The Bold and the Bountiful
Making the scene this week: Win McCormack, Molly Jong-Fast, Craig Newmark, Margaret Sullivan, Jeremy Peters, Michael Grynbaum, Shawn McCreesh, Brian Stelter, Jamie Stelter, Sarah Ellison, Carl Swanson, Noah Shachtman, Elizabeth Spiers, Kelli Korducki, Michael Calderone, Sophie Kleeman, Anup Kaphle, Michael Zelenko, Sophie Schmidt, Camille Bromley, Sarah Todd, Gabriel Boylan, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Paul Ford, Clay Shirky, Leslye Davis, Charles Leerhsen, and many more…
We went to four parties in quick succession this week, and none were Halloween-themed. But in a desperate attempt to find a costume idea to steal, we asked everyone what they’d be wearing. Here’s how the New York media community answered.
OUT AND ABOUT
New Republic owner and booster of Nick Kristof’s political ambitions, Win McCormack couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a lively Halloween. Still, he was willing to stop and try on his way out of the party Fast Politics podcast host Molly Jong-Fast and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark threw at The Century Association on Tuesday night to celebrate the release of former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan’s memoir Newsroom Confidential. “I have a place in Oregon, and I used to do it there,” McCormack said, casually popping something from his pocket into his mouth. Did he have a cache of Cheez-Its in his jacket? “I love the cheese crackers in this club, so I took a bunch,” he said. So they weren’t name-brand Cheez-Its? “Well, maybe they are, but I don’t run across them anywhere else,” McCormack said. “I don’t buy them.”
The room was packed with media reporters. “This is the party of a million media reporters,” Jong-Fast said, “like I don’t know who that guy is, but he looks like a media reporter.” Among the identifiable ones were The New York Times’s Jeremy Peters and Michael Grynbaum (prowling through the crowd with his notebook), New York’s Shawn McCreesh, recent CNN departee Brian Stelter (“I don’t have a costume yet, so if any readers have ideas, I’ll take nominations.”), there with his wife, NY1 anchor Jamie Stelter(whose costume is a tightly held corporate secret). Is The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison going to wear a costume? “I’m not above doing that, but I’m mostly working on my kids’ costumes. One is going to be one of the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton and the other one is maybe going to be Britney Spears,” she said. “She’s 13 and I was trying to introduce her to the idea of don’t be the sexy Halloween costume person.” New York editor-at-large Carl Swanson suggested another way to read that costume. “It’s a shadow critique of you and the fact that you don’t give her more money,” he said, “that you control her finances.” What was Swanson going to wear? “You’re not supposed to say Jeffrey Dahmer, right?” he said. “I don’t know — Mathias Döpfner, that would be a good thing for me. Everybody would be totally convinced.”
Among the non-media reporters in the room was a healthy quotient of regular media reporting subjects. Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman stood chatting with someone who looked an awful lot like New York Times opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury, who left Shachtman to field The Fine Print’s questions. “Do I have Halloween plans?” Shachtman said. “I feel like I should say something completely outlandish and untrue, but mostly I’m taking my kids trick or treating.” Political consultant Peter Feld tried to make sure his costume would be a surprise on Halloween, but he was willing to drop a hint: “David Remnick just did one of his little magnum opuses” on his costume. Feld’s co-worker, New York Timesopinion contributor and Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers was also hesitant to share her costume. “My seven-year-old picked it out, and I’m a little embarrassed to say what it is because it sounds like a grown-up’s sexy costume,” she said. “He’s a Stranger Things fan, so he immediately bee-lined to a cheerleader uniform. Then he asked me if his dad would like it, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah.’” On the other hand,Atlantic senior editor Kelli Korducki was bubbling over with stories about her homemade costumes. “I’m going to a house party of people that I do not know and dressing up as Björk in the swan dress,” she said, “which I am very excited about because I’m making it myself out of various assembled things that I’m hot glue gunning together.”
