Monday, December 15, 2008

A River Town With Restoration in Its Bones

New York Times - Great Homes & Destinations
Published: December 11, 2008

ASHTON HAWKINS and Johnnie Moore had been living part-time in the second-home hot spot of Hudson, N.Y., for five years before the right house lured them across the Hudson River to the smaller and less-known village of Athens.

It was the Haight-Van Loan House, a 7,000-square-foot Federal mansion that has panoramic views of the Hudson River and looms over eight acres on a hill at the south end of the village. And they were able to buy it for just $925,000.

“I feel like we made the bargain of the century,” said Mr. Moore, a theater actor and producer who lives in Manhattan.

More than two years later, the couple are still enthusiastic about their find, which would have cost more than $3 million across the river in Columbia County, local real estate agents say. They are now in the middle of an extensive restoration being overseen by Howard Hall Farm, a local firm that uses environmentally sensitive preservation techniques. The red shag carpeting has been ripped out, and a brace holds up the ceiling of the grand ballroom while an original beam of the house is being repaired.

“The house has been peeled back to its essence,” said Mr. Hawkins, a consultant to Christie’s and a former general counsel for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The restoration of the Haight-Van Loan House is perhaps the perfect emblem for Athens. Its trove of historic homes in various states of restoration and repair has become a draw for second-home owners who have an eye for vintage architecture. Newly spruced-up houses stand beside neglected properties of weed-infested yards, peeling paint and crumbling brick. Scaffolding is a common sight, and town gossip often revolves around who’s fixing up what and how.

The Village of Athens, a separate municipality within the town of Athens, sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, four miles north of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Greene County. First settled in the late 17th century, the village, a port on the Hudson-Athens Ferry, became a thriving hub for shipbuilding, brick making and ice harvesting. Athens fell on hard times after the bridge went up in 1935, eliminating the need for the ferry, which closed in 1947. Athens’s layout and architecture have remained essentially the same since its heyday in the late 19th century. It has more than 300 buildings on national and state historic registers and has the feel of a living museum of American architecture, with examples of many of the predominant styles of the 18th and 19th centuries, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Stick, Second Empire, Folk Victorian and Queen Anne.

Geoff Howell, who owns a Manhattan design and production studio, bought a five-bedroom Italianate house four years ago for $225,000. He has since bought two houses to restore and sell. “I’ve been interested in historic preservation my whole life but never felt I could make a difference in the city,” he said. “But Athens is small enough that every house you restore makes a big difference in the community.”

The Scene

Ursula’s Diner is a friendly gathering place across from a waterfront park and boat launching area. And kayaks, powerboats, tugs and barges are a common sight on the river.

Boating, fishing and other water sports are also popular at Sleepy Hollow Lake, a 750-home private community that surrounds a two-and-a-half-mile man-made lake outside the village. Sleepy Hollow includes tennis courts, a marina, a driving range, two swimming pools, a lodge and a campground.

Night life revolves mainly around the bar and restaurant at the Stewart House, a recently restored 1833 inn. The Athens Cultural Center hosts art openings and other events.

Otherwise, the social scene in Athens tends toward impromptu Saturday night gatherings. Sarah Gray Miller, editor in chief of Country Living magazine, and her husband, Tony Stamolis, a photographer, who live in Manhattan, bought a four-bedroom Italianate house two years ago for less than $300,000, she said. They then persuaded friends in their New York social circle to buy four other houses in Athens.

The couple entertain often, filling their bedrooms with visitors and inviting friends to dinner parties that can expand from 6 guests to 16 in the span of an evening. “We can all walk to each other’s houses, and there’s something very casual about it,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s like the joy of living in a commune, but you don’t actually have to share a house.”


Athens sits on a gradual slope up from the river, with houses and restaurants literally a stone’s throw from the water. On the east side of the Hudson, railroad tracks limit river access in many communities, while in most towns on the west side, steep riverbanks pose a similar challenge.

Chris Baswell, a professor of medieval literature at Barnard and Columbia who lives in Manhattan, is renovating a Federal brick house, built around 1800, eight blocks up from the river. “I use a wheelchair, so the gentle grade is good,” he said. “I can go anywhere in the village — the park, the diner, the river’s right there.”

Athens is smaller and less expensive than Hudson, a city across the river also noted for its stock of vintage homes. Though prices in recent years have begun to catch up, the median price in Athens is still about $50,000 less than in Hudson, according to the Greene County Multiple Listing Service.


Besides a basic gas station-convenience store, there is no retail shopping in Athens. The closest supermarket is in Catskill, 10 minutes away.

The Real Estate Market

Historic fixer-uppers can be found for $100,000 to $150,000 in the village, local agents say, but expect to pay at least $200,000 for a three-bedroom house in move-in condition. Lot sizes in the village average a third of an acre.

Most lakefront homes at Sleepy Hollow cost $350,000 to $450,000, with off-lake properties available in the $200,000 range, said Vicki Wolpert, who owns Lake and Mountain Realty in Athens. Listings of more than $500,000 are rare.

Athens has managed to hold its own in the down housing market. The median price of homes sold in the town of Athens, which includes the village proper, from January through mid-September 2008 was $181,000, according to the Greene County Multiple Listing Service. In the last five years, the average price of a home rose more than $100,000.

“Lower-priced deals on homes that need work can still be found, but it’s not like it was,” said Andrea Smallwood, the village mayor and a sales associate at Heart Land Realty in Coxsackie, N.Y.

The average listing stays on the market for about six months, about a month longer than in 2007. Local real estate agents estimate that 10 to 15 percent of the houses in the village of Athens and about 50 percent of the houses at Sleepy Hollow Lake are used as second homes.

The homes at Sleepy Hollow Lake are mainly A-frames and contemporaries built in the last 40 years. The property owners association regulates paint color and other features.

“We don’t have the grand old houses,” Ms. Wolpert said. “When people contact us, they are looking for lakefront. That’s what attracts them first. Then we move on to what kind of home.”


POPULATION 1,743, according to a 2006 Census Bureau estimate.

SIZE 4.6 square miles.

WHERE Athens is 132 miles north of New York City, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive.

WHO’S BUYING Lawyers, journalists and other professionals from New York City and North Jersey.

WHILE YOU’RE LOOKING Rooms start at $147.50 a night at Stewart House (2 North Water Street, 518-945-1357; The inn also includes a well-regarded restaurant.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Barack Obama Portrayed as George Washington

How To Change Things

by Owen Lipstein October 24, 2008

If there has been a more fetchingly, blissfully beautiful spate of autumn weather here in the Hudson Valley, I don’t remember when. I confess to being a closet optimist (an occupational hazard for entrepreneurs), but lately I can’t quite shake the thought that Britain also enjoyed a shockingly gorgeous summer in 1940. According to historian John Lukacs, the not-so-salutary effect of it lulled some Brits into half-believing their endless summer might last, that perhaps war could be held at a distance indefinitely.

In fact, in their world, bombs started dropping manically from the September skies as the Germans began the Blitzkrieg on Britain with 57 straight nights of air raids on London. Here, recent economic developments, still a little remote to some, have begun raining down on us against a backdrop of jarringly discordant, perfect weather.

This “Next” issue of InsideOut chronicles some possible outcomes for the future, both for the nation and in the Hudson Valley. We would suggest that the collective voices within resonate with something approaching hope.

If you want to think about the future, the body of knowledge about twin research provides the ultimate controlled experiment. If you believe you are the sole author of your own destiny, then can you explain how identical twins separated at birth both became firemen in California, and clutch their Budweiser in a plainly unique manner? I think you’ll find our interview with noted twin expert Dr. Nancy Segal at once disquieting and reassuring.

Local boy James Howard Kunstler’s body of work, from predicting the end of conventional suburbs to the current peak-oil scenario, makes other forecasters look silly. In his novel World Made by Hand, he imagines a future Hudson Valley where there are no power grids, no oil, no central government, and where cities languish in squalor. It’s both a trip forward in imagined time, and a nostalgic—though not sentimental—nod to the necessary skills we as a culture and a society once possessed.

We interview Giancarlo Esposito, fresh from an appearance at the Woodstock Film Festival, where he showed his new film, “Gospel Hill,” which is about…everything. It’s hard to see a movie more of its time than this one.

