Tag Archives: condé nast

Spit List XI: Tea Party Pat Down

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul sounds an alarm regarding preparations for The Spit List.

Chloe Sevigny was the original Spit List nominee 11 years ago

Confused by the kooky controversy surrounding TSA pat-downs?  Bored by the bogus buzz around Black Friday?  Then turn your attention to that imminently more critical consideration—the question that gets everyone gobbling at Thanksgiving gatherings: Who’s on your Spit List?

For those of you who don’t have time to read an excerpt from Alphabet City about The Spit List origin that includes Chloe Sevigny and the Condé Nast cafeteria, let me lay the ground rules:

  • Your Spit List nominees should be folks you so dislike that if you saw them, you would spit on them.  It is a guttural response based upon a visceral reaction, which means there’s really is no rhyme or reason.
  • You can only spit on famous people—someone that you might see on a red carpet.  It can’t be Bob in accounting.
  • Your Spit List doesn’t have to be long; people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has since moved off.  Although the recent appearance of her lips on Saturday Night Live has me reconsidering.

Did someone just spit on John Boehner?

Friends have tried exporting The Spit List to overseas celebrations with varying degrees of success.  Last I heard, my friend Aimee was debating the delicacies of introducing The Spit List to Kabul based on her limited success with it in Liberia.  At last year’s Spit List 10th Anniversary Celebration, favorite choices included Lou Dobbs and Rihanna, the latter nominated because of a bad haircut that just seems to be getting worse.

WORD OF CAUTION: In a post-election daze, it’s easy to go wild with political appointees to your Spit List.  Believe me, I am all for a full on TSA pat down of the Tea Party baggers.

Gwyneth and a rain of spit?

But from experience, the game is far more fun when there’s a Spit List balance of party officials and pop-culture wackos.  So, for every John Boehner there should be a Gwyneth Paltrow—damn, her Glee appearance is throwing a curve ball at my Spit List.

Good luck, guttural speed, and may your Spit List be thoughtful and controversial.

And by all means, let me know whom made your Spit List.

Excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 11: Bold Faced Names

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Condé Past?

Today on Alphabet City: With the end of the Condé Nast Times Square era, Jon Paul wonders if Anna Wintour is up to a Freedom Tower makeover.

An announcement by glam magazine publisher Condé Nast—my former employer and a current client—made me painfully aware of my age this week.  At long last, I am witness to, and chronicler of, the dawn and now end of an era.  No, it’s nothing as historic as the fall of the Roman Empire, mind you.  But in the media-centric world of New York City, it’s momentous nonetheless.  That’s right, I’m referring to the company’s reluctantly released announcement that they are planning a move from their purpose-built headquarters at 4 Times Square to the new Freedom Tower rising on the site of the fallen World Trade Center.

About half of my memoir Alphabet City takes place in the gossipy halls of the publishing empire, where even the elevators intimidated me.  On the ride up to the 14th floor of Condé Nast Traveler, I passed a floor by floor display of some of the most important arbiters of pop-culture: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue and GQ.  (In the book, I included Gourmet, RIP).

More times than I care to remember, I was forced into sharing the small space with Anna Wintour, who gave my Pret-a-Porter ensemble a disapproving once over.  I’m happy to report that this little tradition continues when I was in the building a few weeks ago—wet as a dog from an early morning thunderstorm, I found myself grinning sheepishly at the dry-as-a-bone fashion guru.

The thing that has me most concerned about the impending move—the question that no journalist seems to be asking—what will happen to the famous lunchroom?  An excerpt from Alphabet City‘s Episode 11 Bold Faced Name:

One of the most buzzed about features of the Condé Nast building was the “employee cafeteria.”  It was like nothing I had ever experienced.  The space’s gleaming blue titanium walls with handcrafted cantilever glass panels and beech white floors would have made Superman feel right at home.  But this Frank Gehry-designed architectural masterpiece—rumored to cost nearly $35 million to erect—was built not for the man of steel but for the super hero editors of Condé Nast.  They needed somewhere special to dine in the still seedy area surrounding the new headquarters shorthanded in the press as 4X2.  So the unassuming and media shy owner Mr. Newhouse built a design Mecca cum luxury food hall.

