In The Magazine

A Trip Down Memory AVENUE

Friday, October 30, 2015

AVENUE editors often remark that a story is not especially worth telling unless there’s an interesting person behind it, and the same can be said for the work off the page. The people who worked on this magazine for the past 40 years have been responsible for every thoughtful feature, gorgeous photograph, and quippy caption over our collective history. Here, the editors of today ask our AVENUE alumni about the happiest, strangest, funniest and most surreal moments of their time at the magazine.

JUDY PRICE, AVENUE founder and President of the National Jewelry Institute (Photo on left)

More than 26,000 magazines might not seem like too many until stacks and stacks of them are completely dominating your Park Avenue apartment. It was back when the magazine first started. We didn’t have our warehouse set up yet, so I just told the printer that they could bring all 26,000 copies to my home. Entire rooms were completely filled up with the magazine, but my main concern was with how they were delivered. Magazines came in through the servants’ entrance, but I needed to make sure AVENUE was properly seen. I started to think about what we could do to ensure that the magazine came in through the front door, where everyone could see it. I got the idea to rent a limousine service so building doormen would rush out to help whatever VIP was surely inside. I went down to Alexander’s and commissioned these elaborate AVENUE delivery uniforms designed to look like those at The Browning School—we even had the word “AVENUE” embroidered on the lapels. Sure enough, the doormen at these top luxury buildings would rush out to open the door and it would be our magazine, ready to be delivered! Then people started to spread, “Oh, AVENUE is the magazine that’s delivered via Rolls-Royce!” but actually, we used a Cadillac.

THE SOCIETY OF MEMORIAL SLOAN–KETTERING CANCER CENTER Hosts the Preview Party for the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show

MARY HILLIARD, Photographer

A happy AVENUE memory took place 25 years ago when I attended the wedding of Anna and Bo Polk. She wore a beautiful satin dress designed especially for her by Ralph Lauren himself, but was an hour late for the service because she all forgot to allow time to button the tiny satin buttons and loops up the back of the dress. As he was 60 and she barely 20, many of their friends wondered if the union would last. But two handsome children and 25 years later, they are still married—and in love!


JANET ALLON, Janet Allon headshot

Former AVENUE Editor-in-Chief, current contributor

I had a lot of memorable times, interviews and borderline insane photo shoots in my various editorial capacities at AVENUE magazine. My recent tour of the brand-new Whitney Museum with Brooke Garber Neidich, just a month or so before its grand opening, was a real behind-the-scenes treat. One cover story that stands out in my mind was the one featuring the model Carmen Dell’Orefice in December 2009. The woman most people simply know as Carmen was still a working model then at age 78 (and in fact is still today at 84), and being the world’s oldest supermodel she was striking a blow for aging women everywhere, which would have been enough to make her a fine and pithy inspirational cover story. But there was a lot more to Carmen than that. A year earlier, the swindler Bernie Madoff had finally confessed to stealing millions from individuals and charities, and as it happened, Carmen had been one of his victims, having even socialized with the Madoffs with then boyfriend Norman F. Levy. She was angry and dished deliciously about the Madoffs, and their lavish but rather tasteless lifestyle. “You couldn’t give me their house in Palm Beach or Cap d’Antibes,” she said at one point. “Life is more about taste than money.” Writer Jeff Podolsky wrote a great story about Carmen, amply helped by her frank wit, and willingness to tell it like it is. “He got caught because he wasn’t as smart as some of the bigger players in the world who knew how to get out,” she said at one point. Her rags to comfort—if not riches—life story is one for the, er, ages.


PATRICK McMULLAN, Social photographer

In the late 1980s, AVENUE decided they were doing a story on the social photographers, which included Mary Hilliard, Eric Weiss and me. We had to pick a celebrity that we liked; Mary had Bill Blass and I picked Joan Rivers. Jesse Frohman took our picture and it was such fun to be on the other side of the camera. Joan was having a lull in her career but she came and was extremely fun. I like to think it helped jump start her comeback and we continued to become great friends for years to come. Jesse gave me a print and I cherish it. When it came out in the magazine, it looked so great!

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MATTHEW J.X. MALADY, AVENUE executive editor 2004-2008, Contributing writer at Slate, The New Yorker

In all honesty, what I remember and cherish most about working at AVENUE are all the supremely kind people who treated me so well while I was there. I recall with great clarity and fondness, for instance, pulling together the 30th anniversary issue of the magazine. There were some late nights, and more photo clearance work than I had previously thought possible, but that experience really helped to crystalize for me the special history that AVENUE has developed over the years. Sorting through all the wonderful photography, and scanning broad smile after broad smile, it really became clear that this publication I was working on was all about joy, and the celebration of life, and good times shared by great friends. I feel genuinely honored and humbled to have been even a tiny part of the magazine’s legacy, and my time at AVENUE is something that I will always hold dear.

