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New Yorker Festival Attracts Throngs Of Fans Despite Publishing Woes

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NEW YORK — The journalism industry may be in precarious shape, but you wouldn't have known it at the annual New Yorker Festival, where star worship of the magazine's most famous writers seemed to be in full force.

"Did you see Calvin Trillin?" a middle-aged woman could be overheard saying excitedly to her companion at one event over the weekend. "He looked at me!"

However dire the future of the printed word may be, fans competed fiercely, as always, for tickets to the hottest events at the three-day gathering. For every happy fan who scored a ticket to, say, Trillin's annual food tour of downtown Manhattan, there was a frustrated fan who missed out on, say, the much-anticipated humor revue.

"I logged on the minute they started selling tickets online, but the site didn't work right away, and some things were already gone. I was so frustrated," said Tricia Gibney, a New Yorker who has attended every year of the 10-year-old festival. Still, she was happy to be at an event featuring actor Stanley Tucci.

"I always come with friends. They stay at my apartment, and it's a bunch of 55-plus people sleeping on air mattresses," Gibney joked.

Highlights this year included a session with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, interviewed by writer Ariel Levy. It touched on such things as what Maddow MIGHT be for Halloween IF she decides to dress up (the Man in the Moon, with a big shiner since NASA just bombed the moon); whether Maddow considers herself attractive ("I'm not eye candy," she said, to which a chorus of fans protested); and whether Maddow, who has an hour on TV every night, has finally purchased her own television (she has, but says she's only watched it twice.)

At a panel on character acting, thespians like Joan Cusack and John Turturro considered the joys of not having to play the lead role: You can relax, they said, and go wild with the part, knowing you don't have to carry the movie.

And Cusack, twice nominated for a supporting actress Oscar, spoke of other gratifications: "I cherish that I can live in Chicago and get to be a mom and a wife and live in the real world," she said.

Another highlight: a storytelling session with five New Yorker writers, emceed by comedian Andy Borowitz (also a New Yorker writer, as he enjoyed pointing out repeatedly), on life at the magazine. Technically, the writers were limited to 10 minutes, after which a cello chord would provide a respectful warning.

But by the time the final writer spoke – Roger Angell, a legend at the magazine – the rules seemed to have been dispensed with entirely, and nobody seemed to care.

Borowitz quipped that some people had even been forced to pay "scalper prices" for the event, one of the first to sell out.

"If we could just make that happen for the magazine," he said, wistfully.

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