IN CONVERSATION WITH NICK HARAMIS, FORMER EDITOR IN CHIEF, INTERVIEW MAGAZINE
On any given Monday, Nick Haramis is in head-to-toe Thom Browne. By Wednesday, it’s jeans, a hoodie and a baseball cap. His combination of refinement and grit is manifest in his taste and his body of work: an editor well-suited for the helm of some of New York’s most iconic magazines. He is an alumnus of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, where he served as articles editor, as well as the recently shuttered Interview Magazine where he served as editor in chief. He is witty and at times irreverent, but imbues all of his work with a reverence for the unique cast of characters he features.
This past year has seen a series of successes, marked especially by the release of his book Courage is Contagious. The book is an edit of reflections on Michelle Obama by a wide spectrum of voices, from Janet Mock to high school students. When he is not writing or editing he is often found swapping stories at lunch with cultural icons. Despite the milieu in which he moves, Haramis maintains a down-to-earth demeanor. Here, he talks to GrandLife about the first 30 minutes of his day, the most memorable interview of his career, and his favorite spots around the city.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like?
Nick Haramis: I’m probably supposed to say that I roll out of bed and greet the sun with a smile. In actuality, though, what’s 30 divided by nine? Essentially, I hit the snooze button three times, panic, and then jump into the shower in a weird fugue state. Sometimes I get up in time to go to the gym.
We’ve heard about your home’s spectacular interiors. Does that influence the way you spend time at home? Are you ever working from home?
NH: My natural inclination is to hibernate, a tendency made even stronger by how cozy I feel at home. The colorful, Where the Wild Things Are-type cacophony of the apartment I share with my boyfriend is simultaneously a blessing and a curse when it comes to working from home: I can’t help but find it encouraging as a writer, but as an editor, all that whimsy can be a little distracting. As can reality TV.
Tell us about the most interesting or inspiring meeting you’ve taken in New York. Who was it with? Where did you meet? What did you speak about?
NH: I’m inspired on a daily basis by the people I meet. It’s a large part of what drew me to a career in magazines. But if I had to choose one person, it would be the late novelist and journalist Dominick Dunne. About a decade ago, shortly before his death, I went to Dunne’s apartment to interview him for an oral history I was putting together on the life of Robert Mapplethorpe. He was funny and bitchy and thoughtful and corrosively intelligent, and his home was filled with handwritten thank-you notes from people like Princess Diana and Bianca Jagger. It was like falling into a scrapbook of a life well-lived. It’s not unusual for me to want to know the person I’m interviewing, but in this case, I wanted to be the person I was interviewing.
Can you tell us about working on Michelle Obama’s book? What was that like?
NH: It was such an honor to be a part of that project. It started with a cover story about Mrs. Obama that I produced and edited when I was on staff at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner had recently launched Lenny, their own literary imprint at Penguin Random House, and after seeing that story they asked if I’d work on an anthology of essays celebrating the life and career of Mrs. Obama—what she represents and all the good she has brought to the world. We compiled stories from thinkers and entertainers and even a couple of grade-schoolers, who shared their thoughts on why she’s one-of-a-kind, into a little book called Courage is Contagious. I’m really proud of what we did, now that it’s done. When I was working on it, I regularly cried about ruining Michelle Obama’s book and Andy Warhol’s magazine.
Where do you spend the quiet moments in between meetings, writing, editing books, etc.?
NH: My bed.
Can you give us a few recommendations for downtown Manhattan’s:
Best restaurant to dine at alone…
NH: I’m no good at this stuff. I have friends who are cool and confident, who will spend a lazy weekend morning reading the paper and drinking coffee at a counter somewhere. Just the thought of it gives me anxiety.
Best store to buy an unusual book…
NH: Ugh, I have too many favorites, and they’re not all in the city: Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg, Mast Books in the East Village, The Strand in Union Square, Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill, Word in Greenpoint, Housing Works and McNally Jackson in SoHo….I’ll stop there.
Most relaxing green space…
NH: A big reason I’ve chosen to live in Brooklyn is because green spaces in the city are so hard to find. That said, the Elizabeth Street Garden, filled with vaguely gothic sculptures, calls to mind the world of an Ian McEwan or Donna Tartt novel—sexy but sorrowful. And definitely relaxing.
Modern-day version of Les Deux Magots in the 1920s…
NH: I know this is going to make me sound like a classless loser, but Sophie’s in the East Village is an unassuming dive bar with a decent jukebox where, on any given night, you’ll run into artists and writers and designers and celebrities. Granted, Alexa Chung isn’t Albert Camus, but it’s an exciting confluence of people nonetheless.
An out of town guest comes to Greenpoint/Brooklyn for the weekend; where do you take them?
NH: Depends who’s visiting. I always love an afternoon at The Noguchi Museum followed by dinner at Birds of a Feather or Chez Ma Tante, and then a beer-and-tequila-shot combo at Midway. Or if it’s my parents: dinner, usually at 5pm, followed immediately by an episode of The Big Bang Theory and sleep.
Words Jenny Hartman
Photography Matthew Placek