Editors are Slime
The names of the characters have been changed to protect the innocent, and spare the stupid.
How do you know when you love something? When you tolerate the ups and downs equally, and unconditionally. I’ve been a writer for fifteen years, and I still feel as ardent about it as when I started writing in high school. I was a journalist, but not as well-known as I am now, let’s say. I was starting to establish myself as a music journalist when I went from regional to (inter)national status.
The life of a journalist can be exciting: Hanging out with Marilyn Manson. Being groped by Gene Simmons. I’m not bragging. I’m honored that I’ve gotten to see and do what others only dream about. Conversely, I’ve had times when I came close to giving up. Or almost being forced to give up…
Like every person, I’ve encountered jerks in my life. (I don’t know how I got this privilege of being a jerk magnet. I always get those “exceptional” ones!) Yet they leave me no less passionate because I love what I’m doing. Two jerks come to mind, who are working as an Editor and Editor-In-Chief, respectively — who I will only say are a disgrace to their profession. Upon encountering six months of hell with the latter, I thought I’d have to give up pursuing professional writing, but a writer at the Chicago Sun-Times convinced me, “Giving up is never an option,” although he did agree that some editors are “vermin.”
There is only a handful of totally music-related national fanzines out there, one of which I worked with a few years ago. I still can’t figure out if I regret the experience, or not, because the story won’t finish playing out until I die. That’s entered my mind over the years. But I thought about it recently when I watched the movie Eve’s Bayou. A character named Mozell couldn’t keep a husband because they would all end up dying, or getting killed. As time passed, she grew afraid to marry because she was sure she’d wind up alone. But she thought to herself there must be a Divine reason for the things one experiences.
“So that’s the point,” she’d reason once she got to Heaven. Or maybe there’s no point at all, “and that’s the point.” In that case, if all the hardships one experienced in life only to find out in death were pointless, or without Divine explanation, that’s very sad…
I had a decent portfolio, and I submitted it around. But I now wish I’d gone about it differently. After submitting to Party magazine, I received a copy of the publication in the mail. I thought that was odd, considering I hadn’t subscribed to it. So I looked on the masthead for a name of someone to talk to.
Here’s the deal: I was told one day by the Editor-In-Chief, Barry Kisshoffer, to submit my portfolio to John Doe. I looked on the masthead. I don’t see that name anywhere, but I sent it anyway. (This would be the series of run-arounds I’d get from Barry.) I called to speak to John Doe a month later. Barry (I know his voice now, but I didn’t then) told me John would be in at 11 a.m. New York time. So I called again in an hour. I got a different person, who said he had no idea where my portfolio went… I must’ve resubmitted because I have an Express Mail receipt addressed to Barry Kisshoffer.
Somehow, I felt I was getting the run-around, so I looked on the masthead again to find another name. Instead, I called the company in New Jersey that was doing the writing for the magazine. That’s when I met Rob, the Managing Editor. I told him what happened, and he hired me. Some days later, Rob sent me some letterhead. “Guess you’re official now,” he wrote on a little note. So I faxed some of the record companies to let them know about the change…
The first assignment Rob gave me was to write about Kurt Cobain to mark the year’s anniversary of Kurt’s death. I also wrote an article on Pearl Jam, and interviewed The Dickies. I even got assignments on my own. I interviewed Jon Bon Jovi by phone the day before he went to Japan. “Cindy Crawford?” he asked, as I picked up the phone, knowing darn well she didn’t reside here. But she was still fresh in his mind, as he had just finished doing a steamy music video with her.
Some days before, I hung out with Nuno of Extreme. Then, I interviewed Colin from Radiohead in a coffee shop near the band’s hotel. “What better way to finish someone’s career than to say they’re going to be the next U2,” he lamented. Now Radiohead has a Grammy!
Colin bought me a book from the bookstore across the street: Song of the Lark, which I’ve only read half of since then. Later, he’d tell me he didn’t like Party because, some years back, a writer wrote something he didn’t like. I can’t remember what he said because we were in the Smart Bar, and the music was blasting.
As time past, my tickets and passes were getting “screwed up,” only I didn’t notice yet because anything can happen at a busy concert — although, I thought quietly to myself that this really shouldn’t be happening to someone who writes for a big publication. The next sign of trouble (still falling upon deaf ears) was when a publicist at American called it to my attention that Barry Kisshoffer said something to the effect that I wasn’t a full-time writer at the publication. “I’ll just put you down as freelance,” she shrugged, knowing I was a journalist before my catapult to “stardom.” She didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the discrepancy.
