New York Press

I got my job at New York Press in 1996 when I was living in the southern part of Carroll Gardens with a very nice male roommate that I found on the Internet. I was acting, auditioning, and temping and at night I would write erotic fiction that I was hoping to get published. I had been a fan of New York Press since high school when it launched, and read it often on the F train home from rehearsals or auditions.
I sent a dirty story to John Strausbaugh at New York Press and he rejected it with a nice note about how I might want to place it at Swank. I sent it to them but they rejected it too, and then I met a guy in the pool room at the Brooklyn Inn who told me his wife was the art director at Playgirl. I thought this was a come-on line until I realized it was true. Eventually I met her too and I sent her the story and they bought it, which was very exciting. It was called “The Night Jimbo Boffed Me Right” and was about a girl who gets turned on by guys that use condoms. I still have no idea what kind of people read erotic fiction in Playgirl but I guess at least a few of them were women, or men turned on by hetero erotica. The issue had Bryan Austin Green from “Beverly Hills: 90210” on the cover.
But I was still interested in writing for the Press, because I read it religiously and was obsessed with Jim Knipfel and Howard Kaplan, two of their columnists. I wrote another story that was more of a typical New York Press autobiographical dispatch and sent it to John again. It wasn’t erotic so much as erotically depressing. A couple days later he called to say they wanted to buy it, for $50 I think. He asked me to bring it in on disk and I put another story on there too and told him to put that on his computer. A few days after that he called to say they wanted to offer me a column.
I remember sitting in Russ Smith’s office in the Puck Building with John Strausbaugh and Sam Sifton, who it turned out had grown up in Brooklyn Heights like me, and who had landed a job at the Press after filling out their “Best Of” survey in a very creative way. We were all trying to bat around column titles. I was in favor of “Maidenhead” and am really glad they persuaded me it was a terrible title. Eventually Sam came up with “Female Trouble” – maybe because Russ and John had launched the paper in Baltimore and were all John Waters fans – and my column launched in June 1996. It started out weekly but eventually went to biweekly. I got more hate mail than any other writer at the Press. Later I launched an advice column called “Ask Amy,” which ran in the same issues in which I had stories about my terrible taste in men. I was a sex advice columnist who needed advice. Of course, “Ask Amy” led to many more angry letters questioning my authority to write the column.
I was at the Press until August 1999 when I left of my own accord for the Post. I have my period right now, which is probably why I am overemotional, but the years I spent at that paper were unforgettable and the people I met were such a lovable collection of oddballs, freaks and losers (myself included of course) that I will remember them always. There was nothing else in New York similar to what New York Press was in its heyday, which I consider to be 1995-2000. I am not grateful for many things but I am grateful that I was twenty-three in 1996, when someone like me could land a real print job instead of wind up blogging on the Internet. There was an immediacy and a thrill to seeing my words on physical paper (even if the circulation was tiny) that made me want to write books.