We also spoke to nine kids. In some ways, they demonstrated a clearer grasp of what lies ahead than many of their elders.

One more thing: No, I don’t think we’re going to be embarrassed for the next 60 years—as the Chicago Daily Tribune was after running the headline DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN the day after that election­—with a triumphant McCain waving a hot-off-the-press copy of InsideOut in ebullient ridicule. But if Obama doesn’t win, our chagrin will hardly be this magazine's—or nation’s—biggest problem.

We were inspired by the first, iconic cover of the late George magazine, a prescient publication founded by the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. about “demystifying the political process.”

Imagine George Washington changing everything, traversing the Hudson Valley, the best horsemen of his day, surprising the British where they slept—and altering the future of this country for the better. Now that man was a maverick.

We think Obama is made of the same cloth. With his courage and competence, intelligence and moral clarity, he just might redeem the hope and the promise of that first American Revolution. (And allow us all to better enjoy the next wave of heaven-sent weather.)


We dedicate this issue to the artists in the valley. Why? Because these are the people who do something. Something (perhaps) ineffable, something that—every day makes this valley better. So whether they light an empty studio with dance, anoint a blank canvas with oil, or take a note and make it sing, they do something. When they make clay come alive, weave blades of grass into a hat, transform a hunk of metal into something else, they make a difference. And when they set a stage on fire. Or wrestle with words that will not stay in place. They perform a service, and nourish us in a way that truly matters.

Some artists are recognized for what they do; some do it with just about no one paying attention. We celebrate 100 artists (101 when you include Karen Allen who is interviewed on our back page) artists here—as individuals, and as a group— imagining no rank, conjuring no score, no handicap for success. We think that’s as it should be.

(By the way, it was easy—Amanda shoot me—to find 100 working artists. Next year we’ll do another 100. This place absolutely incubates them.)

Consider the example of sculptor Harvey Fite who, in 1938, bought ten acres in the middle of the Saugerties woods. He started off thinking of the quarry as raw material, which is, of course, what it was.

Then apparently “Opus 40” (named by him with exasperated irony) began to emerge as a setting to display a variety of his works.

But as he cleared away the rubbish, the place ceased to become a mere pedestal for sculpture. It became a sculptured environment; it became a work in process, the art itself.

Then using some ancient principles of Mayan art, he erected the monolith. He removed his old stuff. He improvised.

He found his rhythm and worked for 37 years.

I am told that the stones he put down will pretty much stay in place (with no mortar) for a very long time. Maybe even 10,000 years.

Of course, a magazine like this is made of more perishable stuff. Maybe that’s why we feel okay channeling something as timeless as Manet’s “The Picnic” for
our cover, and doing our own improvisation.

We didn’t exactly turn it inside out, but we did bring it home.

Monday, November 10, 2008

by Owen Lipstein


You are appalled at the rampant, pervasive “consumerism.” Your government continues to wage an insane, debilitating war. Warning signs of environmental degradation are systematically ignored. As for the oil prices, they are out of sight. More than $10 a barrel… and rising. Even though the first Earth Day gets a lot of attention, soon enough business as usual returns with a vengance. All of this makes you feel… helpless.
You grow tired of feeling that way. You decide to take charge of your life. What do you do?
If you are Helen and Scott Nearing, you move up to a farm in rural Vermont and start figuring out how to live on the land and from the land. You write some books about self-sufficiency like ”Living the Good life.” You learn as you go.
If you are John Shuttleworth, you start a magazine “to give people back their lives.” It starts as a community handout, mere information sheets left under doors. It is called Mother Earth News.
If you are Stewart Brand, you create a catalog of tools, design aids, maps, and metalworking so that “civilization can learn to be more sustainable.” You call this production The Whole Earth Catalog.
These solo, entrepreneurial acts of social and ethical defiance become, after a while, not so solo. Someone gives this trend a name: the back to the land movement.
Today is April 17, 2008. Not 1970. And this magazine is not produced in Vermont, North Carolina, or California. But the unsettling realities of the world we now live in are far scarier than what brought those pioneers to their feet. The marketplace and Mother Earth herself will soon impose their own will on us without waiting for a vote or a treaty. The time is now. As we go to press, oil is at an all-time high of $116 a barrel.
Julian Darley is executive director of the Post Carbon Institute — a think, action and education tank that helps communities “relocalize” and adapt to an energy-constrained world. Even two years ago, the purpose of an organization with that name (as Julian admitted to me with a certain jocularity), might seem specious or remote. But not now. We are at the end of an era in which a certain level of consumption was possible because oil prices were so low.
As Julian explains in the first of a three-part series that kicks off our new column, Hudson Valley Homesteader, the world’s decreasing supply of oil will eventually change everything. From our supply chains to the food we eat, to where we live, work, or travel, and how far we will go to find a dose of so-called culture. Learning to live wisely, frugally, and practically is going to be a life-long process.
For the future of us all, how well we do this new work of saving ourselves will be worth… nothing less than everything. But it doesn’t mean it has to be depressing. Or boring.
This Play issue celebrates the idea that “living locally” in this extravagantly gorgeous valley can be a lot of fun. In fact, the evidence contained in this issue is — to us, at least — absolutely compelling.
For the record: The Hudson Valley, in addition to all its other bounty, is demonstrably a happening place. In fact, we recently had a sighting of Marilyn Monroe parachuting into our own city of Hudson, New York, in broad daylight.

If you’re having trouble getting InsideOut (our copies are disappearing days after distribution), you are not alone. But now you can subscribe. (Call our high-tech subscription office at 518.943.9200.) That way, the magazine will appear at your door days after we publish it. What could be better?

by Owen Lipstein


Our fifth anniversary issue is on hope. What gives me hope? See below. These folks don’t think that print is dead. They don’t think that it’s a bad time to relaunch a magazine. And they don’t think (that much) about how many hours they put in, or what the price of this much effort is.
Until I read Paul Johnson’s “Heroes,” Shakespeare had for me a monopoly on describing the power of small groups, the alchemy of comaraderie, with “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” But it turns out that our man from Stratford lifted that line and the sentiment almost directly from the real Henry V. For the young king had to have a little sit-down with his troops at Agincourt after being informed that his own 6,000 tired soldiers were no match for the 14,000 well-fed Frenchmen who were shadowing them. The king actually said: “I would not have a single man more than I do, for these I have here with me are God’s people.” Turns out they triumphed in the battle, and went on… to Calais.
If we’re talking about hope, I don’t have to look very far: this inspiring work, this unlikely bunch, the stories that we chronicle here, our incredible river valley.

by Owen Lipstein


I am very proud of this issue.
In fact, I am bowled over by our writers, humbled by the images, and completely taken with the design. But most of all, I’m smitten with our subject. Apparently, love brings out the best in us.
Here are some (passionate) highlights:
The Raw and the Cooked: Brigit Binns reaches deep within to recount, with muted eloquence, the painful relationship she shares with her mother — and how she heals herself with cooking.
Earth Diary: John Cronin tells the exhilarating tale of braving the Hudson in his first boat, and the fisherman who bought it for him. If you have ever been a teenage boy (I have), you never forget the first mechanical object or the first place you fell for.
In My Garden: If you love a gardener (and we’re all gardeners, right?) — Paula Forman tells us spiritually, emotionally, and concretely what to give them. It’s about the flowers. Stupid.
Seek: When our occasionally shy managing editor told me about her interview with Dr. Gina Ogden, author of the book “Women Who Love Sex,” I didn’t have to feign curiosity. There are, it turns out, women who have spontaneous orgasms.
American Health: I’ve admired Dan Goleman for decades; he’s a virtual advertisement for the many rewards of following your bliss. Among other things he told us in our interview: Love employs three different brain systems — caretaking, attachment, and romance.
Build: Jessie Koester, in an open letter to the former owner of her cedar cabin, reminds us that we are mere passengers on our land and in our houses — that we never own them; we just borrow and share them.
Arts & Culture: Philip Alvaré takes us on another wild ride, this time investigating with precision and humor the historic and local pairing of love with apples.
Local Love Stories: We admired their independence, their courage, their zaniness. We knew better than to try to say what love is, so we caught them in the act. In a moment.
Pattie Boyd: What do three of the best love songs in rock-and-roll (“Something,” “Layla,” and “Wonderful Tonight”) have in common? Not just their timelessness or the way they bring you to a very specific place every time you hear them. It’s that they were written for Pattie Boyd, the premiere muse of our time. And her photographs are remarkable — they are limited editions, and we are grateful to Pattie for letting us print them. Knowing some details behind the stories gives these songs dimensionality and earthiness. It makes you feel very young and very old. And it’s easy to understand the hold she had on these men.
Twenty-seven years ago, Annie Leibovitz took one of the most memorable love pictures of all time. It is a portrait that became an icon — a cover for Rolling Stone that slowly, and then all at once, became imprinted on the public mind. It showed John Lennon, in his last living image, with all his high-guts vulnerability. A rock star without clothes. It showed Yoko Ono as a woman who didn’t care about any of that stuff, who just cared about him. It was first an image totally of its time, and then an image totally for the ages. Now it’s a timeless one, a moment that is still very much alive. And that’s why we chose that image, that moment, to say what we want to say about love:
From the inside out, we modestly proclaim that in the Hudson Valley it is more important that you love genuinely — honestly — than what your sexual preference is. Or the color of your skin. Or who’s wearing the clothes.
Love is the thing. Compared to that, everything else is just a detail.
Have a good year.

