IN THE CLOSET: Just after noon Thursday, an untold number of Condé Nast employees had their appetites ruined when a company-wide e-mail announced that “an object that might possibly be an animal part was found in the 18th-floor janitorial area of the freight corridor” that morning.

The company was serving notice that maintenance staff and police — as in an investigation by the NYPD — might be rolling through the janitorial areas and bathrooms on their floors soon.

This story first appeared in the September 5, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the most part, things stayed calm, even as staffers debated the metaphorical significance of finding a dead (fill in the blank) on the 18th floor of a magazine company notorious for its on-edge atmosphere. One person theorized jokingly that it might be the horse’s head from “The Godfather,” while trendy media blog Gawker.com made one joke after another about PETA favorite Anna Wintour and her coat of many dead raccoons. (Condé Nast insiders, though, don’t believe PETA had anything to do with it.)

At The New Yorker, meanwhile, a staffer sent an email to colleagues mocking the search for more remains as a “routine, post-Labor Day scavenger hunt.”

But mostly, the reaction was just…P. U.

“We were all just like barf, gross! I mean gross!” said one Condé Naster. “Everyone just kind of moaned in sequence because we got the e-mail at the same time. It was just so rank. Why is there a dead animal in our office?”

If it is an animal.

Even hours after the e-mail, little was clear, except that whatever was found up there, it was “bizarre” and “peculiar” and it most likely was not just a dead rat. The dominant rumor circulating through Condé Nast had something to do with an umbilical cord, but even Condé Nast higher-ups professed not to know what had really been found.

What is certain is that the NYPD and the medical examiner’s office are continuing to investigate. An NYPD spokesman said it received the call from 4 Times Square around 9 a.m., but the organic matter had still not been identified by mid-afternoon, and there was still no decision as to whether a crime had been committed. A spokeswoman in the medical examiner’s office said it would have someone on site investigating today.

A Condé Nast spokeswoman declined comment on the discovery’s biological contents. She would only confirm that a police investigation was continuing.

The 18th floor houses several of Condé Nast’s back-office functions like consumer marketing and the company’s archives, but no magazines. One employee explained that the “janitorial area” in question is a corridor that runs parallel to the lobbies on each floor and is kept locked to Condé Nast employees. — Greg Lindsay and Jacob Bernstein

PATNER’S CLEAN SLATE: Former Tuleh co-designer Josh Patner has switched from designing collections to critiquing them — he’s been recruited to cover the spring collections for first-time tent-goer Slate. While it’s not clear how much truck Microsoft credentials will have when it comes time to wrangle invitations, Patner said he’s planning to go “the Polly Mellen/Suzy Menkes route” and hit as many shows as possible. “I hope to leave no stone unturned.”

Whether he can file copy at Menkes’ superhuman speed is another story. But he’s excited to exploit the whole multimedia thing. “It’s a new form of fashion journalism,” he said. “There’s now a way to run slideshows of images parallel to the text. It’s a great opportunity to cover fashion in a more dynamic way.” (Actually, Style.com has been doing that for a while now.)

Patner, who said he’s planning to write full-time now, showed a deft touch in his one previous piece for Slate, a dissection of Marc Jacobs’ appeal for fashion beginners that included observations like “Jacobs delivers the sweetly familiar, but…slurred through a rocker’s degenerate haze of booze and pills.”

Hopefully, he’ll bring the same incisiveness to the book proposal he’s also working on: “This Is My Outfit,” a first-person rumination on his career in fashion and the deeper cultural issues rooted in the business. Patner and his agent Lydia Wills at Writers and Artists are still in the “eliciting interest” phase. — G. L.

TV TALK: Mary Alice Stephenson is headed to the small screen. Harper’s Bazaar’s former fashion director is joining “Entertainment Tonight” as its fashion insider for the spring 2004 collections debuting next week. “We’re going to do seven segments during the New York shows,” said Stephenson. “I’m going to start Monday with an exclusive with Gwen Stefani and what she’s doing with her bag line. We’ll probably do two to three designer segments as well. The great thing is that people really want to partake because the reach [of ET] is so good.” — J. B.

NEW STAR: The other debut during Fashion Week will be Bonnie Fuller’s revamped glossy test of The Star.

The next two issues of the weekly will debut at the tents on prettier paper stock, handed out by pretty girls in pink trenchcoats and, well, pretty boys in beige trenchcoats.

“It’s not specifically tailored content,” like the Us Daily or the IMG daily, “but it’s going to expose them and reacquaint them with Star Magazine,” said Fuller. “There are a lot of shows to go to and a lot of waiting time so it’s a good time to read.”

Meanwhile, Fuller has hired former Harper’s Bazaar fashion writer Nathan Cooper as a senior editor, special events. “His position is to make sure we’re reporting at the various premieres and film festivals and galas and award shows around the country, as well as during fashion week.” — J.B.

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