Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Under His Thumb a Look at Jann Wenner's 50-Year Rule over Rolling Stone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Under His Thumb a Look at Jann Wenner's 50-Year Rule over Rolling Stone

Article excerpt

About 50 years ago, Rolling Stone magazine jump-started today's celebrity-obsessed pop culture.

Capitalizing on the economic clout of rock 'n' roll, the magazine was a talisman; its record reviews, profiles and political coverage a virtual guidebook for that coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds. Today, however, media is fragmented. The record industry that fueled the publication no longer exists, and taste has gone far beyond the classic rockers Rolling Stone continues to cover.

Joe Hagan's "Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine," which takes its name from a 1971 Rolling Stones album, tracks that evolution in this insider biography of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and his magazine. One of the sub-themes is Mr. Wenner's virtual lover's quarrel with Rolling Stones kingpin Mick Jagger over use of their almost-shared name. Another is the narcissism that rules Mr. Wenner and the celebrities who capture his attention - celebrities he wants to outdo.

Mr. Wenner's homoerotic fixation on Mick Jagger (and, perhaps, on John Lennon, whose relationship with him was similarly contentious) pops up frequently in this anecdote-rich book. Exhaustively researched and startlingly candid, "Sticky Fingers" proves flattery works and sycophancy pays off. Through interviews with numerous stars, mostly white men, this shows that for coverage in Rolling Stone, everybody who wanted to be somebody, even those who were somebody already - including such moral role models as Bono and Bruce Springsteen - pandered to Mr. Wenner.

Fans of dish will enjoy Mr. Hagan's stories of legendary Rolling Stone writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Eszterhas and David Felton. All contributed to the white-male-dominated rock 'n' roll culture Mr. Wenner shaped so profoundly from the mid-1960s through the '80s, when time and changing economics finally - if only temporarily - blunted the magazine's impact.

Readers may wonder how Jann Wenner, a key associate such as photographer Annie Leibovitz and celebrities such as Jagger, Lennon, John Belushi and the strenuously promiscuous Diane and Egon von Furstenberg survived their tumultuous times. …

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