The room was so packed with bold-faced names that they wouldn’t fit in a single litany paragraph. Also present were Guardian congressional reporter Hugo Lowell, Vanity Fair’s The Hive editor Michael Calderone, Vanity Fair writer-at-large Marie Brenner, Jong-Fast’s husband Matt Greenfield (“I had a horrifying ghoul mask.”), lawyer and cultural historian Linda Hirshman (“Hi, I’m a genius.”), Insider senior investigations editor Sophie Kleeman (“My nephew’s in town this weekend. We’re going to go to Coney Island, they do a Halloween fest.”), too-many-sterling-affiliations-to-list Sid Mahanta, Marvel staffer Kathleen Sullivan (“I’m going to be fantasy football. So I’ll be wearing a football jersey and an elvish robe and crown.”), Daily Beast and New York Post contributor Davis Richardson (“I was Mark Antony. I wanted a Cleopatra, but I was single at the time,” he recalled of Halloween 2020. “This was in Serbia. They don’t really celebrate Halloween there, but our Serbian friends made it happen.”), and Fast Politics producer Jesse Cannon. “I’m doing NoHo Hank from the show Barry,” Cannon said. “There’s no character I would want to personify for a night more and do imitations of them talking, despite how much it’s going to annoy my girlfriend.”
NBC News disinformation reporter Ben Collins didn’t name a costume, but his whole life seems to have been Halloween-infected. “I’m from Salem, so all of my Halloweens — I wasn’t allowed to go trick or treat on Halloween in Salem because there are too many real witches, according to my parents, so we had to go a town over,” he said. The spookiness followed him to New York. “I moved into this apartment, but it was some other guy’s apartment. I looked behind a thing, and there was a very finely sharpened axe, like a big old fucking axe,” he said. “I called him, I was like, ‘What should I do with this?’ He was like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’” He assured The Fine Print the axe wouldn’t be part of his costume.
On her way out of her party, Sullivan popped by a lingering circle. “Bye young people who have more stamina than I do,” she said.
Also on Tuesday, at Broadstone Bar and Kitchen in the Financial District, Rest of World hosted a packed happy hour for its global staff, who were meeting in New York this week, and friends and colleagues. It seemed like it might be a prime hunting ground for Halloween costume ideas, but both editor-in-chief Anup Kaphle and deputy editor Michael Zelenko said they’d be missing the festivities because they’d be out of the country. “My wife hates me for this: I’m going to Johannesburg on Saturday, which I realize is a Halloween thing. And I have a child now, so I have to be mindful about my travel plans,” Kaphle said. He had, at least, been involved in picking out his daughter’s costume. They’d landed on Gerald, the titular character of Giraffes Can’t Dance, he said, “a book about this giraffe that doesn’t know how to dance, but then it learns from a caterpillar on a leaf that it’s all about sort of letting go and doing you’re own thing.” Kaphle grew up in Nepal, and American children’s culture had been unexplored territory. “I mean, God, I didn’t know ‘Wheels on the Bus,’ right? I didn’t grow up with ‘Wheels on the Bus.’ I now know it inside out,” he said. His daughter had done a number on his Spotify algorithm. “My most played thing used to be Rage Against the Machine, at one point, and then now it’s this,” he said. “It’s depressing. I need a new account.”
Their boss, Rest of World founder and CEO Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of a former Google CEO, hadn’t picked out a costume this year but flashed back to one of her best from years past. “It was the year after the BP Horizon oil spill. I went as a tarball. I went to H&M and had a black skirt,” she said. “I was 24, and I was like, ‘I’m going to show them.’ I had an oil slick and feathers. It was my climate protest.” She knew what costume she wasn’t going to wear this year. “Jeffrey Dahmer costumes are a very bad idea,” she said. “We can all agree nobody should go as Jeffrey Dahmer.”
Some attendees workshopped their costume ideas at the party. “I want to be the daughter Joy from the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once. I want to do the glitter,” said Wired features editor Camille Bromley. “It’s going to be an ordeal, I might not do it. Actually, maybe a better one would be the bagel, just like pin a bagel to the top of my head.” Stat assignment editor Sarah Todd was thinking more about dog costumes than human getups. “I have a dog, and she will be a shark,” she said. “What if to be the everything bagel you got one of those inflatable dog collars that you can get to prevent them from chewing their scars and then you could just decorate it?” Bromley was immediately onboard. “To be the bagel?” she said. “That’s an excellent idea.”
Others were happy to let their kids wear the costumes. “Eventually, they’ll be old enough that they will require that I wear something. I’m just gonna go as their chaperone, and I hope that stands for as long as possible,” said Rest of World head of audience Gabriel Boylan, who’ll be looking after a Spiderman and a dragon. New Yorker staff writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus would similarly be following his kids around. “The little one, he’s only two, so he doesn’t understand what Halloween is, but he has this crazy mane of hair, so I think we’re just gonna dress him up as a lion and he’ll be fine with that,” he said. Their conversation soon turned to the wilder parties of their youth. Boylan recalled a night with Vampire Weekend. “They had a house together. It was after they got whatever their bigger record deal was, so it was this giant apartment in Williamsburg with very little furniture. It was a leather couch and an Xbox and that was the entire apartment. They had a boombox in the kitchen that was just playing Paul Simon over and over again the entire night,” he said. What did they play? “Rhythm of the Saints, not Graceland. They don’t want to be pigeonholed as just being the Graceland dudes,” Boylan said. “Imagine if somebody had elbowed you there and been like, ‘That guy over there is gonna have a baby with Rashida Jones.’ You would have been like, ‘Shut the fuck up,’” Lewis-Kraus pitched in. “I went to a party at one of Rostam’s houses once, I think. He was a nice guy.”
