Based in New York, I’ve been an editor of arts coverage at New York’s Soho Weekly News (1977-79); of visual arts and architecture criticism and much else at the Village Voice (1981-95, with a stint as managing editor of Artforum); of the fine arts at the Philadelphia Inquirer (1997-2006); of arts and culture at Bloomberg News (2006-07). Until recently deputy director of the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program and associate director of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute of Theater and Musical Theater (whew), I am also a writer….
I started as a restaurant critic, without ever having read a restaurant review, at the San Diego Reader in 1972. Later I became restaurant critic at the Soho News, and then had a review/essay column called Eating Around at the Voice from ’79 to ’95, with a two-year break for a weekly column about stuff called Consumerismo (my favorite was an ode to a used pair of socks). I wrote about food and travel for the Inquirer, and then a column about popular culture with a queer twist. Over those three-plus decades, I wrote frequently about gay issues and occasionally about art, books, dance, TV, performance and theater and as well as freelanced for city mags, art mags, food mags.
I had great fun writing about food for the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town in ’93 and ’94, when pieces weren’t signed. My first effort explained why Starbucks would never take off in Manhattan: “New York doesn’t need coffee. New York is coffee.” I noted that Emma Goldman and Walt Whitman used to hang out (no, not together) at a Broadway coffee house called Pfaff’s, and a fact checker phoned and asked if I knew Mr. Whitman’s phone number.
My two books: a novella, Life in San Diego (1983) and a collection of Voice pieces, Learning To Eat (1989). A culinary coming-out story called A Jean-Marie Cookbook won a Pushcart Prize in 1979-1980.
I was born in Manhattan, raised in Brooklyn and Queens, majored in biology at Brandeis University and switched to Eng. and Am. Lit. in grad school at the University of California, San Diego, where I made money taking off my clothes for art classes. I came out soon after Stonewall and co-taught the first class in gay literature in California. I was a founder of the National Writers Union.
I am proud that I originated the idea for what are now called domestic partnership benefits and helped to win first-time health coverage for queer partners in July 1982 for Village Voice union members at the bargaining table, against owner Rupert Murdoch. It took years for the idea to catch on, but there’s still a lot to do.