Engagements and Audiences
Going back to school this week: Wendy Lu, Andrew Soboeiro, Abigail Wise, William Mushen, Alex Barker, Adrienne Shih, Mark Jacobson, Noreen Malone, Christopher Bonanos, Kaitlyn Tiffany, Robbie Myers, Alex Vadukul, Jim Windolf, Kate Dwyer, Chris Crowley, Allison P. Davis and many more…
We’re told it’s Fashion Week, but we’re more interested in style(s). Since we last checked in on the stuff of life coursing through the city, there’s been an eclectic set of engagements and weddings, and the old guard gathered with the new for the latest installment of a New York media institution.
New York Times Flex desk senior staff editor Wendy Lu and housing lawyer Andrew Soboeiro didn’t want their proposals to be a surprise to each other. They met a decade ago at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while working on their college features magazine, and they started dating a year later. For years, they talked about getting married. “We kind of always knew that this was it for us,” Lu told The Fine Print, “but there was the pandemic, and so during that time, even though we’d already talked about it a ton, there was literally no way we would have gotten engaged and married.” Earlier this year, things seemed like they were getting better, and they started looking at rings and planning a joint proposal. At the end of August, they each took a couple of days off and headed to Philadelphia. “I’m at high risk for Covid because of my disability, and so, we had to be really careful about it. We always had to be double-masked, and so it’s a whole affair to go to Philly,” Lu said. “We chose a city that was kind of a blank slate for us. It didn’t have any particular meaning to us. We just wanted to find a city where we could make it our engagement city.”
On August 27, they went to a few spots that they thought might make for a nice setting. “We had searched for quite a while actually to try to find the perfect spot to get engaged, and I had a little bit of anxiety beforehand because I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is it. Whichever place we choose, that’s gonna be it,’” Lu said. “We almost got engaged in Love Park, which is a very beautiful park — there’s the iconic love sign, there’s the fountain — we almost did it there, but then, when we got there and sat down at a table, I was starting to get anxious, because there were too many people.” Instead, they strode over to the steps of City Hall. “I still felt like it was public because we were the only ones on the steps, so it was easy to see us,” Lu said. “There were a few people who passed by and seemed kind of suspicious about what was going on, and a few people did stop to watch. But they left after a few minutes because we were taking so long, and I’m grateful that they left because I didn’t want to be distracted. I wanted to be in the moment and focus.” They haven’t set a date for the wedding yet, but they’re hoping to have it late next year in New York.
On Saturday, September 3, Outside digital managing director Abigail Wise married market gardener William Mushen at their home on Paradox Farm in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “We met something like seven years ago when I came with a friend to volunteer on his farm,” Wise told The Fine Print, “but we didn’t start dating until several years later when I moved back to Santa Fe from Boulder, Colorado, and ran into each other at the local farmer’s market.” One of the highlights for Wise was when Mushen’s father gave a toast to “all of the love stories,” gesturing to the ancient pueblo the couple farms on. “My son also held it together for the ceremony despite having a tough teething day,” she said. Around a dozen of their wedding attendees camped on their property overnight. The police made an appearance at 11 p.m., responding to a noise complaint, so the DJ packed up, and things quieted down, but, at least for the younger crowd, the party went on. “We were worried about fire season in New Mexico, so decided to skip the sparklers and went with glowsticks instead,” Wise said. “There was a pack of kids totally covered in rainbow rings running around the farm all night.”
On Labor Day, government staffer Alex Barker proposed to New York Times opinion senior staff editor Adrienne Shih in the otherwise empty Book Hill Park in D.C., overlooking Georgetown, Arlington, and the Potomac. “Alex isn’t great with surprises, so I had a feeling that he was going to propose when he told me he had a whole day planned for us,” Shih told The Fine Print. “Even though I knew what was coming, my mind still went entirely blank in the moment!” The couple met in New York in 2016 when Shih was interning at CNN and Barker was visiting for a family wedding. “We stayed friends for years, meeting up in different cities and countries until he moved to D.C. in 2019 for graduate school,” Shih said. “We started right before the country shut down because of the pandemic!” After Shih said yes, they phoned and FaceTime’d Barker’s family in Seattle and Shih’s in Taiwan before heading for a celebratory dinner at Moon Rabbit.
OUT AND ABOUT
“I’d really like to congratulate everybody here for coming on such a sad occasion as the death of the Queen. The bereavement must have been overwhelming, so it’s good that you could make it over here,” said 74-year-old magazine veteran Mark Jacobson, who wrote the New York magazine story “The Return of Superfly”from which Ridley Scott adapted 2007’s American Gangster, on Thursday evening. Alongside co-host New York Times styles enterprise editor Noreen Malone, he welcomed a packed crowd to the second-floor KGB Bar in The East Village for the latest installment of what they billed as “New York’s longest running journalist reading series.”