Lunchroom aside, most insiders are guessing that move has to do with money saved from rent breaks and tax incentives.  No doubt, that’s partly true for a company that has implemented painful cost cutting moves over the past couple of years.  But I think there’s more to it than that.

Just over ten years ago, the world was buzzing with the dot-com boom and heralding the “death of print media.”  About that time, Mr. Newhouse announced the company’s move to a gleaming skyscraper in seedy Times Square, the media world gasped.  More from Alphabet City’s Episode 11 Bold Faced Name:

If you believed the sensational New York media, the world held its collective breath during the entire building process.  It seemed like gossip columns and architecture critics covered the installation of each windowpane and the tightening of every bolt.  During construction a crane fell into a nearby SRO hotel fatally injuring an elderly lady inside, and from the front-page tabloid coverage you would have thought that billionaire owner Mr. Newhouse himself had ordered an execution-style killing.

Masterfully, just over ten years after the move to Times Square, when print media is again struggling for relevance and I’ve begun hearing some refer to the company as Condé Past, Mr. Newhouse thrusts the company—and its headquarters—right back into the spotlight.  Who cares about the protest over the building of a mosque down the street from the new Freedom Tower when we can Twitter about Anna and Graydon sightings downtown?

Today, Mr. Newhouse’s choice of Times Square is widely credited with having rehabilitated a once seedy area.  Perhaps this new decision to move way downtown is also part of his civic commitment to the Big Apple.  The former World Trade Center site is desperately in need of love, attention and an image makeover.

Sounds like just the assignment for Anna and her fellow editor-in-chief superhero colleagues.


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Relationship (Re)Kindle-ing

Today on Alphabet City: An airport security snafu causes JP to reconsider his Kindle love-hate relationship.

The TSA agent working the early morning shift at LGA scowled at the monitor of the x-ray belt as my backpack passed through.  In a flash, I ran through my standard preparation—emptied out my refillable water container, placed my liquids in a baggie, and put my laptop in a separate bin.  The agent shouted at me across the equipment.

“Sir, is that a Kindle in your bag?”

Great, I knew what was coming next.  The question that fellow subway riders always seem to pester me with, “Do you love it?”  Because I harbor conflicting feelings about the technology, I don’t have a very good response to that question.  And why would the agent be making small talk when there’s a line of folks behind me?  Turns out, he wasn’t being chatty catchy.

“Sir, next time, the Kindle needs to go in its own bin.  We are treating them like laptops now.”

JP's travel accoutrements in the Kansas City airport

Great, now that terrorists are evidently going to be using e-books as weapons, I’ve got one more thing to worry about at security checkpoints.  And frankly, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

The problem is that I’ve got my security routine down pat—I’m like a figure skater landing a triple axle.  First, I stack 2 grimy gray bins—bottom with computer, top with coat/sweater and bagged liquids.  Next, I use my small carry-on placed on the belt to push the trays down the line.  And in one last deft move, just moments before everything disappears into the x-ray abyss, I slip off my shoes and place my backpack on the belt.  Honestly, it’s such a complicated juggling act that I just don’t see how I could possibly add another element dedicated to the Kindle.

Sorry, Kindle enthusiasts, I don’t love the little e-book device that much.  I’ve had it for about a year now thanks to Angela who dragged me into the modern era on my 40th birthday.  Don’t get me wrong—there are things I really enjoy about it: the ability to instant purchase a book I’d forgotten to secure before vacation (e.g. Andre Agassi’s Open); and, the option to read my copy of The New Yorker electronically because it’s the only Condé Nast publication that can’t seem to find it’s way to my home in Washington Heights.

But then there are the Kindle quirks that I can’t stand.  Flight attendants have started making me turn it off during interminable runway delays—it evidently counts as an electronic device that interferes with the aircraft.  Which means I’ve got to make sure that in addition to the Kindle I have some regular reading material—like a hard copy of that lost New Yorker.  See the problem?

