Adam Moss was preparing to deliver top-secret information. It was Friday afternoon at New York magazine, and just outside the editor’s 14th-floor office, clusters of page proofs were up on the wall-pieces of the latest and most important edition, gradually coming together.
It had been nine months since Mr. Moss left his post as New York Times culture boss to take over New York at the behest of new owner Bruce Wasserstein. Since then, a new New York-an Adam Moss–ified New York-had been gestating, quietly. Certain changes of shape were apparent. Periodic bulletins tersely announced developmental milestones. But Mr. Moss, never known for being a show-everybody-the-ultrasounds personality, had declined to talk about it.
Now, however, it was talking time. The reclusive Mr. Moss had invited a visit, albeit with a spokesperson as chaperon, because the Nov. 22 issue (available Nov. 15) would complete New York’s redesign. The past was past; the future was here. To mark the occasion, the magazine would be unveiling a revised logo-a logo “thrilling in its newness,” Mr. Moss said.
Mr. Moss crossed the office to pick up an image of the logo. This was embargoed information, to be held till after New York hit the newsstands. He laid a copy of the Nov. 22 cover on the coffee table: Across the top, in black letters on a white background, was … um, the New York magazine logo. Only bigger.
Well, not only bigger. A bit lighter in weight, too. And the arms of the Y, which had previously curled back toward the W, were now chopped off with flat serifs. Something about that horizontal emphasis, coupled with the black-on-white small caps, brought the Saturday Evening Post to mind.
But mostly it brought New York magazine to mind. Rendered by Ed Benguiat, who was responsible for the previous logo, the new version is “so big it bleeds off the sides of the magazine,” Mr. Moss said proudly. They had toyed with the idea of bleeding the logo off the top as well, Mr. Moss added, but abandoned the idea because it was impossible to control the trim size precisely enough.
The revamped New York is about nothing if not details. The new magazine, Mr. Moss said, “won’t differ that tremendously from the magazine of last week.” Most of the redesign had already taken place, through the steady accretion of new and revised and revived parts. And it was never meant to be a revolution; the project, Mr. Moss said, “takes the central elements that were in place at the magazine’s founding and modernizes them.”
That’s not entirely true-the Nov. 22 issue was not wrapped in a Sunday Herald Tribune, the way the original New York was-but Mr. Moss has been attentive to his pieces. There’s the “Intelligencer” section, fizzing with boldface type and garnished with tiny full-body cutout photos of celebrities. There are the tasteful but sprawling shopping pages of the “Strategist,” like a mod-baroque loft (or, in Mr. Moss’ formulation, “a more ambitious navigational tool, if you’ll excuse the language, for how to make the most of your life in the city”). There are the “Culture Pages,” where the critics’ voices are augmented by those of artists and authors themselves, along with talking-head shots of theatergoers-on-the-street. There are the features, the kind of magazine features for which the term “magazine-style features” was invented, replete with drop caps and full-page art.
There are, that is, all the things you’d expect from New York magazine. “Its bones were great, and those bones still exist,” Mr. Moss said. He weighed the implications and trailed off. “I don’t know where to go with the metaphor,” he confessed.
The question is, how can the magazine replicate its bygone supply of guts? And other body parts? Under Mr. Moss so far, the apparatus of New York has functioned (to move, with Mr. Moss, away from the Book of Ezekiel) like a Pilates machine, producing trim, hipless, handsome stories.
If New York were writing about New York, the subhead would go something like this: Editor Adam Moss has lovingly rebuilt the Cradle of New Journalism. Now can he find some new journalism to put into it?
The reason people still talk about Clay Felker is that the old New York magazine was surprising above all. It was the place that decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The New Yorker by allowing a young punk named Tom Wolfe to go after William Shawn with a rusty ice pick.
Adam Moss is not a rusty-ice-pick man. “I want [ New York] to feel strong and exciting without creating sensation for sensation’s sake,” Mr. Moss said. Listing pieces he’s proudest of in his tenure, he brought up Franklin Foer’s profile of over-embedded New York Times reporter Judith Miller: a tough, aggressive attack, but waged strictly by Marquis of Queensbury rules.
Getting more ambitious about the stories, Mr. Moss said, is the next step after the redesign. “I look forward now, [once] this architecture is in place, really to play with the writing and the magazine itself,” he said.
Mr. Moss echoed the same theme in an internal memo announcing a redesign of the masthead. In the reshuffling, executive editor John Homans moved out of a spot parallel to managing editor Sarah Jewler, to assume an unambiguous listing as Mr. Moss’ No. 2. Deputy editor Hugo Lindgren was promoted to editorial director, and his fellow deputy, Jon Gluck, kept his old title but hopped above fashion director Harriet Mays Powell.
“It is my hope that they … will concentrate more and more on the features in the magazine, which now needs the full attention we’ve been giving to all these fabulous new and refurbished sections,” Mr. Moss wrote.
That doesn’t mean fancy writing for its own sake, Mr. Moss said. He expressed distaste for “things that feel like a private joke between and among writers.”
“The goal here is to give the reader a great deal of pleasure and fun,” Mr. Moss said.
A few minutes later, however, Mr. Moss offered a revision: “I don’t want to overstate fun as our job here …. Fun is something we prize, but what we’re trying to do is cover New York City in all of its exciting dimensions and to try to excite all the reader’s senses, in the way in which the city excites all your senses.”
Fine, but what about the sense of humor? It wasn’t merely stylistic innovation and brio that defined the founding days-Tom Wolfe was funny.
