Andy Warhol arrived at Manhattan, inc.'s first anniversary party last night in black on black from head to toe, with only a wisp of color showing from his fuchsia glasses. An ocean of flash bulbs popped, and, well, he looked sort of shy for the minute.
"It's just rich, really rich," he said.
The magazine or the party? he was asked.
"Oh, the party," he said. "But the magazine is rich, too. They did a story on me and it was fairytale land. I mean, it was awesome. Of course, I didn't read it. I never read anything about myself. But I'm told it was fabulous."
Warhol was among several hundred subjects, sources and friends who were at the Four Seasons last night to toast Manhattan, inc., a fledgling magazine that has become synonymous with good gossip and exhaustive features about the New York business community.
"It's the sparkiest magazine around -- next to Vanity Fair of course," said Tina Brown, Vanity Fair editor. "It's got that must-read quality about it. You know -- provocative. It's very sexy."
"There's a unique kind of inherent curiosity about this town, and it speaks to that," said Chris Whittle, publisher of Esquire, who was quick to note that he isn't in competition with the magazine, but nonetheless added, "I think they have a winner on their hands."
The red velvet carpet had been rolled out along Park Avenue at about 6 p.m., when the gray and black limos began arriving. The guests wore silks and diamonds, and drank champagne under blown-up reproductions of the magazine's 14 covers.
"We treat people fair," said Herb Lipson, publisher and the brain behind the magazine. "We don't do a job on people, but look at business from a different perspective and breathe some life into these guys. And I'm telling you, they love it."
"Naturally you never like everything they write about you," said Bill Fugazy, who owns the large travel and limo agency in his name. "But I think they did an okay job on me. It was the first time my family let someone in the house to take pictures."
"I've read it since it first came out," said Walter Wriston, former chairman of Citicorp and himself a cover story. "If someone had asked me could New York withstand one more magazine, I would have said no. And obviously, I would have been wrong."
"I think it's quite amazing they came from nothing and they're doing terrifically."
Within its brief tenure, Manhattan, inc. already has won two national magazine awards and, according to Adweek magazine, has " . . . become one of the most talked-about and (to judge by early signs) successful magazine launches in recent memory."
The idea for the magazine essentially came from Lipson, a successful but little known publisher. Twenty-five years ago, at age 32, Lipson took control of Philadelphia, the country's oldest city magazine, inheriting a major portion of the stock from his father. Ten years later, he purchased Boston magazine.
But it was here that Lipson wanted to be, the hub of publishing and simply the most competitive and aggressive market in which to launch a magazine. ("Who the hell wants to be in Dubuque?" he once asked.) Up against chatty and slick New York and the institutional New Yorker, Lipson has managed to produce a lively business magazine about New York corporate personalities.
"I like to think of Manhattan, inc. as a hybrid," he says. "It's not a business magazine in the traditional sense like Forbes or Business Week. It's got some of that, and I like to say it's a cross between M and People, too. Businessmen are the heroes of the '80s, and we're offering the reader something very slick and crisp and fun."
Somewhat disappointing, however, have been the circulation figures. According to Lipson, the rate base only has increased to 53,000 from 34,000 at its birth.
"The very limited nature of its editorial focus could limit the circulation potential," says Clay Felker, founder of New York magazine and currently the editorial director of Adweek. Responds Lipson: "All I can figure, is that the magazine is being bootlegged because the figures don't seem to match how many people are talking about it."
Lipson is hopeful that the magazine's presence is just taking a little longer to register with the consumer. Magazine spokesman Richard Altman says advertising sales for September and October were the best so far, and Lipson says he hopes to be in the black by 1987.
The awards can only help. In April, the magazine won the National Magazine Award for general excellence for a publication with a circulation of "under 50,000." It was the youngest magazine ever to win the award, having submitted its entries after only four issues. It also won the Clarion Award for an article by Jonathan Z. Larsen, which traced the effects of an erroneous Dun and Bradstreet report on a small Vermont company.
It was hard to find a naysayer at last night's party, but then again, there might have been a few who didn't come. Attorney Roy Cohn, subject of a recent story, had been invited, and although Lipson said Cohn had accepted, he never showed. ("He's not mad," said his friend Fugazy. "He's just sick.")
The recent piece on Cohn was a different look at a man who has been over-dissected since he served as Joseph McCarthy's counsel 30 years ago. Among other things, writer Rian Malan reported that Cohn owes the IRS $4 million, as well as owing another million for outstanding judgments against him.
Also invited to the party was Nelson Doubleday, who was recently the focus of a article about the financial problems besetting his publishing company of the same name. He declined.
The chairman of Salomon Bros., John Gutfreund also couldn't be there. Manhattan, inc. last year chronicled a squabble between Susan Gutfreund and her penthouse neighbor, over whether Gutfreund had the right to bring in a gigantic and costly Christmas tree by way of her neighbor's roof and a crane. The fight resulted in the filing of a $35-million lawsuit.
From its inception, the magazine's creator was aiming for something a little different, and Lipson credits the editor, Jane Amsterdam, with executing his plan. "She's tough and brilliant and gets the best out of her writers," he said of Amsterdam, a former Washington Post assignment editor.
"The magazine is about power and money -- winning it, losing it, grabbing it, stealing it, keeping it and controlling it," said Amsterdam. "In this city there's an unbelievable amount of material on the subject. People have asked me, 'Where else could you do this?' -- I don't think there's another place."
Asked to describe his initial feelings about entering the New York market, Lipson said succinctly: "Terror."
"It scared me to death. And I got to tell you, when I first came to New York, my friends told me New York would murder me. Well, New York has been soooo nice to me. From the very beginning, too."