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My God, What Trouble You Could Cause!


Clay was not a monogamous person. It wasn’t that he was such a physically lustful male. It was that he really preferred women to men. I mean, without fuss or anything. He loved variety. Really, it was sort of in a not mean way—it was a harem mentality. I don’t think he even felt guilty about it. If he could keep the ball in the air so that he could be seeing three or four women at the same time, he was delighted. As I say, not that he was a great stud. He wasn’t. But it was because he just loved seeing different women and having friendships and racing around.

I still remember as we came back from this weekend in the Hamptons, after he had supposedly broken up with Gail, and arrived at his apartment. I went into the bedroom to comb my hair or go to the bathroom or something. Gail was there. She had let herself into the apartment. There she was, and she had prepared an elaborate dinner for Clay. She had been there all day preparing this dinner. I was just floored. I was so surprised, but it gave me a tremendous negative insight into Clay when, instead of saying “Gail, I’m sorry,” he kind of said, “Well, Gail fixed this big dinner and everything, so I guess you better leave.” That was the bottom line. That’s when I knew that this was never going to be a beautiful friendship. I’m sure he thought it was fine. He was a great accommodator. And he was never really prepared to leave Gail.

One time when a meeting began, he said, “Well, now I want to discuss the woman problem,” and all the women in there were just sort of on edge, ready to pounce on the subject, when he said, “The problem is that we only seem to get women who want to write for us, we can’t seem to find any men who want to write for us.” And that was really because a lot of men were going off into Hollywood TV and whatever who-knows-what, and the women were just dying for any toehold in business, in journalism, in whatever. He was always pushing women to do whatever they could do.

GLORIA STEINEM, writer, founding editor of Ms.
He was thinking of starting a women’s magazine himself, but it just didn’t make sense. I remember arguing with him about it—that you couldn’t start a magazine with the women who happened to be around. Nor could you have a credible women’s magazine in response to the women’s movement that was owned and edited by men any more than you could have a credible civil-rights magazine owned and edited by white folks. Then separately we had been talking about doing a newsletter in order to make money to support the Women’s Action Alliance. Of course newsletters don’t make money. But it was this idea for the newsletter that out of many meetings of women writers and editors grew into an idea for Ms. magazine. We couldn’t raise money for it—partly because people thought there was no audience, and partly because we said it needed to be controlled by women and by its staff. So then Clay, who was looking for a theme for the year-end issue, which was a double issue, said that if we produced an issue and he could choose from it what he wished to publish in the year-end issue, that then he would print the rest. I mean, he printed 30 pages in the year-end issue, then added the other hundred and created a sample issue—a preview issue. And that was entirely his generosity, because he didn’t take any interest in Ms. as a magazine.

For Felker, parties, both in his double-height 57th Street living room and elsewhere, were a kind of theater, where the drama of ego and ambition played out. A 1977 incident between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal at a party thrown by Lally Weymouth revealed, many thought, essential aspects of Felker’s approach. But often, one of the egos on the social stage could be his own.

GAY TALESE, writer, Esquire contributor.
He papered that house of his with personalities and recognizable people or people that were going to fit into his plan somehow either as art directors, writers, girlfriends, a movie star. When I first saw him it was at a party with Sammy Davis Jr. and Jacob Javits and there were pretty girls abundant in number. Power and the access to power is a kind of addiction that sooner or later takes over the brain waves of an editor of ambition.


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