Then there’s the over-heralded ability to “share” your library with others in your household.  I’m not sure Angela is all that interested in my Broadway Queen tell-alls like Arthur Laurents’ Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story and Other Musicals or my heavy duty therapy books like Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child.  Personally, I have no interest in her sTORI Telling or Twilight.  Although bless her for downloading Kathy Griffin’s memoir Official Book Club selection which I devoured in Mexico.

After a couple of days in Kansas City, I headed back to LGA, nervous about how I would do with effecting proper Kindle handling procedures at security.  I was happy to be in a friendly, low-key Midwestern airport rather than the high-pressure Big Apple hubs.

Then, with a little encouragement from Susan, I decided to test the system.  I left the Kindle in my backpack to see what happened.  My normal line-up of bags and trays disappeared into the machine and came out the other side with flying colors.  I waited for some kind of comment from the official, but there was no lecture about proper e-book handling procedures.

I guess the TSA is conflicted about the Kindle.  Join the club.

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Something’s Coming, Something Good

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul takes matters into his own hands becoming a self-made/published man.

“Blogs are the new books,” a fellow guest said to me this past Saturday night at my friend (and avid reader) Meg’s annual holiday gathering.  The cookbook author was explaining why she wouldn’t necessarily pen a follow-up to her 2005 entry.  “The publishing world is totally different now.”

You can say that again.  Everyday there seems to be another disheartening story about “the end of books.”  Quite a depressing thought for a writer who’s always dreamed of seeing his name in printed letters.  People keep encouraging me to move on from type—and focus online.  No doubt, this blog has given me an enormous boost of confidence about my storytelling prowess connecting with readers.  Believe me, I need that pick-me-up after the number of times I’ve heard from literary agents, “I just don’t find your narrative voice engaging.”  Turns out, hundred of daily readers of this blog are proving them wrong.

The conundrum of print vs. online reminds me of when I was interviewing for a job at Condé Nast in the late ‘90s just as the Internet boom was taking hold.  Friends told me I was crazy to consider going to “old media” when the dot-com boom was all the rage.  But I just couldn’t shake my dream of working for a publishing giant—it seemed like what a Mary Tyler Moore wannabe would do.  I’m glad I followed my MTM gut instinct that time, and I’m going to do the same now.

I’ve never been one to sit back and let others control my artistic development.  When I wanted to get into movies, I made my own film GayTV: The Movie.  So now, I’m publishing my own book—the magic of the Internet allows me to get Alphabet City directly to your hands.

There are a lot of decisions to make, and that’s where I need your help.  Take a few moments to answer some survey questions for me on format and pricing.

CLICK HERE to Take my survey

Now stand by as I make a few finishing touches on the manuscript and cover artwork.  As I round the corner to my 41st birthday, the book will be a gift for me—and hopefully you.

And I think that would make my role model Mary very proud.

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Spit List

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s celebrity hatred game becomes a Thanksgiving tradition.

Since I moved to the Big Apple, Thanksgiving has become my all-time favorite holiday.  Instead of traveling to spend stress-induced time with family, I gather friends in my home for a big meal.  After we pile our plates with food and pour copious amounts of wine, we go around the table and announce the person we would most like to spit on.  That’s right, we don’t waste time being sappy and thankful.  Instead, we use it as an opportunity to vent frustration with famous faces.  The Spit List as we call it has a long and storied history, having been created by Susan and me in our days at Condé Nast.  CLICK HERE to read a full excerpt about the origins, including a peek inside the famed Condé Nast cafeteria, and a dig at Chloe Sevigny.

For those of you rushing to adopt the game as a conversation starter at your own feast and too busy to read the excerpt, let me give a quick overview of the ground rules:

  • Spitting on someone is a real commitment based upon a visceral reaction; it comes from the gut.  There really is no rhyme or reason—so there’s no arguing allowed once someone announces their “spitee.”  They are allowed to give some background, but not required to defend their choice per se.
  • You can only spit on famous people—someone that you might see on a red carpet.  It can’t be Bob in accounting.
  • Your Spit List doesn’t have to be long, and people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has moved off.