KEN SHUNG, Portrait photographerkenshung

For a period, I was doing quite a bit of portraits and party photography for AVENUE, and there was never a dull moment. At the Christmas party in 1993, I was going around taking photos when I came across Judy Price smoking this massive cigar and casually reapplying her lipstick. All of a sudden, she grabbed Duane Michals and smacked a kiss right on his bald head, leaving a bright lipstick print! Another one of my favorite moments was when I photographed mogul Russell Simmons. He was totally snuggling up to the AVENUE intern and I was shooting every second of it! Toward the end of the shoot, I got out my Polaroid camera and told him to do something funny, so he grabbed his crotch. Obviously we couldn’t print those photos, but they’re an excellent personal keepsake!

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AVENUE Editor-in-Chief 2000-2003, Author of “The Need To Say No” and host of “Recipes To Heal When Your Ex Makes You Sick”

I have so many fond memories of AVENUE.  I had done a survey on who was considered one of the best hostesses, and guess who won? Joan Rivers. I got a lot of heat for including her because she was known as a clever, caustic comedienne who some thought was crass. But when it came to entertaining, her attention to detail dazzled, and her delight in gilded table settings and gathering interesting people for engaging dinnertime conversations made her dinner parties a coveted invite. It was a secret side of her and she was so grateful for being acknowledged for it.


KEITH MAJOR, Photographer

My moment is such a happy one, and it’s fairly recent, too. I was shooting Iris Apfel for the cover. She’s such an icon, and I admired everything about her. At the shoot, we were talking and she mentioned that she had seen some of my work, and she thought it was great. You know that scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where he takes off flying and yelling, “She thinks I’m cute! She thinks I’m cute!” after the girl kisses him? That was me for the rest of the day—maybe the rest of the month!—because Iris Apfel said she liked my work.

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BRUCE FEIRSTEIN, AVENUE contributing writer, Vanity Fair contributing editor and screenwriter James Bond films  

I was living on the Upper East Side, and I admired the magazine so much because I just found it really, really smart. You didn’t see any other publications doing what AVENUE was doing at the time. I was just a baby writer, but the editor sent me on assignment out to Connecticut to cover this big foxhunt with Harry Benson, which was both incredible and terrifying. Here was the man who had shot the Beatles when they first arrived in America, and the two of us were driving to a foxhunt in Connecticut! The event happened on the most gorgeous early October day. I remember sitting there drinking champagne with Harry Benson and just thinking to myself, “This is as good as life gets.” The story itself owed everything to Michael Shnayerson’s editing. He put in the phrase “postprandial” and I remember thinking that I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew it sounded elegant.

P1010019 copyJUDITH NEWMAN, AVENUE contributing writer, Author of upcoming book “To Siri With Love” and contributor to The New York Times

Maybe it was a special time in society history, or maybe it was that then editor Susan Mulcahy didn’t have money for focus groups. All I know is that in the late 1980s, AVENUE let me write some of the oddest stories I’ve ever done. One thousands words on a line of clothing for the fashionably dead; an investigative piece on people who enjoyed destroying modern art; a gauzy look at socialites who were nudists at home . . . they all found their way into the pages of this magazine. But most memorable was a piece on a more conventional subject: the writer’s colony, Yaddo. Like everyone else who spent ten minutes at Yaddo, I became overwhelmed with the erotic possibilities of the place. Take a bunch of writers, musicians and artists with no distractions other than themselves, add the unoccupied room where Phillip Roth wrote The Breast, and you too might end up having sex with a stranger whose musical compositions you found stupefying dull and pretentious. But never mind: He was at Yaddo. And I got to pretend I was Hunter S. Thompson for a day.

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GEORGE GURLEY, AVENUE assistant editor 1992-1993, Author of “George & Hilly: Anatomy of a Relationship” and contributor to Vanity Fair and The New York Times

I moved back to New York in 1991 and got a job with AVENUE—it didn’t hurt that my mother knew Judy. It was such a great job, and all I had to do was go out every night. Andy Port, the then editor, even told me, “One of your jobs is to go to all of the best parties,” but I was 23 and thought I should be at Harper’s or something and had an

attitude. It was so glamorous—one day I would be talking to models on a shoot, then heading out to a black tie event in Lincoln Center to do interviews. Even so, I made a couple of big mistakes. There was a fashion shoot and it was my job to bring back a bunch of jewelry—about $400,000 worth. For whatever reason, my key to the office wouldn’t work and so I just left the bag of jewels on the floor and left them unattended for like an hour. Somehow, I got caught and was put on probation, but nothing really happened. It was such a perfect, ideal job. I didn’t appreciate it.

Quintessentially and The Peggy Siegal Company present the NY Premiere of IFC Films’ LIBERALMARA SEIGLER, AVENUE assistant editor 2012, Page Six Senior Reporter

My favorite moment at AVENUE was writing a story on Hunt Slonem’s West Side studio. He took me and photographer Sophie Elgort around his huge, otherworldly studio filled with a ton of plants and live birds, pointing out his collection of all these amazing 18th- and 19th-century antiques. So you’re in this space that feels completely outside New York, hearing about these pieces and his bunny and butterfly paintings and listening to him talk about how his work with a psychic helped him with his Lincoln paintings, and then he ended up briefly painting for us with an Amazonian parrot sitting on his shoulder and singing. It was surreal and amazing.



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