Why? by Owen Lipstein


Why do people do what they do? What inspires them? What keeps them going? We put this question to a set of somewhat improbable, deeply interesting people (who live up and down this valley), making some inside bets on what the answers would be. It shouldn’t be a surprise to you, our readers, that we were pretty consistently wrong about these projected answers; such are the surprises we regularly receive from the denizens of this Hudson Valley.

We asked the same question of our columnists, and they didn’t disappoint either. Brigit Binns tells us why we might want to prepare for the (idea of a) $40 tomato. John Katz explains why dogs need a job. Paula Forman informs us why some people would be better off paying someone else to golf for them. Julian Darley expounds on why we should all plan on being locals. Carlo and Dominique De Vito remind us why choosing a good wine and visiting a local farm stand may turn into a one-stop event. Dakota Lane enlightens us about why we should pay attention the next time His Holiness the Karmapa shows up in town. Joan Morgan sheds light on why a top Manhattan magazine editor (herself) might pick her life up one day and move to Kingston. Erika Tsoukenalis describes why putting a whole array of grasses and plants on your roof might be an excellent idea. And Drew Coffey tells us why taking a sentimental journey back to Albany might make for a religious experience.

And then there’s this: Why ask why? Besides the highly entertaining, occasionally idiosyncratic information we got from the answers, it’s hard not to be moved on another level. Call it the salutary effect of hearing the question why answered honestly. Suddenly, perhaps, you look at everything in a new light. You want to eject the frivolous, delete the unnecessary, throw out what doesn’t work anymore. You become a strict sergeant of your own time. The rich possibilities of life, the big stuff your dull brain skipped over, now jump out at you. As wise people always tell us: It’s all in the asking.

So it should come as no surprise that the theme of this issue started out as Faith, morphed into Why? then wound up being about faith after all. So much for planning and predictability.

One more note: This will be Bethany Saltman’s final issue as managing editor. We are all going to miss her. The magazine owes her a big debt for helping us get it to the healthy and strong position we are in today. Thanks, Bethany.

by Owen Lipstein


Imagine there are no people.
Imagine that we’ve all disappeared. Without the messy footprints of an over-the-top nuclear exchange, or the kind of monster asteroid that rained on the dinosaurs’ parade.
Instead, imagine, if you can, just this: That in one single day our “cloud-capped towers, our gorgeous palaces, our solemn temples” are suddenly, and completely, bereft of people. That the we of the planet have virtually disappeared, leaving not a rack behind. Everything else in the world is … just as it was.
That, in short, is the darkly interesting premise of Alan Weisman’s New York Times bestseller, “The World Without Us.” Alan spent a morning speaking with us. We found this discussion about extinction somehow very energizing …
What happens in our valley if we’re not around to live in it? What happens to some of the people, places, and things we chronicle in this magazine?
For those of us who live in wood structures: Those buildings should not expect a long future life without their mortgage holders. Ephemeral would be the apt word for the formal barn described in our Home section by Erika Tsoukanlis. Weisman, we surmise, might say that without an owner to fix the inevitable roof leak, the barn would stay vertical for only 15 to 20 years. We love that place.
On the other hand, if you, like our brick-celebrating columnist Philip Alvare, are forward-looking enough to live in a brick building, your neighborhood birds and animals may be living there comfortably … for at least 150 years … before things start to get a little tipsy. Because inevitably, with no one there to repoint the corners, the mortar will start to wash away …
Brigit Binns, columnist of The Raw and the Cooked, discusses with a certain enthusiasm the prospect of eating very local venison. Good news here for future venison eaters (if only there were someone to eat it): Weisman shows convincingly that without human beings, animals tend to get larger (big animals eat small ones in a world without humans — with humans, there are a lot fewer lions and elephants). Assume the Hudson Valley without us would showcase an order-of-magnitude larger, beefier horned creatures.
John Cronin, in his Earth Diary, laments the gradual extinction of ancient sturgeon. Guess who will be sure to make a vigorous comeback if we’re not around?
Dr. Scharf, in this issue, warns us not to declaw our cats. It’s more painful for the cats than we might realize. For his part, Weisman is downright down on cats — they destroy more birds than we can fathom. But in a world without us, to his evident delight, the domestic cat would suddenly lose its biggest ally and chief shill. In a world without us, the housecat would have to fend for itself. It would not be fruitful … and it would tend … not to multiply. (Cockroaches also have a less-than-rosy future.)
But it is in the future of Paula Forman‘s garden, for one example, that we see most clearly what we have to look forward to. Weisman figures it would take just five centuries for her soil, now rife with “Ugly Bettys” (red salvia), to squire giant oaks, 200-foot walnuts, colossal chestnuts — stuff that would make her garden look, for all the world, like the primeval forest that Adam knew.
Call it a dubious distinction. But in a world without us, the Hudson Valley as we know it now (even with a rich imagination) wouldn’t look or be that different. And not just because we wouldn’t be underwater in two weeks as Manhattan would, or transformed into a gaseous holocaust, as the Houston-Austin corridor would.
It’s because the Hudson Valley was drafted, long ago, with the ultimate foresight — to make the mountains and rivers and streams the dominant architecture of the land — and Homo sapiens are still, after all, just another animal (though one with a troublesome history and an emerging worrisome future).
That is yet another reason we’re crazy about the Hudson Valley.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Owen Lipstein: fitness of body, mind and magazine

Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, March, 1989 by Margaret Hunter

Like American Health, Hippocrates is a precocious youngster that won a National Magazine Award for Excellence in its first year. Lipstein notes that American Health continues to "dominate" its category, and Hippocrates' circulation at 416,000 is less than half of American Health's at 1.2 million.

Although Time's acquisition gives Hippocrates tremendous expansion capital, Lipstein maintains it helps reestablish the value of American Health. "If Time was willing to pay that much for a magazine with half our circulation, it makes us look pretty good."

Chris Whittle, however, is another matter. The Knoxville-based publisher's Special Reports, a package of six titles distributed to doctors' waiting rooms free if the physician agrees to limit other subscriptions, enrages Lipstein. It's not the competition for advertisers that bugs him, he says; it's the idea of American Health being thrown out of a doctor's office. The magazine's 100,000-plus waiting room copies receive high pass-along readership and are important to the Personal Best Network's overall numbers. Lipstein hasn't withdrawn the lawsuit threat he made months ago over Whittle's exclusivity program, but he's not as vocal as he has been. It's time to put up or shut up, he admits.

Competition with Whittle has even become a personal matter. More than a half-dozen American Health employees have left for the higher-paying Whittle Communications. Chris Whittle is rumored to be making piles of money, and his wall media in 1,500 health clubs outpaces Lipstein's 1,200. Perhaps worst of all, Whitlle has been stealing the limelight as the industry's brash young maverick, a reputation coveted by both publishers, according to sources.

Neither the challenges ahead nor the growing diversity of his titles appear to worry Lipstein. "I don't know if it has to make sense to anyone else but me," he says. "The magazines round out the four corners of my life: mind, body, spirit, style."

