“I THOUGHT OF BEING A REPORTER, DESPITE HAVING ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING OR HOW TO GO ABOUT IT”
FEED: When did you become a journalist?
RR: I had become uninspired by the political thing and got the idea I was going to be a writer.What else did I know how to do? And then thought of being a reporter, despite having absolutely no idea what I was doing or how to go about it. I ended up climbing the ladder in a pretty rational way. My first assignment was a story that was two sentences, and I got paid $20. I spent years doing stuff like photo captions and research for other people’s articles. I worked for Office Depot magazine. Then Los Angeles magazine gave me a lot of work. Eventually, after making all kinds of horrendous mistakes, I found my way through it. My friend Adam Leff and I came up with this little chart idea to make fun of people in Los Angeles. It had five characters, where each would go for lunch. We’d come up with their pickup lines and so on, and believed Los Angeles magazine would enjoy something like that. I gave it to my editor and he sort of chortled and said, ‘we don’t do charts here’. Afterwards, I showed it to a couple of other people who said, ‘you must be mad’. I held on to it for a year before showing it to Graydon Carter, the co-founder of Spy , who had become editor of Vanity Fair .They published it.Then they said, ‘why don’t you do another one’? It became a 20-year franchise.We would go to Microsoft or talk to DC lawyers and fill up notebooks, asking: ‘Who are the characters?What do they have in common? Hey, everybody has a funny dog.We should do a funny dog line.’
Editor’s note: In the meantime, Rushfield wrote a novel On Spec , a humorous take on the struggle to succeed in Hollywood, featuring types who could easily have appeared in one of his Vanity Fair charts
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