And the Nov. 22 renovations don’t in themselves suggest “fun.” The issue brings back the old “Competition” feature-but “now it’s a little bit more like a reality-television show,” Mr. Moss said: Readers are asked to send submissions to solve a problem, to be judged by a professional in the relevant field. The debut example is “Create a New York City Theme Restaurant.” Next week? “Design a New Hudson River Bridge.”
The old “Competition” was a humor contest. And it was a funny humor contest-so funny that a bald rip-off of it is currentlyone of the funniest things in The Washington Post.
The new issue also features the opening edition-or rather a preview-screening edition-of Spy veteran Kurt Andersen’s “Imperial City” column, which begins for real in January. Mr. Andersen offers the startling post-election revelation that New Yorkers are as closed-minded toward red-staters as red-staters are closed-minded toward New Yorkers: “Life really is like high school, and the anti-Bush unanimity of the cool kids-the Meryl Streeps, the Tony Kushners, the Bruce Springsteens, the Jon Stewarts-surely reminded a lot of middle- and working-class Americans that they have more in common psychographically with the president than with his antagonists. Our self-regarding sneers alienate even our allies.”
Are you having fun yet?
There was a laugh in the magazine’s newsstand-only fall shopping guide. There, a gem of a cover line read: “The City’s 1,835 Best Stores.” The large, specific number paired with the superlative-right?
“It was fun, I would say,” Mr. Moss said, “to play with some of the conventions of that sort of magazine. But I didn’t do it ironically.”
The first two edible items on view at the Nov. 15 launch party for Trader Monthly in the Mandarin Oriental ballroom in the Time Warner Center were foie gras canapés and foil-wrapped chocolate coins. At the far side of the room a James Brown impersonator, gold suit jacket hanging open over a bare chest, yelped his way through the highlights of the Godfather of Soul’s catalog. The night skyline glowed through the 36th-floor windows.
“You can’t cut corners,” said editor in chief Randall Lane, standing by the doorway. “That means the Mandarin. That means foie gras floating around.”
Mr. Lane, former editor of the now-defunct men’s magazine POV, was savoring the atmosphere around his new start-up. Like POV, Trader Monthly is dedicated to an unsubtle whiskey-cigars-women kind of male hedonism. Unlike POV, Trader Monthly doesn’t intend to be aspirational about it.
When Trader Monthly writes about the Porsche Carrera GT or a Bvlgari dive watch good to 2,000 meters (at $2.40 per meter), the theory is that the readership is actually going to buy those things. The audience, publisher Wilkie Bushby said on the phone the day after the party, is “young guys who are earning really enormous amounts of money.”
Specifically, Trader Monthly is being handed out free to a controlled circulation of 100,000 names gleaned from the trading industry. It is published by Doubledown Media, an independent company, with newsstand distribution-at an ostentatious $10 cover price-through Comag. Founder Magnus Greaves, Mr. Bushby said, is a former trader himself, who hopes to revive a sense of community that’s fading as traders move from pits to electronic trading systems. “There was nothing that was sort of pulling these guys together anymore,” Mr. Bushby said.
At the Mandarin, the party was light on magazine-launch-party types and heavy on young men in neckties. Mr. Lane said it was a relief, after aiming for a broad readership at POV, to narrow his focus. “You can be everything to this specific guy,” he said.
Hence the six kinds of olives at the martini bar, the occasional puffs of Mayor-defying cigar smoke and the goodie bags featuring Hummer-branded body wash, miniature bottles of 18-year-old Chivas and gift certificates for $500 off a Tourneau watch and $5,000 off a $100,000 jet-service package.
On the page, Trader Monthly presents a kind of crass integrity. One front-of-the-book item reproduces and annotates a receipt for a £4,804.70 meal at Nobu in London (“Gosh, free soup. And after only $1,600 so far!”). The founder of Paragon Capital Management reminisces about trying to abandon a wounded buck, rather than tracking and killing it, so he could get to a backcountry pay phone to “long the NDX.” A travel piece on Cabo San Lucas describes a pair of traders “conducting a complex business negotiation” with “[t]wo long-legged Mexican beauties.”
The most entertaining-and charming-feature is the “Celebrity Trader” section, in which the magazine gives Damon Dash $50,000 to invest for a week, with all the results going to charity: “First, Dash goes long and heavy into oil futures …. ” The Roc-A-Fella boss ends up turning a 23.9 percent profit.
Meanwhile, at the party, the band took a break. In the far corner of the room, a blond acrobat, wearing a red velvet top and wine-colored tights, grabbed a loop of rope hanging from the ceiling and began to do contortions. Eyes closed or nearly so, she hauled herself above the crowd as moody, drum-heavy music played; the rope formed various triangles, blunt wedges, a parallelogram. She dismounted and disappeared.
“The party is beautiful,” said Charles Bradley, the James Brown impersonator, who performs under the name Black Velvet. “The crowd is beautiful.” He was heading off to change out of his gold suit, carrying a fresh outfit in cleaner’s plastic on hangers.
And how’s the magazine? “I like how they’re straightforward and kind of up-front with their agenda,” said Maurice Malfatti, a trader on the New York Stock Exchange. “I like how it brings together the trading world with a little bit of fashion.”
The band resumed, with another vocalist spelling Mr. Bradley, to play a series of Motown covers. Toward the end of “My Girl,” they stretched into an open-ended vamp. “Say ‘ Traders magazine’!” the singer called out. “Say ‘ Traders magazine’! ‘ Traders magazine’!”
Then Black Velvet reappeared, in a tuxedo with a short-waisted jacket. The band prepared to reintroduce him. “Anybody in the house got soul?” the other singer asked. “Say ‘yeah!'”
The majority of the crowd failed to say “yeah.”