Mr. Chatterbox

By staff October 1, 2007

What do you think of Sarasota Magazine? Seriously. The big complaints I hear are 1) too many ads, 2) just for rich people, and 3) it’s all fluff.


Well, you know me. I’m always happy to receive criticism. It is what truly challenges you to rethink your strategy and do your best. So let’s take each one of these ridiculous statements and shoot holes in them.

First of all, how can a magazine have too many ads? It’s like saying Wachovia has too much money. Ads are the measure of a magazine’s worth. Furthermore, the number of ads is directly tied to the size of my Christmas bonus. So when you look at it from that point of view, the ads and their sheer size and numbers become a beautiful thing. I often have a glass of wine in the evening and sit back and just look at all the ads, touching them and feeling their slickness, all the while thinking, ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

Now, the "just stuff for rich people" canard makes equally little sense. We have a tremendous amount of stuff in the magazine for poor people. We have…uh, let’s see… I’m thinking, I’m thinking.

We’ll come back to that one.

It’s the fluff comment I’m proudest of. For years I have been steering the magazine in the fluff direction, and finally people seem to be noticing. With me around I can promise you one thing: You will not have to read articles about the school board. We might do a fashion shoot in a classroom, but that’s the closest we’re ever going to get.

But I think I may have gone a little overboard with our new Platinum issue that came out in August. That was fluff to the nth degree, and while it was brilliant, it might have been a little extreme. Did you see the price of that jewelry? That house in the Oaks? That picture of Wendy Resnick? People will be saving that issue for years to come.

Yet sometimes I wonder. Are we really serving the impoverished intellectual, the striver, the second-tier realtor? We are, of course, by providing them with dreams they can never achieve, but is that enough? Maybe we should give them some content more on their level.

And that’s why we invented our fabulous new Web site, It’s like Sarasota Magazine, only with an edge. If you haven’t checked it out—or checked it out lately, as it is constantly being updated and improved—you’ve got to visit immediately. Here are the high points:

First of all, me. My fingerprints are everywhere, but the coup de grace is the online Chatterbox, created weekly and often in video form. These little special reports are just that—very special indeed, and especially created for the "bored at work" set. I do all kinds of interesting things, like visit Carolyn Michel in just her bra and panties, or interview transgendered city manager candidate Susan Stanton (an interview that was stolen by Fox News and presented as one of their own!). Yes, you never know what you’re going to see on a Mr. Chatterbox video. I’m currently shooting the next one, an in-depth look at God.

And then there’s my Real Estate Junkie blog. It’s sort of like the Sarasota Magazine House of the Week. I scour the market for the unique, the property that you might not have known was for sale but may be perfect for you—the thing you’ve been waiting to see come on the market. Maybe it’s a 1925 West-of-the-Trail Tudor. Or a nice house right in the middle of town for under $160,000. Or the downtown penthouse with the exceptional view. Realtors send me bribes to get their houses on this site. (The best way to do it is in the form of a gift certificate, since for some technical reason this doesn’t seem to qualify as a bribe.)

The other star of our Web site is—you! Yes, we also publish Rebecca Baxter’s wonderful party pictures, the ones that did not appear in the magazine. So this means that if you turn to the party pictures to see if you’re there, first thing, while you’re still standing at the mailbox, and you’re not—well, don’t despair. Or rather, don’t despair yet. Run back to the house and check out the Web site.

And the Web site party pix are not the rejects. In fact, many of them are better than what’s in the magazine. These are the ones that we’re not quite sure if we can run. Sometimes there’s a cleavage issue. Sometimes the person looks drunk. You know how it is: Sometimes you’ve got one eye closed and your mouth is half open in an odd kind of way and you just look like you’re feeling no pain. Well, that shot is the Web site especialite.

There’s fabulous writing of all sorts, especially on our nine different blogs. Kim Hackett writes about city politics, but always with an insider angle. I often vehemently disagree with her and once even tried to get her fired when she wrote about dogs in restaurants. But cooler heads prevailed. It was explained to me that different points of view make for a richer intellectual life, whatever that means. But still, if she’s even thinking of writing about the school board . . .

Darling Hannah Wallace, our hip young editor, blogs about what it’s like to be a young professional in Sarasota in the most amusing way, although lately I have been counseling her not to be too amusing or she may be out of a job. And Charlie Huisking, the beloved active retiree, writes about his constant vacations, complete with pictures of the smiling waitstaff. It’s called "Luxury Traveler," and believe me, roughing it is not Charlie’s bag. He’s more concerned with the in-room amenities than he is with the art museums. He’s the perfect armchair traveling companion, and with him on board, I figure we’ve got the shut-in market covered. If you’re too old or too poor, Charlie will do the traveling for you. Just e-mail him suggested itineraries. (We’re trying to make the Web site as interactive as possible.)

Our most popular blogger, not surprisingly, is chef Judi Gallagher. People just love her, with her recipes and cooking tips and anecdotes about parties and restaurants. And here’s great news—she will soon be doing videos! There are lots of other bloggers, too, covering everything from new technology to shopping.

Other good stuff: Kay Kipling is now writing theater reviews. Yes, you loved her in the Herald-Tribune, and now she’s covering each play that opens, and just as it opens, so you can read her review and decide if it’s worth seeing while it’s still playing.

In addition to all this great original content, you’ll also find the current issue of the magazine, plus back issues, restaurant reviews—we also have restaurant menus—and all sorts of links about activities and tourist stuff. In fact, just about the only thing you won’t find is ads. Oh, there may be a couple, but believe me, we will only sell Web advertising to companies that meet our standards—i.e., their checks clear. In the meantime, navigate freely and take assurance in our Sarasota Magazine pop-up pledge to you—those ads are coming as soon as we can figure out how.

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