Thursday, February 28, 2013

Now this is why it’s interesting

Looking south on Hudson Street from Laight Street. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, February 28, 2013. Rainy and dreary and cold until mid afternoon, yesterday in New York. A little more than a week til Daylight Saving’s time and three weeks till Spring. I’m ready.

I went down to Michael’s. It was Wednesday; what else? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it busier. I was lunching with the crew from Quest – publisher/proprietor Chris Meigher; Jim Stoffel the Creative Director, and Exec Editor Lily Hoagland.

Bonnie Fuller.
At Table One doing their Wednesday lunch was the crew – Bonnie Fuller, Editor-in-Chief/President, Gerry Byrne, Vice Chair of Penske Media which owns it; Carlos Lamadrid, the Exec Veep and publisher, and their guests: Jim Fallon, Editor of WWD;  Jenn Rogien, costume designer for “Girls”; USA Digital’s Sandra Hors, Nana Meriwether, Miss USA; Ted Fine of Bloomberg television, Matt Rich, PR Guru, Rachel DiCarlo of American Eagle, and Mike Indursky, president of Bliss.

Now this is why it’s interesting. These are all business people, and as you can see by their associations, it’s a diverse group. Fuller is well known for her great success in the celebrity-gossip media. But the other guests – and it’s a different cast each week – don’t appear to have anything in common, other than the media umbrella for some. Fuller is all business. She also likes that particular table because it’s a focal point in the room – everyone sees it coming and going. Buzz position guaranteed.

So what do they talk about? Whatever it is, it’s not the weather or their day off. Whatever it is, it’s something lots, maybe millions, will be talking about in the next few days, weeks, months. Because these are the characters who make the media wheels go ‘round.

On the other side of us was Diane Clehane lunching and interviewing Susan Spencer, E-I-C of Woman’s Day and Mimi Crume Sterling of Hearst PR. Hearst owns Woman’s Day and has a readership of 3.2 million and it’s seventy-five years old. Talk about seniority. Whatever it is they were talking about, you’ll be reading about it in one place (magazine) or another.

Around the room: Josiah Bunting; Wednesday Martin; Pamela Keogh; Hugh Freund; Maryann Banikarim and Pattie Seller; media and music PR consultant Susan Blond with Susan Toepfer the Features/Entertainment Editor of More Magazine.

Brit Hadden and Henry Luce in the 1920s.
More is owned by Meredith Corporation, another magazine publisher with multiple well-known titles such as Family Circle, Parents, Every Day with Rachel Ray. I’d never met Susan Toepfer before, but I had heard recently that Meredith is about to merge or acquire Time Magazine, so I was curious to discuss it with her.

I am old enough to remember when Time was the  most important news magazine in the world for decades. Brit Hadden and Henry Luce who were classmates at Yale came up with the concept of a news magazine fresh out of college in the early 1920s. Six years later Hadden suddenly became ill with something that brought on septicemia, and three months later he was dead of heart failure. He was 30.

Within two weeks, his partner Henry Luce removed Haddon’s name from the masthead and Luce became Numero Uno and retained that title until he retired in 1964.

By the 1940s Time had only imitators (although some were fairly close competitors such as Newsweek.) Time was the centerpiece of the most famous and possibly richest publishing  empire in the country, if not the world. Time, Life Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People.

When I came to New York out of college, one of the plummiest jobs for an aspiring journalist was a job at Time. They started wherever they could get a slot – mailroom, research, it didn’t matter; you were in the door.

Its editorial choices and style, sentence construction, word usage entered the vernacular. People actually had vocal dinner conversations over who was or was going to be the next Time “Man of the Year.” It was a closely guarded secret and garnered headlines and more conversation and debate when it appeared on the newstands.

