Baltimore Fishbowl | Big Fish: Baltimore Magazine Editor Max Weiss Tells Almost It All –

Max and his beloved Oscar, a mini Schnauzer mix. (Photo: Jane Sartwell)

While Max Weiss was a student at Bennington College in Vermont, studying music and literature, her parents moved from Long Island to Timonium. So, after graduation, she returned to a new hometown – Baltimore. It immediately felt right to him in a way that Long Island never had. And as warmly as she embraced her new city, she embraced it back.

Before long, she scored internships at WJHU (now WYPR) and City Paper. She started doing film reviews on the radio, then on television. She was “Media Max”. She was “Max and Mike at the Movies”. She was “Nice Girl” – “it was blogging before blogging,” she explains, a syndicated lifestyle column in alternative newspapers across the country. After leaving City Paper, she accepted a job offer from then-editor Ramsey Flynn at Baltimore magazine.

Back then, to a Bennington girl, Baltimore magazine seemed a bit…mainstream. Candle, maybe. Thirty years later, having gradually worked her way up to editor-in-chief, she smiles when she remembers.

We caught up with Max via Zoom to chat about his life in and out of Baltimore’s media winner’s circle.

Tell us about your double life as a musician.

My sister Felicia and I were so lucky that our parents nurtured and encouraged our creative interests. They never said, it’s not a career! You should be a doctor! Or a lawyer! On the other hand, they never imposed the music on me, which is why I am the cellist I am today. Back-of-a-minor-orchestra level. I like to play but I don’t like to practice.

It’s so shocking to me that there are people who have gone through Julliard or Peabody, then they put down their instruments and that’s the end of it. Music is such a gift! I love playing the cello! And I particularly like to play chamber music. My sister, who lives in DC, is an extremely talented pianist. She may love music even more than me. We play with violinist Renee Roberts in a band called the Doghouse Trio.

A few years ago I started playing with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra. Those kids who got into Hopkins, music may have been just one of their 10,000 after-school programs, but some of them could very well be conservatory musicians. So it’s about 65% of these big Hopkins kids, 35% of community-loving adults. You must audition to enter. It was very scary. It’s been a long time since I last auditioned.

Music is something I do and it’s not just about thinking all the time. These are not words, words, words, analyses. You tap into something more moving, deeper within yourself.

Do you exercise?

No I do not have. I hated the gym as a kid and I hate the gym to this day. I walk my dog, Oscar, very often.

Other hobbies?

Anyone who knows me knows that I kinda like Twitter. I also kinda hate myself on Twitter. Every reasonable person on Twitter loves and hates it. Also, I’m a huge sports fan.

Who are your teams?

I really like the NBA. The Lakers are probably my favorite. There was no sports in Bennington, so I had to adopt the Terps, and I did, with the Orioles and the Ravens. I am a big tennis fan. Tennis might very well be my favorite. I have the Open right now with the sound muted.

People don’t always think I’m going to be a sports fan. Like that doesn’t fit with other things about me. But I got into it as a child. Unlike other women, it was not my father who trained me. In fact, it was the opposite, my father took up sports because of my interest. My reason was that I wanted something to talk to the boys about. Then my interest became an interest in life, and perhaps even exceeded theirs.

Sports talk is a great equalizer – you can talk to anyone about it, have an instant rapport with complete strangers. It’s so great, especially right now, when we’re so divided, and it’s so hard to find common ground.

And the cinema, right?

I am very passionate about cinema, about pop culture in general. And in everything I do, from how I eat to how I consume culture, I love the nerds as well as the nerds. With food, for example, I might be happy eating a Taco Supreme from Taco Bell, and I might be happy eating sea urchins and caviar. I watch The Bachelor, and then I watch something like Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady On Fire, and I love it all. From Harry Styles’ new album to Shostakovich and Ravel.

Max and her latest MINI — as a dedicated enthusiast, she’s driven a MINI Cooper since the first generation of reissues, styled in red, yellow, orange and now pepper white. (Photo: Jane Sartwell)

When you have a visitor to Baltimore who has never been here before, what are the main things you take them to?

It’s funny to ask, because my very good girlfriend from Poland is coming in about a month. Museums: AVAM, the BMA, maybe the Walters, if I can drag her. She doesn’t like museums as much as I do. Hamden. Fort McHenry. Camden Yards, except it’s the wrong time of year. Then just drive around showing the neighborhoods: Federal Hill, Canton, Locust Point.

And where are you going to eat?

Well, my new favorite place is Heritage Kitchen at the Whitehall Mill. Filipino food. I get the pancit noodles and the pork adobo. At JBGB they have this white pizza with sausage and peppers that I’m obsessed with. Peerce is in the county. Chuck’s trading post. 18-8 for sushi.

Sinhala. Talk about a beautiful place. Go sit at the Cinghiale bar, have a bottle of wine, some pasta, that’s life. Tony Foreman made me taste some really good wine, which is a mixed blessing. Once you’ve tasted a very good wine, it’s hard to go back.

And the crab cakes?

I like the one from Koco. And for the crabs, Ocean Pride. Assuming my friend eats meat these days, but she can’t.

What do you think of all this new energy in the media situation in the city?

I think Baltimore becomes a better city when multiple media compete but also support each other. We’re all passionate about Baltimore, and I think it’s great when you’re kind of in this brotherhood or fraternity of journalists.

I’m glad to see the To beat and the Brewthe Fishbowlthe Banner, as well as the Sun. As it concerns Baltimore magazine is concerned‚ we are the oldest urban/regional magazine in the country, founded in 1907. I consider myself a guardian. I don’t want to ruin everything.

Frankly, I think the magazine has improved. I think we’ve struck the perfect balance to celebrate the city without putting our heads in the sand. So, for example, we recently had Ron Cassie’s article on The Wire’s legacy, and Jane Marion wrote about classic Maryland recipes. Then, for balance, you get Lydia Woolever on the East Coast’s racist history.

I think Baltimore is this magical city and I want the magazine to reflect that. I want people who live here to open the magazine and say, Yeah, that’s us.

Who do you consider your biggest influences or heroes?

My parents, who encouraged me from the start. Some Bennington teachers were really important. Someone in Baltimore that I adore is John Waters. He discovered the secret, didn’t he? He’s so nice, so witty, he’s always so hip. He’s not a snob. He will speak to anyone, and he gives the best soundbites. He’s like the perfect party guest. No one is more spiritual or has a wider range of interests and opinions. It’s a model for me on how to live your life.

Is your real name Maxine?

Nope! Max is a nickname that came to me in a silly way, while I was in college. I was flirting with a boy, and we started calling each other Max and Finnegan, because those were the names of our teacher’s sons. When I got out of college, I realized that Max sounded more like me than my real name, reflecting more of the rebirth I had experienced in college. When I got my first signature, I decided: it’s Max Weiss. Finny and I are still good friends to this day!

What is your real name?

I will never tell.

Marion Winik
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