Richard Ekstract, a magazine publisher who found success with niche audiences — from trade journals like Tape Recording and Audio Times to a regional shelter franchise that started with Hamptons Cottages and Gardens — and played a curious role in Andy Warhol’s career, died on Aug. 7 in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 92.
His death, in a hospital, was announced by his son Steven. The cause was cancer.
Mr. Ektract was a media mogul of sorts, having amassed a small fortune creating a cottage industry of some 20 trade and consumer publications, moving from electronics to video to decorating and real estate. But he may be best remembered for an early collaboration with Warhol.
In the summer of 1965, Mr. Ekstract, then a budding trade journal publisher in New York with one title under his belt, Audio Times, lent Warhol, who had been making 16-millimeter films, a prototype of a Norelco “slant-track” video camera. (It was a few months before Nam June Paik, the so-called father of video art, got his first Sony video recorder.)
Mr. Ekstract had met Warhol a few years earlier through an art director and, knowing Warhol’s frugality, would often lend him equipment.
The clunky white Norelco was a one-off, expensive and difficult to use, but Warhol played with it for a month, creating a landmark work, the affecting “Outer and Inner Space.” The film, in a split-screen format, starred the magnetic, doomed Edie Sedgwick delivering dueling monologues: Perched on a stool, she opines on this and that as a video of her opining on this and that, but less clearly, plays next to her.
J. Hoberman, writing in The New York Times, called the film “a masterpiece of video art made before the term even existed.”
In exchange for the use of the video camera, Warhol gave Mr. Ekstract a collection of acetates he had used the year before to make a series of red silk-screened self-portraits. With Warhol's permission, Mr. Ekstract took them to a commercial printer, who made a second set of self-portraits, following Warhol’s directions given over the phone.
As part of the deal, one of the portraits would appear in Mr. Ekstract’s new magazine, Tape Recording. To celebrate the magazine’s debut, Mr. Ekstract, with characteristic flair, threw a party on abandoned rail tracks underneath the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The portraits were exhibited — and given away to a few of the magazine’s sponsors — and “Inner and Outer Space” was screened.
The red self-portraits had a complicated afterlife. One of them had been bought by a filmmaker named Joe Simon-Whelan in 1989 and became the subject of a long and bitter lawsuit. Despite ample documentation about its origins, when Mr. Simon-Whelan asked to have the work authenticated by the Warhol Foundation, his request was denied multiple times. He sued, and in 2010, after the foundation had spent $7 million in legal fees, Mr. Simon-Whelan gave up, having run out of money to continue.
Mr. Ekstract kept one of the red portraits for himself. Last year, he offered it to an auction house in Arizona, but the piece failed to sell.
Richard Evan Ekstract was born on Feb. 20, 1931, in Brooklyn to Max and Mildred (Last) Ekstract. His father was in the apparel business; his mother was a homemaker. Richard grew up in Philadelphia and studied journalism at Temple University. He joined the Army in 1952 as a lieutenant and served at Fort Benning, Ga., where he became the editor of Infantry magazine.
Mr. Ekstract’s first magazine of his own was Audio Times, a weekly trade journal. By the end of its first year it had no revenue to speak of, until Avery Fisher, the audio electronics pioneer and philanthropist, signed on as its first advertiser.
Mr. Ekstract’s last publishing venture was the Cottages and Gardens franchise. Hamptons Cottages and Gardens began as a free biweekly shelter magazine in the summer of 2002 and soon spawned spinoffs: Palm Beach Cottages and Gardens and Connecticut Cottages and Gardens.
The magazines were distinctive for using original photography instead of pickup pictures of interiors and for generally punching above their weight as regional freebies, giving them the look and feel of national magazines. Advertisers responded, and locals — from old money types to the newly flush — opened their showplaces to the editors.
“Richard was a maverick in magazine publishing at a level that surprised some people,” Newell Turner, the first editor of HC & G, as it was known for short, said in a phone interview. (Mr. Turner went on to be editor of House Beautiful magazine and then editorial director of the Hearst Design Group.) “He got into the shelter magazine world on a local basis when others didn’t see much value there. But he realized there was a huge interest in it, particularly in the Hamptons, and he was right.
“Because of the audience — the creative and business classes of New York City — the magazine had a huge power,” he continued. “He saw the importance of micro-audiences, and he was revolutionary in that he believed a free magazine could still be worth someone picking it up and reading it.”
Mr. Ekstract’s tastes were eclectic. He was opinionated, strong willed and colorful in his language. He was notorious for hiring and firing, running through 10 publishers in the first five years of HC & G.
In addition to magazines, “Richard collected art and architecture,” said Alexander Gorlin, who designed a Tuscan villa for Mr. Ekstract on the site of a former estate in East Hampton, one of a number of houses he built and flipped on the East End of Long Island. “But everything was for sale.”
He is survived by his wife, Eileen, whom he married in 1990; his daughter, Janet; his sons Steven and Michael; and four grandchildren. His marriage to Claudia Tucker ended in divorce
In the spring of 2008, as the recession deepened, Mr. Ekstract put his Cottages and Gardens franchise on the market. A year and a half later, it was bought by Marianne Howatson, a veteran magazine publisher, for an undisclosed sum.
But Mr. Ekstract, with typical brio, told The New York Post that the downturn was not the reason for the sale.
“I’m 77,” he said. “It’s enough already. I have nothing left to prove.”
Penelope Green is a reporter on the Obituaries desk and a feature writer. She has been a reporter for the Home section, editor of Styles of The Times, an early iteration of Style, and a story editor at the Sunday magazine. More about Penelope Green
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