Amid Capeci, Decorated Magazine Designer, Dies at 50
Beloved magazine designer Amid Capeci, who died of melanoma Tuesday, was only a boyish 50. Jeff Giles at Entertainment Weekly remembers his colleague.
Amid Capeci was what my father, and probably yours, would have called a class act. Had our fathers met him, come to think of it, they might have liked him more than they like us.
Amid was lovely, generous, and almost impossibly buoyant. He devoured news and culture, and—as a highly decorated designer at Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly—spent decades dreaming up sly and elegant ways to capture them. Amid was phosphorescent with love for his wife and kids, his sisters, his in-laws, his mom. He did great impressions and told giddy stories. He was so much fun to talk to. Sometimes it’s only when a friend dies that you grasp who they were and how much they meant to you. But long before Amid died this past Tuesday—of melanoma at an extremely boyish 50—everyone already knew.
Amid was born in Port Chester, N.Y., and on Friday night fully a thousand people descended on a funeral home there to say goodbye. The line of mourners stretched out the door, down the steps, across the lawn, and down the block. For hours. I’ve got to say, even those of us who knew how beloved he was were surprised at how beloved he was. I met Amid in the mid-‘90s at Newsweek. He’d just arrived from Esquire and gotten the job despite the fact that, per Esquire style, he hadn’t worn socks to the interview. Amid was brilliant and cocky, and, under the guidance of his boss Lynn Staley, made a name for himself with beautiful tributes to Princess Diana. Newsweek, in those days, was locked in mortal combat with Time magazine, a battle that now seems as remote as World War I. The editors were obsessed with being responsive to the news and light on their feet, so they assigned and killed stories at a frenetic rate. You could just about ensure that a story would never run simply by writing and designing it. The place was a madhouse—and, for Amid, a great education. By Sept. 11, 2001, he was unflappable and helped produce some unforgettable issues under the most crushing deadlines in the magazine’s history.
Amid wore socks at Newsweek, but dispensed with them again when he left to be design director at Rolling Stone. He also grew his hair out a little, dove deeper into his love of music, spearheaded the magazine’s celebrated 1,000th issue, and perfected a Jann Wenner impression that never got old. In August 2009—after he’d left Rolling Stone for a second dance with Newsweek—my boss, Jess Cagle, lured him to Entertainment Weekly. Amid adored his staff to the point of giddiness, and carried his authority gently, even when he had to tell someone that a layout needed to be overhauled. One designer, a mischievous Long Island guy named Mike Schnaidt, put it this way in an email a few days ago: “While breaking bad news, Amid would eat my almonds, tell me about movies that came out on laserdisc before I even existed, and wrap it all up by drumming a Led Zeppelin song on my desk … He operated with such grace that you never felt like you were working for him.”
We all knew Amid was having a cancer scare. He was open about it. Still, he was so upbeat and walked the halls with such undiminished joy that we’d forget about it for weeks at a time. I feel awful about that now. I told him not to work so hard, not to bother testing an 18th color combination on that Harry Potter cover. I wish I’d said it more often. But he probably would have just grinned and waved me off: “What are you talking about? I’m just getting started!” The guy loved chasing that elusive perfect cover—and he caught an awful lot of them.
Amid’s death has been shattering for everybody who worked with him at EW, particularly his department, which, I think, will be his department for a long time still. On Friday night, at his wake in Port Chester, a strange reversal occurred where Amid’s family actually seemed to be comforting us, rather than the other way around. They were celebrating the way he lived rather than mourning the way he died. Easier said than done, right? Except that they were doing it.
So, in his family’s honor, I’ll end on a hopeful note. And I’ll borrow it from something an old Newsweek colleague, Simon Barnett, posted on the Society of Publication Designers website the other day: “Amid was truly a master designer, humorist, storyteller, manager and pop trivia savant. But most importantly, he was a loving family man. To his beautiful children: Your father was as good and talented a man as I ever knew. Live happy lives and do him proud.”