January 7, 1946– Jann Wenner:
“Magazines that depend on photography, and design, and long reads, and quality stuff, are going to do just fine despite the Internet and cable news.”
I am still just crazy about magazines. Even with some of my favorites biting the dust (I really miss Spy), I still gave up on Rolling Stone about a decade ago, when the Artist Of The Year was someone I had never heard of, making me feel impossibly old. It was Wilco. I know who they are now, but you get the drift…
Jann Wenner set up Rolling Stone Magazine in 1967 in a small loft in San Francisco with the help from a $7000 loan. The first run was 5000 copies. Since then, Wenner has won a bunch of awards & transformed his magazine business into a multimillion-dollar global publishing empire, licensing Rolling Stone in 20 countries & setting up 2 other lifestyle magazines in the USA.
By the mid-1960s, Rock N’ Roll was evolving and maturing at a fast pace, and Wenner provided a written platform that reflected and even shaped the changes. Wenner also wrote many of the articles, columns and reviews for Rolling Stone and facilitated penetrating interviews with popular figures from John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger to Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs and Donald Trump.
Wenner made it clear that Rolling Stone was not just about music:
“It’s also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces…”
That’s what he wrote in the very first issue, dated November 9, 1967. Some of those other things include films, books, politics & celebrity gossip, anything that might interest a literate, ready readership. Wenner described Rolling Stone as “sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper.” Prior to the launch, Wenner had worked as a journalist for NBC News and the political/literary Ramparts Magazine. Despite the Rock music theme, he brought a stringent professionalism that set Rolling Stone apart from the other counterculture periodicals of the era.
Under Wenner’s guidance, some of the admirable non-music writers who became famous in its pages were Hunter S. Thompson, Tim Cahill, and Joe Eszterhas. Tom Wolfe wrote a four-part series in 1973 titled Post-Orbital Remorse about the depression that some astronauts experienced after having been in space. The material eventually became his non-fiction book The Right Stuff (1979). Wolfe’s first novel, Bonfire Of The Vanities, appeared in serial form in the magazine to critical acclaim and commercial success.
Wenner’s keen eye has brought a strong visual focus to Rolling Stone, where the great photographers Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon and Mark Seliger made an art form out of celebrity photography.
With all the stories about impossible deadlines, all-night writing sessions & general debauchery he experienced with rock stars & hard-living journalists like Hunter S. Thompson, Wenner really should have been a goner years ago, or at least showing a bit of wear & tear at 70 years old, instead he looks handsome & stronger than ever.
In 1995, Wenner separated from his wife of 28 years, Jane, with whom he has 3 children. He then moved from San Francisco to NYC & began a relationship with the fashion designer Matt Nye, who is 20+ years younger than Wenner. The couple has 3 kids. He & Jane finally divorced 20 years later. She still owns 49% of Wennermedia.
Wenner, Nye and the kids hang out with pals Richard Gere, David Geffen and Barry Diller at their homes in Manhattan, the $12 million waterfront mansion in The Hamptons, the country home in Upstate NY, and a condo in Sun Valley.
“The mainstream became closer to the counterculture, 50 years ago there were no black people on TV. You couldn’t even say the word gay; & then the evolution happened really rapidly, & the mainstream came over & adopted styles of long hair, jeans, rock ‘n’ roll & the anti-war movement, because it wasn’t necessarily counterculture, it was youth culture, it was generational. But now news is on the web as soon as it happens.”