I first met Mark through his writing. We were both at Bloomberg, and he was beginning to contribute rock-music columns to Muse, the culture section. I was an arts correspondent but also a copy editor, so his pieces would come to me before publication. And they were really good: written in clear, sharp, tongue-in-cheek prose.
Before I knew it, Mark was an editor on the team, then my manager. For several years, I sat a few desks away from him. Despite the pressures he was under and the ungodly hours he put in, Mark never raised his voice. He always stood up for his people, and stuck his neck out for them. I used to call him our 'nuclear umbrella.'
Mark loved a little banter in the course of the day, and never hesitated to laugh at himself. "I have chips on both shoulders," he would say of his extensive collection of sports cars, which he drove on the weekend to Donnington, his vast farm in Herefordshire. He chuckled at the story of the British multimillionaire philanthropist I'd interviewed over lunch at a fancy restaurant, whose spotlessly shined shoe got stuck on an adhesive mousetrap. We laughed together at the wealthy wives turned philanthropists -- "the ladies who lunch" -- who were so desperate for the art world to take them seriously.
And boy did he love his job. On a typical day, he'd come in early, his weighty leather briefcase slung over his shoulder, and settle into his office chair for the next 10 to 12 hours. From there, he would run the coverage, which might consist of a report on Nazi-looted art, an artist interview (from me), an art review, a theater review, a food review. Then in the evening he'd rev up for a category of coverage he enjoyed immensely: contemporary-art auctions. The more stratospheric the prices, the juicier the story. Artworks often went for eight and nine digits, so there were plenty of headlines for Mark to send out, and much excitement to be had.
Mark was a man of many talents, and I wish he had nurtured some of them more. He could draw. I went up to his desk one day and asked him to sketch something. With a few strokes of the pencil, he drew the perfect armchair. I know he made drawings and paintings occasionally. It would be great to see them.
Mark never stopped his music writing, delivering his verdict on everything from Glastonbury to Gaga.
He developed a rock-star social-media following in the process: 1.2 million followers on his Twitter account (check it out). Here's a picture of him in rock-critic mode:
Leafing through it again, I find the chapter on Amy Winehouse particularly poignant.
Mark recalls dropping by a pub in Camden Town called the Hawley Arms, Amy's local, where she sometimes served drinks at the dawn of her fame. And she pours him a glass. "I suspect she wasn't sober," he writes. "But neither was I. She wasn't good with money, change or pouring the drinks -- the J20 went all over the place but the quantity of Gordons was extremely generous."
He then describes her rise and fall. "The tattoos multiplied, the Cleopatra kohl wings grew around her eyes. The heels became taller, the skirts shorter and her beehive hair piled higher. She was pictured everywhere, bruised, bloodied, intoxicated, dressed only in dirty bra and shorts."
In 2011, Mark covers her death. He then revisits Camden, reads the cards piled around her home, and revisits the Hawley Arms.
"I had a G&T for old times' sake, thought of her 5 million album sales and wrote up forecasts of that number doubling in fairly short order," he writes.
Nine years later, it's my turn to have a drink for old times' sake. And it'll have to be champagne, of course. Thinking of Mark.