amiee white beazley | June 3, 2013 | People
Treasured books and photos from Seal’s library.
Mementos of Mark Seal’s journeys: the photo album of an unknown traveler.
A rare book and wooden hand from a Paris flea market.
Mark Seal in his Aspen home.
Call me a geek, but I have a running list of writers whom I intend to meet before my time is up, and on that list is Mark Seal. A National Magazine Award finalist and contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 2003, he’s also a true Texas gentleman and a full-time Aspenite since 2006.
So when I went to The Living Room lobby lounge at The Little Nell during a particularly busy après session at the end of the spring skiing season, I zeroed in on Seal’s white tuft of hair from across the room and made a beeline for him, checking him off my metaphorical bucket list.
Seal’s career is what dreams are made of: He has been at the vanguard of long-form investigative journalism since the ’70s, and anyone who reads Esquire, Playboy, Town & Country, or the aforementioned VF knows him—or at least his byline. He writes much of his work from his home in Aspen proper.
What makes his ride in journalism remarkable is that, even after decades in the field, Seal’s work is more sought after than ever. Recently he penned a highly touted 20-year retrospective on Pulp Fiction and two-time Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino. Two of Seal’s books are being developed for the big screen: The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, about Christian Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, one of the most successful con men in recent history, and Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa, about conservationist and filmmaker Joan Root, who was mysteriously shot dead in her native Kenya.
With three or four ongoing projects, Seal spends almost half the year working internationally. But he admits that he always looks forward to being in Aspen. When he’s not traveling to interview global newsmakers, he is skiing Aspen Mountain or hiking the local terrain with his wife, Dr. Laura Blocker, a gynecologist and the owner of Paris Underground, a French furnishings and antiques store. Trying to put his finger on the magic of Aspen, Seal says, “There is an amazing group of people from all over the world in this place.”
On this day, amid the power elite of Aspen—US senators, CEOs, and other illuminati—Seal may not be the most recognizable face in The Living Room, but he wields as much power. Through his work, he has exposed the truth behind stories that some would rather keep concealed. What Seal writes, people read.
“I don’t know,” he says in h is Texas cadence when asked how his career skyrocketed from newspaperman in the ’70s, covering courts, crime, and entertainment, to a journalist with a most prolific, enduring career. Writing is an urge he had as a child. “I always wanted to be a writer. My father wanted me to be in real estate, like him, but I wanted to write.”
In his early 30s, Seal left his full-time newspaper gig to try his hand at freelance magazine writing. His first freelance project was for Rolling Stone in the mid-’70s, and thanks to a pitch to an old friend, his column, “Celebrated Weekends,” ran in American Way, American Airlines’ in-flight magazine, for 18 years. He has written about movie stars, sports legends, lawbreakers, and fashion icons, yet he seems immune to their supposed importance, seeing past their public façades to focus on the story.
“There’s an old adage,” he says. “It’s about the story, not about the people.”
And the story Seal writes is often a big get, requiring intensive reporting and dozens of sources. He plunges himself into the subject’s world, and his hard-earned reputation for accurate, objective reporting is, and has always been, his calling card.
“I have no hidden agenda,” he says. “I’m really interested in [the subjects]. I care about the story, the person. I am really privileged to be doing this in this time.”
photography by emily chaplin and chris council