Lifestyle journalist George Wayne finds himself in an awkward situation. Because of money troubles, he says he does not withdraw more than $20 at a time from an ATM and yet he regularly visits high-end restaurants such as Cucina 8 ½ in Midtown Manhattan, where he dines on a September evening. Was enjoying a martini at the bar. Towards the end of New York Fashion Week.
“Everyone eats lunch here,” he said. “It’s basically a cafeteria for hedge fund managers and big guys. It is very secret.”
He wore tinted Oliver Peoples glasses, a Charvette dress shirt, custom pants, a pair of socks decorated with a “Bingo” pattern, and Gucci loafers. He was at Cucina at 8:30 to attend a fashion show by designer Cesar Galindo.
Mr. Wayne, who calls himself “GW,” rose to prominence in certain Manhattan circles in the 1980s, when he started Rome, a magazine full of gossip and sharp observations on celebrities, celebrities, fashion people and nightlife creatures. It was a photocopy publication.
With its sleek layout and sharp editorial voice, the zine caught the attention of media insiders and landed him roles at Interview, Paper Magazine, Allure, and Vanity Fair, jobs that kept him going for nearly three decades.
But glossy magazine journalism had to go through difficult times and the same happened with them. Now, in a bid to change things, Mr. Wayne, 62, is putting the finishing touches to a new issue of Rome, which he said will be available this autumn.
The new issue will be a greatest hits package of sorts that aims to bring back the look and feel of pre-Internet New York with some new content. Mr. Wen said he planned to print 200 copies and sell them on the Left Bank. Books in the West Village.
He also talked about a possible special collector’s edition of Rome wrapped in cellophane, which will be shown at the Georges Burgess Gallery in Soho. But on Tuesday he said part of the plan was in jeopardy due to a dispute with the gallery owner.
Mr. Burgess, who presented the first solo exhibition of Hunter Biden’s paintings in 2021, said on Tuesday that he intended to show ROME in his gallery. “We will properly display one on the wall as art,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Mr Burgess had said his disagreements with Mr Wynne were nothing new. “We have fights and block each other for a month and then unblock each other,” he said. “He’ll send me big messages in the middle of the night about how I’m against him and I’m going to destroy him.” He further added, “To be honest, he is one of my best friends. I love that boy.”
Differences aside, Mr. Burgess described Rome as an important part of New York media history. “If you really want to get a feel for what’s happening culturally or in fashion or with people, Rome gives you that,” he said. “I think, in many ways, magazines changed the way they worked because of Rome, whether people knew it or not.”
In the nearly finished version shared by Mr. Wayne, the new Rome is an explosion of nostalgia, a scrapbook filled with old boldface names: Cindy Adams, Warren Beatty, Barbara Bush, Keith Haring, Rock Hudson, Madonna, Lee Majors, Tennessee Williams, Ed Koch and on and on and on. It also includes an imaginary conversation with Truman Capote and applause from Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell. At press time, Mr. Wayne was on-again discussing whether to include a feature on the 1999 film “Black and White,” in which he and Mike Tyson played cameo roles.
In its heyday Rome had a coveted readership, and Mr. Wayne is probably best known for his former role as a cheeky interviewer for Vanity Fair. From the mid-1990s to 2015, he conducted interviews with many celebrities, including Milton Berle, Jackie Collins, Fabio, Geraldo Rivera, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. His work for Vanity Fair and other magazines was collected in the 2018 book “Anyone Who’s Anyone: The Astonishing Celebrity Interviews, 1987–2017”.
These days, he is editor at large of Parks, a luxury quarterly magazine sent free to the homes of people with “annual household incomes over $500,000” in Manhattan, according to its media kit. “This is how I’m surviving,” Mr. Wayne said. “You not only have to write, you have to go out and try and get advertising.”
He added, “I’m still struggling at my age.” “When you don’t have a Condé Nast contract, it’s sink or swim, baby. There are days when I live on $1 pizza. And there are days when I have a friend who owns a restaurant, I can go and say, ‘You have to feed me tonight.’ And they will.”
Mr. Wayne grew up in Jamaica and attended Munro College, a boarding school in St. Elizabeths. She found her identity at age 15, she said, when a school nurse introduced her to People and Interview magazines. “I knew then that I wanted to move to New York City,” he said. “I loved reading about Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol at Studio 54. That was it.”
He arrived in Manhattan in 1984, shortly after receiving a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia. He said he still lives in the same studio apartment near Washington Square that he began renting soon after arriving in the city.
“My little hut is nothing,” he said, “I call it Lilliput. There’s a bunk bed and filing cabinets filled with my records. That’s it.”
The idea of Rome occurred to him during his senior year of college. He recalled, “I told my best friend, ‘When I go to New York City, I’ll start my journal Rome and put some space between letters.’ “It doesn’t make any sense. I just thought, ‘Make it an acronym.’ And I love the word Rome. “I’ve never been to Rome, but I love everything it means.”
He’s assembling the new version partly at Soho Works, a members-only workplace in Lower Manhattan. He said that he is not a member but has managed to express his views.
“I want Generation Z to understand what they’ve lost,” he said of his venture between sips of his martini. “I think these current kids are attracted to the analog age.”
Near the bar, model Carol Alt was chatting with Cucina 8½’s owner, August Ceradini, whom Mr. Wayne called his “number one god-daddy consigliere.” Mr. Wayne took out his phone and took a photo of the couple.
“How are you, Carol?” He said while walking. “you look amazing.”
“Thank you,” he replied. “you doing well?”
“I’m hanging in there,” he said.
Ms Alt led a group of people towards the large back room where the fashion show was to take place. André Landeros Michel, a fashion designer who was visiting the show, stopped to remember discovering Rome in 1992.
“I was like, this is so genius, such a genius idea, and made by Xerox,” he said, adding that he appreciated the way Mr. Wayne had done things by photocopying ads from other magazines and printing them in Rome. Made up for the lack of advertisers by pasting it in. “If you don’t have advertisers, just Xerox them,” said Mr. Landeros Mitchell. “He was way ahead of the curve.”
Before joining the others in the fashion show, Mr. Wayne polishes his martini and gets the bartender’s attention.
“So, Jordan, I’m going to order some food, okay?” He said. “But you will keep it here. I’m taking it home – to go. August said I can have whatever I want, so I’ll obey.”
He asked for the New York strip steak medium-rare, Tuscan potatoes, broccoli rabe and focaccia. When she bargained over an order of spaghetti, the bartender said it probably wouldn’t travel well and suggested tortellini or cavatelli instead.
“Cavatelli,” said Mr. Wayne. “I love you, Jordan. You are the best.”