American Health, for example, grew out of his master's thesis, which discussed the opposing forces in the friendship of the cerebral Aldous Huxley and the gutsy D. H. Lawrence. The theme was picked up in the magazine's tag line, "Fitness of Body and Mind." Mother Earth News, he maintains, tied in his country home in Catskill, New York, and his desire, "like a lot of people, to be able to wield a wrench." The Psychology Today acquisition coincided with a failed romance, and Smart appealed to the aging student of literature who listens to Shakespeare tapes while jogging.

Those who know him say Lipstein is a fighter--boxing lessons, a fascination with Rambo movies and an admiration of Muhammed Ali give some indication. A column he wrote in a February 1988 American Health supplement is self-revealing: "In my judgment, males are incorrigible showoffs. We fight, start wars, start companies or take them over because we seek to impress, an impulse designed both to attract women and intimidate other men."

There's an intelligence under Lipstein's adolescent image that competitors shouldn't underestimate, say sources. "He's like a bad teenager, the one who boasts the most, drinks the most, goes out with the sleazy good-looking women, and still makes straight As," says a former employee, who now works for Whittle.

COPYRIGHT 1989 Copyright by Media Central Inc., A PRIMEDIA Company. All rights reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning


Published: June 15, 1985

If it involves moving a muscle, there is probably a magazine for it.

Five years ago, there were only a handful of health and fitness publications. Today, a weightlifter might have trouble lifting them all at once.

''There's been a grass-roots revolution in health and fitness, and the information is following that,'' said Owen Lipstein, publisher of American Health, a monthly magazine founded three and a half years ago. ''There's a lot of activity in the field, a lot of start-ups.''

The titles range from health-oriented magazines, such as American Health; Prevention, and Health, which offer advice on everything from nutrition to muscle tone, to those with a more general readership, such as Self, which now carry more features on fitness.

But the most visible development has been the introduction of dozens of small publications aimed at readers with specific exercise interests. For women, in particular, there sometimes seems to be more magazines on newsstands designed to keep them trim than there are aerobics classes in Manhattan.

View Full NYT Article HERE

Circulation Rate Base Up at American Health

ADVERTISING; Circulation Rate Base Up at American Health

Published: September 14, 1983

American Health Magazine, which made its debut in March 1981 with Owen J. Lipstein as publisher and T. George Harris as editor, will go into the black on an issue-by-issue basis with the November/December issue now on the presses.

And that is not the end of the good news. With the March/April issue, it will increase its circulation rate base by 100,000, to 650,000, and plans another increase of at least the same size next July.

With the May issue, the frequency of publication will be increased to ten a year from six.


Published: December 14, 1983

Nobody shirks at American Health magazine.

The publisher, who admits to being slightly out of shape, volunteered for a humiliating match with the top-ranked American squash player. The executive editor spent a month of leg lifts and aerobics at a Vermont body conditioning spa, trimming 16 pounds from her chubby frame. The chief of research did some first-person research in a 10-kilometer race, and shaved two minutes off her best time.

It is all good copy for American Health, the self-proclaimed magazine about ''fitness of body and mind.'' American Health will celebrate its second birthday next March and, while the staff may number more enthusiasts than natural athletes, there is nothing unfit about their product.

In a period when other more lavishly financed magazines - Time's TV-Cable Week, Reader's Digest's Families - have closed down, American Health is one of the sturdiest newcomers to the difficult and competitive world of magazine publishing. Indeed, it is one of the rare survivors; 9 out of 10 new magazines fail within 18 months, according to the Magazine Publishers Association. For a specialty magazine, American Health is growing nicely. At the end of September, it sold 465,000 copies - of which less than one-sixth were newsstand sales, at $2 apiece. The demographics are good; the average reader's age is 36 and, while 70 percent are female, the ratio is expected to become less lopsided in the future. Advertising revenues for the first nine months totaled $1.5 million, or 202 pages.

What's more, according to Owen Lipstein, the 32-year-old publisher and defeated squash player, the figures are better than they look. Half of the magazine's first-year subscribers renewed, an exceptionally high ratio. For the March-April 1984 issue, Mr. Lipstein said, the guaranteed circulation will be 650,000. It will go monthly in May, he said, and be solidly in the black in 1985.

'A Very Hot Book'

''The circulation is growing so fast that it's delivered better than the numbers,'' said Peter Spengler, vice president of advertising services at the Bristol-Myers Company, which this year bought 18 pages of ads. American Health ''is a very hot book,'' he said.

According to Mr. Spengler, American Health occupies a niche somewhere between Prevention, the 33- year-old Rodale Press monthly, and Self, the four-year-old Conde Nast magazine that industry wits have dubbed ''Vogue with sneakers.'' And with rates well below those mass-circulation magazines, it has attracted such blue-chip advertisers as Procter & Gamble, Revlon, General Foods and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to Bristol-Myers.

Editorially, American Health is essentially a news magazine whose focus is the mind and body, according to its editor, T George Harris. Mr. Harris, 59, the founding editor of Psychology Today, said that it was almost accidental that much of the information - about nutrition, hunger, stress - has proved to be of service to readers.

''We've been able to take the exotic frontier material in medicine and behavior, and find it applies to what people do,'' he said in an interview last week.

Features for Sensitive Soles

Hence, the magazine has boasted such features as ''The Whole Foot Catalogue,'' with massages and other treatment for sensitive soles; ''Ah, Oolong, So Long To Cavities,'' a report that tea prevents tooth decay, and ''Staying Fluid,'' about ways to avoid dehydration. There are departments devoted to life style, nutrition and teeth. And to back up its 16 editorial employees, American Health has a board of M.D.'s, Ph.D's and R.N.'s.

''We're an owner's manual for the body,'' Mr. Lipstein said. ''This is the magazine for the baby-boom generation,'' he added. ''It reflects where the baby-boom generation, after the politics of the 1960's and 1970's, has ended up putting its energies.''

It was in February 1981 that Mr. Lipstein - who, as publisher of Science '81, felt science books were ''too gee-whiz'' - first approached Mr. Harris - who, after his years at Psychology Today, felt that the area below the neck was being neglected - with what he calls ''a screamingly obvious idea.''

With Mr. Harris's editorial clout behind the venture, the rest fell into place with surprising ease. Venture capital for new magazines has been scarce, but Oppenheimer & Company, the investment bank, raised $5 million for American Health, and a second $5 million last summer. Publishers such as Time Inc. and Conde Nast Publications Inc. have pumped more than $10 million into their new magazines, but the sum was unusually large for entrepreneurs new to publishing, according to William Gorog, president of the Magazine Publishers Association.

To find readers, the American Health team culled the mailing lists of Psychology Today, Savvy, Runners World and other ''upscale, health-and-life style books,'' Mr. Lipstein said. They hired Bill Jayme, the acknowledged master of direct-mail solicitations, to draft its mailing: a letter offering ''New vim! New vigor! New vitality!'' in a shiny envelope with a photograph of juicy orange slices on one side, a laboratory on the other.

Gamble Paid Off

''We dropped eight million pieces of mail, nearly half our financing,'' Mr. Lipstein recalled. But the gamble paid off handsomely, and the magazine began in March 1982 with 300,000 subscribers.

The way Mr. Lipstein sees it, the magazine's continued growth is all but inevitable. ''There's a social and physical revolution,'' he said. ''The interest in health and fitness is not a fad.'' Although he declined to project circulations of one million or more, he said, ''My gut tells me it's a big magazine.''

The view is apparently shared. Mr. Lipstein said that he has turned down four bids for the magazine.

American Health, meanwhile, is trying to become bigger. It advertises on Hearst-ABC's Cable Health Network, with which for a time it had a barter arrangement - printing the service's program guide in return for free commercial time. It periodically surveys its readers by telephone, asking them what they liked, and what did not like, about an issue. As a result, nutrition has become the largest section of each issue, overtaking fitness and medical news.

And like other magazines, it constantly invites new subscribers with mailings and inserts. Its current bid for gift subscriptions, urging readers to make it ''a healthy New Year for your friends,'' features an unfamiliar Santa Claus - paunchless, and in running shoes.

