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Death and Resurrection for Spy Magazine

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Fridays

As chronicled at length in Inside Media, a biweekly trade publication, the last days of Spy were marked by nasty feuding among the staffers--the kind of meltdown the magazine used to gleefully discover in somebody else’s back yard.

“One of the plans had been to plant cocaine in my desk and then call the police,” said a bitter Tony Hendra in the article. He was the editor in February when owner Jean Pigozzi finally cut off financial life support and closed the unprofitable, but rarely dull, satirical monthly.

Comes the spring and Spy is being resurrected by new management. Sussex Publishers Inc. confirmed Monday that it had purchased Spy--presumably the name and the valuable subscription list--and on Wednesday, the Manhattan-based company announced that the magazine would reappear with a July / August issue.

Sussex is not new to revivals. It stepped in and bought two other once-struggling magazines, Psychology Today and Mother Earth News, from Owen Lipstein, now the company’s editorial director, and made them work.

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According to the announcement, Lipstein will become editorial director of Spy, Jim Mauro will serve as editor, and the relaunched mag will include contributions from writers Jamie Malanowski, Mark O’Donnell and other alumni.

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Waiting on Haldeman’s “Diaries”: Those who felt Richard M. Nixon was undeservedly lionized in death may rest their case when “The Haldeman Diaries” by the H.R. Haldeman is published posthumously by G.P. Putnam’s Sons next week (with a CD-ROM edition from Sony).

ABC News’ “Nightline” lined up a first peek at the book and plans to devote next Tuesday’s broadcast to what apparently is an unfiltered and often unflattering chronicle of the Nixon presidency as related in diary entries that Haldeman made on each of the 1,500 days he served as White House chief of staff.

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To protect the “Nightline” exclusive, Putnam plans to withhold books from other media until Wednesday, when copies also are expected to reach stores.

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New Editor at N.Y. Observer: With a heavy dose of media stories, fresh gossip, irascible columnists and even some hard-edged news, the New York Observer has grown in seven years of publication to exert an influence that far exceeds its modest circulation of about 50,000.

There are glossy monthly magazines that would love to be the kind of must-read that the weekly newspaper with the salmon-colored pages has become among media hounds in particular.

Peter W. Kaplan, whom owner-publisher Arthur L. Carter named this week as the new editor, praises the paper that he will take over on June 1 while signaling that he plans to stir the by-now-familiar mix.

“I think I want to add more pop to the pitch, to juice up the paper,” said Kaplan, 40, who has been executive producer of PBS’ “Charlie Rose Show” since September and previously worked at Conde Nast Traveler, the now-defunct Manhattan, inc. and the New York Times.

Kaplan’s hiring comes as New York’s two other leading weekly publications also have changed top editors: Karen Durbin rejoined the Village Voice and Kurt Andersen has been overhauling New York magazine. Unlike these competitors, however, the Observer continues to lose money.

When Carter was buying pieces of the East Hampton Star and Sag Harbor Herald in 1991, he said he hoped to make the Observer profitable within five years, after investing another $5 million to $8 million.

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“Now, I would say that that estimate was a little optimistic,” Carter said Tuesday--and then he laughed. “The time is longer and the money is more. My patience is fine, but the dollars are another matter.”

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Teen Gathers Life’s Lessons: Several years ago, teen-ager Beau Bauman wrote to about 2,000 famous folks and asked them to identify the most important thing they had learned in life. Hundreds replied. Then, a weekly paper in the book-minded Hamptons ran a story about his mail. Which prompted publishers who saw the piece to come courting.

“The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned in Life,” edited and compiled by Bauman, a student at Southold (N.Y.) High School, has now been published as a $6.95 paperback by Fireside Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, which reportedly paid him a $25,000 advance. The print run is a hefty 50,000 copies.

The wheelchair-bound physicist Stephen Hawking wrote to Bauman, “What I have learned from life is to make the most of what you have got.”

Katharine Hepburn: “Keep going--whatever--always.”

Playwright David Mamet: “If it’s called ‘the house salad,’ it’s no good.”


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