• JAMES BRADY
He overreached himself, I think, when he started New West and bought The Village Voice at the same time. He was already overbudget on everything. I put in the Forbes.com column the business about him renting 25 or 30 cars for the staff that he sent out to start New West, and they weren’t Fords or Chevys, they were Alfa Romeos. And then he bought the set of All the President’s Men, and that was the office furniture for New West. And that cost a lot of money.
• RICHARD REEVES
Part of what happened was Carter Burden, who was a major stockholder, hated Clay because Clay hated him. Clay had no use for people like Burden or Alan Patricof or all the money people. He—mistakenly, I think—treated them like dirt.
• KEN AULETTA, writer for New York and The Village Voice.
We went on strike, 40 of us. I was one of the leaders of the strike with Walter Bernard and Richard Reeves. We learned that Murdoch made this hostile bid to buy [New York]. In an expression of support for Clay and as an expression of concern about what Murdoch might do to New York Magazine—taking it downmarket, for instance—we went on strike. It was a weeklong strike on the front page of papers, on television. Amazing how much prominence it got in the press. I went with a delegation which consisted of Water Bernard and Dick Reeves to the office of Howard Squadron, who was Murdoch’s attorney. I did all the talking. I said, “Howard, we’re here because we just wanted to tell you we hope your client, Mr. Murdoch, will step back and realize if he goes through with this hostile takeover, we’re going to leave, we’re not going to work for him, and I don’t think he wants that to happen and it would undermine the value of the property he was buying.” Howard listened to me very politely. We all smiled, thinking, Pretty good argument. Howard looked at me, then Walter, then Dick, and says, “Ken, are you finished?” I said yes. “Well, let me just say that you’re furniture. Murdoch looks upon you as furniture.”
• RICHARD REEVES
The story was Clay was a great editor and a bad businessman, and Murdoch sensed that. He was like a wolf or a shark. He could sense there was blood in the water, and he made his move. It was a time that we all thought the power was really with the writers, with the creative people, and in a way we learned what they learned in Hollywood: That’s not the way it is. The power is with the money. While we wrote about that all the time, and while Clay understood that intellectually, as a businessman I don’t think that he did.
• JAMES BRADY
The first day that I went into the office as the new editor, about half the staff came up to me and said, “I resign,” took their Rolodexes, and went. There was a lot of industrial sabotage, files were ruined and wrecked. One very attractive, very well-brought-up young editor came up and handed me a gift package—I think it was a Tiffany box with a ribbon on it—and I opened it up and inside it said, “Dear Brady, F you.” And that was her resignation. So it was rather colorful.
Dick Reeves had written the cover story for the coming week, and he got his lawyer to call and put through a preliminary-injunction request banning us from using the story. Some of the people stayed around. One or two writers called me and said, “I hated that S.O.B. Felker, but now I’d like to write for New York Magazine if you want me.” I’d rather not say who.
Felker was always interested in Hollywood, which shared many of his interests—money, power, great stories. And when the magazine business wasn’t working out, he went West. But the reality turned out to be quite different from what he had imagined.
• JAMES BRADY
When he was putting out New York Magazine, Hollywood was wooing Clay all the time. Because one after another, the magazine came up with stories that just cried out to be made into movies, such as Urban Cowboy and Saturday Night Fever, and so on and so forth. And so Felker, here in New York, was sort of the darling of Hollywood. And they paid him court. There was one guy out there, Alan Ladd Jr., and he became Clay’s greatest buddy. And he’d fly out to the Coast on a moment’s notice just to hang out with Laddy at the Beverly Hills Hotel and to be wined and dined by the movie moguls. And so Clay thought, “Well, this is pretty good stuff.” And Laddy finally said to him, “Look, Clay, why don’t you stop playing around with the lousy little magazines. Come on out here to the coast, you’ll end up running a studio. You’ll be the new Irving Thalberg.” And Clay really went for it. And he moved lock, stock, and barrel out to L.A. and took on a producer’s title at Ladd’s studio. And after about six months, he realized he wasn’t doing anything. He was sitting in an empty office, no one came to see him, there were no meetings he attended, and he didn’t make any movies. He took Sue Mengers out to lunch, and he said, “Sue, I don’t understand it. When I was in New York, I was important to these guys, they were all paying court to me. I’m out here, and they ignore me. How can you explain it?” And Mengers laughed and said, “Clay, when you were 3,000 miles away running a magazine in New York, you were important. Now you’re out here and you’re just another schmuck.”