Showbiz, publishing are custom fit

Noises Off - Robert Hofler

NEW YORK — Showbiz and custom publishing have recently made for two uneasy, short-lived marriages. The third time, however, might be the charm with Clear Channel’s new Show People magazine, focusing on theater. The debut issue arrives in October.

Before we get to the good news, let’s dish about the bad, namely Sony Style and Ticketmaster’s Live! magazine.

Never heard of those rags? No wonder, despite the big bucks sunk into them.

The Los Angeles-based Live! flopped after two brief years back in the late 1990s under editor in chief Annie Gilbar. Ticketmaster obviously thought it could pump life into Live! thanks to a subscription base culled from its many ticket buyers. But advertisers stayed away from the mag’s mishmash of everything from rodeos and k.d. lang to opera and Neil Simon.

Sony Style suffered from the opposite problem of being obsessively focused on nothing but Sony movies, CDs and technology. The product of Time Inc. custom publishing, Sony Style went belly up after a mere eight issues.

“We certainly had those in the back of our mind,” Show People publisher Hailey Lustig says of Sony Style and Live! “But we weren’t using those as a template for failure or success. We had our own agenda.”

Yes, “Hairspray” graces the cover, but it’s a natural choice for Show People despite the Clear Channel money behind the new tuner. Time will tell if every cover features a parent-company investment, a sure kiss of death. Remember how Miramax celebs kept finding their way onto that company’s house organ, Talk magazine?

As for the Lustig agenda, she mentions “credibility,” and the premiere features the work of name writers like Spalding Gray, Larry King, James Lapine and Paul Rudnick. Most intriguing is Dick Cavett’s interview with Nora Ephron on her new play, “Imaginary Friends.”

Cavett is an inspired choice since he also interviewed Mary McCarthy on his PBS talk show when, in 1980, she most publicly trashed Lillian Hellman.

Heading up the new magazine is Patrick Pacheco, best known as a writer and columnist for Newsday but also the owner of an editorial pedigree that goes all the way back to After Dark in the 1970s.

At present, Clear Channel is keeping things simple. The mag is being produced quarterly and published in association with Forbes. Lustig isn’t looking at expensive newsstand exposure for at least a year. The first issues are going to 320,000 subscribers to Clear Channel theater series across the country, plus boutiques in the Times Square area.

Show People, however, might just find its first readership among real show people. Featured in the preem issue are “Rent” producer Jeffrey Seller and Showtime’s Josh Lehrer at home in their “tastefully appointed apartment.” According to the Times’ Jesse McKinley, the two showbiz guys serve up Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne along with views of artwork by Donald Baechler, James Biederman and John Currin, not to mention the Hudson River just outside the requisite picture window.

Who knows if Broadway tourists will be interested, but with more home-takes like this one, I look forward to next visiting the abode of Fran and Barry Weissler.

Gersh touts new voices

Agents are used to trekking off to see new, unsigned talent at Juilliard and NYU’s audition nights. Now the Gersh Agency announces the next step with their first-ever spotlight on the new musical talent they rep. Producers are invited to see fresh work by Gersh clients on Oct. 21 at 45 Bleecker Street.

“This will be the night when the producers can see all of our new composing talent,” says Gersh’s Peter Hagan. “The buyers are aware we have a full roster of well-known musical theater talent, but most of them have not heard the work of a whole new generation of writers.”

Participating are Brad Alexander and Helen Chayefsky (“Ransom of Red Chief”), Chad Beguelin and Matt Sklar (“The Rhythm Club”), John Bucchino (“The Catered Affair”), Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler (“Allison Under the Stars”), Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (“Avenue Q”), Steven Lutvak (“The Wayside Inn”), and Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger (“Shane”). Selections from new works by Gilles Chaisson, Gihieh Lee, John Mercurio, Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen, and Peter Mills will also be heard. Jason Moore directs.

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