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Art and Life

GQ was only one of editor Art Cooper’s many earthly pleasures.

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Art Cooper loved GQ, the magazine he lost only days before his death. After he was replaced as editor-in-chief, some said that his demise was timely, because no man who cared about his work as much as Art could have anything to live for once the work was gone.

But Art loved Amy, his wife, and more: Seabiscuit, Sinatra, steaks, Sunday-morning television, vodka martinis, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, immodestly striped ties, lunches with women who were beautiful, lunches with women who were smart (he could go both ways), Elaine’s (but not for the food), London (but not for the Brits), and Penn State football. There wasn’t much he didn’t relish, except maybe the canoe he kept at his place in the country. For an ex–Navy man, he didn’t paddle around much.

He was the supreme optimist of the twentieth century. (Compared with him, Winston Churchill was a prophet of doom.) He was going to shoot golf in the 90s, publish books, and stride both banks of the Bosporus. He was a small-town, left-handed high-school pitching star who became a big-city, big-picture guy. He never wanted to be anything other than what he was, although if he could have been Sandy Koufax, all bets were off.

He was stricken at The Four Seasons, his favorite restaurant. The right place, maybe, but not the right time. None of us who loved him and thrived under him and sat in his office during cocktail hour and listened to his eye-popping adventure tales of life at Condé Nast and beamed when he told us how talented we were—he could convince even morose, self-doubting writers of their promise—understood why Art had to die. I heard it said that he must surely have become a disconsolate man whose time was up, but I know how happy he was while he lived and I’m just as certain he wanted the pleasure of going on with life.


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