• Robert Birnbaum

Fifteen Minutes...

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

The last gasp of the once bell weather of the downtown Manhattan hipoisie demimonde, Interview magazine has been expelled and now it remains for the bankruptcy court to deal with the accounting issues and archives and for pundits (and me) and such to weigh in on the 50 year old publication's legacy.

The first thing to note is that Andy Warhol's Interview (as it was initially entitled) originated as a vanity project. As legend has it, Andy Warhol was denied press credentials to the 1969 New York Film Festival . Not to be denied and being famously parsimonious, Andy founded the downtown tabloid which became Andy Warhol's Interview. With the universe's center of ambition having no shortage of talented sharpees, Interview evolved into a potent publication, mostly by virtue of influencing the attendants of the echo chamber of at least two of New York's boroughs. And it probably didn't hurt that Andy Warhol promised every one that they could be on the cover of the magazine.

You can learn about the various elements of the magazine's decline and fall (see below): debts, law suits, mismanagement but in the immediate postmortems I saw no mention of the most obvious reason: the publication had long ago lost it's singular status in the east coast media jungle hierarchy. Adopting the lame rubric "the crystal ball of pop" was one signal that magazine has sunk into mediocrity and, of course, the undifferentiated thicket of so called celebrity that was the province of almost every extant magazine fed into the useless competition for bold-faced named editorial content—which did nothing to differentiate Interview from other arborcidal glossies .

Ramparts magazine, the great turning point in magazine publishing

Very few magazines made an impression on me until I discovered the short lived Avant Garde (14 issues), Paul Krassner's The Realist and the pioneering outlier publication Ramparts circa 1970. But it wasn't until sometime in the early 80's when there was a wave of visionary publications — Wet, Stuff Magazine (both from LA), Spy magazine (which to its eternal credit coined the rubric "short fingered vulgarian" to describe real estate grifter Donald Trump), Details, Metropolis , Art Spiegelmans's Raw and, of course, Interview.

Richard Bernstein created the distinctive covers from 1972 to 1989.

In its time, Interview was a visionary publication, distinct from the market-driven service catalogs that were propagating around cities, usually taking the name of the city of service . By my definition, a visionary periodical was not necessarily ground breaking as much as it was clear the editorial content was not formed by the advertising departmernt or focus groups.

Though Interview removed Andy Warhol's name from the cover, the logo still appears on the website

Andy Warhol in a n L.A, Eyeworks print advertisement

By 1983, I began publishing a Boston version of Stuff Magazine and started to take Interview seriously, I borrowed some of its distinctive features amongst which was the notion that advertisers could only purchase full page ad space with the great encouragement to 'editorialize' about themselves. Additionally I worked to create a highly visual editorial that also allotted full pages (lenghty conversation/interviews came much later. Calling upon local photographers, designers and illustrators as well as hip boutiques, various venues of a roiling night life and the new New York style eateries (eg '29' Newbury) Stuff magazine borrowed from but did not emulate Interview.

Anyway, after Warhol's death, the magazine ended up in the hands of another one of those money bag dullards who find out publishing is a money losing gambit and despite the involvement of some serious and talented contributors (Glen O Brien, Ingrid Sischy, Fabian Baron), the magazine drifted into irrelevance.

At the time that Newton Minow (FCC chairman under Kennedy) was describing television as a vast wasteland, general interest magazines (Life, Look, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post) were becoming an endangered species— a trend which evolved into the birth of niche publications like Psychology Today, People, Entertainment Weekly ad nauseum. The short lived explosion of creative publishing devolved into a shelter and shopping glossy epidemic which portends bad news for the viability of imaginative publishing and sadly has moved most of the innovative attempts on line...


1. "Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine has folded" (New York Post)

2. "Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine Shuts Down" (New York Times)

3 "Interview magazine closes, ending a 50-year survey of Manhattan cool" (The Guardian)

4." Interview Magazine Shuts Down After Raft of Wage, Harassment Lawsuits" ( New York Observer)

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