R.I.P. Clay Felker...Take a Bow, Webster Groves!

Jul 2, 2008 at 7:02 pm

In reading today's New York Times obit on the death of the one of journalism's titanic figures, Unreal was happily stunned to learn that Clay Felker was born and raised in Webster Groves.

Yes, the legendary editor of New York magazine, who showcased to the nation in the late 1960s the novelistic devices of New Journalism, graduated from Webster High. His father, Carl Felker, was managing editor of The Sporting News, and his mother, Cora Tyree Felker, was for a time women's editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

(Unreal cannot help but wonder: To heck with Munchkin Mickey Carroll -- why's there no Felker Family star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame?)

Few editors have ever commanded as much attention and had such influence on the publishing industry as Felker, who died at the age of 82 at his home in Manhattan. The urbane editor is widely crediting with inventing the formula for the modern magazine: slick and glossy, with long narrative articles, bold headlines and even bolder graphics. If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then Felker will pass through the Pearly Gates a man most flattered.

Felker's reputation for giving his writers unfettered freedom to skewer the rich and powerful enabled him to attract to his magazine a superstar roster of such high-profile stylists as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Richard Reeves, Pete Hamill, Nora Ephron and Gail Sheehy (Felker's third wife, whom he married in 1984).

"American journalism would not be what it is today without Clay Felker," Adam Moss, New York's current editor said in statement that appeared in today's lengthy Times coffin nail.

Friend and playwright Muriel Resnick was quoted by the Times as saying: "I know why Clay is such a good editor. He works until 8 o'clock. He goes somewhere every night. He's out with people, he talks to people, he listens to people, and he doesn't drink."

Take a (sober) bow, Webster Groves.