The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, Capote, and the New Journalism Revolution
returned to Duke in 1950 and graduated the following year, eager to conquer New York. In 1952 Felker was hired at
Life
as a sportswriter. There was little substantive work at first; Felker’s job mainly involved gathering stories for other staffers to write. But he got his big break by virtue of a scoop. Felker managed to obtain the Brooklyn Dodgers’ scouting report on the New York Yankees, which contained a smoking gun: Joe DiMaggio’s throwing arm was shot, he could no longer throw anyone out at home. The Yankees never forgave him, but
Life
was mightily appreciative. Felker was now writing features, among them a long profile of Casey Stengel that he expanded into a book called
Casey Stengel’s Secret
in 1961.
    Felker thrived in Time-Life’s buttoned-down culture. “There was a high degree of professionalism at Time-Life,” he said. “The morale was unbelievable.” He socialized comfortably with the executives at Time-Life;even Henry Luce became a tennis partner and an occasional guest at Giants games. “Luce was an amazing man,” said Felker. “One day he told me, ‘You have to have a mission when you’re publishing, otherwise you have nothing.’ I took that to heart.” A competent reporter, Felker quickly discovered that he had a greater aptitude for editing. “I enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t my real ability,” he said. Felker was really more of an idea man, someone who could generate countless story ideas and concepts for new magazines. He was a brilliant listener above all, collecting tidbits on cocktail napkins and eliciting information from dinner companions that could be used in editorial meetings.
Life
put him to work on special projects, such as an issue on the new moneyed class that he put together with four other editors. Felker also began to develop an idea for another magazine, which he called “a
New Yorker
with pictures.” “
The New Yorker
at that time was the biggest bore in the world,” he said. “So formulaic.” Felker wrote a memo to Luce outlining his idea, and even worked up a dummy issue with the magazine’s art department, but nothing came of it. Felker also worked on the prototype for what became
Sports Illustrated
, receiving a crash course in magazine start-ups that he would apply a few years down the line.
    When Peter Maas turned down an editor’s job at
Esquire
, he suggested that his old college friend Felker apply for it.
    Although
Esquire
was no longer the cultural arbiter it had been in the 1930s, it was still a title that carried considerable cachet. The magazine was cofounded in 1933 by Arnold Gingrich and Chicago entrepreneur Dave Smart, who made his money producing display posters for retailers and something called
Getting On
, an eight-page leaflet about money management that savings banks passed along to their customers.
    The idea for
Esquire
came from a freelance artist named C. F. Peters, who walked into Smart’s offices one day with a drawing for
Apparel Arts
, one of the four fashion booklets Smart published. Before unwrapping the drawing, Peters mentioned in passing that one of his clients, clothier Rogers Peet, was wondering if Smart was thinking about producing more booklets, perhaps something that he could sell to his customers for a small fee. The Christmas season was coming up, and they could sure use the publicity.
    Smart and Gingrich began pasting up fashion pages, trying to rethink a formula that they had milked, it seemed, in every conceivable permutation.Fashion pages alone couldn’t carry a new title; they would need some editorial content to break it up. Smart began scribbling headlines on a piece of paper: “Gene Tunney on Boxing,” “Bobby Jones on Golf,” “Hemingway on Fishing.” The title—
Esquire, the Quarterly for Men—
came fairly quickly. The magazine would function as a kind of
Vanity Fair
with men’s fashion, and Smart would charge a premium price—50 cents— because if men were willing to pay $50 for a suit, they

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