This is kind of a mean assignment. I slaved for 17 years as the founding editor of the City Paper, and I asked too much of my contributors and staffers: churn out a ton of copy on super tight deadlines for little pay — oh, and sometimes I'm gonna be a total bitch to you because I'm stressed as hell and can't take it anymore. Ah, good times. Good times. This list is but a tiny few of the people who passed through our offices, and it doesn't include some of my best friends like Lorne Chambers, who went on to start West Of, or my best frenemies like Bill Davis, who regaled me with his always-inappropriate comedy routine for a solid seven years. And then there's Chris Haire, my favorite arch mother-fucker, who shared an office with me and took a huge chunk of work off my shoulders before taking over completely when I "retired" a few years back. And, of course, it doesn't include current editor Kinsey Gidick, who was one of our brightest interns ever, and who is now the editor. I'm exceedingly proud to see the paper's coverage thriving under her leadership (you go, girl). In no particular order, here are some of my favorites and why they mattered.
He returned to town from NYC after 9/11, and I hired him to act as editor during my second maternity leave. He stuck around for years, elevating our arts coverage, starting podcasts, planning parties, and pretty much doing anything and everything to help make the paper better.
There aren't many conservatives I can bear to read, but Graham, a talk radio host, had the ability to call out absurdity at all levels, whether it was coming from the left or the right. And he was funny as hell. And never missed a deadline or blew his word count.
A bleeding heart liberal, he fought the Good Fight in our pages for so many years, pointing out injustices and bigotry every chance got. I loved his weekly contribution and relied on him to know just the right thing to say.
One of my first art critics (may he rest in peace), Drake was a controversial figure who riled everyone up, including me. We seemed to always be in conflict about something, but I appreciated his bravery in spewing contrarian views despite the sometimes intense blowback. And he always wore Jams, a decade after they ceased being cool. I liked that.
The nom de guerre of James Jordan, an NYU grad with a playwriting degree who was studying medicine at MUSC, Barcus took a punk-rock approach to arts coverage, rattling cages and exploring big ideas.
- Jonathan Boncek file
Ah, one of my favorite people of all time. She likes to give City Paper credit for her success, but she had the ambition, we just got out of her way and gave her a venue for creative party and event coverage, which she parlayed into a gig at Charleston Magazine where she founded Fashion Week. Today, she's in the big leagues, serving as Ebony's style editor. Kudos Ayoka. We miss you!
- Barney Blakeney
Finding diverse voices in the newspaper world can be challenging, so when Barney walked into our offices, we were excited to see what he had to offer. A longtime contributor for the Chronicle, Barney knew everyone in town and was keen to share the African-American perspective with our readership. His voice was unique and needed.
This guy. How can I not include the food critic who wrote the infamous words about Folly Beach's short-lived Conch restaurant: "I'd go so far as to say that even if you're tempted by the live music drifting off the top floor cabana and the waitresses in tight shorts, continue across the road to the beach, past the Holiday Inn, and throw your money in the ocean. It will be better spent."
- Jonathan Boncek file
- Robert Moss
Since his humble beginnings as our second string-restaurant critic, Moss has become the preeminent barbecue historian in all the land.
He wrote a column called The Jew-Gooder for a while. He was funny, and who doesn't love a hilarious self-loathing Jew?
Our first staff photographer was a game-changer. Her documentarian style lent itself to haunting portraits and evocative photo essays. She shot on black-and-white film and developed in a makeshift darkroom, adding an important visual impact to the weekly newspaper.
I was never her editor (that was Chris Haire's job), but I was one of her biggest fans. Her chronicle of brain cancer was brave and heartbreaking. I'm proud of her contribution.
Her job as staffer was to keep the calendar up-to-date, but her contributions as a writer were legion. She took our LGBT and Gay Pride coverage and expanded it to encompass the entire spectrum of identity and orientation, and taught us all what it means to be an Ally.
One of our very first interns and staffers, this guy was a Brahmin Bostonian descended from the presidential John Adamses and Brown educated. He worked for practically free and ended up writing some of the smartest stories in those early days. I still think he wasn't real.
One of the first Charleston natives who deigned to get involved with the upstart City Paper, Haze dedicated himself to us for 18 months, far longer than any other intern, got (literally) branded for a story, came to work despite waking up after a bender and finding a dried turd in his underpants, punched one of our co-workers in the face at the four-year anniversary party, and posed naked for our 10-year anniversary. Hall of famer, for sure.
She was a pain in the ass as an intern, but she married my brother, so she deserves some recognition for that, right?
What do you get when you take a skateboarding DIY punk who studied journalism and photography and taught himself how to hack and code? The best fucking City Paper employee ever. He was a MacGyver of newspaperdom, tackling photo essays, writing articles, and generally doing whatever was necessary to keep us relevant as we struggled to digitize our newsroom.
This kid walked into our offices looking like a high school freshmen masquerading as a journalist but had about five kick-ass story ideas in his pocket. We hired him almost immediately, and he proved adept at sniffing out great news stories. Then he dumped us for the P&C. Luckily we don't hold grudges (and we got Dustin Waters out of the deal).
He sent us a story about helping clean up post-Katrina New Orleans and it was love at first read. We published that and kept him busy with freelance assignments before hiring him as our first ever staff writer — a huge milestone. He made environmental concerns a big part of his beat and wrote impactful stories that made a difference. And then budgets got tight, and he had to go. Boo.
He started on staff as a grizzled cowboy-boot-wearing graphic artist. It didn't take us long to sniff out his love of arts and writing, so we put him to work. And then he left to walk the Camino de Santiago and brought us back a sparkling story of his adventure. He's been sporadic over the years, but we always appreciate his wordsmithery and his deep thoughts.