Wenner was born in New York City, and grew up in a secular Jewish family. His parents divorced in 1958, and he and his sisters, Kate and Merlyn, were sent to boarding schools to live. He graduated from high school at Chadwick School in 1963 and went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Before dropping out of Berkeley in 1966, Wenner was active in the Free Speech Movement and produced the column "Something's Happening" in the student-run newspaper, The Daily Californian. With the help of his mentor, San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason, Wenner landed a job at Ramparts, a high-circulation muckraker, where Gleason was a contributing editor and Wenner worked on the magazine's spinoff newspaper.
In 1967, Wenner and Gleason founded Rolling Stone in San Francisco. To get the magazine off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim.
Wenner backed the careers of writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Klein, Cameron Crowe, and Joe Eszterhas. Wenner also discovered photographer Annie Leibovitz when she was a 21-year-old San Francisco Art Institute student. Many of Wenner's proteges, such as writer/director Cameron Crowe, credit him with giving them their biggest break. Tom Wolfe recognized Wenner's influence in ensuring that his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, was completed, stating "I was absolutely frozen with fright about getting it done and I decided to serialize it and the only editor crazy enough to do that was Jann."
Jann Wenner is the co-founder and publisher of the music and politics biweekly Rolling Stone, as well as the current owner of Men's Journal and Us Weekly magazines. Since 1995, Wenner's partner has been Matt Nye, a fashion designer. Together, Wenner and Nye have three children. Wenner was credited with spawning the music sensitized generation that served as the launchpad for the visions of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in a Huffington Post column by Eric Ehrmann, one of his Rolling Stone writers.
In 1977, Rolling Stone shifted its base of operations from San Francisco to New York City. The magazine's circulation dipped briefly in the late 1970s/early 1980s as Rolling Stone responded slowly in covering the emergence of punk rock and again in the 1990s, when it lost ground to Spin and Blender in coverage of hip hop. Wenner hired former FHM editor Ed Needham, who was then replaced by Will Dana, to turn his flagship magazine around, and by 2006, Rolling Stone's circulation was at an all-time high of 1.5 million copies sold every fortnight. In May 2006, Rolling Stone published its 1000th edition with a holographic, 3-D cover modeled on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
Wenner has been involved in the conducting and writing of many of the magazine's famous Rolling Stone Interviews. Some of his more recent interview subjects have included: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama for the magazine during their election campaigns and in November 2005 had a major interview with U2 rockstar Bono, which focused on music and politics. Wenner's interview with Bono received a National Magazine Award nomination.
Rolling Stone and Jann Wenner are chronicled in two books, Gone Crazy and Back Again as well as Rolling Stone: The Uncensored History. Former Rolling Stone journalist David Weir is working on a biography, as is poet and Beat historian Lewis MacAdams.
Wenner founded the magazine Outside in 1977; William Randolph Hearst III and Jack Ford both worked for the magazine before Wenner sold it a year later. He also briefly managed the magazine Look and in 1993, started the magazine Family Life. In 1985, he bought a share in Us Weekly, followed by a joint purchase of the magazine with The Walt Disney Company the following year. The magazine went weekly in 2000; after a rocky start, it now reaches over 11 million readers a week. In August 2006, Wenner bought out Disney's share and now owns 100% of the magazine.
From 2004 to 2006, Wenner contributed approximately $63,000 to Democratic candidates and liberal organizations.
Wenner was credited with spawning the music sensitized generation that served as the launchpad for the visions of Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs in an October 2010 Huffington Post column by Eric Ehrmann, one of his early Rolling Stone writers.
In the summer following the start of Rolling Stone, Wenner and Schindelheim were married in a small Jewish ceremony. Wenner and his wife separated in 1995, though Jane Wenner still remains a vice president of Wenner Media. She and Wenner have three sons, Alexander Jann, Theodore "Theo" Simon, and Edward Augustus.
The Kingdom of New York: Knights, Knaves, Billionaires, and Beauties in the City of Big Shots by The New York Observer
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper (November 3, 2009)
Amazon: The Kingdom of New York: Knights, Knaves, Billionaires, and Beauties in the City of Big Shots
Amazon Kindle: The Kingdom of New York: Knights, Knaves, Billionaires, and Beauties in the City of Big Shots
For the last two decades, The New York Observer has documented the Platinum Age of New York, when the city's new elite rose and dominated society, media, business, and culture with an amusing arrogance that redefined the power capital of the world. The Kingdom of New York jauntily chronicles the Rise and Fall and Rise of New York City, as personified by the protagonists and antagonists of the past twenty years, told in archival pastiche—a breathtaking sprint of headlines, great reporting, witty writing, and stories in fashion, ideas, real estate, style, media, movies, politics, sex, and finance.
All of New York's major players are here—including Bill and Hillary, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Graydon Carter, Katie Couric, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Tina Fey, J. Lo, Seinfeld, Tina Brown, Anderson Cooper—as well as essays by Cynthia Ozick, Gay Talese, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese. Here, too, are many of the country's finest journalists reporting on the high opulence of the 1990s; the wry irony of the Seinfeld years; the poignant loss of John Kennedy Jr.; and the inconceivable assault of September 11, 2001, and New York's rallying return. Among it all are signature features—from Candace Bushnell's "Sex and the City" columns as they initially appeared to the couples counseling of "George and Hilly"—as the Observer grew into one of the city's most influential papers.
Handsomely designed and filled with the paper's trademark attention to politics, status, and wealth, this is a rollicking insider's account of contemporary New York. At once wickedly funny and astute, The Kingdom of New York is a striking tribute to an unforgettable era in the city's history.
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