The National Magazine Awards: a night of moderate glamor! Restrained joy! A modicum of prestige! Let's dive right in!
The Ellies this year were held in the huge, sidewalk-facing fishbowl that is the Alice Tully Theater, on 65th and Broadway. Passersby without tickets could gaze right into the huge pre-awards cocktail party and wonder jealously, "Who are all those people in suits, none of whom I recognize?" They are the stars of the magazine world, and from a "media reporting" standpoint, we have found the problem: There are only about ten recognizable faces in the magazine industry. Once you spot David Remnick and Graydon Carter and Anna Wintour and Dave Zinczenko and the several baldheaded male doppelganger editors of several disparate Very Important Magazines, you realize that mostly it's just a room full of people in suits.
Attractive people this year, though! The crowd was smaller than usual, but it looked as if this had been accomplished by culling the frumpier employees from the invite list. There was also a purported "red carpet" setup this year. It was not a red carpet that led into the event area. It was just a strip of carpet set up with a backdrop inside the event area, and various people who have nothing to do with magazines pranced down it and posed for a number of cameramen that was, frankly, astounding, considering the relative lack of star power that the magazine industry is able to muster at these things. The celebs in attendance last night, apart from magazine editors:
- Martha Stewart
- Brooke Shields
- Andy Cohn
- Tom Papa, comedic host of The Marriage Ref
- Some male model
- Some actress from 30 Rock who was not Tina Fey
- A few others
- Julia Allison
The Ellies are really a trade convention that aspires to be The Oscars, which is a tiny bit sad, but hey, magazine people deserve to have one glamorous night, too. The awards ceremony itself featured large hauls by the usual suspects— The New Yorker, New York, Wired, National Geographic, etc—leavened with head-scratching huge awards going to Men's Health and Glamour. Which just highlights the fact that any equivalence between Men's Health and The New Yorker is a false equivalence, and therefore the magazine awards are a bit of an exercise in fantasy, in that they pretend that there are more than a very small handful of great magazines, and that any magazine that "serves its readers" can be great. It is not so. But everyone does need to feel special sometimes, so again, let us cut the magazine industry some slack.
At one point in the ceremony the announcer honored GQ for doing what it does "without being snarky," which prompted cackles from the press row (the very last row), populated mostly by people who write about magazines on the internet, SOMETIMES WITH SNARK. (Fuck David Denby). But it is interesting to watch the parade of these powerful magazine editors advancing across the stage. Gerald Marzorati of the New York Times Magazine is terribly shaky and nervous-looking, which makes you like him more. Adam Moss and David Remnick have given so many acceptance speeches they look like they barely even register the crowd in front of them. Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia's Journalism School, continues to evolve into a more fey academic stereotype each year. Anna Wintour, who was inducted into ASME's hall of fame, got a nice video tribute from her brother—so nice it humanized Anna; so nice that I would have to say it was the most persuasively nice thing I've ever seen anyone anywhere say about Anna Wintour. So that was nice.
This year's ceremony also featured a tribute to its sponsor, a bootleg iPad by Qualcomm, partway through, complete with a sixty-second ad shown on the big screen, which was embarrassing and probably not a good sign for the finances of the magazine industry. But all in all, it's a good thing that Oscar, Emmy, or even Tony Award-level hype has not reached the magazine industry yet. We don't want all these editors getting big heads. At the end of night, Adam Moss left out the front door, walking up the steps to Broadway carrying an armful of Ellies, looking like just another weird guy on the street. I like to think he took the subway home. But he probably didn't.