Blame Jerrie Marcus Smith. If D Magazine has published anything lately that has ruffled your feathers, if, in this very issue, we didn’t name your favorite restaurant as one of the best of the year, it’s Jerrie’s fault. She not only named the magazine, but she also kept it from going under.
The late Wick Allison, as publisher, and Jim Atkinson, as editor, founded the magazine in 1974. But before they got the presses rolling, they needed a name. Dallas Magazine was already taken. They found themselves one morning at Jerrie’s house, as she’d already committed her support to the endeavor, pondering alternate possibilities. Knowing Jim and having worked for Wick, I’ll say this was the only meeting the two ever had, at least in the ’70s, that was less than 80 proof.
“It was at my house because they didn’t have houses to go to,” Jerrie says. She’s 85 now and was their elder then. “They were college kids practically, just out of the University of Texas. Women’s Wear Daily had just put out a magazine called W. The boys weren’t reading that, but I was. I thought, Well, you know, why not D?”
The name grew to become one of the most recognized brands in North Texas. That almost didn’t happen. D came out of the gate with some audacious journalism—critical dining coverage, a first for the city; an exposé on the mayor, for which he sued—and advertisers weren’t quite sure what to make of it. Longevity was not, to understate, a given. Fortunately, Jerrie had done something that proved auspicious. She’d taken Wick and Jim to meet her father, Stanley Marcus, who’d agreed to send a note to his customers, along with their Neiman’s bills, encouraging them to subscribe to the new city magazine of Dallas. The cash infusion from those first subscribers kept the ink flowing until the magazine found its footing.
Until recently, I held the notion that Mr. Stanley deserved the credit for making Neiman Marcus what it is. He certainly gets a share. But I was delighted to read a new book by Jerrie and learn that it’s really her great-aunt Carrie Marcus Neiman whose vision led to the icon we know today. I was even more delighted when Jerrie said we could excerpt her book, which is online today. She’s still helping the magazine; we’re now even deeper in her debt.
One more thing: as we went to press in late October, I learned that an exhibition of some of the wonderful photographs from Jerrie’s book will be held at SMU’s DeGolyer Library. “An Eye for Elegance: Carrie Marcus Neiman” opens December 2 and runs through January. Read about it here, then go check it out.