The first thing I was invited to write for The Village Voice was a 250-word review of a low-budget biographical film about Jeff Buckley. It was opening at a small theatre in Manhattan where very few people were likely to see it. I liked the performances, from a television actor in the lead role in particular, and I asked my editor if I might have a little more room to express some praise. He doubled my word count and put the review on the front page of the film section.
I learned then what a lot of older, better writers knew already about The Village Voice: that it took its duty as cultural custodian seriously, and was uniquely committed to informing its savvy readers in New York about whatever its writers felt the city ought to know.
Now The Voice is dead, shuttered ignominiously by the billionaire who acquired it with aspirations toward rejuvenation only three years ago. Though it’s a quirk of the famed alt-weekly that its admirers have been declaring it in terminal decline for the better part of its 63-year history — like The Simpsons or Saturday Night Live, The Voice is an enduring mainstay with a nebulous Golden Age somewhere in the past, often conveniently located near the youth of the one doing the remembering.
Most stalwart New York cognoscenti tend to reminisce about the paper’s centrality to the cultural happenings of the city in the ’70s and ’80s. It taught people about bands and bars, about playwrights and politics. As The Times reflected when the print edition was terminated and it went online-only last year, The Voice “was where many New Yorkers learned to be New Yorkers.”
By the time I started contributing regularly to The Voice, in 2013, the paper had already passed so far out of fashion that the only times I heard it mentioned at all were when it was being viciously disparaged. The paper’s chief film critic at the time, Scott Foundas, had just quit to move to Variety, less than four months after he came aboard; his predecessor, the great J. Hoberman, had been fired by new management in early 2012, one of several high-profile exits that inspired a number of long-time Voice writers to voluntarily and noisily abandon ship.
At that point, The Voice’s credibility seemed irrevocably desecrated. This was the former home of Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas, Gary Indiana …read more