The history of the series was on the minds of some of the night’s readers. “I used to come to this when I was 24 and was terribly impressed with the people who were up there, and now I know the dirty secret,” said New York magazine city editor Christopher Bonanos, who showed up without his trademark antique camera, lugging a freestanding projector screen instead to display photographs by Weegee while he read from his biography of the crime photographer. Atlantic staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany, who read from a column about a tweet from @Horse_ebooks, had never attended before. “The KGB Bar events are the type of thing where I’m always seeing people promoting them and I’m always adding them to my Google Calendar, but you don’t always quite make it to everything you think will be stimulating,” she said. “But my co-worker was telling me about the lore of the KGB reading series. He was explaining to me that when he was a young journalist, he would come every week and it’s actually a New York institution and I was like, ‘Oh.’”
This reading series started in Jacobson’s Park Slope living room in 1993. “We moved to Brooklyn in 1992 or some shit,” he said from under his waggly white mustache in the empty bar before the reading. “It was a whole different world. We figured nobody’s ever going to come to visit us ever again. So we decided to have this reading series in our house,” he said. “It was just for journalists because we felt that journalists never got a chance to read their work aloud, which is maybe a good thing.” Jacobson played host to marquee writers right from the start. “Our very first reader was E. Jean Carroll, who I worked with at Esquire,” he said. “I’ve been a magazine writer from time immemorial, back to the early 1970s, so I knew all these people and I browbeat them into coming.” Carroll was followed by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil author John Berendt and Jacobson’s erstwhile Esquire editor Bill Tonelli. “For me, going to Brooklyn was an ordeal, so I don’t remember going to any of the ones after the first one,” said Tonelli, who sat at a table at this Manhattan reading with former Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers.
The list of readers in the series’s history is long, distinguished, and idiosyncratic. “One of our favorites was Budd Schulberg. Remember him? The guy that wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront and a bunch of other things and wrote What Makes Sammy Run?” Jacobson said. “We had all kinds of people. We don’t just take New Yorker writers. Guys that were reading poetry on the subway have been here,” though one of the readers he recalls is New Yorker top editor David Remnick. “He’s the most haimish person who worked at The New Yorker, even now. We’ve had other New Yorker writers, but usually, if you have a New Yorker writer, they ask, ‘Well, who else is going to be there?’ It’s a class thing. You see where we are.”
Since about 1997, the series has called KGB home. Jacobson credited longtime bar manager Dan Christianwith convincing him to bring it back after the pandemic. “You could blame it on me,” said Christian, who also worked at the legendary artist bar Max’s Kansas City in its heyday. “When I was a young man, I was in the real Kansas City, and a close friend of [Max’s owner] Mickey Ruskin’s was there visiting and said that the place was phenomenally busy and needed more managers,” he said. “I was managing a fucking psychedelic room in Kansas City and so bam, he gave me a ticket and I started working at Max’s Kansas City as soon as I got into town.” He got to KGB later. “This girlfriend of mine was auditioning for a play downstairs, and I came up here looking for the bathroom and I saw that square window in the door and I looked in and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’”
One reader at KGB back in the day was working-class journalism icon, longtime Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. “He loved this place because before the Ukrainian thing they used to have this communist flag here. So, he said, ‘Ah the commie place, I love the commie place,’” said Jacobson, his voice rising into a high-speed Breslin impression. “We were doing this thing, where it was more like you read a little bit and then you talk, you schmooze for a while. So I said, ‘Jimmy, don’t bring anything that’s really long, because you’re just going to read a little bit and then we’re going to talk about the great Jimmy Breslin,’ which was his favorite topic anyhow. So he says, ‘Okay, okay, the commie joint. All right, I’m gonna read my Jackie Robinson book.’ He was writing this book about Jackie Robinson. I said, ‘Well, yeah, can you read a few pages of it?’ He says, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna read my Jackie Robinson book.’” Breslin showed up with a huge stack of pages and kept reading long after everyone’s patience had expired. “What am I supposed to tell him? He’s Jimmy Breslin,” Jacobson said. “This woman who was hanging out here was a dominatrix, so she came over. She doesn’t know who Jimmy Breslin is, so she sits in his lap and he goes, ‘Get the fuck off me, will ya?’ She says, ‘I could give you a little session if you stop reading.’ And he says, ‘Fuck you, I’m gonna throw you out the window.’ It was by far the best part of many readings. He said, ‘I’m gonna throw you on the sidewalk, and your guts are gonna be splashed across the sidewalk.’ And the woman was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I said, ‘Well, this is Jimmy Breslin.’ She goes, ‘Who?’”
