Fake interoffice dating
Many of the company’s senior executives attended, but it was most notable for being the only time all the editors-in-chief and publishers were in the same room at the same time the entire year, and was therefore employed as an opportunity to let the seating arrangement speak to one’s — and one’s title’s — current standing in the company.
This rendered the event the subject of a great deal of anticipation and fascination — not only among those of us in the room as we all strained to see how we’d made out in comparison to our rivals (and how others had made out in comparison to their rivals) but by the New York media world at large.
The ’s media columnist would always run a postmortem the next day that included enough surprisingly accurate details about what was said and done there to assume that at least one person in attendance had to be leaking choice bits.
(At least I always assumed the leaks were multiple — everyone had an interest in making sure Keith Kelly shined his light kindly upon them, and sharing information about the lunch was a pretty low-stakes risk.) Still, the paper always managed to botch the seating chart, so one year, Condé Nast’s PR department started just sending it over so they’d get it right. No other publishing company had a ritual that incited nearly so much fascination and chatter among media watchers.
The golden ring, of course, was a seat at Si’s table.
The other two key tables were Steve Florio’s — he was the CEO — and editorial director James Truman’s.
Back in my former, fancy life as the editor-in-chief of a Condé Nast fashion magazine, I spent a lot of time putting in command performances.
Mostly they had to do with advertisers: lunching with them, accompanying them to black ties at the Waldorf (always the Waldorf), meeting with their offspring to discuss internships, which were always theirs for the asking.
I relied far too heavily on the color black, which was viewed upon by upper-tier fashion editors as a sign of weakness and lack of imagination.
But be seated in the back half — particularly if you were the editor of one of the bigger titles — meant that lunch couldn’t end soon enough.
Siberia didn’t necessarily mean trouble — somebody had to sit there.
A place with one of the other top 11th-floor guys was nothing to be ashamed of for all but the most pathologically competitive among us.
Anywhere in the front half of the room, really, was reason to not fear for your livelihood.