Married to the Mob
Fri., Sept. 7, 2001
Editor Louis Black and Publisher Nick Barbaro both married former Chronicle food writers. Black is married to Anne Lewis Black. S. Emerson (Susan) Moffat, Black's former college girlfriend, later married Nick Barbaro. Barbaro was previously married to Kathleen Maher, who wrote, edited, typeset, and was generally indispensable to the paper throughout its first decade. Margaret Moser met and married Rollo Banks via the Chronicle. Other Chronicle marriages include account executive Jerald Corder and illustrator Lisa Kirkpatrick, Arts Editor Robert Faires and Community Listings editor Barbara Chisholm, former Special Projects director Roland Swenson and former Education editor Roseana Auten, as well as writer Jesse Sublett and ad account executive Lois Richwine. Current staff usually averages at least one dating couple at any given time. (For history of nonmarital liaisons, see Gordian knot.)
Until I married into the Chron, I'd always believed in keeping the personal separate from the professional. So, back in the mid-Eighties, when Louis Black approached me about doing some writing for the Chron (I'd been writing for Third Coast magazine -- R.I.P. -- for some time), I didn't think twice when he called to set up a time to get together and talk about it -- on a Saturday night. At the Hole in the Wall. Okay, thinking back on what, in hindsight, was clearly a "date," two things should have struck me as a little peculiar: the Saturday night part and the fact that while we were ostensibly getting together to talk about things like story ideas, we never did. Louis just kept knocking back these stiff drinks, while I sipped a glass of wine, trying to stay professionally conversational.
Anne S. Lewis
Although 14 years into the marriage, this is truly an amusing thought, the wine sipping was about me being a bit nervous to be in the company of "the" Louis Black. A few years before the Hole in the Wall "meeting," I was hanging out with a film writer who happened to be working on a lengthy profile of Louis for Third Coast. Until then, I'd never heard of Louis Black. But then I was privy to daily reports -- relayed with the breathless, voyeuristic excitement that might be generated by an up-close-and-personal look at a Hunter S. Thompson -- about the outrageous lifestyle, demeanor, and spoken words-per-minute of the legendary film writer Louis Black. One night, in the middle of this assignment, we were coming out of an early show at the Village and my friend poked me in the ribs and gasped, "Omigod, there he is!" I looked up just in time to see Louis, dressed completely in black, stepping up to the ticket window, in the company of a few unidentified henchmen. Under the yellow cast of the marquee lights, he had the ashen look of someone whose day started around the time the lights dimmed for a theatre's late show, someone who didn't see much sunlight.
Over the next four or five years, until the Hole in the Wall meeting, I'd bump into Louis from time to time at parties or, more often, at the old Varsity Theater, as I'd be coming out of the seven o'clock show and he'd, natch, be going into the late one. That first ambiguous date was followed by a more fitting one at -- where else? -- a film screening. A year later, we were married.
For lo, these many years, I've written fairly regularly and widely for the Chron and manage to stay busy writing for other publications, as well -- working with editors with whom I have no blood ties. So, obviously, I've had some time and perspective to mull the wisdom vel non of blending the personal and the professional. That rule, I now believe, is an exaltation of form over substance.
For a writer, nothing -- nothing -- beats living with your boss/editor. Who else can you guilt-trip into reading and re-reading your stuff after every little imperceptible change, while you hover over the computer, lip-synching, waiting impatiently to high-five a job superbly done? And at whom else -- without any fear of job retribution -- might you get mad and force yet another reading when the response is less than favorable? Of course, the best part is that that happens so infrequently. Far more often the reaction is the ego bath that writers crave but rarely get. Which is both terrific and the down-side to this arrangement: the lack of even the pretense of editorial objectivity. For that problem, I find that a little rationalization goes a long way.
Louis keeps telling me how brilliant Nick Barbaro is. What difference does it make, I retort, if he never says anything?
S. Emerson Moffat
One month later, Nick and I are working together, compiling listings for what will be the Chron's first-ever Downtown Guide. Over lunch in Ted's Greek Corner, he hands me a forkful of spanikopita across the table. Halfway through the afternoon, I realize I'm a goner. I go home only to pack and say goodbye to my shell-shocked beau.
In four years, Nick and I are married; in six, we're driving home from the hospital with our new baby, Zeke. First stop, the Chronicle, of course. Kid sees the office before he sees his crib.
Shortly before SXSW '88, I'd heard former Austin Sun publisher Jeff Nightbyrd talking to Louis about a hot new writer from The Daily Texan staff he'd met. Her name was Roseana Auten. Louis hired her to freelance for the Chronicle after she graduated. I hadn't met her, but I had heard people talking about her. One day I noticed a pretty girl walking by outside the window, and I asked "who's that?" out loud. Somebody told me that she was Roseana.
I had taken the money I'd earned from the second SXSW and bought a broken-down 1970 Cadillac convertible from a kid from New Zealand who was leaving for home. I needed a notary to finish the transaction. Someone told me that Roseana had landed a job notarizing petitions for the Lenora Fulani presidential campaign, which had an office next door to SXSW. Roseana agreed to notarize the pink slip for me, and afterward I offered to pay her. She said, "Take me for a ride in your cool car instead." This led to a first date and our eventual marriage. Roseana later became the Education editor for the Chronicle.
From 1982 to 1988, I edited the Chronicle's Listings, which includes theatre, dance, litera, comedy, galleries, classical music, and miscellaneous events. I made sure the copy was in on time, edited, and typeset, and filled in as necessary. Along the way, I also got involved in working on many guides to this and that: downtown, the UT campus area, East Austin, South Austin, happy hours. My most memorable was the 24-Hour Guide, one that still causes Louis and Nick some discomfort because of its complexity. I think last time I mentioned doing a sequel, they seemed to make this "errrrrr" sound like Lurch used to do on The Addams Family.
I took this listings/guides thing about as far as a guy could go. In 1988, I retired as Listings editor, only to emerge as Mr. Smarty Pants -- a whole other story. I continued to contribute to the Chronicle and occasionally worked on guides. Then one night in October 1992 at a Chronicle party, Louis approached me about my next guide assignment: Austin's video rental stores. This time, I was to have a co-editor named Pamela Bruce, and I was introduced to her right then and there. It was love at first sight, and we never quite got around to the guide -- I don't think the Chronicle ever minded. The following October, we got married.