Love Comes Swiftly
With the start of the media softball season and an overflowing calendar of parties, June is looking packed and vital. This week a bloom of proposals, a flexing of modest athleticism, and a literary outing made up some of the stuff of life that coursed through the city…
Taylor Swift was wafting through incoming Slate editor-in-chief Hillary Frey’s apartment on Friday, May 20, when former German Democratic Socialist parliamentarian Stefan Liebich asked Frey to marry him. The ring he offered was created by the designer of the ring Swift wears on the cover of Red (Taylor’s Version). “My daughter is a total Swiftie, and she wasn’t home at the time, but Taylor Swift has a huge place in our life,” Frey said. “So it was like my daughter was present. Even though she wasn’t there, she was very much thought of in the proposal. It was very sweet.”
Before meeting Liebich, Frey had separated from her former partner and found herself at loose ends. “I’m in my mid-40s, I’m a mom, I don’t even know what I was looking for,” she said, “but whatever I was looking for, I was not finding it out there in the world in terms of dating.” In 2019, her daughter’s babysitter took off on a trip across Europe, where she met and started a long-distance relationship with a German guy named Felix. Soon after, the babysitter decided to introduce Frey to someone. “She said, ‘Well, I can tell you there’s one feminist, progressive, great looking, single, divorced man out there — it’s just that he lives in Germany.’ This was Stefan, who was the boss of Felix,” Frey recalled. “And so she said, ‘I’m going to fix you up.’”
Liebich came to New York on a work trip in early February 2020, and the couple met for their first dinner at Vic’s on Great Jones Street. Frey planned to return the visit in late March, but the pandemic derailed that. Instead, over the next 16 months, they met for virtual dates every other week. “I would make lunch, and he would make dinner, and we would sit down and have a meal over Zoom,” Frey said. “We got to know each other incredibly well in that time.” Last summer, Frey finally made it to Berlin. Then Liebich visited her in New York in August. They’ve been finding time to see each other since. “So anyway, to make a long story short, or not so short, here we are, and he’s really wonderful, and my daughter’s thrilled,” Frey said. “Much to my surprise, he asked me to get married.”
They’re planning on having the ceremony at City Hall next summer, with parties to follow in New York and Berlin. Liebich will eventually join Frey in New York full-time. “We’re working on it,” Frey said. “We will not be appearing on 90 Day Fiancé, however.”
NBC News political reporter Allan Smith spent last week fretting about the storms promised for Saturday, the 28th. He was planning to propose to his girlfriend Rachel Premack, the editorial director of FreightWaves, at The Battery. On the day, they beat the rain by about 20 minutes. “I said ‘yes, of course,’” Premack said.
Battery Park had been the first place where the possibility of them being a couple came up. It was the summer of 2018, and they were out for office drinks with co-workers from Business Insider, where they both worked at the time. “Some random drunk guy out of nowhere complimented my dress, and then he looked at Allan, and he was like, ‘Never let her go,’” Premack recalled. “We barely knew each other at this point, so it was really funny.” They started dating the following January, and three and a half years later celebrated their engagement at The Folly in lower Manhattan with an afterparty that went on until around 1 a.m. at a Downtown Brooklyn apartment. “I feel like I still might be hungover,” Premack noted on Wednesday.
They’re planning the wedding for October 2023 in Pittsburgh. “We’ve already been emailing venues,” Premack said. “Well, not really ‘we.’ Mostly me, because I enjoy event planning.”
OUT AND ABOUT
On Thursday night, 45 people gathered in KGB Bar’s Red Room in the East Village for the Karl Ove Knausgaard podcast Our Struggle’s first live show. “Tonight has to be a triumph. Knowing us though, it’s going to be ramshackle, it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be spontaneous, and that’s why we’re here,” said co-host and school teacher Drew Ohringer before the show, swaying slightly. “This is my third G&T, but we also have a bottle of poppers here that is going to aid our reading. It’s going to dilate our literary spirits as we orate.” Their guests included New York Times Magazine story editor Willy Staley, who wondered how much more there was to say about Knausgaard’s book in the bar downstairs before the show. Spike magazine’s New York editor Dean Kissick, who wore black Nike shorts (“they’re women’s yoga shorts”) and brown loafers, cautioned against the brain-cell obliterating dangers of poppers.
As the show got underway, the hosts encouraged the audience to drink more. “We’re going to have to get used to the kind of uncomfortable laughter. Here’s what might make you laugh some more: buy drinks, alcohol. Seriously, please do buy two drinks and tip because we are on the hook,” said co-host and New York, Foreign Policy, and The Economist contributor Lauren Teixeira. “It’s actually my credit card,” Ohringer interjected. “It’s Drew’s credit card. He has no money. He has given his credit card to the bar, he cannot even afford a pack of cigarettes, and we are on the hook for $900, plus $180 in tips,” Teixeira said.
