10 Questions With: Elizabeth Spiers, EIC Of The NY Observer

by Rachelle Hruska · September 7, 2011

Elizabeth Spiers is amongst a certain rare breed of NYC media elite. As founding editor of Gawker back in the day, she's stuck around to stay relevant in both the editorial and business side of media. Spiers has since launched a host of sites including Dealbreaker.com, Fashionista.com, Crushable.com, TheGloss.com, and many more. An advisor to several early-stage companies, she was also named one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology." Currently Spiers serves as the new editor in chief of The New York Observer. Below, she answers 10 questions for me. 

1. What's the best thing about a slow economy? More available talent to hire, which means new opportunities to work with people whose work I like. That, and now restaurant week is every week. Or it seems like it, anyway.

2. Tell me something about you that most people don’t know? I am insanely ticklish. But if you try to tickle me, I will almost certainly kill you in cold blood--which is the part that most people don't know. So it's probably not worth it.

3.Most memorable NYC moment? A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine was doing a live phone interview with NPR (or an NPR-like outlet; I don’t remember exactly) outside of a bar on the Lower East Side and a guy on a bike rode by and swiped his cellphone while he was talking. I didn’t see it, but the scene got relayed to me when I got to the bar as "something that would have happened in Lush Life," the Richard Price novel that seemingly everyone was reading at the time. I'm not sure it was my most memorable NYC moment (9/11 still takes the cake on that one, for better or worse), but it was definitely the sort of thing that was singularly a New York moment, and it would difficult to explain to people elsewhere why it was more hilarious than horrifying.

4. If money weren't an object, what one piece of artwork would you want in your apartment? Ed Ruscha's OOF. Its comic book-like quality appeals to my inner nerd. (Or my nerd, generally--"inner" would seem imply that it isn't obvious. I mean, I don't wear my apocalyptic sci-fi collection on my sleeve or anything, but I'm definitely not an expert in Cool People Things.)

5. Who do you most respect in your field? Kurt Andersen has been a friend and mentor to me and I like that he pursues multiple interests and does a variety of things well. I think our industry over-values specialization and as a result, the conventional career path is one that's built solely around a discrete skill set or job—and I can't imagine doing that, except out of necessity. Kurt doesn't and he gets away with it. I think that's rare.

6. What would you choose to be your last meal? I have the food and drink preferences of the archetypical 72-year-old male WASPy investment banker—heavy red wines, bloody rare steaks, and scotch that's older than I am. So that would be ideal. But I'd be the pickiest about the wine: a bottle of '64 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia rioja.

7. One thing you can't live without: People who can make me laugh. (Making me laugh by tickling me doesn't count, by the way.) If I didn't have friends who were funny, I think I'd spend most of my life overwhelmed by everyday ennui and the residue of childhood humiliations I should probably be working out in therapy somewhere. A good punchline just makes it all better.

8. What constitutes "making it"? I think if you're respected for what you do and have simultaneously managed to have a healthy and fulfilling personal life surrounded by people you love, you're doing pretty well. It’s not everyone’s idea of "making it" but it's the only version I find compelling.

9. What's the Best 2k you've ever spent? I've never really spent significant money on things (unless you count necessary office equipment, which is wholly uninteresting) so I'd have to go with money I've spent traveling. Seven weeks in Cambodia in '08 stand out in particular, in part because I really like Southeast Asia, but also because it gave me time to think about what I wanted and what I should be doing and affected a lot of my decision-making afterward. So I was buying time, so to speak--and I'd say it was a good investment.


10. I'm obsessed with the idea of "secret celebrities." Who do you think deserves more attention in the spotlight, and who do you think deserves less? I've been off the Hollywood beat for a while, so celebrities aren't my forte, but: What sacrifices to the glossy magazine gods do we have to make to get them to refrain from putting Shia LeBeouf on any more covers? (That said, if you must, please have Observer executive editor Aaron Gell profile him again. At least then it'll be entertaining.) As for who deserves more attention: Rex Reed, our long-time film critic, likes to maintain that Jason Bateman is under-rated. And I tend to agree with him there. Like everyone else, I'm still mourning the death of Arrested Development. So more Bateman; less LeBeouf!