Opinion

The rogue who loved life

Yes, Felix Dennis was mad, but in a (mostly) good way

When we launched The Week in the U.S. in 2001, The Wall Street Journal scoffed at our prospects for success. "Is Felix Dennis Mad?" its headline asked. I worked for Felix for 13 years, until his death from cancer this week, and can attest that he was not entirely rational. He had absolutely no reason, for example, to believe another weekly magazine could succeed in a crowded, highly competitive market. When we lost millions of dollars the first few years, and his advisers panicked, Felix remained stubbornly certain of our eventual success. "The reader is king!" he'd bellow, and point to the cult-like enthusiasm of the busy, intelligent readers who had discovered us. My staff and I fed off that certainty. Today, we are firmly established and profitable, with 570,000 subscribers.

Felix was many things: an entrepreneur, philanthropist, poet. Above all he was an enthusiast — a ferocious lover of life. Under a wild mane of tousled gray hair, he churned with manic energy, unleashed a constant torrent of words, and performed for every audience, large or small, as if he were the star of a one-man show. Every few minutes, he exploded into roguish, cackling laughter. He thought it a fine joke that he, a fatherless English lad and high school dropout, had managed to pack so much success, failure, debauchery, and adventure into one life. It was Felix's wish that The Week here and in the U.K. would continue on, and that our profits henceforth go toward enlarging the Heart of England Forest he created, which will ultimately have 10 million trees. I am tickled to be working for his forest now, but will miss the fervent support of that singular, inspiring madman, and will always hear the echo of his triumphant cackling.

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