Peter Kaplan, Longtime New York Observer Editor, Dies at 59

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Peter Kaplan

The celebrated journalist hired then-unknown writer Candace Bushnell to pen the column "Sex in the City" for his publication in 1994.

Peter Kaplan, who spent 15 years as editor of The New York Observer, died Friday at 59 of cancer. His brother James Kaplan confirmed the news to The New York Times.

Kaplan was appointed the publication's editor in 1994 and became the longest-serving editor in the Observer's history. During his tenure, he transformed the publication into a must-read for the movers and shakers of New York and mentored a number of well-known journalists, including Joe Conason (The National Memo) and Choire Sicha (The Awl).

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He also hired then-unknown freelance writer Candace Bushnell to write the love column "Sex in the City," which would become the basis for the HBO hit series and two films. The column ran in the Observer from 1994-96.

After leaving the Observer in 2009, Kaplan was hired as the editorial creative director at Conde Nast Traveler. In 2010, he was named editorial director of the Fairchild Fashion Group, now Fairchild Fashion Media, a division of Conde Nast Publications.

"Working with Peter filled each day with exclamation points and plenty of brio, one of his favorite words. His singular sparkle will be deeply missed," Fairchild Fashion Media CEO Gina Sanders said in WWD's obituary for the editor.

But Kaplan's role as a cultural arbiter was perhaps best exemplified by the creation of several fake Twitter personae in his honor, including Wise Kaplan, Cranky Kaplan and Real Kaplan. Wise Kaplan's profile identifies him as "New York Oracle."

He is survived by his wife, Lisa Chase; three children from a previous marriage to Audrey Walker -- Caroline Kaplan, Charles Kaplan and Peter Walker Kaplan; and brothers James and Robert Kaplan.