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“I went surfing this morning in Malibu, and there were six people in the water,” Ben Goldhirsh gushes after he bounds down the stairs into the lobby of GOOD magazine’s Sunset Strip headquarters. “It was awesome, it was awesome.” Then, just to reinforce the complete and utter awesomeness of the situation: “It was awesome.”
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Visiting Goldhirsh’s office is a little like infiltrating a frat house, a rambling 1940s-era residence populated by extremely good-looking guys who all seem to follow the same dress code: bed head, wrinkled khakis, loafers sans socks, gray knit T-shirt (inside out), big smile. But when talk turns to GOOD, the magazine Goldhirsh founded in 2006 “for people who give a damn,” his surfer-dude enthusiasm quickly reveals an Ivy League vocabulary and the pragmatic confidence of a leader who’s shouldering a new age of social responsibility.
The story of exactly how this 27-year-old got this role has all the trappings of a “take lemons, make lemonade” tale. When his father, Bernie Goldhirsh, founder and publisher of Inc., died from brain cancer in 2003, he earmarked some of his $200 million fortune for Ben and his sister with the provision that they do something entrepreneurial (their mother died of stomach cancer in 1999). Goldhirsh, who had dropped out of USC grad school, came up with the idea for the magazine and rallied a group of old friends to come work for him.
“For us it was a very personal response to the fact that we weren’t getting the media we wanted — something both entertaining and relevant,” he says. “It was a void that existed on the newsstand, it existed online, it existed in theaters.” Thus, GOOD is an “editorially led, member-driven community,” which includes the magazine where the $20 paid by subscribers goes directly to their choice of one of 12 nonprofits, a Web presence with a social-networking component, and a film division with four projects to be released over the next year.
While GOOD’s commitment to “living the valuable life” nods to his father’s legacy, Goldhirsh says the content was equally driven by being lonely in Los Angeles.
“When you leave college it’s hard to find a platform that’s defined by a certain kind of sensibility,” says the Massachusetts native, describing his first apartment after arriving here four years ago as a “mean version of Melrose Place” in West Hollywood. “What we really want to do is allow people to create one-to-one connections in a way that provides added value.”
Parties held in cities across the country have given more than 18,000 friends of GOOD some serious face time, even in socially backward Los Angeles.
“I think GOOD can be a lightning rod for cool people doing cool things,” says Goldhirsh, barely able to contain himself as he spouts the results of a recent survey: “5 percent of readers have even found love through GOOD!”
Maybe he should change the name to Awesome.
Photo by Kevin Scanlon