Science Magazines Taking Off

Published: April 2, 1981

SOCIAL changes frequently help create new magazine categories. The movement of women into the work force has certainly brought with it a string of new titles of service magazines intended to help those women cope, and, of course, make money for the publishers. The running craze has brought with it a proliferation of publications on the subject, and video and high technology have combined to cause a flood of trade and consumer magazines on every aspect of video and cable television.

Similarly, high technology along with a more educated public, enhanced by heightened interest in science brought on by the space program, has resulted in a boom in science publications.

''We recognized that there was a tremendous gap in the marketplace,'' said Beverly Wardell, director of advertising sales of Omni. ''People are really hungry for this kind of information that they previously had to get from occasional articles in newsmagazines.'' Two years ago, Omni, the younger sister of Penthouse, made one of the most succesful debuts in the history of the magazine business. It is one-third fact, one-third fiction and one-third fantasy.

Then came Science 80, from the American Society for the Advancement of Science, and Discover, from Time Inc. Then Hearst Magazines, after two years of testing, completely revamped its 44-year-old digest size Science Digest into a handsome, standard-size slick publication.

And all of these $2-per-copy magazines appear to be doing well, with lots of room for growth. ''Can the marketplace sustain them?'' Reginald K. Brack Jr., publisher of Discover, asked rhetoriclly. ''The interest is very definitely there. We assume that there are about 11 million households that are potential readers, and all of the science magazines only have a total circulation of 1.7 million. That's only 16 percent penetration, so there is a lot of room for growth.''

And they will indeed continue to grow, according to Charles Mandel, the original ad director of Omni, who is now publisher of Science Digest. ''There's such an explosion of real information,'' he said, ''and no great duplication in the material.''

These magazines have a lot going for them as far as advertisers are concerned. The quality of their audiences is really first rate in terms of age, income and education.

Omni's best categories, consumer electronics (stereos, etc.,) and liquor, reflect this. Science 81 and Discover have automotive, both domestic and foreign, as their largest category, while at Science Digest it's a tie between automotive and alcoholic beverages.

While corporate advertising is a factor in all four of the publications, it is the No.1 category at Scientific American, a 136-year-old magazine that is for a much more scientifically oriented reader than the others and therefore caters to more of the so-called thought-leader types that corporate advertisers fancy.

The major thing it has in common with the other magazines is that it is listed with them under the science category in the Standard Rate and Data directory.

''They like to be with us for the quality image,'' said C. John Kirby, ad director of Scientific American, who notes that the flood of new publications ''has had no impact that we are aware of.''

Science 81 began as a bimonthly and went to 10 a year last November. Ultimately it will go to 12 a year. Its management has a philosophy about science coverage that differs from the rest. It runs features, because, as Owen J. Lipstein, general manager, notes, ''Science is a process, not an event.''

Because the magazine is published by a nonprofit institution, it gets a break on postal rates. Its circulation, therefore, has been largely by subscription. Subscription can be a way of keeping the demographics of the readership high since the magazine can be selective about who is solicited.

The magazine, whose circulation rate base went to 600,000 with the April issue, will, however, test single-copy sales this month and will go to a rate base of 675,000 with the July issue.

Although competitors charge that, because of the nonprofit status, the magazine can offer lower ad rates, Mr. Lipstein, who does not agree, said, ''We have lower ad rates because it makes good marketing sense.''

Science 81 will carry about 185 pages of advertising in the five issues during the first six months, averaging 37 pages an issue, up from last year's average of 32 pages.

Thanks partially to the increase in publishing frequency, the magazine showed a strong increase in ad revenues, going from $390,283, according to Publishers Information Bureau standards, in the first six months of 1980 to $1.9 million in the first six of this year. according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Omni, being out of the Penthouse stable, does, of course, have a large single-copy sale. Of its actual average audited circulation of 858,000 in the second half of last year, single copy sales totaled 650,885. Miss Wardell said, ''We'll be over a million in total circulation in 12 to 15 months.''

For the first half of the year, it will be up 4 percent in ad pages, to 308, and up 16.6 percent in revenues, to $4.4 million, by P.I.B. standards.

Since making its bow last October, Time's Discover went from a circulation guarantee of 400,000 to 600,000. In its first six months, it carried 207 pages of advertising, with P.I.B. revenues of $2.3 million.

Science Digest, which had a circulation of less than 150,000 as a digest size, is already up to 450,000, with single-copy sales averaging about 300,000. Mr. Mandel estimates that it will carry 176 pages of advertising in five issues during the first six months. He did not have P.I.B. revenue estimates.

Merger Near for Smart

Published: September 3, 1990

LEAD: The publisher of Smart magazine said last week that he was close to reaching a final agreement to merge his men's publication with a men's magazine that is being readied for introduction next year. The publisher, Owen Lipstein, said he had agreed to buy Men magazine and would incorporate some of the ideas being considered for Men into Smart.

Monday, September 29, 2008

“Fabulous Mac Beth finale of Shakespeare-on-Hudson”

By John Paul Keener
For Hudson Valley Newspapers

Great theater strikes again in the Columbia-Greene area with the production and performance of Mac Beth by the "Shakespeare-on-Hudson" company at Athens under the direction of the company's founder, Owen Lipstein

More than 20 years ago, Okay Hall III founded the successful Summer Theater, "Lexington Conservatory Theater," which in recent years became the resident theater at our State Capitol under the name, Capitol Rep.

On the evidence of the current production of Mac Beth, the Shakespeare-on-Hudson company is a cultural treasure for the twin counties and the entire region. The outdoor theater built into the side of a hill like a Greek amphitheater, overlooks the serene beauty of the Hudson River and has the advantage of superb acoustics.

Director Lipstein is updating the time frame of the play to the 1929 Depression and 1932 period of Hitler and Mussolini chaos, a daring innovation that really works.

Shakespeare is universal and transcends time. Like Mozart in music, the Bard of Avon becomes contemporary in every generation. L.C. Smith's classic book, "On Reading Shakespeare," comes from 1933, the time of the play's current setting. Smith said, "Shakespeare made up his language as he went along — crashing through the forest of words like a thunderbolt!"

The cast of Mac Beth did just that, with superb diction, telling the story with stunning élan. The actors had the words and actions of their parts unselfconsciously in their bones. They projected their characters with sweep and crescendo until "Imam Wood came to Dennison" and Mac-Duff, who "from his mother's womb was untimely ripped," kills Mac Beth.

Brian Tumbaugh scored a triumph as Mac Beth. He achieved a full-blooded characterization by a combination of nimble fluidity of acting. voicing his part with rich sonority and varied vocal color. Tumbaugh recreated Mac Beth with an originality unlike any of his predecessors within memory.
Charlotte Northeast as Lady Mac Beth matched her husband line for line. Northeast is almost a look-alike of the late Maria Callas. She brings a raucous acid bite to her portrayal, the way the opera star did playing Lady Mac Beth in the Verdi Opera.

The entire cast from the marvelously malevolent Witches, the virtuoso Banquo of Jason Guy, the searing McDuff of John Lewis, the comedic brilliance of James Engel's Porter, the swaggering Duncan of Leonard Gibbs, down to the imposing presence of old Heccat played by Lesley Anne Majzlin, evidenced an ensemble spirit essential for great theater.

The lighting and musical effects were just right and the sets of Yura Adams created a mood appropriate to the 1930s.

It seems a shame to see this grand production disappear from the community. The high schools on both sides of the river and our community college would gain more from a single performance of this Mac Beth than an entire semester would give them.

Perhaps our educators could secure a grant so that Shakespeare-on-the-Hudson productions could become a teaching adjunct for our young people?

The 2002 season promises an even greater challenge with Shakespeare's “simply” Hamlet

John Paul Keener, freelance critic and writer since 1968, often writes under the name Brook Street.

Shakespeare on the Hudson battles the elements

By John Mason
Hudson Valley Newspapers

It's an unlikely place to see Shakespeare - on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. But it's the place to see some of the most faithful and original productions of the Avon bard going in this part of the world.

And despite climate change and the wrath of Thy, Shakespeare on the Hudson is here for the long haul, according to its founder Owen Lipstein. He converted the theater to not-for-profit status, so he can seek financial assistance, and wants to add a school. And he recently bought the venerable restaurant, bar and B&B Stewart House, on the waterfront, which he plans to open Sept. 1.

He hopes people will go back and forth between the restaurant and the theater.