The charm of the old crowd started to wear even thinner in the last few years before the pandemic. “I got a little tired of it because everybody I knew was so old,” said Jacobson. “I’d say, ‘Can you read or can you come to the thing,’ and they’d go, ‘Oh, I don’t know, my leg is hurting me,’ or ‘my brain.’” So he asked Malone, who edited him at New York, to join in organizing the readings. She’d only been to one before, back when Jacobson was billing it as the KGB Radio Hour but remembered spotting former politician Anthony Weiner and songwriter Steve Earle. “I said to her, ‘If you invite the young people, I’ll invite the old people, and we’ll have this thing,’” Jacobson said. “So now we get a nice crowd because all the young people come to see their friends read, and we get — like Lucy Sante was here. She just came by herself. People came to see her, but it wasn’t like she brought an entourage. She just showed up. That’s usually the way it is with these older people.”
They organized their first reading together for March 3, 2020. “If it were a week later, it would never have happened,” said Jacobson. “You had a little bit of a cough, and I was like, ‘Oh, does Mark have Covid?’” Malone told her co-host. “In the email that I sent out to my friends — actually, someone pointed this out to me — I said, ‘Oh, if you can’t make it this month, there’s always April,’ April 2020. So we had that one glorious night.” Fiasco podcast host Leon Neyfakh read a story about his grandmother, and New Yorkfeatures writer Allison P. Davis read a piece about going to a male strip club. Then they went on hiatus until about six months ago.
Malone has been honing her guest booking skills since their return. “A lot of people have been my friends or people I’ve worked with, but I’m also trying to reach out to people who I haven’t worked with and it’s kind of a fun excuse to get to know a writer who you think is really good. So, Kaitlyn Tiffany, who’s reading tonight, I’ve never worked with her, but I think her stuff’s fun and so I just emailed her and she was willing to do it,” she said. “We have people that we email every time and say come to the thing, but also all of the writers bring their people in, so it’s a slightly different crowd every time which is fun.”
The other readers on this night were New York Times city correspondent Alex Vadukul, who regularly interrupted his reading of an article about an urban golfer to offer color commentary on his reporting (at the mention of the golfer’s ex-wife: “That’s right, I had to call her.”), and paramedic Anthony Almojera, who read from his memoir Riding the Lightning in a green Smokin’ Joe Frazier shirt. “The book is taking off a little,” Almojera said. “I just signed a deal with CBS Studios.” The crowd they brought in included Timesstyles feature editor Jim Windolf, New York Times and New Yorker contributor Kate Dwyer (“I’m pretty sure this is the first KGB reading I’ve been to since the pandemic started, and I’m relieved to see not much has changed.”), Grub Street writer Chris Crowley, Drift co-editors Kiara Barrow and Rebecca Panovka, New York’s Davis (“Jon Caramanica [pop music critic for The New York Times] was here,” she said. “He said that he’ll be out there vibing on the street for a little while if I want to join him for a Gatorade.”), Times breaking news reporter Alex Traub, New Yorker associate editor Marella Gayla, and a contingent of paramedics who came to support Almojera. “I didn’t invite a large crowd because I knew he was gonna invite a bunch of guys that are going to be really fucking big,” Jacobson said. “I just know how many people can fit into this place.”
➾ 7 p.m. British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful will be talking about his new memoir A Visible Man with former American Vogue creative director-at-large Grace Coddington in The Strand’s Rare Book Room.
➾ 1 p.m. The New York Media Softball League will close out the season with its 15th annual playoffs on Central Park’s Great Lawn. The match-ups for the semi-finals will be Forbes (7-4) versus High Times (7-2) and BuzzFeed (7-4) versus Chartbeat (9-2).
➾ Time TBD The Chinese internet culture newsletter Chaoyang Trap will host a meetup in Brooklyn. “Dm our intern @tianyuf for details,” they encouraged readers in a tweet.
➾ 7 p.m. New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv will launch her first book, Strangers to Ourselves, with a conversation with fellow staff writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.
➾ 7 p.m. n+1 will host N Plus Ultra, a fundraiser and party, at The Jane Hotel Ballroom in The West Village. Critic Tobi Haslett will be presented with The n+1 Writers’ Fellowship, and novelist Caleb Crain will receive The Anthony Veasna So Fiction Prize.
➾ 7 p.m. The New York Times’s Caramanica, Joe Coscarelli, and Caryn Ganz will host the first live edition of the Popcast podcast at Gertie in Williamsburg.