The bar was quickly crowded. Rest of World staff present included head of operations Eli Berger, reporter Daniela Dib, features director Vicki Turk, head of product Michael Donohoe, reporter Andrew Deck, reporter Meaghan Tobin (“I haven’t really thought about costumes,” she said. “I might just forget about it.”), and photo editor Cengiz Yar, who was heading back to El Paso to spend Halloween with his daughter. “She’s two, so it’s the first time she’s actually celebrating it. She’s super jacked about it,” Yar said. “We made a costume for her, like a little duck. She has this whole feather thing and the feathers are falling off. She loves it.” Former Rest of World reporters including MIT Technology Review reporter Zeyi Yang (“I don’t have a Halloween costume for myself, but I have one for my cats. One of them is gonna be a lobster and the other one is a shark, so it’s like a seafood kind of thing.”) and Fortune reporter Leo Schwartz (“I’m gonna have my first very G-rated Halloween in many years, and be around some babies and trick or treat. I think the advantage is I get to eat all the candy from the babies,” he said. “I’m thinking of being a member of the Miami Boys Choir to try and prove that I’m young and hip and on TikTok.”) also made appearances. The New Yorker staff was represented by head of research Fergus McIntosh and associate editor for Talk of the Town and Saudi golf chronicler Zach Helfand (“Maybe I’ll dress up like Aaron Judge and cry.”).
Verge staffers’ costume ideas ran to the musical. “Halloween is the worst holiday,” said features editor Kevin Nguyen. “I had an idea for a costume earlier. I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be the cover of Sour by Olivia Rodrigo, and then I realized that album didn’t come out this year. It was last year.” Policy editor Russell Brandom’s Halloween partying took place last weekend. “You had to dress as an album cover,” he said, “so I was Bob Dylan from Blonde on Blonde.”
Postlight founders Paul Ford and Rich Ziade’s party, near Union Square on Wednesday evening, for their new everything app Aboard was a little light on media people, but they had the best snacks of any party this column has covered thus far. (Pigs in a blanket: So simple, yet so rare!) Ford — who, on top of his software work, won a National Magazine Award for the last full-issue story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek before Matt Levine’s 40,000-word crypto explainer this week — didn’t have a costume ready, but his kids had made some esoteric choices. “My daughter is doing Wednesday Addams. My son is going as Beluga, a gamer who uses a meme called polite cat as his avatar and makes videos,” he said. When his daughter wandered up, she shied away from commenting on how she’d chosen the costume. “She’s got the crabby attitude,” Ford said, and she gave him a look. “Good job,” he said. “You did it just right on cue.”
Here Comes Everybody author Clay Shirky introduced himself by saying, “I was one of the 50 people doing web stuff in the middle of the ’90s, which is how I know Paul.” He’ll be spending Halloween at home in upstate Port Jervis, handing out candy and carving a massive pumpkin. “I have always lived in small apartments in New York. Finally, I’ve got space,” he said. “I go to the local grocery store and get the biggest pumpkin I could possibly get. I literally can’t lift it. I have to cut it in half to get it in the car.”
Later on Wednesday, Penta magazine senior editor Mitch Moxley and Businessweek contributor David Gauvey Herbert hosted the latest edition of their reading and interview series, The Night Editor, at the not-yet-officially-open Down & Out bar in the East Village. It was a slightly more sober affair, at least for this reporter than last time. Moxley and model Nikita McElroy had an answer ready when asked about their costumes: “We’re going to do Austin Powers and Foxxy.” Herbert didn’t have a costume picked out — “I’m really bad at costumes,” he said — but he’s going to more extraordinary lengths than anyone else in this column to ensure his daughter has a great holiday. He was set to fly off on Thursday for a ten-day trip to Houston, but “this is the first Halloween she’s actually gonna trick or treat, so I was like, ‘Screw this.’ I’m gonna fly back [from Houston], spend one night here, trick or treat with her, and then fly back to Houston,” he said. “She’s going to wear my duck costume from 1988.”
