Holding the National Magazine Awards at night has brought more glitz to what used to be a staid lunchtime gathering – flowing cocktails and bountiful buffet, semi-relevant celebrity presenters — and turned it into “the one night of the year when magazine editors resemble the people who play them on TV,” as Cindi Leive, Glamour editor in chief and outgoing president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, put it from the stage.
Outside Rose Hall in Jazz at Lincoln Center Thursday night, Wired’s new publisher, Chris Mitchell, stood beside editor in chief Chris Anderson. Both Chrises joked about their passing physical resemblance (both are tall with shaved heads) and the possibility of switching places. “Can I get the speaker’s fees?” joked Mitchell. “Can I get the commissions?” countered Anderson.
Even as editors griped about the ceremony and pretended they weren’t basking in the schmoozing, there were bright spots. The night brought good tidings to some smaller independent magazines, and a smile to faces of National Geographic Magazine group president John Griffin (National Geographic took home three ASMEs) and S. I. Newhouse Jr. (Condé Nast took home seven awards including a win for its new business magazine Portfolio). Padma Lakshmi cooed about fiction’s effects on one’s loins, an apparent and uncomfortable reference to her ex-husband Salman Rushdie, and when Tina Brown handed Graydon Carter an award for profile writing, those with long memories wondered about longstanding rumors of ill will. (Carter, who succeeded Brown at Vanity Fair, may have excerpted her Princess Diana book years later, but he also published a parody of it.)
When Backpacker won for General Excellence, preventing New York magazine from winning the honor a third year in a row, Jonathan Dorn, the editor in chief of Backpacker, confessed that Adam Moss had been haunting his dreams, taunting him with the word “threepeat.” And when Rolling Stone won for columns and commentary, the announcer boomed that Jann Wenner was accepting the award — except he was noticeably absent. “That’s not the Jann I know,” presenter Charlie Rose blurted out. A spokesman for Wenner said he had a longstanding family commitment, and Will Dana accepted in his place.
The New Yorker’s David Remnick, accepting his one Ellie for General Excellence after leaving the ceremony empty-handed last year, remarked, “I kind of forgot what you’re supposed to do.” At the after party at Porter House, his Ellie eventually ended up on the floor in a corner as staffers ate. Nearby, Portfolio staff – including editor in chief Joanne Lipman, group president David Carey and publisher William Li – dined on sliders and seafood, Landmarc and Stone Rose being already full of other after parties and non-affiliated drinkers. Condé Nast corporate brass and New Yorker editors also feasted, and People staffers, including managing editor Larry Hackett, gathered at the front bar of the restaurant.
A few blocks north, Jim Nelson — who had partially dedicated his award to GQ’s longtime editor in chief, the late Art Cooper – corralled his staff to a private room at Bar Boulud to celebrate GQ’s win for General Excellence. The Ellie sat in a lit cubbyhole until the party broke up at 1 a.m., and the after-after party moved to the Emerald Inn. Upstairs at Bar Boulud, Gourmet toasted its win for photography, its third since 2004, and editor in chief Ruth Reichl had the Ellie as the centerpiece of the table. New York magazine celebrated its Ellie for Leisure Interests at The Spotted Pig and the staff from National Geographic celebrated their relative sweep with Champagne and dumplings at Shun Lee. Their Ellies sat clustered in the middle of the table — until the food came.