The Legacy of Magazine Icon Clay Felker


Clay Felker, the editor who invented the modern city magazine, died July 1 at his home in Manhattan after a lengthy struggle with cancer. He was 83.

Most of the reverent obituaries mention his seminal work at Esquire -- which led to his unleashing of such marquee-named writers as Truman Capote and Hunter Thompson.

But he fathered what's come to be known as "the New Journalism" (Tom Wolfe's "Tiny Mummies," for starters) after Esquire, as editor of the Sunday supplement of the New York Herald Tribune in the mid-1960s, which led to his founding, with art director Milton Glaser, of New York magazine in 1968.

More than offering up a revised notion of the city magazine, what was revolutionary about New York was its look and tone: the marriage of hopped-up prose and equally important in-your-face graphics put the idea of "snark" on the map, before there was such a word, or for that matter, any cleverly iconic "map" to print it on.

A good deal less, however, has been written about his time, in the late 1980s, as editor of Adweek.

Two of Adweek's founders, Jack Thomas and Ken Fadner, had worked with Felker on the business side of New York. They left, as Felker did, with Rupert Murdoch's hostile takeover.

Then Thomas, Fadner and Penn Tudor bought three regional advertising publications and created Adweek, designed as a hipper, more mainstream take on trade magazines. Walter Bernard, and Clay's old partner, Glaser, designed Adweek, and its oversized, iconic red logo, to look clean and modern, and include the work of many of the same illustrators who were regularly seen in New York.

Meanwhile, Felker had launched the Daily News Tonight, a flashier edition of the newspaper, which proved unsuccessful. He moved over to Adweek.

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