No Brains Needed for Seinfeld’s Book


Stand-up comics don’t usually grab the microphone in daylight. But, on a sunny afternoon last week, Jerry Seinfeld returned to Caroline’s, the Manhattan comedy club. This gig was to entertain about 200 booksellers invited by Bantam Books to meet the house’s newest author.

“I had no idea that I was an author,” Seinfeld said after publisher Irwyn Applebaum introduced him as one.

“I do a lot of writing, but I never put the pages together,” Seinfeld told the audience. “But if you leave them together on the pad, and number them, then you are an author.” Easy as that.


His yet-untitled book of comic observations and routines, with a cover photographed earlier in the day by Annie Leibovitz, will be one of Bantam’s Big Books this fall.

Seinfeld’s appeal as a comedian and the popularity of his TV show make the book a no-brainer for him, his publisher and his fans. “People seem to be interested in these useless ideas that I have,” he said, “and there seems to be some money in it.” (Specifically, a seven-figure advance.)

However, Seinfeld and Bantam are taking no chances. The club appearance was one step in a marketing plan designed to excite the converted and maximize his draw on store shelves.

After about 10 minutes onstage, Seinfeld worked the room, posing for photographs at each table and speaking with fans who included the GM and Ford of book retailers--Leonard Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, and Charles R. Cumello, president of Waldenbooks.

“Humor isn’t a huge category in Waldenbooks’ stores,” said Steven Morvay, the chain’s senior vice president for marketing. But, he pointed out, Seinfeld’s TV ratings reflect the kind of mass market that can only please the chain, which has a lot of stores in shopping malls that have sold close to 100,000 copies of Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts” (Berkley), a collection of absurdities based on the “Saturday Night Live” feature. (Naturally, “Deeper Thoughts” follows--on June 1 from Hyperion).

Bantam’s quest for Seinfeld’s book began in Beverly Hills months ago, when senior editor Rob Weisbach met with the comedian’s managers, Howard West and George Shapiro. They and the comic’s literary agent, Dan Strone of the William Morris Agency in New York, were open to a book, but were not pursuing the idea aggressively. However, as Strone recalled, “every major publisher in America” was soon calling with serious offers.

Bantam, which last year led H. Norman Schwarzkopf on a book-signing, hand-shaking, map-hopping march to best sellerdom with “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” urged the Seinfeld camp to take advantage of the interest that will greet the fall TV season.


New Media Guide and Quarterly

The 1993 edition of “MediaGuide 500” was published this week by Forbes, the new owner of the annual reference book, so writers are checking whether they are included in what is subtitled “A Review of the Nation’s Most Important Journalists.”

The guide gives its highest rating of four stars (for work done in 1992) to the column-writing team of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak and six others--Judy Dempsey of the Financial Times, John D. Morocco of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Paul Craig Roberts of the Washington Times, William Safire of the New York Times, James Tanner of the Wall Street Journal and Patti Waldmeir of the Financial Times.

The guide also wields a nasty blade. It awards some reporters minus signs, while giving Eleanor Clift of Newsweek (and TV’s “The McLaughlin Group”) only a half-star for her work in 1992 for, among other things, calling Clinton-Gore “the all-Beefcake ticket.”

Forbes Inc. bought the annual “MediaGuide” last year from author-economist Jude Wanniski and his company, Polyconomics Inc., which positioned the book as a “Michelin Guide” to the media. As it turns out, Forbes has now warmed to the media-watching game so much that on Tuesday it announced plans to launch Forbes MediaGuide Quarterly, which will bow in November.

Terry Eastland--a former newspaper journalist and author who writes the “Presswatch” column in the American Spectator--will be executive editor.

The plan is to offer the annual guide, which sells this year for $19.95, as a bonus to the quarterly’s subscribers.


Men’s Health Flexes

Coming upon the Men’s Times section (printed on uncoated paper like some literary insert) in the June issue of Men’s Health, some may wonder if the 5-year-old magazine of gear and fitness has entered GQ territory. What’s a Ben Stein piece on fatherhood doing here? A fashion spread partly styled by Teri Garr? A profile of Keith Hernandez as the ex-Met (“I’ve been in psychotherapy now for two years”) ponders what to do with the rest of his life?

“This doesn’t represent a change in the direction of Men’s Health,” Michael Lafavore writes in his editor’s letter. “I just thought you might be interested in reading about what’s on another editor’s mind.” That would be guest editor Harry Stein, former ethics columnist at Esquire.

Lafavore says “maybe we’ll do another one next year.” GQ and Esquire, take note.