No one can out-eat Tom Ryder, and Liz Smith has never slept with Lewis Lapham, though she wouldn’t exactly mind.
Those were just two of the themes to surface earlier today during the Magazine Lifetime Achievement Awards luncheon at Gotham Hall feting Ryder — outgoing CEO of Reader’s Digest and owner of a Darien, Connecticut, barbeque joint — and Lapham, the iconic former editor of Harper’s.
Over herb and peppercorn crusted chicken, Ryder and Lapham were showered with praise from their glossy peers, both live and in pre-taped video segments (“I love you almost as much as spaghetti,” said Rachael Ray, whose Everyday launch last year may be the crowning achievement for Ryder’s 8-year run at Reader’s Digest). Friend and — what else? — uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer said it is “a dangerous thing to try and keep up on the eating path” with Ryder. Longtime friend Gary Rich, former head of HR at American Express Publishing during Ryder’s tenure there, recalled the moment Ryder asked him, “How could butter possibly be bad for me?” in 1986.
Ryder, for his part, said that magazines “not only tranformed his life,” they gave him one.
In introducing Lapham, Smith, the 84-year-old New York Post gossipist, said, “I’ve never slept with him and I don’t have any anecdotes about him.”
“He’s a snob — a literate one.”
Smith admitted that when she tried to turn the “low-brow gossip readers” of her column onto Lapham, “my editors at the New York Post hated it.” Her response? “Even low-brows like to swim upstream.”
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter opened Lapham’s video tribute [above] by recalling an outing with Lapham and a woman who was disappointed upon hearing Lapham was not the editor of Harper’s Bazaar.
Lapham closed the three-hour lunch by reflecting on his 28 years as Harper’s editor: “As an editor I’ve been thought of as cynical or an acerbic observer of the American scene,” Lapham said. “Optimism is an occupational hazard.”
[VIDEO CREDITS: Directed by Joia Speciale; Becky Glupczynski, producer; Scott Miller, director of photography]