Vol. 1, No. 1 (March 3, 1923) featuring Speaker Joseph G. Cannon.
During his reign as Mr.Time-Life, Henry Luce was regarded as the “most influential man in America.” There is nobody comparable today; nobod. Presidents, bankers, CEOs and billionaires included. The morning after Jack Kennedy was nominated the Democratic candidate for President in 1960, his father Joe Kennedy, who knew Luce (and who had a long time intimate friendship with his wife, Clare Boothe Luce), invited Luce to dine. His intention was to discuss the possibility, no matter how remote of the man, and therefore Time ,endorsing his son. It was a long shot but at least he had the "in."

The dinner took place, at Kennedy’s request, at Luce’s apartment in the Waldorf Towers. Kennedy figured that Luce, a long time Republican, would probably endorse Richard Nixon, but Jack had just been nominated and Joe couldn’t resist trying to get Luce’s nod.

It was the same night Jack Kennedy was going to make his acceptance speech before the Convention in Los Angeles. Luce had easily figured out exactly why Kennedy wanted to see him.

He recalled: “The dinner was over about nine o’clock and, as I remember it, the television (and Jack’s acceptance speech) wasn’t going on till ten .... So I thought I better get down to cases. I said to him when we were in the living room: ‘Well, now, Joe, I suppose you are interested in the attitudes Time, Life, and I might take about Jack’s candidacy. And I think I can put it quite simply.’ I divided the matter into domestic and foreign affairs, and I said, ‘As to domestic affairs, Jack will be to the left of center.’''

“Whereupon Joe burst out with, ‘How can you say that? How can you think that any son of mine would ever be a so-and-so liberal?’ (Kennedy always used saltier words than ‘so-and-so’)  “.... I think the conversation may have gone on about that for awhile, but not very much. Then pretty soon the moment came, the television was on and the nominee, Jack Kennedy got up to make his speech while the three of us” — Luce’s son was with them — “were watching the television screen.”

Henry Luce and John Kennedy, 1960.
Henry Luce and Time endorsed Nixon.
Luce judged the speech okay but not great, and said as much. When it was over Kennedy left, thanking Luce “for all that you’ve done for Jack.”

“I think it was said with great sincerity and, if I recalled, he repeated it.” Luce recalled.

It had not been a victory for Joe Kennedy. Henry Luce and Time endorsed Nixon.

Henry Luce died seven years later at 69. A man named Steve Ross, who ran a company Kinney Car Services, which he merged with Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, forged a deal with the Luce family and stockholders to merge Time-Life to become Time-Warner.

Two weeks ago it was announced that the Time, Inc. group of Time-Warner was in talks to be acquired by Meredith. That would include the magazine, as well as Sports Illustrated, People, InStyle and Real Simple. The deal will make Meredith the largest publisher of magazine titles in the world and Henry Luce’s empire will become a distant memory, if not its titles.

Now, that little bit of media history gives you an idea of what goes on with these professionals who lend an ear and toss and catch ideas bouncing off the walls at Michael’s. The Oscars are nothing compared to this.

Continuing around the room: Alexandra Chemia; Ed Herlihy, Dan Billy of Bloomberg Muse;  Da Boyz (almost all of whom took my recommendation last week and bought and read Peter Evans “Nemesis” (jaw-drop, jaw-drop was the response) Jerry Imber, Michael Kramer, Andrew Bergman, Jerry Della Femina.

Continuing: Lisa  Linden with Joseph Mercurio and Frank Baraff; Wenda Millard and Jim Dunning (wife Susan Magrino Dunning made a brief appearance) moving through the crowd), Alan Mnuchin, Pete Peterson, Martin Puris,  Steve Rattner, Valerie Salembier with NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly; Stan Shuman with Aryeh Bourkoff; Barry Wishnow; Robert Zimmerman; Alice Mayhew; Maury Rogoff, Philippe Salomon, Melissa Bradley; Mika Brzezinski and Joanna Coles; Freddie Gershon and Neil Ritter; William Miller, Ron Perelman and son Steve Perelman, Cheri Kaufman and Bronson van Wyck; Euan Rellie, Nick Verbitsky; Damon Ball; Christopher Davidson and scores more just like ‘em.

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