Today we are introducing you to Jeff Gremillion as our BethieLife Man Crush. Jeff decided at a very young age that he wanted to be a journalist and now he is one of Houston’s most influential publishers. Check out his video and written interview to learn more about this Houston CityBook man! Welcome, Jeff!
Photos/Assistance by Alicia Cody
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little town called Ferriday in northeast Louisiana. I came here after many years in New York, for a job. I was the founding editor of the Modern Luxury magazine here, and I ran it for nearly 12 years.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three beauty products would you like to have with you?
Arm & Hammer toothpaste, Dove soap and Original Santal cologne by Creed. I’ll be squeaky clean, minty fresh and smell like I have money.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your personal style?
Practicality. When I was younger, I’d spend any extra time and money I had shopping for trendy clothes. Literally, that was my hobby. I lived around the corner from the original Bloomingdales in Manhattan at one point, and I was in there almost daily. These days, I’ve learned to appreciate great basics and versatile things. Tailored Brooks Brothers dress shirts, Cole Haan loafers, my classic-style Zegna tux, Adriano Goldschmied jeans, black Calvin Klein t-shirts. I don’t want to have to think too much about what I’m wearing, and, at this stage of my life, I’d rather look neat and respectable than fancy or faddish. Plus I don’t have much closet space in my little old Montrose bungalow for a lot of novel things! I do add a few unique, colorful custom pieces to the wardrobe now and then. So I’m not totally square.
What is your favorite indulgence?
I have many, but Frito pie from State Fare comes to mind. And pretty much any layer cake from Empire Café.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I turned 30, I was moved by an epic truth that just came to me. I call it my 30-year epiphany: “Things are usually as they appear. There’s far less mystery and nuance in the world than we imagine.” Around the time I turned 40 I waited for the 40-year epiphany, but it never really came. The closest was: “Don’t have a deep-tissue massage the morning after a binder. It’ll make you throw up.”
What is your favorite Houston store and/or restaurant?
Tony’s is still the pinnacle for fine dining. M Penner and Balani Custom Clothiers always have great clothes and take good care of their customers.
What’s on your plate? (Future projects, travel plans, etc.)
CityBook’s second anniversary is September. So, of course, we’re working hard to put out a great issue to commemorate the milestone, and we’ll be planning some kind of celebration, I’m sure. I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished.
How do you spend your down time?
I’d say Netfilx and chill, but who am I kidding. More like Netflix and order in Chinese. Which is actually pretty awesome. Also, this time of year, I spend a lot of time out by my pool.
Tell us one Houston Hidden Gem (places that aren’t necessarily well-known) that you recommend.
El Pueblito on Richmond in Montrose is underrated. Great Tex-Mex and a huge patio with cabana-style tables. Another food-related answer, sorry. It’s a cry for help.
How did you get into Journalism and how did you decide to start CityBook?
How did you get into journalism? When I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Gray, gave me very positive feedback on a poem I’d written. For many years after that, I’d always say I wanted to be a poet when I grew up. Sometime around junior high, my dad had heard me say this often enough that he thought he should suggest I consider being journalist instead. Unlike “poetry” per se, journalism is something one can major in at college. And journalists are slightly less likely than poets to drown themselves in the sea. So that’s how it started.
How did you decide to start CityBook? Lisa Holthouse, my entrepreneur friend Chris Nodd and our other partners agreed with me that Houston deserved a beautiful, smart, upscale lifestyle magazine that would be fully dedicated to Houston. No “shared” generic fluff from sister magazines in other cities. This is one of the most interesting, increasingly vital cities on Earth, after all. We can fill a magazine with Houston stories; we don’t need help from New York or L.A. or Chicago or Dallas. I admire the other magazines in the competitive set. I was the founding editor of one of them. But they don’t make the same kind of commitment to Houston that CityBook would. So we thought it would be fun to create such a magazine and website. We thought it would fill a void. We thought it would be a good business, and also give us a platform to partner with charities and nonprofits in the city, which was especially important to Lisa.
Tell us about your Summer Sexy Issue and what has doing this magazine taught you about Houston?
Tell us about your Summer Sexy issue? We push the envelope a tiny bit in our summer issue. Our theory is that our readership skews a little younger than usual, since our most affluent and mature readers are likely to spend some time away from the city this time of year. So we loosen up some, and we do a great swimwear shoot, pretty models, fearlessly steamy. This year we shot a regal, diva-themed story in Memorial, at a lavish mansion — the most expensive house on the Houston market at the moment. We also have a good piece on sexy staycations for lovers, and we debuted our new “CityBook Weddings” section. It’s a fun issue, on newsstands all over town till mid-August.
What has doing this magazine taught you about Houston? People always said that Houston was an unusual city, especially among the big Southern cities. It was said that your success was less a factor of who your parents are or who you know, and more about the quality of your character, your work ethic, your ideas. People can move here from somewhere else, dig in, work hard and be successful. I’d heard that since I first came here. What I’ve learned in doing this magazine is that that’s not just words. It’s gospel truth. We’ve had such great advertising partners, who’ve believed in us from the very beginning. And readers have embraced us; they determined that CityBook was legit from day one. It’s corny to say, but Houston really is a place where dreams like mine can come true.
What are three things you can’t live without? (Besides God, family, and friends.)
My Keurig and a back stock of Texas-pecan-flavored k-cups from H-E-B. My longstanding membership at Fit Athletic Club, because eventually the motivation to go to the gym will return and I want to be ready. Oxygen. Probably not in that order.
Do you have any irrational fears?
Zombie apocalypse. Duh.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
I’d love to go back to Berlin. And I never get enough of New Orleans. I’ll probably retire there.
What books or movies have you loved recently?
I’m re-reading The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin, the Rice professor. The TV series based on it debuts on FOX this fall! And I’ve just seen two really wonderful coming-of-age movies. Memorably genuine and sweet. Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove on Netflix.
I’m the editor and co-owner of Houston CityBook magazine and HoustonCityBook.com
Care to Share
I’m 44, or so it says on my dating-app profiles.
Tell us something humorous about yourself.
I have to be shamed into doing laundry. I usually only do it when I run out of clean normal underwear and get to the very bottom of the drawer and have to spend a couple days wearing tight, invasive little briefs that were once supposed to be sexy or something but now seem ridiculous. After two days of discomfort and secret shame, and I’m like, yep, time to get the washing done.
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