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You Know This Already, But Ian Parker Nailed It

Filed under: Little Words   Tagged: , ,

Martin Schneider writes:

What do you think of the notion that Ian Parker's Profile of Alec Baldwin may be the most successful Profile of recent years? It's been cited all over the place, and everyone seems delighted with it. I think it's penetrated an unusually wide audience for New Yorker fare, and since it's kind of awesome, that's a good thing. Am I wrong on this? Are there any other contenders? What are they?


I still remember the masterful profile of Steve Martin, perhaps 6 or 7 years ago.

I loved it. Good challenge—there have been some other great Profiles this year, but the Baldwin was a triumph.

Was it also Parker who chipped in that recent gem on “the effort behind George Clooney’s effortless charm”?

I thought that was an unusually good celebrity profile because it dealt primarily with the effects of overwhelming fame and popularity on the life of someone who remains, beneath it all, a person.

Boy, that’s well put, Ben.

And yes, the Clooney Profile was by Parker.

Not to take away from Parker or the article, which I enjoyed, but I think the fact that it “dealt primarily with the effects” of fame is something that comes with the territory of the subject profiled — that’s the material Baldwin radiates like a black sun, as this interview by Choire Sicha attests. It’s why Baldwin is interesting, and no doubt why Parker smartly chose to profile him; and he does handle the material very well.

I don’t have an immediate candidate for a better or more “successful” profile, but, perhaps widely-citedness aside, I can’t help thinking that there must be some contenders in there.

I nominate Kenneth Tynan’s profile of Johnny Carson (“Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale”) as the magazine’s all-time best profile - celebrity or otherwise. A close second might be John Lahr’s piece on Roseanne Barr (“Dealing With Roseanne”). Compared with those two great works, Ian Park’s “Why Me?” is a mere piffle. The profiles I enjoy most are not of celebrities, but of people more in touch with everyday reality. A recent one that comes to mind is Alec Wilkinson’s piece on the Maine fisherman, Ted Ames (“The Lobsterman”). Another good one is John McPhee’s profile of the truck driver, Dan Ainsworth (“A Fleet Of One”). Now that I think of it, my most favorite New Yorker profile of them all is Ian Frazier’s “An Angler At Heart,” a wonderful profile of Jim Deren, owner of a fishing tackle shop in NYC.

Alec was nailed as the ‘restless, irritable, discontented’* teddy bear he appears to be. Will somebody please tell Alec I will go swimming with him and would really appreciate his help in rerouting the Hamptons’ helicopters over midtown on the weekends?

Good job, Ian.


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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree