“Publisher’s Clearing House: A Remembrance of a Firing Past”

All the recent publicity surrounding the very public firings at Allure Magazine, have brought back memories of a day (many moons ago). Been there, done that!

I had what I thought was a very secure position as Senior Market Editor at Harper’s Bazaar. It was a job I loved and I had been there for about two decades. Anthony T. Mazzola, the Editor-in-Chief since 1972, was basically the only editor-in-chief I would ever come to know. When I was hired as an assistant fashion editor to Rachel Crespin in 1971, Nancy White was still at the helm but was soon to retire. James Brady was next, but he didn’t last too long.

As is the case within the hallowed walls of publishing, (especially where drops in circulation and ad revenue is concerned) there had been continuous speculation with regards to Tony’s tenure there, with ongoing rumors about various and sundry high ranking people who had been approached and interviewed for his job (Liz Tilberis and Suzy Menkes among them). It was during the course of a staff meeting on December 11, 1991 that Tony announced that he would be stepping down (he said he wanted to pursue “other things” and would relinquish his post to become a consultant to the Hearst Corporation and to edit the 125th Anniversary Special Edition). He said he would remain at the helm for other two or three months (until a successor could be found).

Finally, in 1992, “ending what was perhaps the longest-running rumor in the fashion industry”, in the words of the late The New York Times reporter Woody Hochswender (“Media Business; Editor Quits at Harper’s Bazaar”, December 12, 1991), there was a formal announcement that Liz Tilberis would in fact take on the position as Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar. In what seemed like a proverbial ‘Dog and Pony Show’, she was brought up to the Bazaar offices (back then, we were located at 1700 Broadway) to quickly meet the staff. And I mean quickly: she briefly stopped into each editors’ office to introduce herself. At the time, we were repeatedly reassured by top brass (I can’t recall who exactly), that our jobs were safe and the Tilberis era would be defined by a smooth transition. Yeah, right. And if you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

Not too soon after that, (and once again, it’s so long ago I can’t recall the exact timeline), the telephones began ringing in each senior editors office and we were summoned to report to human resources at what seemed like half hour intervals. By the end of the day, almost every editor with a senior title had been told their jobs were terminated. You know the ending of “The Godfather”, when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) “settles his score” with the heads of all the 5 ‘families’? This was fashion’s version of that: a veritable blood bath lol!

While I wasn’t happy about this (why would I be?), I couldn’t take it personally because I never really got to meet, know, or work with Liz Tilberis (though I did bump into her from time to time as she lived down the block from me). Intellectually, I understood that someone being paid well into the 7 figures to ‘re-do’ a major magazine, would need to sweep the slate clean and start fresh with his or her own staff. This is precisely what has gone down at Allure Magazine, where they let go of “the old Linda Wells camp” including creative director Paul Cavaco and “the entire fashion team except for the accessories staff”, according to The New York Post’s Page Six. I know it’s hard, and a rude awakening, but you get over it and you do get on with your life. It might even be a blessing in disguise.

Being fired certainly didn’t hurt Anna Wintour. Look where she ended up.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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