But until that time, the company's production of "Macbeth" is getting raves from its audiences. After watching a performance, Arthur Matera, the prominent costumer from Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera, came at Lipstein, pointing his finger and saying, "Do you know what you did?" Lipstein backed off, sure he was in for some heavy criticism. But Matera called the production "truly great."

"I've seen countless productions of 'Macbeth' in my life, all over the world - it's my favorite play," Matera said later, "but the one I saw at Shakespeare on the Hudson this season was far and away the best of them. Emotionally I found myself reacting anew to lines I'd heard a hundred times before. It is not only that the cast. and Brian Turnbaugh in particular as Macbeth, are superb, it is that Lipstein conveyed and communicated the play's most profound meanings in a tour de force of imagination, style and daring. Thank you. Director Lipstein. Your 'Macbeth' has brought me to "the top of my life."

Now through the end of August, "Macbeth" is playing Thursdays through Sundays at 8p.m. The setting is Depression-era, post-flapper Montgomery, Ala.

According to Director Lipstein, "It was a time when ill omen lurked throughout the world. It was a time of the purges of Stalin and the rise of Hitler. Many people in those days believed that evil was destined to overcome good - soon, and everywhere. That gloomy period matches perfectly the atmosphere Shakespeare created in his arresting and shocking play.

"From my point of view," he said, "the people that carry the day are not Malcolm and his friends, but the witches. Macbeth was their work. He did what they wanted him to do." So far, this has been a hard summer for the thespians, with about 70 percent of the performances rained out, Lipstein said. Next year he plans to add a tent covering.

"I'm a grown man," he said. "I don't think I should cry anymore."

A former magazine entrepreneur who has been editor-in-chief of "Psychology Today," "Mother Earth News," and "Spy" and founded "American Health," Lipstein moved to Athens in 1997 and shortly after decided to start a Shakespearean theater.

"I was sitting here a few years ago," he said, "and I thought about Shakespeare pre- the building of the Globe Theater. Shakespeare built his own theater by a river - why couldn't I? I went and told several friends who told me I was crazy, so I proceeded in haste. Seeking approval or counsel in beginnings is not something I encourage people to do."

He decided to build the theater on an incline on his Catskill property slipping down to the Hudson and forming a natural amphitheater.

That year, an Albany acting troupe performed "Twelfth Night" for six nights on a rustic stage by the river. Veteran director Greenleaf joined forces with Lipslein the following year, the stage, seating and grounds were improved, and the Albany troupe performed "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The following year, 1999, Lipstein and Greenleaf not only, improved the sound and lighting systems, but they also decided to find their own independent actors and stage the plays themselves.

Lipstein directed "The Tempest" and Greenleaf "A Comedy of Errors." That was also the first year they put the plays in more modern settings.

"Much Ado About Nothing." which played this summer through July, offered an entertaining variant on the setting by taking it out of Italy and placing it in Messina, Texas, in 1885. But it stuck to the original text surprisingly well. Most of the cast made the drawls or Spanish accents seem natural to the play's effects and meanings.

In particular, John Arthur Lewis made Benedick's character seem to be made for a bragging, tall-tale-telling, woman-avoiding, grass-chewing Texas Ranger. Brian Turnbaugh did an excellent job making Don Pedro both sympathetic and gullible, and James Engel's Dogberry was very funny in his spoof of authority without knowledge.

Sarah Dandridge's Beatrice was sly, spunky and spirited, but her lack of any accent was puzzling. Some of the Spanish accents worked better than others, and the disparity was a little distracting. The great comic scenes of the play, such as the verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick and the scene in which Benedick eavesdrops on his three friends as they plant the seed of Beatrice's love for him in his brain, were hilarious.

Directed by John Greenleaf, the play revealed a troupe willing to take some chances with setting and delivery in order to reveal the story in a new light, but who remained faithful to Shakespeare's words and worked remarkably well as an ensemble to bring them to life. Next year. Lipstein and company are considering doing "Henry V," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and, for a change of pace, "Camelot."

"This is what I do now." Lipstein said. "This is about the Hudson River and how beautiful it is, how extraordinarily lucky we are to live here."

Friday, June 13, 2008

April 6, 1990

From EW Weekly

These days, environmental magazines are sprouting like amphetamine-fertilized crocuses. Such publications were once the domain of nonprofit groups such as the Sierra Club, but in the last two years, three mass-market environmental titles (all bimonthlies) have made their debuts: Buzzworm, launched in 1988 and based in Boulder, Colo.; Garbage, published for the first time last September by the Brooklyn company that produces The Old-House Journal; and E, a Norwich, Conn.-based magazine that premiered in January. With its March- April issue, Mother Earth News, an Owen Lipstein publication (his others are Smart and Psychology Today), completes its well-publicized shift to environmental coverage. Russ Hoyle, a former Time senior editor, is drawing up plans for The Environmentalist. Hoyle hopes to launch the magazine sometime in 1991. Earth Day 1990, on April 22, gets special attention this month from, among others, New Age Journal, Outside, and Mother Jones. Outside lampoons Earth Day hype with a spread of charts and factoids, Spy-like in layout and tone, called ''This Green Thing.'' And in its 20th anniversary issue, Smithsonian has essays on the history of United States environmentalism and the ups and downs of the ecology movement since Earth Day 1970. Why so much hubbub? Because many people believe there's gold to be mined from the Green Decade that allegedly begins this month. As Mother Earth News editor Alfred Meyer put it in an ''Open Letter'' to Madison Avenue that ran in Adweek last November, ''The environmental movement (is) surging across the demographic landscape. Not since the early eighties, when the nation went on a health and fitness kick, has a social movement reached so deep.'' Not surprisingly, there's some overlap in the new, full-time environmental magazines. After reading one bimonth's worth, you may know all you'll ever want to about the towering fallacy of biodegradable plastics and the evils of disposable diapers. But each of the four has staked out a recognizable niche. Garbage is aimed at you Sons of Bob Vila who, in the name of eco-awareness, are eager to make your homes environmentally sound. Editor Patricia Poore has called her magazine the one for greenies ''with dishpan hands,'' and she means it. In its January-February issue, Garbage ran a head- turner called ''After the Flush,'' which included a Fantastic Voyage through a sewage system, and a consumer's guide to water-saving toilets. The ''Garbage Index,'' a fun-facts file, reported that We the People use 22,627 square miles of toilet paper a year (nearly enough, Garbage forgot to say, to cover Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island). The March-April issue tells you how to slay garden pests with natural, environment-friendly potions. Buzzworm is slicker. Unlike E and Garbage-which are printed on politically correct recycled paper stock-Buzzworm unashamedly uses unrecycled glossy throughout (although it says it will soon change over to recycled paper). Buzzworm has less how-to and more of what editor Joseph E. Daniel calls ''information toohelp people get physically involved in environmentalism.'' Its ''Connections'' section lists dozens of volunteer and paying jobs in environmental fields, and at the end of most articles there's an address for those seeking more info. (Garbage and E provididthis service, too; Mother Earth News, so far, does not.) Buzzworm also clearly wants to appeal to the action-people types who read Outside. The March-April issue has its share of green material-for example, a feature on the Soviet Union's eco-movement-buu it's dominated by lush nature photography and pieces on spelunking, white- water rafting, and a list of wilderness outfitters. E fits somewhere in between. Printed on humble, dull-finish paper, its service and feature reporting resembles elements in both Buzzworm and Garbage. The current issue, for example, contains reports on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and paper recycling. The main how-to feature is a beginner's guide to computer networks for environmental activists. Finally, in an orbit all its own is the new Mother Earth News, which looks like an econut's Rolling Stone (probably because both publications were formatted by Roger Black). The first new-style issue contains messages and postcards from the planet Earth that will be beamed into outer space on Earth Day. (Many are, of course, from celebrities, including Ann Landers, who laments, ''Our planet is dying.'') The signal also will go, via satellite, to members of a Soviet-Chinese-American ''Peace and Environment'' team scheduled to reach the top of Mt. Everest on-yes, you guessed it-Earth Day. Why? ''(T)his special issue,'' Alfred Meyer writes in an open letter to outer-space browsers, ''however parochial and imperfect it may ultimately prove to be, is an attempt to speak on behalf of the entire planet, which, as a magazine, we are named for, after all.'' A note to aliens: Please send editorial replies-especially death rays- only to the return address on the masthead.