In the audience was recently-minted Pulitzer-winner Matthieu Aikins, who’d just returned from Afghanistan (“That was the first time I listened to this podcast,” he said after the show. “The only audiobook I’ve ever listened to was volume one [of Knausgaard’s My Struggle], and it was longer than the drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where my parents live, which is like 13 hours.”), Harper’s associate editor Elena Saavedra Buckley, who’ll be playing for both The Drift and Harper’s in this year’s media softball season, Drift co-founder Rebecca Panovka, who heard that the following act in the space would be a mime, and Jewish Currents newsletter editor David Klion. “I know this isn’t technically Dimes Square, but I think it kind of is in spirit. I’m not saying I approve of that. It’s quite likely I don’t approve of it, but I’m here and I was reasonably amused,” Klion said. When he asked Teixeira if the show was part of that scene, she said, “We never really are sure of that. We’re not really friends with any of those people.”
The New York Media Softball League season is off and running. Two-time defending champs BuzzFeed are fighting to keep their trophy. “We want number three,” said longtime team member Dave Stopera. “A three-peat is one of those rare things in sports, and we think we can achieve it this year.” Each season, the BuzzFeed team rallies around their game-time playlists, and this year Abba has taken a prominent place in their lineup. “We love the smooth, slower ones, the groovy ones like ‘The Name of the Game,’ deeper cuts like ‘Eagle,’ and of course, you’ve got your classic ‘Dancing Queen,’” said Stopera. “That really fires the boys up.”
New York Media Softball League Standings
|The Wall Street Journal||1||2|
|New York Public Radio||0||2|
|Euromoney Insititutional Investor||0||3|
The media softball teams outside of the league are also getting going with their season, though they’re off to a slower start. Last week, in the first game of the season, as far as we’re aware, Vanity Fair trounced The Paris Review in a 27-1 victory, according to Vanity Fair staff writer Dan Adler. (The Paris Review’s team organizer did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.) The New Yorker was supposed to play The New York Review of Books on Tuesday, but the game had to be rescheduled because of a rash of Covid cases on The New Yorker team. “In addition to me, a bunch of other people ended up having Covid, so our lineup was depleted,” said New Yorker coach and associate editor of Talk of the Town Zach Helfand.
The informal league, according to legend, started with drinks between The Paris Review’s George Plimpton and The New Yorker’s Roger Angell. “The first game that either of the teams played, was playing each other,” said Helfand. “The story goes that George and Roger sat on the bench — this is decades ago — and had a martini shaker and would make martinis and razz each other. We’ve been friendly with The Paris Review for the last several years, but it’s gotten chippy at times. There’ve been near fights.”
The competition never gets overly heated, however, because The New Yorker, at least, remains dedicated to old-fashioned amateurism. “I’ve been asked by a lot of staff members if there are any practices. People want to do batting practice,” said Helfand. “It’s not going to help. We’re not very good and batting practice or regular practice — just saying we did that, we don’t want to seem like we’re trying too hard. When we win, that’s great, and it’s funny because we’re not trying hard. If we try too hard, then it kind of loses the charm.” Still, there have been some injuries. “Larry Wright, when he’s in town, he’s played, he’s good. I think he pulled a hamstring last time,” Helfand said. “Ben Taub is no longer allowed to play because he got a concussion diving for a ball in centerfield. So [David] Remnick won’t let him play anymore I think.” Taub gently corrected the record in an email. “DR warmly insisted that I get my head checked, the day after the injury. But I wasn’t banned from playing in future games,” he wrote. “Also… I caught the ball! So, worth it.”
The New York Review of Books’s managing editor and co-team organizer Lauren Kane led The Paris Review’s team in previous seasons. “We didn’t play during the pandemic,” she said, “but there were some good summers.” She’s looking ahead to facing her old teammates in July. “We used to play The New York Review of Books, so I don’t know how that’ll feel,” she said. “My loyalties are now split between nostalgia and my new workplace.” However, there are some things in media softball that are more important than loyalty and the games themselves. “Lucas [Adams], who runs our comics imprint, is working really hard on designing us some T-shirts,” Kane said. “You can skip the game if you design us a T-shirt. Absolutely, that’s the most important thing.”
|The New Yorker||0||0|
|The New York Review of Books||0||0|
|The Paris Review||*||1|
* no reported results
Sunday: At 6 p.m. in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow, Hypocrite Reader will have a party to celebrate their 100th issue.
Tuesday: At 7 p.m. at James J. Walker Park in the West Village, The New Yorker softball team will play New York magazine. “That’s a crowd-pleaser,” said Helfand, mainly because of the convenience of the location. “I think the older members of the staff of The New Yorker predominantly live in Manhattan, and Upper Manhattan, so Central Park was probably very convenient for them at one point. You would not be surprised to know that the majority of the younger staffers lives in Brooklyn.”
Wednesday: At 7 p.m. at Department of Culture in Bed-Stuy, New York editor-in-chief David Haskell and Tirhakah Love, the lead of its new Dinner Party newsletter, will host a dinner party with a Nigerian tasting menu.
Thursday: At 8 p.m. at 80 St. Marks Place in the East Village, former editor of New York Tyrant Magazine Jordan Castro will celebrate the launch of his new novel, The Novelist. According to the flyer, novelist Tao Lin, artist and filmmaker Amalia Ulman, and the hosts of the Wet Brain podcast will be in attendance