FAMILY HISTORY, MYSTERIES, and the city

PLUS: THE STORY behind the stories

November 11, 2018

During my admittedly erratic meander through ancestral time and cyberspace, I’ve come across several mentions of the ship USS Varian (DE 798), a 1,400-ton Buckley-class destroyer escort that  accompanied Atlantic convoys during WWII and helped sink two German submarine...

March 17, 2018

The hidden history of New York's City Hall, how to find portals to centuries past in Lower Manhattan, and a salute to an unsung hero of today's skyline.

My previous post, Why George Washington Stopped at Mrs. Varian’s Tavern, was about a bar (obviously). This post began...

November 15, 2017

Revolutionary War tavern scene; the Bull's Head Tavern, which my family once operated; my niece Jenny Varian, carrying on the ancestral bartending tradition. (Click images to enlarge.)

My birthday, November 25, blends into the Thanksgiving holiday each year, and that’s...

July 1, 2017

Click on image for slideshow with captions.

A history of family and the city.

He was my fifth great-grandfather, my father’s father plus five. A man of mystery whose origin story many of us have tried to puzzle out over the centuries. Let’s call him Original Isaac, a but...

February 19, 2017

On magazine endings, beginnings, and whatever the hell is going on at Condé Nast.

“The studios have closed down. There are very few pictures in production. Where there used to be 50, there are 18 now.”


When I read those words, written by the mother of a child star in 19...

February 28, 2016

One thing I always looked for when assigning or writing a story for More was the holy shit factor. Not necessarily an over-the-top tabloid ride, though these can be fun, too. I mean the unexpected detail, even a nugget, that would make readers’ goosebumps sit up and ta...

November 22, 2015

I was utterly unprepared for the heartbreaking but ultimately life-affirming story of Karolyn Grimes, aka Zuzu from It’s a Wonderful Life.

I have loved this “intensely soul-shaking film” (as Grimes biographer Clay Eals so aptly puts it) for a very long time. My eyes sta...

October 25, 2015

I might as well face it. Bill Cunningham is never going to take my picture.

 

For the longest time I’d walk to work and as I neared the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th street, I’d smooth my jacket, square my shoulders, tug my pants hem out of the heel of my sne...

September 27, 2015

OK, so what does a hit Broadway musical about a lesbian cartoonist have in common with a magazine article about a successful anti-abortion, pro-abstinence activist? Timing. Or, rather, time shifting—a challenge that sometimes arises when writing or editing a magazine s...

August 30, 2015

“Here’s her office info, just contact her directly.” That’s what the beleaguered-sounding publicist told me after I requested an interview with Roseanne Barr for Penthouse magazine. I was a senior editor there, and while I’d written for the magazine before, this would...

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March 17, 2018

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February 28, 2016

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