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My God, What Trouble You Could Cause!


MORT JANKLOW, literary agent.
The fight between Mailer and Vidal had gotten to be pretty nasty, and finally Norman took an old-fashioned, quite heavy glass that he was drinking from and bounced it off Gore’s head, and Gore was bleeding, and Gore’s companion, called Howard, was shouting, “Oh, he’s hurt, he’s hurt!” And it was getting very nasty and very physical. And this took place in Lally Weymouth’s house.

LALLY WEYMOUTH, writer, New York contributor.
Clay was standing near me, and I was like, “Oh my God, oh my God. And he was like, “Shut up, this is making your party!”

In the mid-seventies, New York Magazine, at that point a publicly traded corporation, was a success by most measures, and Felker was looking to expand his magazine empire and become a major media player, pushing his board to buy The Village Voice and starting New West magazine, based in Los Angeles, while hobnobbing with financial people at the highest levels. As often happens with empires, the expansion created a dangerous weakness within, one that was exploited by another expansionist media power: Rupert Murdoch. Felker eventually lost the magazine.

Clay and Murdoch were real pals for a while there. I remember when Dolly Schiff sold the New York Post to him, and I remember hearing Clay on the phone saying to Dolly, “This is really good. This will be great for the paper. He’s a real journalist.”

FELIX ROHATYN, financier, former head of the Municipal Assistance Corporation.
He was very interested in business stories, and he knew that his magazine was aimed not just at flashy people and elegant ladies but at the ability of New York business to survive, and if that was the case, then his magazine would survive. It was really during the New York fiscal crisis that we became very close. He had his finger on the pulse of all kinds of constituencies. I knew that if I asked him for advice on some particular matter, he would give me an answer that had already distilled other people’s views—people who read his magazines or people he had interviewed or just came across. He would teach me about those things, and I would teach him about finance. He introduced me to Elaine’s. Simply by going to Elaine’s regularly when the city’s crisis was at its height, I probably met more political figures and motion-picture and theater figures than most people.

When Clay took over the Voice, well, I think he was a little bored, and New York was running pretty smoothly and successfully, and maybe it was up against the limits of its demographics. And so he was gonna try something else, and The Village Voice, one could say that it was up against the limits of him. The Voice’s employees saw this as the desecration of a shrine. Clay hated going down there because it was very hostile.

ALAN PATRICOF, early New York chairman.
He always wanted to be respected as a businessman. Then he wanted to start New West. We didn’t have the money to do it. Clay was determined to do it. We reluctantly supported him. Clay spent freely, and he really wanted to create this footprint on both sides of the country. I remember going to Clay in ’76 saying, “Clay, we’re going to have to find some way of resolving this”—but he didn’t do much about it. Then Rupert Murdoch came along and was prepared to pay a premium on the price at the time. He knew that he was going to be buying something where Clay was not happy about it, and it wasn’t until the very last second, when the board had gone very far with Rupert, very far, at the midnight hour, that Clay produced Katharine Graham, but it was too late by then. He had plenty of time, but he didn’t want to face up to it. I have to tell you, it was one of the most reluctant sales I ever made.

Clay’s great ally and patroness at that time was Kay Graham. She was the one who called Rupert Murdoch to beg him, “Don’t do this to this boy, Rupert. Don’t destroy this boy, don’t take this boy’s magazine from him.” And Rupert put down the phone and said to those of us in the room at the time, “She keeps saying ‘This boy, this boy.’ ‘This boy’ is four or five years older than I am!”

The start-up of New West put the magazine for the first time in years into the red. That was how they were able to take it away from him.


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