Talking to Tina

"How in the hell were you spending $35 million a year to put out the New Yorker?"

By Bill Wyman
July 1, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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"Hello, Tina?"

"Hello?"

"Tina, it's David. David Remnick."

"David! How are things at the magazine?"

"Not so hot. Listen, Tina, I've got a problem."

"What's that, David? [muffled] No! Not up Sixth! [aside] Tell him to take Park. [clearer] Here I am, David. Sorry, we're on our way to lunch with Harvey and Bob. Now, what were you saying?"

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"Tina, Si is after me about this year's budget. I'm lost, completely -- can you please help me? I'm desperate! Can we have lunch this week?"

"It's out of the question. [more muffled conversation] Harvey and Gwyneth tomorrow; Meryl, Carrie and Goldie on Wednesday; the Sultan of Brunei on Thursday; and Friday I have to keep open for Hillary and Chelsea. But what could the problem be? I can't remember Si being a tightwad about anything."

"He's not being a tightwad. It's precisely the opposite problem. I have $35 million to spend, Tina. How on earth can I spend that much money? Si wants a full memo on his desk Monday!"

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"David, poor child. We really must have lunch. I'll cancel Madonna. Her Sufi thing is growing tiresome. Where should we meet?"

"Uh, how about that coffee shop on 43rd?"

"Did you say coffee shop?"

"I'm trying not to send out the wrong image. You know the one -- it has a big Coke sign in the window. The place with really good french fries."

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"What? What? You're breaking up."

"FRENCH FRIES!"

"David, I think I heard you say something, but I don't think I wanted to hear what I think I heard. Listen, forget lunch. Why are you having so much trouble meeting your budget? Did you cut the staff or something?"

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"I don't know, Tina! I'm at my wit's end. I've gone through things time after time, and tried to be as responsible with the money as I can, but I just can't make the figures add up. OK -- we have, lemme see, about 100 people in editorial. At an average salary of $75,000, with benefits, that's roughly $10 million."

"Good start, good start."

"And then we have maybe 150 more writers and photographers on retainer, at about the same average salary. That's, say, $25 million."

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"Great. Then there's Richard -- "

"Avedon, OK, 26. We're not even close!"

"Calm down, David. Think staff lunches. Le Cirque can be a very useful bottom-line tool."

"Tina, at this point we're sending the entire editorial staff out to lunch every day. At $50 per, that's still only another million-two."

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"Remember citrus, David. Mangoes. Chilean grapes in December. Papaya on the 4 p.m. from Fiji, distributed by push-cart to editors who successfully place a celebrity's name into the lead of each and every "Talk of the Town" piece. The Balducci's account is a separate line item, dear boy."

"[agitated] You're talking chump change, Tina! A stinking $500,000 a year! This doesn't help me!"

"David, calmate. We haven't even gotten to the big items yet. What about parties?"

"What?"

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"Parties. Aren't you spending money on parties?"

"Um, yes, one a month. They cost about $100,000 each, so that's about a million -- but we're only up to $29 million! I got six mil unaccounted for and a sawed-off billionaire breathing down my neck!"

"David, I have one word for you: Limos."

"Tina, we are ferrying in the word processors at this point. The fact-checkers."

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"Those dreary people."

"Roughly a hundred a day per person. That's a chunk of change, but I still have $4 million to get rid of!"

"Flowers."

"Get real, Tina. $750,000, tops."

"Massages?"

"The janitors are getting rubdowns, for chrissakes. Tina, listen to me! It's no use! No matter how many times I go through this budget, I end up sitting on enough money to buy twice as many stories and art pieces as we publish each week, throw half of them away and pay the artists and writers full price!"

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"But David -- that's what I did for years! David? David?? David?!"


Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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