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William Shawn
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    (August 31, 1907-December 8, 1992)
    Born in Chicago, Illinois
    Birth name was William Chon
    Succeeded Harold Ross as editor of ‘The New Yorker’ (1952-87)
    Father of actor Wallace Shawn
    He said he changed his last name because he was tired of people thinking he was Chinese.
    His fear of elevators was so great he reportedly kept a hatchet in his briefcase in case he got trapped in one.
    He also refused to live in an apartment higher than the second floor because of his fear of heights, and always sat in the back row of theaters to be near the exits in case of fire.
    He conducted a four-decade long affair with ‘New Yorker’ writer Lillian Ross while married.
    By the end of his editorship, there were widespread complaints that ‘The New Yorker’ had grown stale.
    He hated crowds so much that he failed to show up for the farewell party ‘New Yorker’ staffers held in his honor.
    He was on the list of potential victims when Leopold and Loeb were planning their not-so-perfect perfect crime (1924).
    He was president of his high school senior class.
    Critic Renata Adler said, ‘He knows when to leave a strong piece alone. If there really are weak parts, though, invariably he finds them.’
    J.D. Salinger dedicated ‘Franny and Zooey’ to him.
    He was forced out from ‘The New Yorker’ by new owner S.I. Newhouse after repeated assurances he could stay on as editor until he chose to retire.
    When he was let go, over 150 ‘New Yorker’ contributors signed a letter of protest.

Credit: C. Fishel

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