Wired and ReadyMade remembrances

There is a story remembering Bill’s time at Wired in this month’s issue of the magazine, also available online here. It’s in the Post section, headlined “Gone Fishing.”

The editor’s note in the current issue of ReadyMade, from Shoshana Berger, is also a tribute to Bill — and a wonderful one. The issue is out now, not yet online but I’ll try to post it here soon.

-Evan

UPDATE: Here’s Shoshana’s tribute in ReadyMade, in slightly longer form than it appears in the magazine

Editor’s Letter
Requiem for a Dreamer
A few words about ReadyMade pal William O. Goggins

A few months ago, in late July, we lost Bill, a close friend and founding father of this magazine. With just two miles left to finish in the San Francisco Marathon, Bill collapsed and could not be revived. He was 43. The cause of death, I was told that night, may have been an enlarged heart. Nothing sounded truer.

I met Bill in 1995. I was 25 years old, fresh out of graduate school and interning at Wired. The Wired office, like the magazine, was a telegram from the future—nonhierarchical, open source, and full of pink-haired cyberpunks. Bill was brought in as a copy editor and plunked down at the desk facing mine, our hulking computer monitors back-to-back. From the moment he arrived, I knew I was out of my depths. He’d peek around the screen, and with a dazzling, impish grin, initiate a match of brain tennis that involved such a regress of cultural references and puns, it would leave me baffled. But I’d always pretend to get it, lobbing back a weak return to his serve. I could tell he really wanted me to get it, and that was enough for me to keep trying.

Flash forward five years. After lunch with Wired founders Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe (who skewered the original name for this magazine, WallText, then sketched out on a paper tablecloth scenarios for how the magazine might work), I bumped into Bill, who had been steadily promoted at Wired to senior editor. He recognized me, not in a faint way, but in a manner that makes you feel like you’re the only person on the planet. From that moment on, every time I saw him it was the same—rapt, atom-splitting attention, softened by deeply creased smile lines around his eyes.

I’ll tell this story only because he can’t get into trouble for it now: Months after I’d bumped into Bill again and he’d become a constant fixture in my life, Bill and I and our first two designers produced a 20-page prototype of ReadyMade to send out to early subscribers and potential investors as a teaser. The magazine had no money, and Bill knew that, so one night he let us commandeer the Wired office to print, fold, and staple together the first copies of this magazine. As we worked, he brought us shots of Odwalla and goodies from the vending machines. For Bill, that night summoned the early Wired spirit that he sorely missed—fire-in-the-belly journalism where bucking the system is not just part of the fun but the whole point.

In those first years of publishing, we really had no idea what we were doing. Before shipping the magazine off to press—when I was biting my fingernails down to nubs—Bill, who never owned a car, would ride the BART train from San Francisco to Berkeley after hours and show up at our office—then located in the dank recesses of a used-furniture warehouse—to help get the final pages into shape. I’ll never forget the image of him approaching my desk on those nights, jacket slick with rain, wearing that irrepressible smile. He’d give us his usual, unstinting attention along with the crypto-prattle for which he was famous, and somehow he’d break through and make me laugh. He was the only one who could chisel away at my everything-is-falling-apart moods. And though I hated him a little for his spot-on comments about a story (“This is well written, but all the pieces are jumbled,” or “This is a bunch of run-at-the-mouth with no punchline”), he never failed to get out his red pen and spackle the rough spots that I was too green of an editor to see.

Beyond the many small ways in which he helped this magazine get out of its nappies, Bill was a peerless supporter and friend. He showed up at every ReadyMade party, stayed until last call, bought us all too many drinks, and spun me dizzy on the dance floor. Many nights when I’d meet up with him and other ReadyMade contributors for a pub crawl, we’d end up on the streets of San Francisco, with Bill the battering ram at the lead, yanking left-at-the-curb baby clothes over his arms to make us laugh and getting us kicked out of all-night eateries. Every morning after, I’d inevitably receive an email from him: “Delighted to have been brought on board as one of your boys last night, my dear. Nothing like good company, several cocktails, and a few plates of Manking cuisine to help blow off steam, or work, or both. [Smiles.]

After nights of hamming it up around town, I’d drop Bill off at his place so he could catch a few winks before rising at 5 a.m. for his usual run. Just before the marathon, he sent me a text message that he’d like to see me soon, though he might be a little “tender-footed” after the race. In the end, it wasn’t his feet that failed him. You will be dearly missed, tender-hearted friend.

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