Sex Columnist Amy Sohn Kisses the Post Goodbye

There was Time magazine, in its Jan. 1, 2000, issue, using President Clinton as a freelance news analyst. The President weighed in on the resignation of Boris Yeltsin with the usual empty prose common to all heads of state.

And, anyway, did Mr. Clinton really write this stuff?

Did he get a check from Time Inc.?

Time managing editor Walter Isaacson said, “I’m not going to pretend he sat at the word processor.” But he added that Mr. Clinton was “quite involved.”

The middleman between Time and the President was Strobe Talbott, formerly of the State Department and Time magazine. “I asked [Mr. Talbott] if either he wanted to write an assessment of Yeltsin or, even better, if he could get the President to do one that had a personal component based on the fact that Clinton and Yeltsin had met an astonishing 19 times,” wrote Mr. Isaacson in an e-mail. “Strobe said that he would be talking to the President after the President phoned Yeltsin that Friday morning, and he would put in the request. After Clinton and Yeltsin talked, Talbott asked the President whether he’d be willing to write such a piece, and the President consulted with Joe Lockhart and said Yes. Both Strobe and Lockhart called to tell us. I assume that Strobe worked with him on the piece, but the President spent time working on the piece and revising it right after his weekly radio address taping early Saturday morning. One of our folks was on the phone with the White House press office as they were deciphering his handwriting and typing up the piece. It was faxed to us Saturday just after noon from the White House press office.”

Was the President paid?

“There was no fee.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Clinton has tried his hand at freelancing: He wrote on Franklin Roosevelt for a recent issue of Time and in a Newsweek special issue on the future.

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Jan. 4 marked the last “Amy Sohn on Tuesday” column for the readers of the New York Post. Ms. Sohn said she quit Jan. 3. Post features editor Vicky Ward described her leaving as “mutually agreed,” saying that Ms. Sohn was quite aware of the problems the paper had with her column. “I don’t think any of us thought she’d found an edge,” Ms. Ward said. “I wanted her to find an edge and a voice that was different from other voices in the Post and be relevant. And I don’t think she ever found that relevance.”

Maybe the Post just wasn’t the right match for Ms. Sohn, who gained a measure of writer fame as a chronicler of sex and the city for the New York Press and, later, with the novel Run, Catch, Kiss.

“Ultimately, I felt that the problem wasn’t the format but the culture of the paper and readership,” Ms. Sohn said.

She said she had problems with the “notorious conservatives” who ran the Post who kept her from ranting against Mayor Giuliani. She wanted to compare him to a mosquito that needed to be fumigated, but the paper cut that line. Also, in writing about a female model at fashion week, she wrote: “Half of me hates her, half of me wants her.” The part about wanting her was changed to “half of me wants to be her.”

Her final column was certainly not very Post-like, with its reference to the Mayor as “Herr Giuliani” and lines like the following: “If the world wasn’t going to end, I was still hoping a couple hundred people were going to die in a Times Square bomb blast so I could watch it all on TV and for once feel glad I lived in Brooklyn.”

Ms. Sohn was quite proud of it. “One of the reasons I was most proud of today’s column was as far as I can tell not a word was changed. Can you believe they let me call him Herr Giuliani?” she said.

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The redesign of Harper’s Bazaar was just finished when Karen Johnston suddenly left as managing editor of the Hearst fashion magazine. Ms. Johnston, who another former editor said had distinguished herself keeping Harper’s Bazaar running during former editor Elizabeth Tilberis’ bout with cancer, was one of the last of the old guard left at the monthly.

Now, in these early days of the Katherine Betts regime, only celebrity wrangler Maggie Buckley and design director Paul Eustace remain in the top tier of the masthead. Fifteen other fashion grandees have simply disappeared.

Ms. Johnston is to be replaced by Mary Gail Pezzimenti, who has been managing editor of Women’s Sports & Fitness for the past year.

* * *

The publisher of Bride’s magazine, Nina Lawrence, gave out small, paddle-shaped, battery-operated, Bride’s-embossed objects to the magazine’s staff over the holidays. They have the magazine’s logo on them and nobby, circular pads that seem to come alive when pressed. In short, the little gadget is a vibrator.

The magazine’s spokesman disagreed. “It’s a back massager,” she said, adding that it was meant to commemorate “how hard the staff works.”

So it’s not a vibrator? “Oh, no, no, no. It’s not a vibrator, not supposed to be a vibrator and not meant to be a vibrator. It’s a back massager. Although that’s interesting, too.”

CORRECTION: This column originally incorrectly reported that the publisher of Bride’s magazine was Deborah Fine. Ms. Fine is actually the former publisher of Bride’s and now holds that same title at a Condé Nast Publications stable-mate, Glamour. Nina Lawrence is the current Bride’s publisher. It was Ms. Lawrence, and not Ms. Fine, who gave Bride’s staff members that small vibrating massager as a gift in reward for their good work. Whether or not that small battery-operated massager should be properly called a “vibrator” or not remains open to debate and is, perhaps, a matter beyond this column’s turf.