time Caitlin visited San Francisco, she got Speak involved in a Tricky
concert. We had tables and posters up and she invited lots of people from
local ad agencies. But as they RSVP'd the day of the show, she realized
she didn't have enough tickets. She tried to buy more from the club manager,
but getting tickets to give away to advertising people that are meant
for fans at the door isn't exactly a sympathetic cause.
Speak compilation CD. The conspicuous use of the "Rolling Pin Donuts"
sign required a trip to their corporate offices. They kindly agreed.
I went with Caitlin to buy more Tricky tickets at Tower Records.
There were no tickets and she suddenly turned from this exuberant, can-do
person into a screaming, temper-tantrum-wielding monster. I'm not one
who likes to make a scene, or even be in the midst of one, so I was mortified
and cowering. I could only think how angry the people in the long line
behind us were getting. But she wouldn't give up, as if the poor soul
behind the counter could conjure them up.
She approached fans in line at the club to buy extras for her. The club
manager had apparently told her to stop, and when Caitlin didn't, the
manager pulled me aside and threatened to throw us all out. Caitlin somehow
bought just enough tickets for everyone, but I got a letter the following
week saying that because of Caitlin, Speak was banned from all future
events at the club.
In a way it was a tribute to what we created that people felt
it was important enough to react in such a big way. There are a lot of
people who aren't happy with someone who is super-happy and enthusiastic.
If they're miserable, it actually annoys them.
We pushed copies of Speak into everyone's hands as they left, which they
all dropped in street outside. It seemed like a silly exercise, but not
to Caitlin. We weren't there to convert an audience; we were there to
court advertisers. Lots of media planners live for free stuff and it can
influence ad decisions. It never made any sense to me, but I suppose that's
why I wasn't successful.
I felt really dumb sitting at a table handing out magazines that no one
wanted or cared about. We didn't exactly hold much of a presence. And
not knowing Tricky's music, I felt the whole evening was supremely boring.
Our later endeavors into the night club/performance world were much more
interesting and fun.
ad agency people preferred Tricky
We later threw some of our own eventsreadings, jazz, poetrythat
were more in keeping with the magazine. They all drew good crowds, but
I don't think a single ad agency person ever showed up. It really highlighted
the gap between the people who were reading Speak and the people on whom
we relied to buy ads.
Free tickets to events are a great way to get to know clients,
to get them to take your calls, but it still comes down to what you're
Because of Caitlin's protests that there wasn't enough in the magazine
for her to sell, we published a music supplement, she distributed it to
Manhattan clubs, and we turned a small profit from ads. But it was embarrassing,
just a bunch of recycled music articles from Speak and a few other things
that weren't good enough to be in the magazine.
The music supplement was a little go-cart to make some money and use as
a promotional tool. We put it together in no time and advertisers were
interested in it. But it suddenly became a project of Dan's. I was miffed
because it was a simple idea that worked, and it was being changed, it
would distract from Speak, and obviously it didn't go anywhere.
I decided to re-launch it as a more ambitious project called Easy, as
in "Speakeasy." In addition to music, it had lots of pop culture and fashion
editorial, and was mainly pulled together by an editor in Los Angeles.
It was every bit as bad as the music supplement, but at least it had more
"Music Only" Supplement. Both the worst thing we ever published
and the only thing we ever published to turn a profit.
The whole project wasn't what Dan wanted to be doing and there
was a lot of resentment from him over it. He'd say, "I
don't want to edit this, you edit it." I wanted to do a good job
but there was so much animosity from him about everything in that magazine
that it was hard to keep a positive attitude. It seemed doomed from the
I think Dan and I would have been a powerful team if we were both left
to do what it was that we were good at. If you don't give support and
you're controlling, it's very hard for someone to grow. It stopped me
from pushing Speak in ways I could have.
It was my job to get Caitlin excited about specifically what Speak was,
and convince her that it was miles better than any amount of music and
fashion. But I failed. Naive as it may sound, I still believe if Caitlin
and I were on the same page we would have been tough to beat.
Speak was such a powerful little communicator on its own. We should have
been better about talking to each other.
The first time I talked to Caitlin, she was like a den mother:
"It's great to have some
help, if you ever have a hard day give me a call so we can commiserate,
etc." Then she began calling me to deliver packages for herforty-
to sixty-mile roundtrips from my office. I dealt with it by not answering
my phone. I was getting two or three messages a day from her "just
checking in." When I finally called her back, she tried to scold
me for disappearing on her. She never called me after that.
I remember Dan saying, "There's
this guy, I really think he's great." I thought, "Well,
it's not going to happen now, but he's obviously going to take my place."
I never wanted Caitlin's job, but when any seller is not doing
well anything can be interpreted as a sign of being cast aside. Once I
quit being her go-boy, it really hit home. If Dan told me to make deliveries
for her, I would have. But he didn't. This indifference to her needs must
have led her to believe I somehow had Dan's endorsement.
As soon as John became Speak's ad director he said, "Man,
I don't want to do this anymore." For all of the resumes I received
from writers and editors and designers, no one wanted to sell ads for
Speak, so I had to convince him to stay.
The reluctant salesman is the perfect description of John.
The first time he visited the office, this laid-back guy with a ponytail
walked in and I thought he was just some fan of the magazine.
I swear that one day I'm going to get out of advertising. I love and I
hate the same thing about it. The fact that I never know what's going
to happen with the ads makes it seem like anything is possible, or that
the end is right around the corner.
I considered John to be a more sympathetic figure than Caitlin in that
he seemed to see the editorial for what it was, and not what it needed
to be. But we still had our share of disagreements.
