Friday, January 18, 2002 posted by Jen at 1/18/2002 07:10:00 PM
It's wrong to gloat. It's bad form to take pleasure in the failures of others. But now that Talk magazine has indeed died an ignominious death, let me just say, for the record, in my best Nelson from the Simpsons voice -- HAH hah!
In the wake of Talk's folding, there will be pieces a-plenty of what fabled editrix was like to work with, whether or not she wept as she told staffers the bad news. As for me, I never got to work with Tina. I did, however, try to interview her. It was one of the more wretched moments of my life as a reporter.
In the summer of 1999, I was assigned the ungrateful task of trying to write a story about Talk's launch for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I'd read reams of biographical material about La Tina. I'd talked to various NYC magazine-watchers and media critics. I'd interviewed Graydon Carter and Russ Smith. All that remained was trying to get a few minutes in the presence of Ms. Brown.
I called Talk and was delivered into the haute-Brit hands of the in-house publicist. "I'm teddibly sorry," she lied. "Ms. Brown has no time for interviews."
I pointed out that the "no time for interviews" rule hadn't applied to the Washington Post, which had just published a lengthy interview with Tina. (I felt like also pointing out that I remembered Ms. Tea and Crumpets when she'd worked at Miramax, and hadn't sounded even vaguely British. I felt like saying, "Come on, honey, you're about as British as Madonna!" But I decided to keep my mouth shut).
So I did what journalists do well -- I begged. I pleaded. I promised the publicist that I had no hope of even attending the grand launch party (and boy, I'm sure she risked a rupture trying to hold back mad gales of laughter at the thought of inviting me to hobnob with Salman and Demi), and that I just needed a few moments in the presence of Herself so that I could finish my story. Barring that, I needed a telephone interview. Not to much to ask for -- especially from a nascent publication whose bosses, you'd think, would crave the free ink.
"Ms. Brown," I was told, "is on holiday." The only time she could possibly spare even a second to call me was on a Thursday afternoon in late July. A Thursday afternoon, as luck would have it, that I was scheduled to be on a holiday of my own, a bike-and-camping trip through the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
What was a girl to do? I wrote the story -- a long, long story, a story that I would love to link to, but can't, because it's buried somewhere in the for-pay section of the Inky's archives -- around her. I went off on my bike trip, arranging my schedule so that, on the appointed Thursday afternoon, I'd be in possession of a fully-charged cell phone, and near a pay phone, in case the cell phone wouldn't work, I checked my voice-mail religiously and, wouldn't you know it, the day before our scheduled phone chat, Tina backed out. "Too busy," said the message. "Teddibly sorry." Yeah, right.
I called back. I begged some more. I explained that this was our big Sunday Arts & Entertainment centerpiece and that the paper (okay, the reporter), was going to to look stupid if we ran a huge piece about Talk and couldn't get one lousy quote from Tina. Nothing doing. I wound up using my cell phone to edit the story with my understandably disappointed editor, with the obligatory graf reading "Brown declined to be interviewed for this story." And on that day, on my way to Skaneateles, I solemnly vowed that no matter what else happened, now matter how stellar a staff it attracted, no matter how vigorously it pimped Gwyneth Paltrow, no matter what stunning relevations it promised in re: Chandra Levy's sex life, I was never ever ever going to purchase so much as a single copy of Talk.