I imagine, too, that they taught you how to be in the worlds of media and fashion.
They did. The biggest takeaway I got was to not confuse friendships for interesting coverage, right? To understand that people really wanted coverage, and that even though they were kind to me, and generous, and maybe laughed at some of the dumb shit I said, at the end of the day, they wanted coverage. And at the end of the day, I was a journalist.
There are legendary stories about John Fairchild, or even Patrick McCarthy, having huge feuds with fashion designers, some that lasted for years. I once sat down with Pierre Cardin, when I was living in Paris. The two of us had lunch on his boat that he owned. John Fairchild was still alive. [Cardin] said, “Why does John dislike me so much?” Now, it took me a minute to even figure out who he was talking about, because I had only ever referred to John Fairchild as Mr. Fairchild. Once I was able to get that going, I was like, I don’t know. I ended up having lunch with Mr. Fairchild several weeks later and said, “Pierre Cardin wants to know why you hate him?” Mr. Fairchild just laughed and was like, “There’s no reason!”
These guys taught me that friendships are friendships, and real relationships are real. they’re just that. But these people would turn a critical eye on even people that thought they were friends.
You write that celebrities love talking to you. Even when you were a party reporter at WWD, you write, celebrities would seek you out on the press line. What is the best question to ask a celebrity?
Well, listen, it depends. They have to be game, right? For me, [it’s about] just trying to interact with people on a normal level. You have to remember, when I was sent off to Paris, I knew very, very, very little about fashion. I would have conversations with designers, and I would do my best to purposely avoid talking to them about fashion. That’s one thing that they talk about all day long, when they’re in their studios. It’s the one thing that most journalists sit down and talk to them about. Here I was, talking to them about their diet, or their hometowns, or whatever it was.
I think that they enjoyed that, and found it just to be a nice little break from the norm. I wasn’t the guy that they sent in to do a story on silhouettes and fabric choice; I was the guy that they sent in to get more a human look at what was going on, solely because I wasn’t really capable, or that interested, in talking to them about fashion.
There’s this sense throughout the book that a lot of your bad decisions are motivated by this fatalistic blend of insecurity and hubris, which, to me, seems like a very masculine conundrum. I wondered, did you have a feeling that this combination, which was obviously quite toxic, was somehow intensified by the fact that you were making a men’s magazine? Do you ever wonder if thinking about being a man all the time exacerbated your worst tendencies?
You know, that’s hard to answer. I think, if you look at the type of men’s magazine we made, it wasn’t your typical chest-pounding, alpha kind of magazine. If anything, it was really the exact opposite. So I don’t think so, at least not on the surface. Anything is possible.
I think that this tug-of-war between being deeply, deeply, Grand Canyon-deep insecure, and also having an ego, is just part of this addict brain, if you will. Personally, I didn’t have a very strong understanding, or really no understanding at all, of who I was. Not as an editor, not as a media person, but really as a human. I had always felt this void, I had always felt this sense of not belonging, so I reached out to shiny objects, this sexy career, celebrities, and famous fashion designers, and that became my world. It was a little bit like a band-aid, right?