I believe I called Rob about that. He said, “Ask them to call here [in New Jersey].” But I had no control over whom they chose to verify my existence. A lot of the publicists know Barry. They must’ve felt justified in calling him about his own magazine. Only, I didn’t know he was telling them I didn’t work there at all.
I didn’t think there would be problem in New York, since I was writing all of these articles for his magazine. I also thought everything was okay because Rob said Barry wanted the word “messiah” stricken from my Pearl Jam article because he’s Jewish. Still, I asked if Barry knew I was working for him. “He doesn’t know half the people working for him,” Rob said, nonchalantly. And I accepted that.
Then my passes to Queensrÿche, and Van Halen were screwed up. I recouped at Queensrÿche. But Van Halen was another story, although not tragic. I got my photo pass, but not my after-show pass, which was embarrassing because I had some friends in town there with me. What finally saved me is a publicist from Geffen called the New York office to verify my employment… He said, explicitly, New York said I didn’t work for Party.
Afterwards, I called Rob again. He didn’t give me a satisfactory answer because I called Barry in my next breath. I asked him what was up. (Strangely, as I listened to his voice, I realized he was the one who gave me the run-around initially.) “We need to protect ourselves with the record companies,” Barry said.
I still don’t know what that means. All I know is, I’d always conducted myself with professionalism on Party‘s behalf. But, at that point, I stopped using the letterhead, completely. “Thank you,” I said listlessly. (Or should I say, thanks for nothing…)
“You’re very welcome,” were his exact words.
Rob called me some weeks later to report everyone was deleted from that April issue. The Cobain and Pearl Jam articles made it to layout, but never to the newsstands. I couldn’t find a place for Radiohead, as most major magazines had done a story on them. Extreme’s album had fallen off the charts. The only article I could salvage was Bon Jovi because Jon was scheduled to come out with his first movie Moonlight In Valentino that fall.
I submitted it to another editor, Drew, who told me that if I ever got a big interview, he’d use it. Well, I had it, only he was skeptical. “I’ve known Jon Bon Jovi for fifteen years. He doesn’t just talk to anyone,” he said. So he called the record company to ask whom I’d done the interview for. But they couldn’t remember. So they were under the assumption I wasn’t legit. (Drew would eventually give me the run-around again when I asked to cover the Ozzfest. I asked him about two months in advance. He told me if more than one date were announced, I had the assignment. Ozzfest turned out to be an international tour, yet Drew made me call him back several times up until a few days before the show.)
The whole summer was passing me by, and I prayed Bon Jovi wouldn’t slip through my fingers. I had no other choice but to crawl back to Barry Kisshoffer, and beg him to take the article so I’d have something to show for all my efforts. (I wish I’d done this to begin with, but I mistrusted him. I also didn’t think he’d use my article.) He reminded me he no longer had relations with Rob’s company. “But I did this for you,” I pleaded. (I had tears in my eyes. But I didn’t let on.) He seemed genuinely surprised… He said he’d pay me $75 for the article, which was low, but I didn’t care. I just wanted it published. He never paid me, but I hear he’s infamous for not paying people for their work. He owes Rob’s company somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Sometime later, a managing editor told me her editor went through a similar fate with Barry…
The moment I found out he’d publish the article, I faxed the record company to help me update the article. Everything seemed okay. His publicist faxed me back with my questions answered. But the day I tried to fax my update to Barry, the cover page (with my name on it) went through, but none of my other pages would. I tried faxing again, but they kept ejecting. Finally, I called New York to find out what was doing on their end. I think Barry answered the phone. Whoever it was, they said they received what they needed… Also, the day before Bon Jovi came to town, I called the record company to confirm my tickets, and they said they hadn’t received my fax… I called Barry to help me with Bon Jovi, but he pretended not to be in. (It was him on the phone.) “He’ll be in on Monday,” he replied.
Anyway, I found out that Bon Jovi’s publicist, Lori, was on tour with them. I was told by one of her assistants to go down to the venue to see if Lori would get me in, but she sent word back up to will-call that I had no authorization to be there. I believe I cried until I got home because I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. All of this could have been avoided if only Barry had said to me he didn’t want my presence. Actually, he did, but it took six months to do it! By then, I looked like an idiot to the contacts I’d worked so hard to establish.
Due to geography, I don’t know everything Rob’s company encountered. All I know is what happened to me. I rarely ask God why good things happen to me, so, I suppose, it’s not my place to question why He chose to put me through that horrible time of having to defend my own credibility. But, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”