Last night was the semi-glamorous ceremony of the National Magazine Awards, "The Ellies," the longest night in magazines. Let's relive it!
6:30 P.M: "Cocktail hour" starts in a cavernous room on the ground floor at 583 Park Avenue.
7:15: I arrive at cocktail hour. Whoa, what a clusterfuck. Reporting notes: Bethenny Frankel is walking around in there.
7:45: The crowd moves upstairs to the ballroom. The press moves even more upstairs to the balcony, where the reporters are squeezed impossibly tight into two long tables. We get what we pay for.
7:50: The ceremony begins. People editor Larry Hackett reads from a Mike Bloomberg proclamation naming May 9 as "Magazine day" in New York City. Then there are memorials for Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, the Brooklyn-based photographers killed in Libya last month. Would have been nicer to name the day after them, Mike Bloomberg.
8:00: The awards begin! The first celeb presenter is Lynsey Addario, the photographer who was herself kidnapped in Libya in March. She gets to present the "Fashion, service, and lifestyle magazines" award. Must be a great, great thrill for her.
General Excellence—Fashion, Service, and Lifestyle Magazines: Women's Health. Huge, huge shriek goes up. I mean a really notable shriek.
Feature Writing: Los Angeles Magazine, for "The End" by Ben Ehrenreich. Rocco DiSpirito presented this award. Good job, Rocco.
Feature Photography: ESPN the Magazine, for "Bodies We Want." This was a photo essay of naked people with great bodies. Ringer.
8:20: Now we stop everything and take a "45-minute" break to eat dinner. What? Why? Much grumbling ensues in the press section. The acoustics in the space are awful. It's only possible to make out every other word coming from the stage. The food service is slow. (Again: we paid nothing.) And shouldn't we have eaten before they started the awards? And why are they serving food off of platters onto each person's plate one by one in such a tight space? And why is the food bland? And why isn't there any salt and pepper? "Worst magazine awards ever," proclaims the woman next to me, who's been to all of them.
9:15: The awards begin, again. Katie Couric, the nominal host, comes out to much applause. Magazine people are suckers for a celebrity. Katie name-drops as many magazines as possible in the space of three minutes, so that those magazine editors, who are all starfuckers, can brag about it the next day. By the way, did you know that Jimmy Fallon name-dropped Gawker in the very first joke of the 2009 awards? Yeah, he did. Suck it, Garden and Gun.
General Excellence, Literary, Political, and Professional Magazines: Poetry. (The magazine.) This is the category for tiny fancy magazines that no one actually reads. Poetry magazine apparently bought a table at the dinner, blowing their entire annual budget.
Columns and Commentary: Vanity Fair, for columns by Christopher Hitchens. Every column was accompanied by a photo of a bald, cancer-stricken Hitchens. Ringer.
Essays and Criticism: The Paris Review, for "Mister Lytle: An Essay" by John Jeremiah Sulivan. Editor Lorin Stein gives an admirably short acceptance speech. Watch and learn, magazine people.
Fiction: Virginia Quarterly Review, for "Minor Watt" by Paul Theroux. This award was presented by the first openly gay Welsh rugby champion, for some reason. He mumbled unintelligibly, but try to find a magazine employee who will criticize a big-ass rugby player. "He's the guy being played by Mickey Rourke in a movie!" fumed one reporter next to me. "Why didn't they fucking tell me that on the red carpet?"
Design: GQ. Editor Jim Nelson went up to accept the award. "I live in the same building as Jim Nelson," a nearby gossip reporter whispered to me, winking meaningfully. I have no idea what the subtext was. Jim Nelson made the mistake of calling up his design director, Fred Woodward, to give an acceptance speech. God his speech was SO GOD DAMN LONG. Just ridiculously, embarrassingly long. It had already been a few minutes before Woodward got around to thanking the guy who gave him his very first job several decades ago. After he was finally coaxed off stage, Katie Couric came on and said "Now I understand why none of you went into television." Ha.
Leisure Interests: Men's Journal. We're into the fluff categories now.
Personal Service: Men's Health, for "I Want My Prostate Back." I was rooting for O magazine's "My Bra's Too Tight," but oh well. "For us, service is job one," said Men's Health editor Dave Zinczenko, who writes primarily about abs. His speech was way too long, too. Serve us with short speeches next time, Dave Zinczenko.
General Excellence, Special Interest Magazines: Los Angeles magazine. You can really tell that editor Mary Melton is an L.A. person. Let's leave it at that.
Public Interest: The New Yorker, for "Letting Go" by Atul Gawande. This (very worthwhile) award came after a long speech from some lady about the importance of tablet apps, and a scholarship presentation. It's after 10 p.m. now.
News and Documentary Photography: The New York Times Magazine, for "The Shrine Down the Hall" by Ashley Gilbertson. The aforementioned Lynsey Addario was nominated twice in this category and didn't win. Sucks. Gerald Marzorati, the now-departed editor of the NYT mag who presided over this story, wasn't at the ceremony; his replacement, Hugo Lindgren, picked up the award with an expression of "Hey, whatever, not my deal."
Magazine Section: New York, for "Strategist." Mandatory Adam Moss award.
Single-Topic Issue: National Geographic, for "Water: Our Thirsty World." National Geographic is an awesome magazine, let's all agree.
General Excellence, Finance, Technology, and Lifestyle: Scientific American. Which was in the same category as Backpacker and GQ, for some fucking reason. David Copperfield presented this award. Oooo.
10:45: At this point, the awards paused—with six categories still left to be presented—in order to give a lifetime achievement award (Biggest Lifetime Dry Cleaning Bill) to Tom Wolfe. First, a long intro speech by Jann Wenner. Then, Tom Wolfe took the stage, and started talking. The crowd—some of which had been there for more than four hours now—had started to thin out. Tom Wolfe just kept talking. The reporters grumbled and commiserated. And finally, after the clock had passed 11 p.m., a bunch of us got up and left.
Tom Wolfe was still talking.
[Later, National Geographic won Magazine of the Year. They deserved it. A full list of winners is here. Photo: Getty]