BLAIR’S PROJECT: Tony Blair is the highest paid public speaker in the world now, receiving approximately $400,000 a pop, but he sat down with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter on Tuesday evening free of charge to talk about everything from his relationship with former President George W. Bush, to Iraq and his work in the Middle East, to the memoir he is writing, for which he is reportedly being paid $9 million and will be published in 2011. In front of a crowd that included Barbara Walters, Brian Williams, Matt Lauer, Diane von Furstenburg and Barry Diller, Ben Bradlee, Katie Couric, Oscar de la Renta, David Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Hitchens, the former British prime minister said he hasn’t yet adjusted to his higher income bracket and hasn’t made any big purchases. “But ask me in a few years,” he added.
Blair stood his ground on Bush, adding they exchanged e-mails a few weeks ago. “I’ve never been a fair-weather friend,” noted Blair. “I’m still friends with him.” And he defended invading Iraq, saying, “If you can intervene to save people from brutal dictatorships, you should do it.” Blair’s also in regular contact with his other presidential buddy, Bill Clinton, to which Carter said there is a film in the works about their relationship. Peter Morgan, who wrote “The Queen,” is behind the new movie, but Blair didn’t have much to say, adding he hasn’t even seen “The Queen.” When the film debuted, Blair said he sat down for his weekly meeting with Queen Elizabeth II. “I gather there’s a film,” said the Queen. “I’d just like you to know that I’m not going to watch it — are you?” Blair told her he wouldn’t see it, and he’s stayed true to his word.
This story first appeared in the June 25, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Blair juggles several jobs these days, including his work as adviser to JP Morgan Chase; founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks interfaith understanding and respect, and working as U.N. special envoy to the Middle East. Blair said it is “hard to overstate the impact” of President Obama’s speech in Cairo earlier this month.
The audience also was invited to ask Blair a few questions. “Having done a few interviews, I’ve found this exchange tonight one of the most fascinating I’ve ever seen,” Walters said. Blair then looked at Carter and said, “Actually, you’re very good in fact.” Carter, looking a little uneasy, said, “Thanks. I’ll keep my day job.”
— Amy Wicks
NEW CANVAS: Jeffrey Nemeroff, longtime art director at Architectural Digest, has left the magazine, not long after butting heads with the magazine’s famously tough-talking editor in chief, Paige Rense.
Nemeroff, who like much of the magazine’s editorial staff is based in California, is also a painter who recently had a show at the Neuhoff Gallery in New York. In May, New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog reported Rense had called designers to discourage them from attending Nemeroff’s opening and celebratory dinner. Rense told New York’s Steve Fishman designers believed Architectural Digest was directly involved and felt pressured to purchase a painting. She also said she had been “blindsided” by the event, though the gallery owner was quoted saying Rense had given the show her blessing months earlier.
A spokeswoman for Architectural Digest (which is owned by WWD parent Condé Nast Publications) confirmed Nemeroff had left the company, and that his deputy, the New York-based George Moscahldes, had been promoted to the post. Nemeroff did not respond to requests for comment.
— Irin Carmon
GONE ALREADY: The Calvin Klein billboard at Houston and Lafayette streets, which made the news last week for showing a seminude threesome, has been replaced by model Doutzen Kroes in skimpy swimwear. The old billboard stirred controversy among passersby and also in the media, but changing the image wasn’t a response to any of this — the timing was planned all along, claimed a spokesman.
BALLY HIGH: After appearing in the spring campaign, Christy Turlington is back as the face of Bally for fall. Mario Sorrenti shot the campaign, which was styled by Lori Goldstein, who works with Vanity Fair and Versace. Brian Atwood, Bally’s designer, served as creative director of the campaign. Ads will appear in magazines in August.