Writers, Editors, Friends Gather to Bid Farewell to Clay Felker

transomfelker Writers, Editors, Friends Gather to Bid Farewell to Clay Felker“He’s a one-off persona,” Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman told the Transom after Clay Felker’s memorial at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on Monday, Sept. 22. Mr. Zuckerman was hoofing it up four flights of stairs to a more intimate celebration for Mr. Felker on the fourth floor. “He’s the only person I would’ve walked up four flights for,” said Mr. Zuckerman, catching his breath.

Sir David Frost, acting as master of ceremonies, joked that if attendees wandered all the way to Elaine’s, they’d gone too far.

The guests at the public event were just the sort of high-low, insider-outsider, creator-enthusiast mix Mr. Felker cultivated when he and Milton Glaser launched New York as an independent magazine in 1968 from the ashes of The New York Herald Tribune. In addition to Sir David and Mr. Glaser, Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, Lesley Stahl and Mr. Felker’s widow, Gail Sheehy, addressed a crowd that included media figures like Steven Brill, Michael Wolff and onetime New York editor Caroline Miller. Stories of Mr. Felker’s generosity; his love of family, friends, jazz and food; and his ability to spot and nurture talent filled the two-hour event. “We can feel it crackling, crackling in the air,” Ms. Sheehy said.

“Clay was the monitor of status,” Mr. Wolfe, wearing his signature white suit and two-tone shoes, told the Transom as he boarded the elevator. “Status is different from success; you can go down, you can go up.”

“I don’t think that anyone’s as hip to the symbolism as Clay was,” he said. The door closed. Someone pressed “up.”

mhaber@observer.com