BAILLIE BAILS ON SURFACE: Surface co-founder and editorial director Riley John-Donnell should make a New Year’s resolution to stop driving his top talent away. After burning through three editors in 2002 — the last one, Maureen Callahan, quietly quit last fall after being poached just last summer from Spin — Surface has now lost imported creative director Steven Baillie, who quit just before Christmas, is headed back to the U.K. and already is in talks about another job. Baillie declined comment, but confirmed he’d left on his own accord.

But Surface’s rep had a different story, saying Baillie’s contract was almost up anyway, and that Callahan left after she and John-Donnell decided “it wasn’t the right fit.” The rep said Baillie’s as-yet-unnamed replacement is already lined up — he’s another “highly regarded British design talent” who will sign on full-time. Callahan, however, won’t be replaced. Instead, John-Donnell will reassert himself as the defacto editor — the same arrangement as before last year’s revolving editors. Here’s a New Year’s toast to stability at last.

This story first appeared in the January 3, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

— Greg Lindsay

THE ART OF GETTING WHAT YOU WANT: How did the nation’s leading network manage to post the lowest ratings on a Saturday night of any show in a prime time slot? By taping the GQ Men of the Year Awards, holding them for two months after the issue of the same theme came out and then airing them opposite CBS’s hit show “The District.” For the 10 p.m. time slot on Dec. 14 on NBC, the show posted a 2.4 rating with just 3.4 million viewers, while “The District” outperformed it by almost 2 to 1, with a 6.3 rating and 10 million viewers.

“Saturday night is the lowest-rated night of the week,” said one NBC source, “but [by any standard] that’s low.”

GQ is not the only publication working with NBC. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Maxim is going to be working with the network on two upcoming television specials.

But in spite of this, GQ might be able to snag a time slot next year, since NBC didn’t pay a dime to have the show aired: GQ did. According to an NBC spokeswoman, the magazine actually did what is known as a “time buy” for the show, meaning that S.I. Newhouse’s ever-generous Conde Nast (owned, like WWD, by Advance Publications) ponied up the money to buy the time slot for editor Art Cooper while its advertising team sold the advertising.

The spokeswoman said it was too early to determine whether the show would be aired next year but said they were actually happy with the show’s performance since Saturday is typically a slow night. Of course, how unhappy could they be when they didn’t even pay for it?

A GQ spokeswoman also disputed the notion that GQ’s award show had underperformed, saying, “Award shows don’t traditionally score well but this production — as both an event and as a TV show — met all our expectations and we’re very happy with the results.”

Luckily, GQ’s newsstand performance, a more important barometer of the magazine’s muscle, seems indeed to have rebounded, as Cooper asserted several months ago. According to data obtained by circulation experts independent of GQ, the magazine experienced a newsstand gain of 13 percent from July to September over the same period last year — slightly more than Cooper had forecasted.

— Jacob Bernstein

SELL-EBRITY: In case you’re tired of seeing the same celebrities in the same poses on the covers of competing magazines, and are wondering why magazines can’t look like Esquire in the Sixties, the answer is, they can’t. “There’s no way I could do those covers today,” says George Lois, the art director responsible for the iconic covers of Muhammed Ali posing as Saint Sebastian and Andy Warhol drowning in Campbell’s soup.

In March, Phaidon is publishing a look back at his manipulation of celebrity machinery called “$ellebrity,” a chortling career recap that doubles, he says, “as a way to say to people today ‘What are you doing? Why are you using celebrity in such a completely boring way?’ It’s just the flavor of the month, it doesn’t sell, and everyone looks the same as everyone else.”

Inside, he also claims to have salvaged the early MTV with “I Want My MTV,” to have launched Tommy Hilfiger with his ad campaign and to have rescued the career of the late Pauline Trigere from none other than John Fairchild and WWD. The cheeky, self-referential full-page ad in WWD and other publications was a “Dear John” letter that mocked Fairchild. Today, Lois writes, “She is more revered than ever for shaming the arrogant bully boy of the fashion world.”

— G.L.

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