Friends who have enjoyed The Spit List game at my table report that it has become like a drug for them—they spend all year looking forward to creating their list.  If they miss Thanksgiving at my house, they phone or email in their entry.  Some have tried exporting it to their family gatherings with limited success.  My friend Aimee spent some time in Liberia but was frustrated in her attempts to explain the game to citizens of a post-war torn republic.

Over the years, we have had quite a diverse group of honorees—Jennifer Aniston has moved on and off various people’s lists; not surprisingly both Suze Orman and Oprah have appeared more than once.  I imagine at least Oprah will be back this year.

Last year, Angela tried expanding it beyond just celebrities to broader concepts like the “blogosphere.”  The judges are still out on whether pop culture concepts will be a permanent category addition to The Spit List.

This year I’m extra lucky—two of my perennial Spit List favorites have collided: the Vampires of Twilight and Dakota Fanning.  I’m already getting choked up.

Have a heartwarming holiday, and do report back on your own Spit List.

Excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 11: Bold Faced Names


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Condé Conundrum

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul cheers for Condé Nast’s recovery.

Nearly half of Alphabet City is set in gossipy corridors of magazine publisher Condé Nast—my time there I loved dearly.  So it is with great sadness that I witness the drama unfolding at the luxury giant.  Every day friends and former colleagues tell stories of magazine closures, layoffs and forced pay cuts.  Full disclosure: I’m a freelancer for Bon Appétit and have contributed to Condé Nast Traveler, the latter a client of my firm Tentpole NY until recent budget cuts.

Here’s what bothers me: the media coverage has been full of schadenfreude—that the cocky company is getting its comeuppance.  But I, for one, am rooting for you.  I was there when you survived the online boom that many thought signaled the “death of old media,” and I’m hoping that you’ll pull this out again.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.  Continue reading

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My So-Called Sitcom Life

From Blog to Book, Alphabet City is now available for purchase in print or e-book form.  Support a hilarious emerging voice!

Moving from Dallas to Manhattan in his late 20s, Jon Paul Buchmeyer fancied himself a gay Mary Tyler Moore starring in a sitcom of his life that he called Alphabet City.  In this humorous entertainment industry memoir, a series of publicity jobs created madcap storylines, including a mishap with Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar, a mistaken identity as Tyra Banks’ Turkish boy-toy, and finishing school lessons in the gossipy halls of Condé Nast.  But unlike snarky tell-alls, Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life maintains a Texas-sized optimistic spirit about life in the Big Apple, with guest appearances from Cameron Diaz, Gloria Estefan, Teri Hatcher, Derek Jeter, Ashley Judd, Rosie O’Donnell, Graham Norton, and Vanessa Williams.  Following Jon Paul’s journey from naive Southerner to wizened New Yorker, Alphabet City combines the glamour of Sex and the City with the warmth of Tales of the City, and has a broad appeal tapping into America’s fascination with the world of celebrities.  In the end, just like Mary, Jon Paul discovers he’s going to make it after all.

Instead of chapters, Alphabet City has “episodes”—just like a sitcom, many of which have been previewed on this blog.  Sample some of my favorite chapters:

Episode 1: It Is Heavy — my hilarious antics with Whoopi’s Oscar.

Episode 4: And Nothing But the Truth — Tyra’s debut as a guest star in my sitcom life

Episode 11: Bold Faced Names — go behind-the-scenes at publishing giant Condé Nast.

Episode 13: Happy Soul — meeting my boyfriend on Gay.com thanks to a clever screen name!

Like what you read?  Please help out an emerging voice by purchasing the book in print or e-book form, by clicking the links to the right.  Because I am publishing independently, a majority of your dollars goes to support me directly.  Also consider signing up for my direct blog feed or following me on twitter.

For more behind-the-scenes photos and exclusive video, explore the links below.

Episodes 1-9: The Celebrity Years including links to excerpts about Whoopi, Tyra, Teri Hatcher and Gloria Estefan!

Episodes 10-17: The Condé Years including links to excerpts about Boy George and Graham Norton.


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