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REMEMBERING CLAY: At the memorial for New York magazine founder Clay Felker on Monday night, Milton Glaser described him as being interested in “the rich, the talented and the perverse…in fact, I can’t think of anything Clay wasn’t interested in, except introspection.” The men and women that had also interested Felker as writers, editors and art directors gathered at the Society for Ethical Culture to engage in some retrospection about the late editor, who died in July. Among them were Gloria Steinem (who called Felker “the greatest editor I have ever known,”), Lesley Stahl, Tom Wolfe and Felker’s wife, the journalist Gail Sheehy.
“From my first moment at New York, Clay pretty much moved into a room in my brain,” said current New York editor in chief Adam Moss. “He became my magazine superego, honking at my every turn of cowardice and cravenness to remind me that the only magazine worth publishing is one that makes its fair share of trouble.” Moss might have also found relevant remarks by Richard Reeves, who jumped ship from The New York Times to New York three decades or so before Moss did. When he wrote for The New York Times magazine, Reeves recalled, people would be impressed and say, “I saw your piece in The New York Times Magazine.” At Felker’s New York, Reeves said, “people would come up to me on the street and argue.”
Several speakers wished aloud they could have seen Felker take on the spectacular ruins on Wall Street. In his absence, Wolfe is apparently available to pontificate — Sir David Frost, master of ceremonies at the memorial, told of Wolfe, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the day of Blackstone’s initial public offering, being asked by a CNBC reporter what he thought of the IPO. Knowing next to nothing about it, Wolfe improvised: “It’s the end of capitalism as we know it.” A year later, his weighty assessment was the subject of a New York Times business article, in which he was cast as a visionary. Onstage, Wolfe referred to himself when it comes to business as “the village idiot” and “idiot savant.” (Nonetheless, his musings on business could be found in Portfolio around the same time.) — Irin Carmon