The Bright Dawn of Quest

In April 1987, I had an epiphany to start a real estate magazine with color ads. I knew absolutely nothing of the magazine business, photography, or real estate, but boy did I learn from my mistakes. I had no track record, and magazines were like restaurants—only one in ten is a success. Still, real estate firms were intrigued, so I gave up my job and asked my son Alexander to come work with me during his summer break from college. He had the great idea to write about “well-known characters and personalities, past and present, both honorable and scandalous subjects,” by whom I have always been intrigued. For example, in the first issue we commissioned an article about the Collyer brothers, descendants of one of New York’s oldest families, whose deaths led to the removal of over 103 tons of garbage from their house.

I chose a printer and visited the plant, only to discover that I had inadvertently chosen one of the largest printers of pornography in the United States! (We didn’t stay with them very long.) The first issue got lots of press both for its glossy quality of the real estate pictures and for its content. The New York Post said that my endorsement of the legalization of hemp in the publisher’s letter was “as if Town & Country had endorsed body piercing.” We decided not to write articles on real estate, and instead chose writers like Dominick Dunne, Ormonde de Kay, and Freddy Eberstadt. We captured the imagination of New York society and we received enormous success from the feedback of our customer base.

Managing a magazine is more than a full-time job; I loved it. Life is still busy for me, having recently written the memoir of my daring adventures throughout life. —Heather Cohane