Getting Style: An Interview With
By Gus Bernadicou
Peter Davis is continuously painting the city of New York red. He got his start as a teen writing for magazines such as Vogue, and now is the EIC of Avenue Magazine; he is also the Senior Editor of Paper Magazine. Peter tells about his teenage years, growing up as a punk, and having all his dreams come true.
Punk Globe: Peter, how would you describe yourself in three words? You aren’t allowed to use the words “fabulous” or “pazz-zazz.”
Peter Davis: Loyal, curious, late.
Punk Globe: You got your first gig, at 22, writing. Being so young did the feeling of writing for a nationally syndicated magazine change your perspective on life?
Peter Davis: Not really because I never aimed to be a writer. I was a painting major in college so having an article in Vogue was fun, but not life changing – at least not then. At 22, I was more concerned with getting my hair the right shade of Manic Panic blue.
Punk Globe: You were not able to use a typewriter though…How did that work out?
Peter Davis: I didn’t know how to type. I paid the receptionist at The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, where I worked at the time, to type the piece for me on her computer. I actually had to pay her quite a lot.
Punk Globe: How have your views on life changed over the span of your career?
Peter Davis: I feel more grateful as I get older. My career has enabled me to meet and interview so many people from Shawn White at his beach house to Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss who took me for greasy Mexican food at a dive on Hollywood Boulevard to meeting Karl Lagerfeld on the Great Wall of China. I am a very lucky dude.
Punk Globe: Was there a main motivation pushing you? Were you trying to prove something to the world, or were you attempting to escape some form of personal oppression?
Peter Davis: I gave up painting to be a writer because I am constantly fascinated by people. And having my own column in Paper when I was about 24 enabled me to meet so many different characters and always learn who or what was next. I must have pop culture ADD because I always want to know the next big thing before I read about it somewhere.
Punk Globe: Could you be naive or was there too much pressure to second guess yourself?
Peter Davis: I have never really been naďve in general. I grew up in New York and though I was on the Upper East Side and not the ghetto, I still was exposed to the fast and chaotic life of a huge city from day one. It’s made me pretty street smart.
Punk Globe: Your career is one of the numerous that have been effected by technology. Has the Internet been beneficial or hurtful in your field?
Peter Davis: I love the Internet. It has changed the way we devour news. Now newspapers are behind the game because news is reported by everyone and anyone via Twitter or Facebook. And I love being able to blog about things and have it go “live” so quickly. That said, I’ve always thought the web is like Los Angeles – the best and the worst of everything in life in one place.
Punk Globe: What’s on the horizon for Avenue Magazine? Any plans for taking over the West Coast? .
Peter Davis: No west coast plans now, but who knows. In the 9 issues I’ve been Editor in Chief, the magazine has had a major transformation. I even changed the font. And we have all these great new advertisers like Armani and Dior as the magazine becomes much more fashion forward which is thanks to our amazing Creative Director Cricket Burns who really speaks style fluently
Punk Globe: Did you always know fashion was your thing?
Peter Davis: I always dress to have fun. I don’t take fashion seriously. And I love the fashion world, but I guess my one complaint would be the people who treat making clothing as if it was something very serious. At the end of the day, a cool jacket is just a cool jacket. It’s not saving lives or changing laws. Fashion is fabulous and fun and should be treated that way. It will always be my thing. And clothing is a great reflection of the times. Just look at the re-emergence of punk studs everywhere – obviously people are feeling restless, aggressive and fed up which is how punks felt. I am sure I will be the senior citizen who is still wearing creepers from Trash & Vaudeville.
Punk Globe: You have been featured in US Magazine as a member of the Fashion Police, are you considering becoming the next Richard Blackwell?
Peter Davis: That makes me laugh. No never. I always feel a little guilty judging celebrities or anyone and their style choices. It’s a fine line to be funny without being mean. I would rather celebrate great style then make fun of bad style.
Punk Globe: You have been often called a “socialite” in the most funky-but-chic way possible. What would you like to be called?
Peter Davis: I am an Editor and a writer so that is how I would like to be known. Everyone, save for hermits living in a cave, is a “socialite.” That expression has become stigmatized in the media in New York, but really anyone who likes to be social and see their friends is a socialite. I don’t really ever think about it that much though. There are worse things one could be called.
Punk Globe: Growing up in New York, were you one of those punk kids? What kind of music did you listen to?
Peter Davis: I was totally a punk kid, skateboarding all over the upper east side with a mowhawk. I listened to everything from Black Flag to X to The Clash which is my favorite band of all time.
Punk Globe: You like Blondie, right? Have you heard their new album…?
Peter Davis: I have and I love everything Blondie does. She is a true pioneer in so many ways.
Punk Globe: BUT, the Clash is your favorite band…
Peter Davis: I can listen to almost every song The Clash does over and over again – especially at the gym.
Punk Globe: You were a fan of Amy Winehouse, how did her passing affect you?
Peter Davis: I was actually surprised and sad. I thought Amy Winehouse would be able to pull herself away from addiction. She was so talented and it’s such a shame that we really only got to hear a fraction of her tremendous talent. And I loved her style – I used to try and make my hair like her huge beehive but it never worked out.
Punk Globe: She was a kind of tragic-hero, if the word can even be used in 2011. Any other young stars you believe are wasting their talents away?
Peter Davis: Lindsay Lohan – what a pretty and talented young actress. I’ve only seen “Mean Girls” once but she was so likeable. Her parents really used and abused her it seems and now she appears to be a lost cause. And the media just loves to trash her. I hope she gets another chance.
Punk Globe: What are you currently groovin’ to?
Peter Davis: The new Bjork and reggae when I want to be mellow and Crystal Castles and of course, The Clash with a little Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” for nostalgia.
Punk Globe: You have listed Andy Warhol as an inspiration… What about his crew Nico, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Taylor Meed, Viva, etc?
Peter Davis: I have met Viva. Her daughter Gaby Hoffman is an actress I’ve interviewed. I was too young to be at the Factory but it’s fun to look at photos of that whole glitzy crew. Edie Sedgwick was my favorite – but she is truly a tragic figure. The book “Edie,” a great oral history of that time, is really a sad story no matter how good everyone looks in the photos.
Punk Globe: Who’s the best dressed PUNK?
Peter Davis: Pete Doherty. He just doesn’t seem to care at all which is what punk is truly about.
Punk Globe: Have you gotten to meet all of your heroes, or is there a Lou Reed out there that you are still longing to high five?
Peter Davis: There are so many more people I want to meet both legends and newcomers. I love the actor Jessica Chastain and I’ve never met her. And I want to meet the real Banksy. I’ll never get to meet everyone.
Punk Globe: What advice would you give the struggling journalist out there?
Peter Davis: Start a blog. Look at BryanBoy and Tavi – they have made huge careers for themselves from their blogs. And use Twitter and Facebook to get your words read. The internet is your best friend. And just keep writing a lot and pounding on every available door to get published.
Punk Globe: Lastly, Bubble Gum or Cotton Candy?
Peter Davis: Bubble gum – it lasts longer.
Punk Globe: Thanks for the time, Peter!
Peter Davis: Thank YOU!
Have a story the WORLD needs to hear? gus@punkglobe.com or @bernadicou