RIP Jeffrey Slonim
Last night I learned that a friend and colleague, Jeffrey Slonim II passed away on Friday. I say colleague, because we stood on red carpets reporting together for years. The thing about red carpet reporters, is that we all work for different outlets, but we also work together. It's reporter code, and for the most part, even though you are competing for the best quote or an exclusive interview from a top name celebrity, you're also working together and for each other. For example, you know most of the time that if the star is really big, the interview will be pooled in a group (no exclusives) and each reporter gets 1 question. So you all strategize what each person is asking so you don't waste time asking the same question twice. Or half the time, you don't know who someone is, so a fellow reporter will fill you in on who they are or what they are known for, so you don't make a total ass of yourself when you interview them. For some news outlets, as a freelancer, you pitch events to the publication. So you befriend reporters and you forward them the invites you get, so that they will forward you invites they get -- which basically means the more events you can get into, the more you are working. We help each other out like that.
You show up at events night after night, and there's always at least 8 people you know, because you start seeing them several nights a week. You become friends, you know the details of their lives, what they are working on, who they are dating and any good work drama they have encountered. We're like virtual co-workers. In the 5 years that I reported for the New York Daily News, Jeffrey was probably at 90% of the events I worked at, and he was never more than 10 feet away. He was one of the hardest working reporters I ever met--well known and respected. A tour de force on the red carpet, he would be covering an event for like 4 publications and sometimes he would be the only person a celebrity would talk to. He had integrity and street cred.
I first started reporting for NYDN in November 2010. I hadn't done much red carpet reporting and I really didn't know the unwritten code of ethics (yes, there is one). Certain reporters take you under their wing when you are new and give you tips. I remember one reporter told me "You will see a similar circle of reporters at every event, so make sure you are nice, get to know them, work with them and don't step on anyone's toes." She mentioned a few people I would probably always see, Jeffrey was one of them. I went to the Z100 Jingle Ball in December 2010 and there was Jeffrey, who was working the red carpet and also had his son with him. He loved how excited his son was to see Katy Perry. This was the first time I encountered him, and I felt intimidated. I think he was a little leery of me too. It's always like, who is this new person, will they last? And often, people don't last, so you don't let them in until you see them more than, say, 5 times.
By January, I was seeing him at least 3 nights a week. I followed the other reporter's advice and never stepped on people's toes (meaning, don't steal quotes as your own or record other people's interviews that you are not conducting.) Jeffrey befriended me, and became very helpful. He would look at the tip sheet and tell me little anecdotes about certain celebrities that he'd interviewed. He would say, "She will probably talk about that if you ask her, but her publicist will get pissed off." When I didn't recognize someone, I would look to him and he would quickly tell me who they were. I'd say 50% of the time, he was either next to me or no more than 3 people away. He used to e mail me invites and tell me how to get into the event or what angle I could use to pitch to the NYDN to get it accepted. He knew that the more you reported, the more money you made.
He loved fashion and always had a look pulled together. We both loved wearing blazers and sometimes we would show up at events wearing something similar (or, the exact same thing) because he loved UNIQLO USA and H&M as much as I do and he loved a good bargain. He would point to the tie he was wearing and say, "guess how much I paid for this?" I would say a really low number because I knew he loved a bargain. The amount he paid was always lower than my guess and his eyes would light up when he said the magic number.
When I told him my husband got a job in Minneapolis and that I might move, he was like, DO IT. He was a total family man. He loved his wife and two boys. He was very supportive of others and their personal lives. He always asked me questions about my life and my husband, Stuart. And he would always say, "How is Stuart?" rather than, how is your husband. He remembered his name. It's small details like that, that show a person you are genuine and sincere, that you really care.
Any event I was at, he was always there. He was dedicated to his craft and he asked questions with a genuine intent and looked delighted when he heard the answers. He wasn't jaded or worn out, as some of us reporters get. He kept bringing life to his career and his time on the carpets. He was Bill Cunningham of the reporter world. I've seen a lot of friends and fellow reporters mention his passing on social media, and they are all saying similar things about him. Which means he was a solid character, never wavered from his personal reporting style and warm demeanor. That's what made him so lovable and respectable.
I'm truly sad to hear that he's no longer with us in the physical form, but I pray his spirit remains among his friends and family and good memories are shared. If you are a reporter, you probably know him and have your own special stories or memories. The red carpet is the water cooler of reporting life. And I'm grateful that Jeffrey was always there and for all the help, advice and patience he gave to me. RIP Jeffrey.
This pic was taken by Evan Mulvihill at MoMa. I'm to Joshua Jackson's right and about 3 people away is Jeffrey (in the circle).