Below you'll find Alex Belth's fun story about the making of Richard Ben Cramer's famous Esquire profile, "What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?" We shared this over earlier today, but I wanted to draw your attention to one section in particular. It's about Cramer's efforts to restore 1,500 words that had been cut from his story, which required several heroic acts of editorial subversion.
[Cramer's editor, David Hirshey] says that Cramer wouldn't accept the 1,500 words that Esquire's managing editor demanded be cut. As the final touches were being put on the issue, Hirshey was at a black-tie affair and couldn't be reached when Cramer struck.
"His first stop was the copy department," said Hirshey, "where he charmed the culottes off the head copy editor and told her that I had given him permission to restore the trimmed 1,500 words and that she could call me at home if she liked. She did and, of course, got no answer. Cramer, being a Pulitzer Prize winner and all, had enough journalistic cred to convince her he would take full responsibility for any changes. Next, with the new 15,000-word galleys in hand, he went to the art department and told them they would have to drop a photo of Williams in the opening layout and shrink the type on the jump. When they balked, he told them I had given him permission and they were welcome to check with me. Now came his biggest challenge. In order for us not to see his handiwork the next morning, he would have to convince the production department that the piece would have to ship that night because 'the printing plant isn't used to handling pieces of this length and needed the extra day.'"
The next morning Hirshey arrived at the office and noticed three bouquets of long-stem red roses at the receptionists' desk addressed to the copy, art, and production departments. All three had the same note attached: "Thanks for your grace under pressure, Richard Cramer."
There goes the ballsiest writer who ever lived.