of celebrities that mattered, and now there’s a huge, massive pool of people,” said Kelly Brady, founder of the PR firm Brandsway Creative. “As a publicist, we were targeting the same 20 people to get to our parties, and now there’s a lot of people with a million followers. If they show up at the party, it’s great.” What’s the best party she’s ever organized? “Puffy’s White Party out in the Hamptons with my old boss Lizzie Grubman.”
Observers whose gossip careers foundered in the aughts came out as well. Valentine Uhovski and Olga Rei moved to New York from Russia in the mid-90s and launched Socialite Rank, a gossip blog they refer to in the documentary as “an art project.” They shut down in 2007 after Olivia Palermo, one of the socialites they covered, issued a legal threat. At MarieBelle, they were back on the scene. “This feels like a revival,” said Uhovski.
Later on Tuesday, n+1 celebrated its 45th issue with a series of readings and a party at their office in Greenpoint. The readers included contributors Victoria Uren, Ken Chen, Jared Jackson, Laura Preston, and co-editor Mark Krotov, who closed with an excerpt from the issue’s “intellectual situation,” which mentioned this newsletter. Milling about the packed room were n+1 web editor Lisa Borst (celebrating her birthday at work), The Millions editor Sophia Stewart, New Yorker senior editor Leo Carey, poet Kay Gabriel, Lapham’s Quarterly managing editor Will Augerot (wearing his magazine’s merch), New York Times Magazine contributing writer Ross Barkan, Paris Review contributing editor David S. Wallace, New York Review of Books copyeditor Sam Needleman, Jewish Currents associate editor Mari Cohen, Cleveland Review of Books publisher Billy Lennon, Cash Only founder Zach Sokol, El Chapo chronicler Noah Hurowitz (who’s off to Greece in a few weeks), New York and The Nation contributor Max Pearl, Pitchfork head of video and avid magazine collector Arjun Ram Srivatsa, and Vital Moments favoritesBookstore Guy and David Klion, who unthinkingly called The Fine Print “The Free Press.” (Shakes fist.)
“I’ve been coming to n+1 events for a decade and I feel like it’s a sign of the magazine’s health that no matter how long I’ve been coming and how many people I do know who show up, it’s still about 95% people I don’t know who seem to be young and beautiful,” Klion said. “It’s not just the same aging millennials talking to each other.”
The party migrated through a window to the building’s roof, where clouds of smoke rose, and people marveled at its continuing structural soundness. “Recently, I went out there to have a very innocent phone call with my mom about matters of substance, and the super came up and was like, ‘You can’t be here,’” Krotov said. “I’m like, ‘Do you know what happens on this roof?’” A crew from Harper’s, including associate editor Alex Kong and assistant editors Lake Micah and Maya Perry, showed up from senior editor Joanna Biggs’s book launch elsewhere in Brooklyn, which featured a conversation with contributors Lauren Oyler and Christine Smallwood. Along with Astra House editorial assistant Signe Swanson, Drift associate editor Krithika Varagur, and Washington Post and Paris Review contributor Mina Tavakoli, they and others, who didn’t want the night to end when the office portion ended, moved on to Brooklyn Safehouse around the corner—another Tuesday night blurred out.
Tuesday, May 23
➾ 7 p.m. Salmagundi contributor Elizabeth Benedict will discuss her new memoir Rewriting Illness with New Yorker staff writer Rivka Galchen at McNally Jackson Seaport.
➾ 7:30 p.m. American Psycho screenwriter Guinevere Turner will discuss her memoir of growing up in the Lyman family cult When the World Didn’t End with Nomadland author Jessica Bruder at the Greenlight bookstore in Fort Greene.
Wednesday, May 24
➾ 7 p.m. GQ contributor Alex Pappademas and artist Joan LeMay will discuss their new book Quantum Criminals, about Steely Dan, with fellow GQ contributor Jason Diamond at Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights.
➾ 7:30 p.m. New York Times contributor Rachel Louise Snyder will discuss her new memoir, Women We Buried, Women We Burned, with New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen in the Strand’s Rare Book Room.
Sunday, May 28
➾ 3:30 p.m. The Poetry Project will host a “Pathetic Happening” in which poets and performers will read and enact the entirety of poet Eileen Myles’s new anthology Pathetic Literature around St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery.
Tuesday, May 30
➾ 7 p.m. To mark the publication of On Women, a new collection of essays by Susan Sontag, New Yorkercontributing writer Merve Emre, novelist Sigrid Nunez, and New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félixwill discuss Sontag’s legacy at Pioneer Works in Red Hook.
Thursday, June 1
➾ 7 p.m. The New Republic and Dissent contributor Siddhartha Deb will discuss his new novel The Light at the End of the World with Nishant Batsha, author of Mother Ocean Father Nation, at the Central Library in Brooklyn, to be followed by a toast at a nearby bar.
➾ 7:30 p.m. New Yorker contributor Victor Luckerson will discuss his new book Built from the Fire with Atlantic staff writer Hannah Giorgis at the Greenlight bookstore in Fort Greene.
Wednesday, June 7
➾ 6 p.m. W.W. Norton will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a party at Cipriani on 42nd Street.
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