One night during Memorial Day weekend, in 2002, Mr. Roshan sat in a carrel at the Astor Place Kinko’s working on a business plan. It was 4 in the morning. The place was bathed in fluorescent light. Talk had folded, and AMI C.E.O. David Pecker had reached out to Mr. Roshan to ask if he had any ideas for a new magazine. He bluffed and said he did, then grabbed a few colleagues from Talk, including Christopher Tennant and Drew Lee, and cooked up what would become Radar. The name was just a placeholder. They knew it was dumb.
He was, at that point, a media darling. “We’d watched the circulation at Talk rise by something like 19 percent in a few months,” he recalled. “If you read the press from that time, it was like, ‘It’s gotten good!’ Then 9/11 happened and they closed it. I’m like, ‘What just happened there?’”
Mr. Pecker never pulled the trigger. Mr. Roshan spoke with Jann Wenner about editing Us, but then took himself out of the running. Having a magazine of his own seemed like more fun. “In retrospect, it’s actually kind of bad-ass,” he said, draped over a chair in the crowded cafe and sipping an iced green tea. “But I was like, If I can’t find the place I want to work, I’ll just need to start something else.”
The process was draining. “I spend so much time with people at work that it becomes like a family,” he said. “So when everyone dispersed I was feeling really weird, like, ‘Where’s all my peeps?’ They went on to other things, and I went on to do this thing.”
While New York Post gossip writer Neal Travis was breathlessly reporting on Roshan sightings at the Four Seasons Grill Room (“One of the hottest media topics right now is where Maer Roshan will land next”), Mr. Roshan was mostly just waiting around for wealthy acquaintances to reply to his entreaties for funding.
“It was a lonely time,” he said. “And I remember thinking at one point: This would be a lot easier with a glass of wine. Because this is just not fun.” He let out a sigh. “That’s kind of how it started.”