Looking back at an article I wrote for the “Interiors” section of West Side Spirit in 1990 (then only five years old) about decorators in the 1990s moving away from the excesses of the ’80s, I had to laugh—at myself. One of the better lines in the piece read: “Yuppies (who sometimes list their decorators as dependants) impressed their peers with their financial success by decorating lavishly.”
Barely out the door of NYU Journalism School, the article was my first for any publication, and I had an afternoon to write it. In my overwhelmed state that day, I couldn’t have written the quip. That must have come from then-editor Tom Allon, who, through what I remember as a long afternoon of handholding and supplementing me with ideas, remained a perfectly nice guy. Despite my daunting inexperience, I remember being truly impressed by Allon, his enthusiasm, intelligence and the hilarious banter he had going with one editor, Janet Wickenhaver. As far as I could tell, the two of them were the West Side Spirit—the only people I remember in the tiny office. The pair was like a somewhat less frazzled version of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. They finished each other’s sentences, pulled facts out of thin air, ad-libbed and improvised until the new kid had finished her article
Wickenhaver recalled that she had recently read that Fran Lebowitz said that, “If she could use one material to furnish a room symbolic of the ’80s, it would be actual piles of cash.” Allon added, “The decorator is like a shrink bearing color swatches.” One of the few things I may have contributed to my own first article was the easily-arrived-at prediction that Victoria Hagen was “the next up-and-coming decorator.”
I shudder to say that I might have actually used the clip to get my next job, even though I could barely take credit for it. Thankfully, it has led to a career in which I do all of my own writing. Allon and Wickenhaver got married (obviously), turned the little Spirit into a big media company (Manhattan Media) and launched many a young writer’s career. Hopefully they will be editing this.
Whitney Scott is a freelance writer and art critic. She has written for may publications, including ArtNews, Tatler and New York magazine, and was the art critic at the New York Post. Her first published article was for West Side Spirit in 1990.