Regrets of Time

Clare_Boothe_Luce_and_Henry_Luce_NYWTSTalk about how the mighty have fallen. Time magazine was, for the better part of the 20th century, the model for American newsweeklies. Its style of epigrammatic terseness and punchy prose became known as “timespeak;” its compact format an invention of its founder, Henry Luce.

Luce was the son of a missionary and was born in China. He was devout, brainy, single-minded, and convinced America was a miracle conceived by the Almighty. In a British boarding school in Shantung, Harry was mercilessly flogged for insisting he spoke at times to God directly. He also became proficient in French, Latin, Greek, history, and math. He then went to Hotchkiss and Yale. He was voted the most brilliant member of the class of 1920.

Three years later he founded Time having raised $86,000 from Yale classmates. Six years later he was a multi-millionaire and had also founded Fortune and eventually Life. He married one of the most beautiful women of the time, Clare Boothe Brokaw—it was the second marriage for both—becoming the most powerful couple of the age. Clare was no shrinking violet. She had beauty and a ferocious intelligence and her dry wit had jealous rivals fleeing in droves. While editing Vanity Fair she wrote The Women, a Broadway hit that ran and ran and was made into a film. A real vamp, Clare had the best pair of legs around, wrote three successful plays, was a roving war correspondent, a screenwriter, and grande dame of the Republican Party after serving in Congress and becoming an ambas-
sador.

When the couple travelled they dropped in on people like Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham, John F. Kennedy, Chiang Kai-shek, even Zhou Enlai. Evelyn Waugh went soft at the knees whenever he met Clare as did Salvador Dali. She was a flirt who had been Bernard Baruch’s mistress before marrying one of the richest men in America, the alcoholic George Brokaw. She was fearless, covering the fall of Belgium as the Panzers roared in leaving minutes before the Belgians threw in the towel. Ditto in China, flying over Japanese lines in a small plane and reporting China’s collapse for Time-Life.

By the time I met her she was an old lady, but still flirtatious and very outspoken. My father bought her apartment on 993 5th Avenue and gave it to my older brother. (He lost it to his first wife.) Playing gin rummy with the Buckleys once, Clare said that she was getting tired of reading about the Holocaust. Bill Buckley’s T.V. producer, a nice man who was Jewish, didn’t flinch at all and said, “You’re right, Clare, but I’m getting sort of tired about this Crucifixion business.” It was one of those very rare moments when Clare came out second best.

This, then, was the couple that made Time a great magazine and in a way also America a great country. Both Harry and Clare were registered Republicans, but both urged F.D.R., who frequently had them stay in the White House, to enter the European and Far East wars long before Pearl Harbor. F.D.R. pulled out all the stops for Clare, but she saw right through that charming phony. Harry died in 1967, Clare in 1987.

Time magazine has been ailing for some years now, and finally expired in May. Mind you, it still publishes, but it’s a living, rotting corpse whose flesh stinks of vulgarity, celebrity ass-wiping and opportunism. The eyewitness to great world events when Henry Luce ran the shop has been replaced by “the 100 most influential people,” the malodorous cesspit of A-listers headed by a smirking rapper called Kanye West, husband of the grotesque Kim Kardashian. Once upon a time to be on the cover of Time was as great an honor as America could bestow. Last week, cover boy Kanye sang in front of such great and good like Padma Lakshmi, Mia Farrow, Martha Stewart, Barry Diller, and Amy Schumer.

“Fuck you and your Hamptons house, I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.”

Charming and extremely talented, and enough to have both Harry and Clare rise up from their graves.

How have we come to this, you may well ask. How can Time sink so low as to put such an obscenity as Kanye West on its cover and even have him rap his obscenities during the gala dinner? I suppose it’s because we live in a world in which lies trump the truth, ugliness beauty, and evil goodness. West is a black man and he can do no wrong. By putting him on the cover as the most influential man in America, Time wants to show its coolness and anti-racist credentials. Pop culture is what counts, not culture, and the Luces and their original creation are products of a white racist society that no longer has any say in America. Well, if you think the Time people got it wrong, what about one Sarah Blake? She’s written a book about the attention-grabbing rapper and has compared him to-—no, I ain’t kidding-—Jesus Christ. “Kanye is 33. If he were Jesus, he would die this year and be resurrected.” Nurse, help.

Rap is the equivalent of projectile vomiting, only worse because of the hate of its lyrics. Hate against women and white people, hate against morality and justice, hate of everything that Luce believed in when he announced that the 20th century was to be known as America’s century. R.I.P. Time magazine.

For more Taki, visit www.takimag.com.