Yesterday we told you that McKinsey-driven Conde Nast was firing all of its receptionists. A blow to the company's editorial glamor, yes. But the dragnet has also seized the New Yorker's whimsical, overqualified "jack of all trades!" [UPDATE: Maybe not!]
The latest purge will cost 13 Conde receptionists their jobs, according to John Koblin. The most famous of those, Keith Kelly reports: The New Yorker's "guy who is absurdly overqualified to be a receptionist". [Or not—See update below].
The most eyebrow-raising of the cuts was The New Yorker's jack-of-all-trades, Charles Stanley Ledbetter, who had been praised in book forwards as a beloved figure by The New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick.
A 20-year veteran, Ledbetter had been a curator of The New Yorker Gallery, and had worked on several book projects, including the humor book collection "Fierce Pajamas" and a collection of business cartoons from the weekly magazine.
The New Yorker, of course, could not simply have some underling there answering phones; they had a Renaissance man for whom signing for packages was just a way to fill the time when he wasn't plotting a new (invitation-only) art exhibition in the magazine's lobby. The Village Voice described Ledbetter (pictured) in a 2001 profile:
Like so many on the edit staff at The New Yorker, C.S. Ledbetter is not content to simply do his job, which ranges from reading unsolicited manuscripts to working the phones. Fiction writing and pastels are two genres Ledbetter has turned his hand to in the past. But in his latest bid for immortality, The New Yorker's underground cult leader has turned the reception area, on the 20th floor of 4 Times Square, into an art gallery, decorating it as if it were his own home.
Ledbetter even wrote a letter to us once. Ah well; C.S., you were meant for bigger things. Conde is a little low-rent for you now, anyhow. You all see what's happening here, don't you? Conde is turning into Hearst: a once-mighty and glamorous company where the expense accounts were no object, being painfully transformed into just another cost-cutting paper-pusher. (No offense, Hearst). The new greeter in the lobby of the New Yorker, and every other Conde mag: "A phone."
[Pic: Paula Gillen]
UPDATE: The New Yorker's PR person tells us that although the magazine is losing a receptionist, it is not losing Ledbetter; they're keeping him on staff by moving him into an editorial position. Specific details are still being worked out. So, whimsy lives! Receptionists, however, still do not.