Thursday night, men's wear retailers, vendors and editors joined in remembrance of Stan Gellers, the Fairchild reporter who, in his 50-year career, was loved and renowned for his hard-boiled journalism, his tireless support of the tailored clothing industry and his infamously hot head.
It was a truism in men's wear that you weren't anybody until you had been yelled at by Stan. And in the two years that I worked with him, I witnessed a lot of nobodies become somebodies.
Aggression was part of his reporting style. On one of my first assignments at DNR, I accompanied Stan to interview Richard Cohen -- coincidently, one of Thursday night's speakers -- who at the time had just taken a stake in American luxury brand Robert Talbott.
Raised in the TV era, I had always conceived interviews as David Letterman-style tÃªte-Ã -tÃªtes, where even combative questions were asked with deference and interviewees were granted the latitude to make their case.
Stan subscribed to a different model. He steamrolled his subjects, pummeling them with questions, castigating them if they meandered off topic and hurrying them to "get to the point." Cohen barely had time to breathe under the assault.
I recall being embarrassed by Stan and then impressed with him. I could have reported the story in the same detail, but it would have required more time and less guts.
Stan wasn't polite -- waiters across Manhattan know that firsthand -- but Stan, I think, believed politeness in business and in life was overrated. After all, the famous newsman's phrase is "just the facts," not "just the facts, please."
But what he lacked in social graces he more than made up for in his genuine concern for his friends and sources (they were mostly one and the same) and his generous spirit.
I was on the receiving end of the latter. Stan had not historically been gracious with junior writers, but when I assumed his beat covering tailored clothing, he took me under his wing, much to my editor's surprise.
This was in part thanks to a lucky guess. On my second week on the job, Stan, in an attempt to plumb the depths of my ignorance, asked if I knew the difference between sport shirts and dress shirts. I wagered -- a flailing stab in the dark -- that it was the sizing, and I was right.
From that day on, he never questioned me. To the contrary, he never failed to help me establish myself in the market. He fed me leads, story ideas, technical information about the vagaries of canvased and glued garments.
Whenever I needed a contact -- which was often in those early months -- Stan always stopped to crack open the rusted, stuffed tins he used as Rolodexes. He rifled through the many index cards, often scrawl-jammed with crossed-out numbers and old titles as his sources changed jobs, and not once did he fail to deliver a number and e-mail. The man was connected.
After he died, I came across those tin square boxes again, and recalled Stan describing them and the contacts they contained as "pure gold." But in hindsight they are more than just a reporter's network of sources. They are relics of a half a century of work, a palimpsest of men's wear's recent history and, most importantly, a reflection of the many sinews that connected Stan to the industry he loved.
At the center of all those names was, of course, Stan. He was the thread that bonded colleagues and competitors alike. And without him, we've all become a little bit unstitched.