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Jann Wenner and His Biographer Have a Falling Out

19 October 2017

From The New York Times:

Jann Wenner and his biographer are no longer on speaking terms.

If things had gone according to Mr. Wenner’s plan, the two of them would be appearing together at parties, talks and other promotional events timed to the publication on Tuesday of the 547-page tome from Alfred A. Knopf.

Instead, Mr. Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone magazine, is distancing himself as much as possible from Joe Hagan, the writer who spent four years chronicling Mr. Wenner’s life.

The reason is simple: Mr. Wenner doesn’t like the book.

“I gave Joe time and access in the hope he would write a nuanced portrait about my life and the culture Rolling Stone chronicled,” Mr. Wenner said on Tuesday, in his first public statement about the book. “Rock and roll set me and my generation free musically, socially and politically. My hope was that this book would provide a record for future generations of that extraordinary time. Instead, he produced something deeply flawed and tawdry, rather than substantial.”

Mr. Hagan said there was no reason Mr. Wenner should have been surprised by the book’s contents. “It was all on the table — there’s nothing he didn’t know,” the writer said. “He’s used to having control, and that’s a difficult thing.”

. . . .

Mr. Wenner read “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.” Rather than triumphant, he felt betrayed, according to eight people close to Mr. Wenner.

. . . .

The project began in 2013 in bucolic Tivoli, N.Y., where Mr. Hagan lives and Mr. Wenner has a home. They ran into each other and bonded over their children. Mr. Hagan, then a staff writer at New York magazine who has interviewed Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton, found himself intrigued.

“Your little inner Tom Wolfe is activated,” he said.

Some time later, Mr. Wenner picked Mr. Hagan up in a Porsche, the satellite radio tuned to a station playing 1950s-vintage oldies. Over lunch Mr. Wenner proposed an idea: Would Mr. Hagan write his biography?

“Immediately, I was just really scared,” Mr. Hagan said. “A lot of people walked the plank on his pirate ship.”

Two previous attempts at an authorized Wenner biography had come to nothing. In 2003, Mr. Wenner enlisted Lewis MacAdams, a longtime friend and former Rolling Stone contributor, only to pull out after reading a few hundred pages. (Knopf, which had initially bought Mr. MacAdams’s book, said the stalled deal was canceled in 2014.)  In 2011, a similar arrangement with the Rolling Stone writer and author Rich Cohen made it to the proposal phase — Spiegel & Grau offered a reported $1 million — before Mr. Wenner revoked his cooperation.

To test Mr. Wenner’s willingness to handle unflattering information about himself, Mr. Hagan said he gathered anecdotes, including from the 1990 book “Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History” by Robert Draper, which was said to be banned in the magazine’s offices, and ran them by his prospective subject.

“He became incredibly agitated,” Mr. Hagan said. “I came out of that meeting very disenchanted.” Mr. Wenner also indicated that he would like to have some veto power over coverage of his sexual history.

. . . .

After Labor Day, Mr. Hagan sent Mr. Wenner an early copy of the book. “I hope you like it,” Mr. Hagan wrote in a brief note. “It’s a true story.”

Mr. Wenner did not like it.

In short order, Knopf informed Mr. Hagan that he would no longer take part in the 92nd Street Y discussion; he would be replaced by the filmmaker Alex Gibney, who was making a documentary about Rolling Stone for HBO. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where Mr. Wenner remains chairman of the foundation that oversees inductions (and was inducted himself in 2004), canceled on Mr. Hagan, too.

Link to the rest at The New York Times


5 Comments to “Jann Wenner and His Biographer Have a Falling Out”

  1. Mr. Wenner’s experience sounds like what happens when your self-image is wildly different from how you act toward other people.

  2. I confess. My first thought when I saw the post was, “Who’s Jann Wenner?”

  3. Poor baby. That’s what you get for hating on Rush, the Greatest Band in the Universe.

  4. My default is to check Charlie Rose for any people like Jann Wenner. Watch the episodes if you want to catch a glimpse of his celebrity. As usual, notice that Charlie is clueless.

    Here are two:

    Tuesday 05/26/1992
    Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, reflects on the magazine’s 25th anniversary.

    Wednesday 11/28/2007
    Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine Jann Wenner shares his new book, “Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson,” and reflects on the life of the iconic writer.

    Look on each video page and there are more links to other appearances by him.

  5. Jann wanted a hagiography and received a biography.

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