EPISODE 4 (2004 – 2007)
Emo Night: Origins.
One time, an editor sent me a piece back with the note, “This is, uh, fine, but it reads like a Luke O’Neil ripoff.” It was the most validating thing anyone’s ever said about my writing.
O’Neil comes off like kind of a goofball in this episode, so some context is necessary. Since his departure from the Dig staff, he’s become a popular (and, uh, “controversial,” I guess?) columnist for the Boston Globe and Esquire dot com, authored the collection of journalistic essays Welcome To Hell World, plus Tucker Carlson said he sucks, which means he’s good, because Tucker Carlson is a disgusting bag of stinking racist pimple puss.
So there’s a whole subtextual moral in this episode about rising from adversity and overcoming bullshit to become the best version of yourself. I think it’s inspiring! Incidentally, editor Michael Brodeur was also fired from the Dig. The difference is when Brodeur was fired, it was obvious to basically everyone that publisher Jeff Lawrence was making a dumb mistake, whereas when O’Neil was fired, everybody (including O’Neil) thought it was the right call.
But I’m getting way, way ahead of the plot here. Basically where we left off last time was Metro Corp.—which publishes Boston Magazine—had just purchased the Dig. The paper’s got a ton more money behind it now, but encroaching corporatization is making everybody nervous.
JOE KEOHANE (EiC): BoMag was pushing for a different editor, so I had to fight for my job when that purchase was happening. The guy they wanted wrote a memo, and it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. David Lipson thought it had some great ideas, and I just laughed in his face and did mocking dramatic readings of that guy’s memo. Like, he made up a fictitious ideal reader named Spike. The memo read, “Spike works in advertising, but he goes to punk clubs at night,” and this and that. Fuck you and die.
JEFF LAWRENCE (publisher): I called up David Lipson and said, “I’m hiring Keohane,” and he said, “I’m disappointed in you.” I said, “I have complete and utter editorial control! You don’t have a say!” But when Joe quit years later, he quit so that Boston Magazine could hire him, and David Lipson was the reason Boston Magazine hired him.
MATT KING (classifieds): I was having a beer at 11 o’clock in the morning. Dave Lipson showed up and got horrified. I was like, “What? This is what we do.” I didn’t realize that maybe with the new management, we shouldn’t be so brazen about that sort of thing.
DAVID LIPSON (Metro Corp. Chairman and CEO): Were there cultural challenges? Absolutely.
LUKE O’NEIL (music editor, future folk hero): We would have meetings, and I’d sort of lay on the floor and do yoga and stretch and lay on the table. That started to not be kosher once we got bought out by Metro Corp. Another thing I was famous for was eating everybody’s lunch right out of the fridge. I wanted the food and it was there, so why not?
CHRIS ROHLAND (co-publisher): The vision was we would work hand-in-hand with the sales team and the editorial team to create content, and then the content would be placed according to audience. So a piece about how to decorate your house would probably go in Boston Magazine’s home section. If it was a piece about Mayor Menino fucking people over or something controversial, it would probably go in the Dig. On the advertising side, it was like, “Let’s join forces and go after national dollars and sell all our publications as a bundle.” Obviously that never really materialized the way we wanted it to.
O’NEIL: Keohane was trying to run a tighter ship. I liked to fuck off during the day; stroll in at, like, 10 in the morning; go to the gym for an hour and a half at lunch. Even the freewheeling Dig office was, to me, too much like a regular office. I haven’t worked in an office since then either.
MICHAEL BRODEUR (music editor, future EiC): I would wake up in the morning and throw up because I hated the idea of trying to get construction students to give a shit about Joyce Carol Oates. I was adjunct teaching three times a week, and it was like a living nightmare. So the idea of going to see some shitty movie and writing about it for the Dig seemed like a beacon of stability.
O’NEIL: I’d go to bed at like five in the morning, and my roommate would still be up for a while. I’d be like, “Could you write an email to Jeff from my account saying I’m sick and won’t make it into work today? But don’t send it until 8 in the morning, because if you send it now, it’ll look like I was up all night partying.” I must’ve done that five or 10 times.
KEOHANE: Luke wasn’t super-duper into the job. He was hysterically funny, but gross … absolutely disgusting. He used squat like a baseball catcher in his office chair, and roll himself across the floor to rip a giant fart in someone else’s ear. He was depraved.
O’NEIL: When I was fired, I remember Keohane and Jeff took me down to Foley’s where they dropped the ax. Y’know how when you get fired, you’re usually pissed off about it? Even at the time I was like, “Y’know what? You’re probably making a good decision here.”
BRODEUR: If I remember at my job interview, all we did was trash the Phoenix. My entire experience with the Boston music world was a lot more varied than the five or six acts the Phoenix was willing to cover at the time. And the way they covered things just sucked. It just felt like someone’s parents writing about your band. But looking back, I came to the interview dressed like someone interviewing for a normal sales job. I didn’t have any sense of who I was dealing with. That became apparent later, when I came into my first day of work and there was still coke on my desk.
O’NEIL: I remember I was taking the train—I lived in Somerville at the time—and I was taking the train to Southie to work. When I got off the train, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My stomach started rumbling, and I knew there were people behind me, but I had to let go, and I shit my pants on the way to work. I remember kicking a turd out of my pant leg and leaving it there on the sidewalk. Then I spent, like, the first 45 minutes of work washing myself in the bathroom. It had spread all down my legs. But I threw my underwear—which was covered in shit—down a cavern/chimney type-thing in the Dig’s bathroom. After I got fired, I was happy to know a pair of my shitty underwear was still there, and haunted the building forever.
Next episode: Keohane and Lawrence roughhouse; may or may not remove their shirts while doing so.