A witty, insightful, and delightfully snarky blend of pop culture meets memoir meets real-life Devil Wears Prada as readers learn the stories behind twenty-five years at Vanity Fair from the magazine’s former deputy editor
“Dilettante offers the best seat in the house into the workings of one of the great cultural institutions of our time.”—Buzz Bissinger, New York Times bestselling author of Friday Night Lights
Dana Brown was a twenty-one-year-old college dropout playing in punk bands and partying his way through downtown New York’s early-nineties milieu when he first encountered Graydon Carter, the legendary editor of Vanity Fair. After the two had a handful of brief interactions (mostly with Brown in the role of cater waiter at Carter’s famous cultural salons he hosted at his home), Carter saw what he believed to be Brown’s untapped potential, and on a whim, hired him as his assistant. Brown instantly became a trusted confidante and witness to all of the biggest parties, blowups, and takedowns. From inside the famed Vanity Fair Oscar parties to the emerging world of the tech elite, Brown’s job offered him access to some of the most exclusive gatherings and powerful people in the world, and the chance to learn in real time what exactly a magazine editor does—all while trying to stay sober enough from the required party scene attendance to get the job done. Against all odds, he rose up the ranks to eventually become the magazine’s deputy editor, spending a quarter century curating tastes at one of the most storied cultural shops ever assembled.
Dilettante reveals Brown’s most memorable moments from the halcyon days of the magazine business, explores his own journey as an unpedigreed outsider to established editor, and shares glimpses of some of the famous and infamous stories (and people) that tracked the magazine’s extraordinary run all keenly observed by Brown. He recounts tales from the trenches, including encounters with everyone from Anna Wintour, Lee Radziwill, and Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse, to Seth Rogen, Caitlyn Jenner, and acclaimed journalists Dominick Dunne and Christopher Hitchens.
Written with equal parts affection, cultural exploration, and nostalgia, Dilettante is a defining story within that most magical time and place in the culture of media. It is also a highly readable memoir that skillfully delivers a universal coming-of-age story about growing up and finding your place in the world.
"Who am I kidding.... I was a fucking dilettante, a role I assumed and perfected," writes Brown, former deputy editor of Vanity Fair, in this bawdy account of his decades at the magazine. His aimless days hustling as a barback came to an end when in 1994 after working a number of Graydon Carter's private salons the Vanity Fair publisher hired Brown as his assistant, handing him the key to New York City's vibrant and bustling magazine world. "For the next quarter of a century," Brown writes, "that key would unlock doors that would define my life." As he recounts his path from coffee fetcher to respected editor, he courses through an entertaining who's who of celebrities: smoking weed with Seth Rogen, day-drinking with Vanity Fair writer Christopher Hitchens ("maybe one of the most fun people ever"), and doing a photo shoot with Caitlyn Jenner for the magazine's 2015 cover story ("one final victory for print in an increasingly pixelated world"). It's a glittering paean to the bygone golden age of glossy magazines, but also and perhaps more intriguingly a riveting behind-the-scenes look at how print media pivoted to meet the needs of a burgeoning era in which "the internet wasn't a new newsstand, it was the newsstand." This tour through New York publishing's hallowed halls is a nonstop thrill.