Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh, Spy Magazine, how I miss you...

Every now and then, usually while web surfing, something reminds me of Spy Magazine and I'm thinking it may be time to drag out my old copies, saved from the 80s and early 90s.

Spy was a funny, very funny, scathingly brilliant publication with beautiful graphic design, edited by Graydon Carter, who is now the editor of Vanity Fair. (I think he's still there). It was the first to christen Donald Trump as a "short fingered vulgarian".
The title came in part from the society gossip magazine for which Jimmy Stewart’s character works in the suave 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story. With relatively little budget for design, however, Spy’s editors saw their best route forward in giving ambitious designers a free creative license. Doyle, who had recently quit M to form his new partnership, found his own inspiration for the prototype in the typographic density and variety of sixteenth-century Polyglot bibles and 1920s type-specimen books. He recalls a reverence in design circles at the time for art directors like Fabien Baron, who in the late 1980s gave Italian Vogue a spare elegance reminiscent of Alexey Brodovitch’s midcentury designs. “In the 1980s there was this annoying supposition that Baron had invented white space,” Doyle says. “This was our reaction against clean minimalism.”
Quote above is from a great article about Spy. Read more here. Some issues, one in particular (that I somehow lost), actually made me cry with laughter. It was an article that had something to do with made-up names, and the names themselves were the key to the unstoppable shrieking and guffawing.

I notice that a fellow Torontonian, Joe Clark, at is collecting Spy back issues. His site is called Ten Years Ago in Spy. Joe's own blog (linked above) is interesting as well. I enjoyed his critical review of Toronto's Jones Avenue the last time I was there.

Of course I can't remember the Spy issue or even the particular article that set off my marathon laughing fit, but I will be racking my brains trying to remember it. Off and on. When I remember.

Spy was also the venue of a monthly column about life by Ellis Weiner, who now writes on the Huffington Post and is very funny and brilliant. His columns were always one of my favourite things in Spy. It's great to find his writing again on the web. Here is his entertaining and informative deconstruction of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Ellis is also the author of a number of books: The Joy of Worry, the unjustly neglected but hilarious Drop Dead, My Lovely and The Big Boat to Bye-Bye, and Santa Lives! Five Conclusive Arguments for the Existence of Santa Claus.

He is co-author, with Barbara Davilman, of Yiddish With Dick and Jane and Yiddish With George and Laura, both published by Little, Brown.

More to add to my Amazon wish list.

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