I have been writing about society and specifically Society in New York for the past fourteen years. I started writing social profiles for Quest Magazine in 1992 when it was still owned by its founder Heather Cohane. It was Mrs. Cohane who suggested I write a social column (monthly). The New York Social Diary first appeared in those pages in the fall of 1993. I continued writing for Quest after the magazine was acquired by Christopher Meigher in 1996. In 1997 I became Editor-in-Chief of Avenue Magazine when it was owned by its founder – Judith Price. I continued writing the New York Social Diary in that magazine through August 2000 when I resigned to start newyorksocialdiary.com. (ed. Note: In the meantime, since the early days of the web site, the New York Social Diary has continued in print, appearing monthly in Quest Magazine.)
Jeff Hirsch and I first met at Avenue when he came, almost straight out of college, to work as my assistant. It was the first assistant I ever had and also the first real steady job he had ever had. A New York born and bred boy, he’d been an English major at the University of Wisconsin before coming to work at Avenue. At that point I was desperate for someone take over all the day-to-day minutiae that goes along with being a magazine editor in New York. I told him when we interviewed that if he came to work for me, I’d give him all the shitwork. And if he could do it, I’d give him more. And if he didn’t want to do it, he should tell me right away. I also offered him some preparatory advice: never do anything you don’t want to do, no matter what people may think. That’s the freedom you pay the price for when you work hard at what interests you. The pay-off, if he could put up with it, I also told him, was that he’d learn how to make a magazine. There are a lot of people in the magazine business who don’t know how to do that. I am one of them.
Jeff agreed to the terms and took over my office (I started working day to day at my own desk at home). He turned out to be a reliable, agreeable, thorough, responsible, and diplomatic assistant. He has an instinct for “the good example” and it certainly didn’t hurt me. And indeed, he learned how to make a magazine.
The business of a web site had been a burning idea in my imagination since the early 1990s when it was apparent to me that the Internet was where we were going, because the Internet is laying the foundation of the world community or the community of the world. Through the technology we will learn more about our complexity and our similarity, assisting the transformations that societies must always make with time and age.
My interest in social history and its personalities began in childhood. I was in my forties, however, before I had even an inkling that I could enhance a profession with that interest. My experiences at both Quest and Avenue had informed me that it was more than possible. The Internet, I could see was the natural place for us to go for it offers a reach unlike any other communications in human history.
So when I decided I was going to leave Avenue, to chase after this dream, to start up the New York Social Diary on the web, I asked my esteemed, soon to be erstwhile assistant, if he wanted to continue on the adventure. He instantly came aboard. We both resigned our positions at Avenue in mid-August 2000. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted the site to be like generally but neither of us knew what we were doing. It was a bootstraps operation from the get-go.
We finally launched more than a month later on the third week of that September, motivated by the fear that we’d never get it off the ground. The first couple of weeks we had “techie” who was designing the pages and putting us online each night. By day he was an art director (and knew about cyber design, etc.).
It turned out he didn’t know much about putting us online, however and two weeks into the launch, he quit. That was a Thursday. I said to Jeff over the phone: whatta we gonna do?! He said: “There’s a Book for Dummies on how to go online. I’ll buy it and see what I can do.”
That was a Friday morning. He bought the Book for Dummies on how to go on the internet that afternoon. Monday morning the newyorksocialdiary.com was on-line thanks to JH. Since that date the NYSD has been online about fourteen hundred times and millions have have come to visit this document of mainly New York social life and style, designed and expedited by Jeff with my input.
Another dividend of Jeff’s partnership has been the photography. Like the going online with the daily Diary, the matter of the photographs – the party pictures – was important from the beginning. Because my job was hitting the parties, doing the research, writing about it, we needed someone to take the pictures. JH and the Digital was born, along with a previously unrecognized and personally unregarded talent: he has the eye to sometimes awe, sometimes astonish, often delight and always provoke the imagination.