Mary Kaye, Mary Kaye, L.A. Quite Contrary: Sassy Sister to New York

Mary Kaye Schilling’s final days as an entertainment editor at the Los Angeles Times were bleak.

“It was incredibly stressful there,” she said on the phone June 17 from California. “I really believed the L.A. Times could make a comeback, but the situation really became untenable.”

Two months ago, Ms. Schilling parted ways with the West Coast paper of record—she says it was mutual, sources there say otherwise—and in mid-July she’s returning east, where she worked in magazines for many years, to become the culture editor at New York. Women’s Wear Daily reported the news first on June 17.

“When a friend of mine told me [New York editor] Adam [Moss] might be looking for someone, I was excited,” said Ms. Schilling, who is 52. “I revered Adam for years, since 7 Days”—his short-lived, late-’80s city weekly.

As culture editor, she’ll replace Jared Hohlt, who will be promoted to features editor. She’ll be inheriting a well-stocked stable of critics (including David Edelstein on film, Jerry Saltz on art; and Justin Davidson on music and architecture); there’s no Grand Vision, at least not yet.

“To me, New York magazine is as close to a perfect magazine as you can get,” Ms. Schilling said. “I haven’t thought about it extensively. I want to start the job, and I really want to start figuring out how things work and all that kind of stuff.”

The editor is known for her cool, hip affect. She was one of the original staffers, familiar to readers by their first names, at Jane Pratt’s Sassy, the germinal Seventeen alternative, and lent considerable sophistication in the late ’90s as music editor to the staid offices of Entertainment Weekly, where, one ex-staffer recalled, she hung a silver disco ball in her large windowed office. She later became EW’s L.A. bureau chief, then worked her way up to executive editor, a rare feat for women at Time Inc. publications.

When Ms. Schilling arrived at the L.A. Times, she was walking into a hotbed of inner turmoil. Among those who lost their jobs after Russ Stanton was appointed chief editor in February was John Montorio, the paper’s managing editor for features, a veteran of The New York Times and a devoted ally of Ms. Schilling’s.

“I was concerned when they fired John Montorio,” she said. “We worked very closely together and that was disturbing to me.” He had done nothing wrong, she added.

jkoblin@observer.com