When I moved onto a subject that Dan didn't want to talk about, he had
this in-one-ear-out-the-other quality; he would just say "uh-huh"
as long as I pursued it. If I had a problem with one word in a piece,
he would say if I had my way we wouldn't run anything interesting. The
smallest criticism of edit would provoke him. We would go off into long,
heated discussions until it was obvious neither one of us was going to
convince the other. He would say, "It's
my magazine." And I'd say, "It's
still a bad idea." His closer always was, "Don't
worry John, the advertisers won't read it anyway."
John always wanted to play it safe. My take was there was no way advertisers
were going to plow through one hundred and twenty pages of Speak looking
for something controversial. I also thought we should sell a few more
ads before we worried so much about offending advertisers. The editorial
was never under obligation to the opinions of the ad director. I'm sure
that seemed like an arrogant position to John and Caitlin.
One article mentioned Calvin Klein and his sweatshops, using Klein as
a euphemism for sleaze in the fashion biz. I thought I had a shot at selling
them into Speak and got pretty upset. I had never heard anything like
that about CK; I knew people just blamed stuff on him without really thinking
about it. So Dan checked it out and there was nothing regarding slave
labor in the Klein empire.
John asked me to take the Calvin Klein/sweatshops reference out. I said
no, we argued, then later in fact-checking Tomas learned through a couple
of human-rights organizations that CK was a conscientious company on the
issue. Ralph Lauren, though, was not. So I changed Klein to Lauren for
factual reasons. From then on, whenever John wanted something changed,
he'd remind me of the switch. It almost made me wish I had just left it
in and been sued.
I once said to Dan in reference to something else,
"You probably think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." Whatever disagreement
we were in the middle of escalated into an open argument between me, the
conspiracist, and Dan, the single-gun theorist.
John's an absolute conspiracistUFOs, basketball games being fixed,
Kennedy. I'm just the opposite; the only person who believes Oswald acted
alone. We argued for hours about this, going over the same stupid facts.
The funny thing is neither of us had anything invested in the subject;
it was just a way to blow off some steam from the dire advertising situation.
When I don't sell an ad, Dan says, "Whatever.
I'll fill the space with something." But most publishers make it
sound like you're on the verge of losing your job. They always want to
keep you on edge. They feel like there's no reason everyone shouldn't
be advertising in their magazine, that they're perfect for everyone.
Caitlin was incredibly determined, marched into New York agencies every
day, had pages and pages of phone bills and sold six pages of ads. John
was more circumspect, much less aggressive, isolated in Southern California,
and sold six pages of ads. At some point I had to blame the magazine.
I don't like calling people more than once a week or once every two weeks.
I don't think that Speak is so important that I need to call anyone every
day. I respect their time. I don't know if that's a very good trait in
John thought I should wear a suit when we traveled to New York to meet
agency people. But I wasn't comfortable in a suit, hadn't worn one in
years, and didn't have any money. Still, a week before the trip I bought
two suits and charged over a thousand dollars on my credit card. John
and I walked into our first meeting in Manhattan looking like a pair of
stiffs. It turned out to be with this twenty-something media planner in
khakis and an Eddie Bauer shirt. John asked him some questions about his
brand, he asked us a question about the magazine, and the meeting was
over in ten minutes. We didn't get the ad and I haven't worn the suit
every hip, young New York ad agency dude is wearing this year.
I was working in a corporate environment, wearing a tie every
day. Then I got my first journalistic assignment, an article for Speak
on this Zoob toy. I got to go to a cool loft on my lunch hour and interview
this guy about his toy. It was such a burst of daylight in this incredibly
boring day. That's when I realized this could be a much more interesting
way to go.
Tomas was not only smart and dedicated, he was someone who didn't need
to be rich or famous; he had an obvious lack of ambition in that regard.
This made him perfect for Speak. All of us struggle to pay rent every
month. We've had opportunities to be in a better financial position and
passed. We have different backgrounds and interests, but that's one thing
we all have in common.
I don't tell anyone that I don't have any money; you're not supposed to
appear to be broke. But since I know everyone else at Speak is, it's no
big deal. We're all in the same boat.
Even among small magazines, Speak always seemed like the smallest. I remember
I was having lunch with the publisher of Might once and that morning
I got a call from his assistant confirming our appointment. I thought,
"Wow, they've got it
made!" To this day I've never had someone confirm an appointment
for me. But, then, I haven't exactly had lots of appointments.
The main reason Speak was such a good working environment was the absence
of any competitive backbiting where everyone is trying to claw his or
her way past everyone else. Of course that was mainly because there was
It's funny how the audience always imagines this large magazine staff.
People will call and ask, "Can
I have the design department?" Well, that's me. People are still
astonished that it's just two people. Dan and I are in charge of other
people, but basically it's us.
I've gone entire issues, especially recently, working mostly alone, going
back and forth with the writers and Martin and Tomas over phone or e-mail.
It was good that we were so in sync, but sometimes, usually when I was
looking up the ellipsis rule for the hundredth time, I felt oddly disposable.
My concept was set, Martin knew what I liked and didn't like, Tomas was
as capable a copy editor as I was. I could have easily just picked the
stories and gone on vacation for two months.
It's bizarre that recent issues were put together with very little personal
contact. But it was actually a net plus because the workplace suddenly
expanded to include places all around townhome, the museum, the
strip mallnot just a dank office.
At the end of each issue we had to transform from being burned out and
disappointed to being motivated again. I would hardly look at an issue
when it finally printed, I was already onto the next one: assigning, paginating,
re-paginating. I was driven by dissatisfaction and every new issue was
like a new relationship; it represented a chance to finally get it right.
I knew we were dead, yet I wanted to enjoy it while it while it lasted