A 30-YEAR POP CULTURE FEST

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — “I didn’t want it to be nostalgic,” said Ingrid Sischy, editor in chief of Interview, referring to the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue, which hit newsstands this week.
“I don’t believe those were the good old days. I wanted to do what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years, which is be true to its spirit.”
With the October anniversary issue, Sischy said she took the same approach she always does with Interview. “It’s based on two things — a tape recorder and a camera — and that they can produce such amazing portraits of people and amazing portraits of the times.”
For the issue, Interview not only looks back at a rich 30-year history, but examines the contemporary pop culture scene, as well as the future.
“Andy [Warhol] was always interested in the future, and was always interested in now,” said Sischy, referring to the founder of Interview and grandfather of Pop Art. Sischy, often referred to as a guru of pop culture herself, was named editor in chief of Interview in 1989, two years after Warhol died.
Although they weren’t friends, Warhol and Sischy knew each professionally. “I didn’t know him very well, but he was always incredibly nice to me,” said Sischy. When Sischy was editor of Art Forum, she said she was always interested in the divisions between high culture and low culture.
“Artists did all different projects, and Andy took a photo of himself in drag. It was a famous issue [February 1982] and we put Issey Miyake on the cover.” Putting a fashion designer on the cover was a first for an art magazine, she said.
Sandra Brant, publisher of Interview and president of Brant Publications, which owns Interview, recalled that Warhol would go out every night with his friend, Paige Powell, and whenever they’d see Sischy, he’d invite her to sit with them, or send someone to bring her over to say hello.
Brant and her now ex-husband, Peter, were Warhol’s initial partners in Interview. They sold their stake in order to back Warhol’s movies. But then two years after Warhol died, the Brants repurchased Interview, in a bidding war with Malcolm Forbes. Sandra Brant and Peter Brant are still partners in Brant Publications, which is managed by Sandra.
“When we took over the magazine, it was losing money,” said Brant. “We turned it around completely within three to four years, and it started making money.”
After Sischy was hired at Interview, she ran it for a few months at Warhol’s Factory. But she said there were too many people hanging around the Factory, and rather than tell them to leave, she decided in 1990 to move the offices downtown to 575 Broadway, where it occupies the fifth floor along with two other Brant publications, Art in America and The Magazine Antiques, in a Jed Johnson-designed space.
With her wide-ranging contacts and knowledge of the art, theater, film, fashion and photography worlds, Sischy was soon able to put her own stamp on the magazine.
“I never felt I had to keep it [Interview] the same. It was so identified with an artist. I didn’t want to soft pedal it. I wanted it to be a magazine for our time,” said Sischy.
Plowing through the archives of the last 30 years of Interview could be a daunting task — and indeed it was — but Sischy says she and her staff were exhilarated by the challenge. The finished product is a record 358 pages, including 198 ad pages, a 124 percent jump from the prior October, said Brant. Key advertisers include Helmut Lang, Emporio Armani, Prada, Diesel, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Donna Karan — all of which bought multiple pages. Brant said they planned to double the number of copies it puts out on the newsstand. The magazine’s rate base is 160,000. Through October, the magazine is up 13.6 percent in ad pages, said Brant.
When Sischy started working on the anniversary issue in July, she decided she wanted to give the archival interviews a contemporary spin. “Even in the ones [interviews] going back, it’s really about going forward,” said Sischy. For example, she selected interviews with budding stars, who are now household names, called “First Impressions.”
For example, there’s a 1977 interview with Steven Spielberg; a 1978 interview with Christopher Reeve; a 1983 chat with Tom Cruise; a 1984 Q and A with Jim Carrey, a 1987 chat with Johnny Depp and1993 interviews with Leonard DiCaprio and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Sischy, wanted to have one photographer shoot the anniversary issue. “For this one, I gave that section to David LaChapelle. When LaChapelle first got off the bus in New York, he met Andy [Warhol] at Studio 54. David felt just right. I took him to lunch after I finished the September issue, and said I’d love it if you could photograph all 30 people.”
The result is an arresting 42-page portfolio called “Hot Pop 30,” featuring LaChapelle portraits of such stars as Sean “Puffy” Combs, Natalie Portman, Sofia Coppola, Mariah Carey, Lance Armstrong (winner of the 1999 Tour de France), Kate Moss, Melanie Chisolm (Mel C of the Spice Girls), Jewel, Mary J. Blige, Thora Birch, Philip Johnson, Sarah Jessica Parker and members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.