Romeo and Juliet Players, March 2, 2006

Owen Lipstein, Founder and Producer of Shakespeare on the Hudson, is a former magazine entrepreneur. He founded American Health magazine, which won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He was Editor in Chief of Psychology Today, Mother Earth News and Spy. After selling American Health intact in 1997, he moved to Catskill. In 1999, he made his directorial debut, directing The Tempest at Shakespeare on the Hudson and last year directed the highly-acclaimed SH production of Macbeth. Owen will direct this season's presentation of Romeo and Juliet.
Bob would like to thank Owen and Kelly for this opportunity, his family and friends, sister Andrea, and as always to the memory of my parents and my Bobi and Zayde.

Psychology Today, March 1992

Sex & crocheting in Burma
Presents an interview with Ram Dass, the 'Servant of God,' by Owen Lipstein. Psychological background; Why he left Harvard; On the larger picture; Decline of materialism and the rise of volunteer work; How he deals with all of the suffering; What he says to these people; Whether he considers himself a religious leader; More.

By: PT Staff

Is he a servant of God or just a nice psychologist from Harvard who took onetoo many doses of LSD? "I'm really an upwardly mobile, exploitative guy on a power trip, and somebody from PSYCHOLOGY TODAY is interviewing me in my house in Marin County with my Mercedes out back. [Those images of me] are all true and they're all false."

It's none other than Ram Dass, who received his name ("Servant of God") from a spiritual guru he found in the Himalayas in the late 1960s. Born Richard Alpert, he was fired by Harvard in 1963, along with Timothy Leary, for conducting experiments with psychedelic chemicals. His 1971 book, Be Here Now, chronicling the use of mind-expanding drugs, Hinduism, and meditation, was a best-seller.

Now, at 60, Ram Dass is not simply an older--and balder--symbol of the Sixties: He works as a counselor for the dying, has established a volunteer organization to aid refugees in Guatemala and the blind in India, and is a popular figure on the lecture circuit. From college campuses to retreats for Fortune 500 executives, he talks about death, compassionate social action, our ties to the environment, and what it means to be conscious.

Owen Lipstein for PT: You have the most formal and academic background in psychology. You served as a professor of psychology at Harvard in the 1960s. But you resigned--why?

RD: The field was defined very narrowly then. The psychology I studied at Stanford saw humans as ambulatory variables. Psychology was what was measurable in publicly reproducible ways. That ruled out introspection. It ruled out naturalistic experience,. At Harvard I started to bring those back in. But that wasn't considered science any longer. Now it is again.

PT: What's changed?

RD: Before, inner experience was considered irrelevant, an artifact. Western psychology had very little to say about the mind. It had a lot to say about the brain, about response behavior. What I did from 9 to 5 at Harvard had nothing to do with what happened to me after five o'clock; my depressions, my fantasies were irrelevant to what I was able to measure.

Psychology then was almost totally built on pathology. You were either sick or not sick. You were never healthy. You could go from negative to zero; you could never go positive. People like [Abraham] Maslow and [Carl] Jung and [Carl) Rogers saw the positive side. But the minute you get to the positive side, you're at the edge of mysticism, the edge of what Maslow called the "self-actualized person." These are the realms in which you don't have hard empirical data to support your theory. You are dignifying humanity with more potential than just pathology or lack of pathology, but you are losing the science of it.

PT: When did this start for you?

RD: When I took psilocybin in 1961, that changed the meaning of psychology to me. There was a major ground reversal. After that, psychology just seemed like a relative reality, rather than absolutely real. The minute you see this kind of monolithic value system is just another one, it loses its power over you. It lost its position as the first way of knowing. I'm still a psychologist in that I can think in terms of personal dynamics and defense mechanisms and psychosexual stages of development, but that's not the uppermost matrix against which I see the world. It's interesting the same way Newtonian physics is interesting in relation to Einsteinian physics.

Read full Psychology Today Interview


Once the toast of the magazine world as Editor-in-Chief of Psychology Today, Mother Earth News, and Spy - simultaneously; Owen Lipstein informed the nation's pop culture by tapping into trends. But it was a ride not unlike a vessel upon the Hudson, one of ebbs and flows.

"I think, as a body of water, rivers to me are the most interesting. They have movement, directions. In this case, it's tidal, meaning it literally has the ebbs and flows of the planets," says Lipstein. "To me, the best two books in the English language - Heart of Darkness and Huckleberry Finn - were written about the river. And if you're going to ask me if I identify with those characters, the answer is yes."

In 1996, Owen left the publishing world, retiring to the serenity of a one-hundred-acre tract along the river in Athens. Here, Owen fills his time by juggling a vaiety of ambitious creative projects all over the Hudson Valley. Along with the Stewart House Hotel and River Tavern in Athens, he directs and produces Shakespeare on the Hudson, owns and operates a successful Hudson Valley magazine called InsideOUT, and has recently launched a record lable called Stewart House Records.

Retired? Hardly.

Inspired? Absolutely.

New York Times, March 8, 1988
Advertising; Psychology Today in Transition

Published: March 8, 1988

LEAD: OWEN LIPSTEIN and T. George Harris, the founders and owners of American Health magazine, said yesterday that they had agreed to acquire 90 percent of Psychology Today from the American Psychological Association.

OWEN LIPSTEIN and T. George Harris, the founders and owners of American Health magazine, said yesterday that they had agreed to acquire 90 percent of Psychology Today from the American Psychological Association.

For Mr. Harris, the magazine held a special attraction. He had become its editor at the end of its first year, serving in that position from 1968 to 1976, and he has remained close to the editors since leaving.

Mr. Lipstein is determined not to divulge the price of the 21-year-old magazine, but he acknowledged that it would be $5 million to $10 million. Woody Katsoff will continue as publisher.

The psychological association has been losing money on the publication - up to $1.5 million last year, according to rumors. But the two buyers say that its circulation is strong and that advertising is the area that needs strengthening.

Mr. Lipstein, 36 years old, says one of his strengths is an ability to attract advertisers. He has gained a reputation, he says, for ''being good at telling marketers why magazines are important to them.'' He and Mr. Harris, 63, are also co-owners of American Health, but Mr. Lipstein is the sole owner of Mother Earth News.

The two men are convinced that all three publications attract the same kind of ''baby boomer'' readership, so they plan to develop a ''Boomer Network,'' which would give advertisers a discount for inclusion in all three magazines and in their Wall Media, which is poster advertising displayed at 1,200 health clubs.

The Boomer Network will be offering an audience of 15 million. These are people ''in their 30's, affluent and educated, who want to learn how to be competent,'' Mr. Harris said. He foresees a trend toward ''self-enhancement.''

Seventy-five percent of Psychology Today's readers, like American Health's, are women.

Psychology Today was bought by Ziff-Davis in 1973 and acquired by the psychology association three years ago. In 1977, the magazine reached its peak in advertising, with 650 or more ad pages, and in circulation, with 1.2 million readers, Mr. Harris said.

In June 1982, Ziff-Davis cut the circulation rate base to 850,000. That is its current level, Mr. Lipstein said, but the magazine is actually delivering 960,000.

As for advertising pages, the Publishers Information Bureau estimated that the magazine carried 337 last year, with estimated revenues of $6.8 million, virtually unchanged from 1986.

''We're not going to make it what it was,'' Mr. Lipstein said. ''It will have to be different. The world has changed.''

Read full NYT article

Owen Lipstein: fitness of body, mind and magazine
American Health; Psychology Today; Smart; Mother Earth News
March, 1989

Owen Lipstein: Fitness of body, mind and magazine

New York City--As late afternoon sunlight filters through the windows, spotlighting a canvas punching bag that hangs from the 14th Street office ceiling, Owen Lipstein ponders the future of his magazines. He wears a wrinkled purple knit shirt and an extra day's worth of unshaved stubble, having flown in that morning from a Detroit business trip. The past year has been a breathless one.

Lipstein, who launched American Health in 1981, now controls four magazines--two acquired since last May. Each of the four has different investors, with Lipstein owning a controlling share in all but American Health, where his stake is closer to 25 percent.