The two marquee guests of the night were former New York Times video journalist Leslye Davis, who discussed her documentary Father Soldier Son, and former Sports Illustrated executive editor Charles Leerhsen, who talked about his new Anthony Bourdain biography Down and Out in Paradise. Davis hadn’t picked out a costume, but she had exciting plans. “I’m going to my best friend from high school’s Halloween wedding, and my husband is coming with me, which means so much to me because I love my best friend from high school, so we’re flying to North Carolina, near Asheville,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s gonna be anything Halloween-themed, but fingers crossed. I know I have a witch’s hat somewhere and I can pull that off.”
Leerhsen joked that he and his wife would be dressing up as steak frites on Monday, but some of the scariest things he’s encountered this month had to do with the controversy around his book’s release. “So much crap comes with it. You have to listen to a lot of people tell lies about a book they haven’t read,” he said. “But it’s good: I can learn from that, I can learn to let it roll off my back.” Had he ever been involved with something this controversial before? “Well, I wrote a book with Donald Trump. I ghostwrote a book with him around 1990. It was a whole different world. He was like a Hillary Clinton Democrat. In the interim, I’ve been making fun of him on TV and in print. I won’t say I’m ashamed of what I did, but it’s not consistent with my current political beliefs,” he said. “When that book came out, he was having his first bankruptcy issues and so there was a lot of brouhaha about that.”
The third writer featured this night was an AI poet designed by “local tech wizard,” in Herbert’s phrase, Misha Kaletsky. “About eight years ago, I started dabbling in a project. It was like a chatbot. You would send it questions about your life, and then it would reply. If you’re really high and you don’t listen properly, it would sound like Walt Whitman was replying to your question,” Kaletsky explained. “There’ve been some quite big machine learning models that have been made available in the last year or so, so I wrote an app that doesn’t make me a writer but it allows me to generate poems that I want to distance myself from. Before I read any of them I just want to make clear that I don’t write these poems and I don’t want to be really associated with them.” The prompt for the first poem was “The Night Editor.” Here’s what the AI spit out: “The night editor sits in filth covered in grime and muck/ He doesn’t care how he looks just as long as he can fuck.”
The second poem Kaletsky’s AI produced was named “Canadian Mitch,” in reference to Moxley. The AI called it a sonnet: “When I was younger I used to love/ To watch the snow fall from the sky/ But now those flakes just make me think/ Of Canadian Mitch up in his tree/He’s been there for weeks, just watching/ And sometimes he even sings/ … There’s something in his eyes that tells me/He’s not all there/ But that just makes me want to know him more/ What secrets does Canadian Mitch hold?/ Why is he up in that tree?” Afterward, one old friend remembered Moxley’s time in Canada. “20 years ago he had blonde tips and a puka shell necklace and he would host open mic nights at a local Irish pub,” she said. “Like all people of my generation, I did have a puka shell necklace from time to time,” Moxley admitted. “It wasn’t my finest hour.”
Other attendees were in various states of preparedness. Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Air Mail contributor Laura Neilson walked in carrying an enormous maple leaf she’d found in Washington Square Park, which might have served as the centerpiece of a costume. New York features writer Simon van Zuylen-Wood hadn’t had time to think up what he was going to wear. “I’ve been living in sheds for weeks,” he said. New Yorker and Harper’s contributor Michael Ames understood the value of secrecy. “I’m planning on wearing a disguise, so whether it’s good or bad doesn’t matter,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t be recognized.”
➾ 7 p.m. Alexander Chee, Andrea Long Chu, Kaitlyn Greenidge, Tanner Akoni Laguatan, and Gary Shteyngart will be reading from this year’s Best American Essays collection at Book Culture in Morningside Heights.
➾ 7 p.m. Bloomberg News enterprise editor Felix Gillette and New York Times media reporter John Koblin will discuss their new book It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO with New York’s Choire Sicha at McNally Jackson Williamsburg.
➾ 7 p.m. The Drift will host a party for its eighth issue, featuring readings from contributors Noor Qasim, Hanson O’Haver, Malcolm Harris, Colton Valentine, Vivian Hu, Bobuq Sayed, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, and Natalie Shapero at Café Kitsuné in Boerum Hill. Rather than hosting in one big room, Drift co-editor Rebecca Panovka told The Fine Print a couple of weeks ago, the party will be spread across three small spaces. “We’re changing it up a bit,” she said.
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