Tag Archives: Michael Perlis

Remembering Vivian Perlis

Vivian Perlis — a longtime Westporter, noted musician and transformational musicologist — died last week. She was 91.

Perlis was a renowned harp player with a master’s in music history from the University of Michigan when she began studying for a doctorate at Columbia University in the early 1960s.

Living in Westport with 3 small children — her husband, Dr. Sandy Perlis, was a psychiatrist here — she was “turned down flat” when she asked for flexibility in her studies.

The Perlis family (clockwise from top left): Mike, Sandy, Vivian, Lauren, Jonathan.

“I could either orphan my children or give up the Ph.D.,” she told the New York Times in 1997. “That would never happen today.”

Instead, she became a research librarian at the Yale School of Music. While working on the Charles Ives collection, she conducted more than 60 interviews with the Danbury composer’s former colleagues.

She “faced disdain from traditional musicologists who thought recorded interviews would be merely anecdotal, overly subjective and prone to factual inconsistencies,” Perlis’ Times obituary says.

But she went on to found Yale University’s Oral History of American Music. The project — described by the Times as “an invaluable archive of audio and video interviews” — includes 3,000 interviews with figures like Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington.

Vivian Perlis interviewing (at right) Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Perlis directed the program for more than 40 years. She also wrote several books. For many years, she was a harpist with the New Haven Symphony.

The Perlises moved to Westport from Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She worked at Tanglewood, and her husband was studying at the Austin Riggs Institute.

“The town’s reputation as a mecca for artists and writers appealed to both of them,” says her son Mike.

She was very involved in Friends of Music, the local organization championed by Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. She played with the Westport Madrigal Singers, and contributed to holiday events, Staples High School Orphenians and Staples Players.

She was also active in the Westport Arts Center.

Vivian Perlis in 2005. (Photo by C.M. Glover/New York Times)

Her son Mike recalls Coleytown Elementary School principal Lynn Odell announcing “a very special treat” one day. To his surprise, it was his mother playing Christmas carols on her harp.

He remembers too “the great pleasure of falling asleep listening to her practicing ‘Greensleeves’ into the night.”

Vivian Perlis was part of a cohort of talented, well-educated and energetic women who overcame barriers to achieve professional and personal success. They helped mold Westport into the artistic, volunteer-driven town it is today.

In addition to her son Mike, she is survived by her daughter Lauren Perlis Ambler; another son Jonathan; her brother Irwin Goldberger, and 5 grandchildren. Her husband — a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine — died in 1994.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

Mike Perlis: Forbes’ Digital Dynamo

Mike Perlis’ current job — CEO of Forbes Media — is not as titillating as a previous position: running the Playboy Publishing Group. But the 1971 Staples grad is successful wherever he goes.

In a Business Day story published yesterday, the New York Times said the “soft-spoken and folksy chief executive” has spent the past 3 years  “transforming the company from a financially troubled family business into an enterprise that has moved aggressively to embrace the new digital landscape.”

Mike Perlis

Mike Perlis

Perlis — “the first nonfamily member to run Forbes Media since its founding in 1917” —  has rehired 28 former employees; helped expand marketing; built a network of 1200 bloggers; more than doubled the number of Forbes’s annual conference; licensed some of its software, and lent its name and content to a business school willing to pay for the brand.

Steve Forbes praised, “He brought the right temperament to an organization that at the time was 93 years old. But he’s not going to be the bull in the china shop.”

Former colleague Kenneth Lerer added, “He’s doing what needs to be done. For the traditionalist, it is a gamble. But I don’t see there is another option.”

Critics say the Westport native’s reliance on freelancers “is eroding Forbes’s once strong journalism.”

The piece offers interesting insights into the Forbes brand, and business media in general.

Though it’s illustrated a lot less interestingly than it would have been at Perlis’ former magazine.

(To read the entire Times story, click here.)

Mike Perlis Moves Up

What do Playboy, Forbes Magazine and Westport have in common?

Mike Perlis.

Mike Perlis (Photo by Walter Smith)

Next week, the 1971 Staples grad becomes Forbes Media‘s chairman and CEO.  He assumes the duties of CEO Steve Forbes, a member of the business media company’s founding family and 2-time Republican presidential candidate, as well as COO Tim Forbes.  Both will have lesser roles in daily management.

Mike’s present post is general partner at SoftBank Capital, a venture capital firm.  Before that he was CEO at Ziff-Davis Publishing.

Much more impressive — at least to his former Staples classmates, like me — was his stint as president of the Playboy publishing group.

“Mike is the perfect guy to keep pushing us forward and to take us to new heights,” Tim Forbes said.

“This is a guy who’s really well versed in the digital world.  We take his coming as a real affirmation of what we’re doing here and what he thinks the opportunity is going forward.”

Congratulations, Mike, on your new position with Forbes.  The Capitalist Tool.