Given the choice, Lipstein would have taken more time between acquisitions, but "when these things come up, you either take them or you don't," he says. Psychology Today came into the fold last spring with a $6.5 million price tag, and Lipstein bought part of Smart last fall for an undisclosed amount. The new titles make his overall operation--which has no official name--a company with $60 million annual sales and 150 employees.

Growth, however, has brought major challenges. Both American Health and Psychology Today need fresh editorial and graphic approaches--the former to maintain its maturing market position against rising competition, the latter to reassert its viability after years under the American Psychological Association. The start-up project, Smart, must prove itself both to advertisers and readers as it begins bimonthly production in March. Mother Earth News "almost runs itself," but then it was redesigned only two years ago when Lipstein and partners acquired it. Finally, ancillary businesses, which include a variety of books, videos, health club wall media and several single-sponsor annual magazines, are expected to expand from roughly 10 percent of total revenues to 30 percent within a few years.

A master plan

Lipstein is pulling all of this into a master plan, an advertising package buy temporarily called "The Personal Best Media Network." The network will offer advertisers some 14 million baby boomers--based on three million cumulative circulation, multiplied by an average 3.5 readers per copy, plus four million people who pass through health clubs where the "American Health Magazine Fitness Bulletin" hangs on the walls. It's a well-heeled yuppie audience with only 8 percent reader duplication, according to Jay H. Burzon, executive vice president/group publishing.

Lipstein now has his magazines on a health and fitness program of their own, backed by a $23 million refinancing he secured when he purchased Psychology Today. That magazine, for instance, needs to add "sex, drugs and rock and roll"; Psychology Today came with 975,000 readers despite boring editorial, he says. Adding excitement, he notes, shouldn't be difficult for editor Julia Kagan, newly arrived from Working Woman, and editor in chief T George Harris, who edited the magazine in the early seventies before Ziff-Davies bought it and fired him. Harris will also continue as editor in chief at American Health.

Smart, on the other hand, puts Lipstein into a start-up situation he hasn't been in since 1981 with American Health. He downplays the dangers, citing track records for himself and founder Terry McDonell, who spent two years each as managing editor of Rolling Stone and back-of-the-book editor at Newsweek before leaving in 1985 to work on Smart. Financing apparently is no problem either. Don Welsh, publisher of Barbie and Muppet Magazine, among others, put up much of the money for the first issue, and Lipstein has now joined as the controlling shareholder.

Already, Lipstein has plans for an editorial shift. Smart's somewhat ponderous literary bent is unlike "the undergraduate humor" of Spy, which Lipstein admires, the "lightness" of Esquire, which he's gotten tired of, or the visual vacuity of the fashion magazines. But he wants Smart to become "a male version of Vanity Fair"--intelligent, witty, and sometimes outrageous, without being silly. The next issue will replace one major editorial piece with 25 pages of men's fashion. That will make it more visual and "more recognizably" a man's title, Lipstein says.

By contrast, American Health faces the problems of its own success. The magazine has been copied enough to spoil its appeal, he maintains.

To freshen the formula, Lipstein bought out founding partners and art directors Will Hopkins and Ira Friedlander last fall, replacing them with a new art director for each of the magazines. "I don't believe in shared art directors anymore," he asserts, referring to their work on all of Lipstein's first three titles. A redesign of American Health, introduced in December, was to make the book cleaner and "more intimate," Lipstein concludes.

The redesign may be especially important as the flagship faces powerful new competition in the form of Time Inc.'s acquisition of half of each of Hippocrates (for $9 million) and Whittle Communications (for $185 million) last summer.

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Owen Lipstein Puts InsideOut
Into the Winner's Circle
July 25, 2007

Wall Street Journal wrote "There are few second acts in the cutthroat wolrd of magazine publishing. But Owen J Lipstein, a young star who became one of the talked-about ... of the 1980s, has returned to center stage. He's leading the resurrection of several moribund titles, including Psychology Today, Mother Earth News, and Spy...

Through the 80s, Mr. Lipstein was the industry's wunderkind, with the vision to launch American Heatlh in 1981, just as Americans became obsessed with it. Often the youngest publisher in the room, he attended board meetings with the Magazine Publishers of America wearing scuffed suede cowboy boots and no tie...

Now more than five years later, Mr. Lipstein is trying to prove he still has the touch.

Click article to enlarge and read the full Register Star article

Monday, May 19, 2008

Return of Psychology Today and Mother Earth, June 11, 1991

THE MEDIA BUSINESS; Return of Psychology Today Is a Goal of Magazine Talk

Published: June 11, 1991

Psychology Today and Mother Earth News, two once-popular magazines that ceased publishing when their owner, the New American Company, fell on hard times, may soon reappear on newsstands. Sussex Publishers Inc., a new company formed for the purpose, has agreed in principle to buy the magazines from New American.

A Sussex spokeswoman said yesterday that the proposed purchase was virtually set but that negotiations were still under way last night. She said no one was willing to discuss terms or dollars.

Joseph Colman, Sussex's chief executive and principal investor, plans to revive Mother Earth News with the August/September issue. A Second Chance

The purchase would provide a second chance for Owen Lipstein, who will be Sussex's editorial director. He founded New American in the mid-1980's to publish American Health magazine. That magazine's success prompted Mr. Lipstein to expand, buying Mother Earth News in 1986 and Psychology Today in 1988.


Spy Magazine Returns, July 17, 1994

Spy magazine returned to the newsstands last week.

Sussex Publishers Inc., the publishers of Psychology Today and Mother Earth News, acquired the magazine in May from Jean-Christophe Pigozzi and Charles Saatchi, the British advertising executive.

The magazine, which in its original incarnation thrived on satirical send-ups and gossip of media, politics and power, is now based at 49 East 21st Street, with a staff of 20.

"We've been successful at relaunching magazines that have gone out of business -- like Psychology Today and Mother Earth News," said Owen Lipstein, editorial director of Spy.

The current issue, with Heather Locklear on the cover, resembles the style of the old magazine. Asked about his plans for Spy, Mr. Lipstein said: "We've revigorated it to the original formula. We had to make it funny again, which it ceased to be -- it had become similar to the objects it parodied."


Circulation Rate Base Up, September 14, 1983


ADVERTISING; Circulation Rate Base Up at American Health

Published: September 14, 1983

American Health Magazine, which made its debut in March 1981 with Owen J. Lipstein as publisher and T. George Harris as editor, will go into the black on an issue-by-issue basis with the November/December issue now on the presses.

And that is not the end of the good news. With the March/April issue, it will increase its circulation rate base by 100,000, to 650,000, and plans another increase of at least the same size next July.

With the May issue, the frequency of publication will be increased to ten a year from six.

Burzon Joins Lipstein, January 6, 1986

Advertising; Burzon Joins Lipstein In Executive Position

Published: January 6, 1986

Jay Burzon, 51 years old and a well-known magazine publishing executive, has joined Owen J. Lipstein, who is managing partner of American Health Magazine and majority owner of the Mother Earth News, and will serve in an executive vice president capacity over not only those two properties but also over a joint venture of the two called Sponsorship Marketing.

The last-mentioned entity will be involved in contract publishing and related programs as well as in poster publishing.

Mr. Lipstein also announced that at American Health, John B. Caldwell Jr., 42, who had been associate publisher/advertising sales director of the magazine, was now its executive vice president/associate publisher.

Mr. Burzon was a senior vice president of Parade and before that vice president/associate publisher of Woman's Day.


Friday, May 9, 2008

New York Times, January 9, 1990

Reader's Digest Adds Magazine

Published: January 9, 1990

LEAD: Reader's Digest said yesterday that it had agreed to buy American Health magazine for $29.1 million.

Reader's Digest said yesterday that it had agreed to buy American Health magazine for $29.1 million.

Reader's Digest already owns Travel Holiday, The Family Handyman and New Choices for the Best Years.

The company, which recently announced that it would sell shares to the public, has consistently indicated that it hopes to expand its magazine interests.

It does not sell advertising in the magazines as a group but may eventually do so.

American Health is owned by American Health Partners. It was founded by George Harris and Owen Lipstein, and Mr. Lipstein remains the general partner. The magazine, which publishes 10 times a year, has a circulation of one million. Advertising pages in 1989 totaled 725 and its revenues increased 16 percent over the previous year.