HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 17,1999
OUT ON THE BAYOU
>* Continued from page 17
ously hip" by Time. RuPaul, Leonardo
DiCaprio, Todd Oldham and Courtney Love
all benefited from early ink in its pages.
But most incredibly, Paper is still edited and
owned by the same two trend-spotters who
ran off its first copies. "It's almost our claim to
fame at this point: that we've managed to stay
in business, stay independent, yet still remain
competitive in content and ideas with those
other [large publishing] companies,"
1 lershkovits said last week from New York.
This year in celebration of Paper's success, Hershkovits and Hastreiter have published a book, "From AbFab to Zen: Paper's
Guide to Pop Culture."
Why a book?
"We always wanted to do a book,"
Hershkovits said. "When it came time for this
15th anniversary, we wanted to do something
that would reference the past and everything
we did, but was still new."
Hershkovits sees the book filling a historical niche.
"Today young people tend to take it for
granted that things were always like this. It
became even more important to try and
point your finger at history and tell people,
'This was John Sex. He was this really
amazing guy. And he influenced Keith
Haring and Ann Magnuson, and she influ
enced joey Arias and Joey influenced
Madonna. It's like this great chain."
Hershkovits and Hastreiter met while
working at Village Voice rival SoHo Weekly
News, which eventually folded. Some News
starters formed Details, which has since been
sold and reformatted as a men's magazine.
Hershkovits and Hastreiter soon abandoned
their lofty plans to raise big bucks for a slick
magazine, choosing instead to publish the
best product they could at the time. The first
issues of Paper were printed as a fold-out
poster that sold for 50 cents.
"Everything was based on not having
money," said Hastreiter. But today Hastreiter
credits this financial realism with being "the
reason why we're still here."
Through the years, the magazine has
changed repeatedly. Its logo is still redesigned
for every issue. Its leadership takes seriously
the cover tagline "Where Things Start."
Sometimes, Paper has moved too fast even for
its super-hip market.
"People were horrified when we put a girl
with tattoos on our cover," Hastreiter said.
"We lost advertising. People were gagging
over it—in a bad way, not a good way."
The ri.se of AIDS was tragically concurrent
with the ascent of Paper.
"The magazine suffered during those
years of the late '80s when AIDS was at its
peak," Hershkovits said. "Those were dark
days for the magazine and for New York.
You were going to memorial services
instead of restaurants."
Another story was especially difficult to
cover: the fall of "club kid" ringmaster
Michael Alig. After reigning for years as the
undisputed king of the downtown scene, .Alig
Paper's founders: David Hershkovits and Kim Hastreiter
slid into a hellish world dominated by
"Special K," cocaine and other drugs. In
1997 he pleaded guilty to murdering his
drug dealer and is now serving a 10- to 20-
"You can't really believe it when somebody
you know is in a situation like that,"
Hershkovits said. "That's what happened
with Alig, having known him as this great creative force that arrived in New York and took
the town by storm. I cannot re-ally believe it
now, even though I'm sure he w.as guilty."
Both editor/publishers are straight.
"One thing that Paper did, which I'm
really proud of, was I think we were one of
the first magazines that was a tossed
salad—like a mixture. We have a really
large gay readership and a really diverse
In 1991, Paper inaugurated Joey Arias'
"Chitchat" column, in which the noted
actor and Billie Holiday impressionist presents a transcribed phone interview with a
star. An image of Arias as Lady Liberty was
chosen to represent "A" at the book's
beginning. How did that make Joey feel?
"I was like, oh my God! My heart started pounding. I started feeling very sensual and excited, very Statue of Liberty.
Like, 'Welcome to my world, bitches! I'm
the queen! The goddess!'" Arias said
from New York.
Arias is currently on screen with Robert De
Niro in "Flawless."
Paper, Arias said, "is almost like a crystal ball for the hip. It's so quick and so
current. People always pick up Paper
magazine to find out what's going on.
Especially," Arias added with a wicked
laugh, "if they want to get down!"
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