NINA, CHAPTER THREE OF…?: The Nina Garcia story is turning into the Energizer bunny of reality TV — it just won’t quit. On Tuesday, more details emerged of the behind-the-scenes wrangling between the former Elle fashion director, “Project Runway” and the magazine as Garcia continued to mull over whether to accept a contributing editor’s role at the title after being pushed out on Friday. But even if she does, it’s only a temporary gig — sources said her time at Elle would end by the sixth season of “Project Runway,” whether or not the magazine remains a partner. That means she’d no longer be involved with Elle as of mid-October.
Sources said Garcia was offered the option to stay on in an at-large capacity on Friday, when word initially broke of her dismissal. Management supposedly offered Garcia the role for a period of around six months, long enough for her to appear on season five of “Project Runway” (she would also continue writing her column for the magazine). Elle is contracted as a partner on the show through that season, the last before it moves from Bravo to the Lifetime Network. The season finale is due to air around the first or second week of October.
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Co., the show’s producer, is hedging its bets, as sources say it remains in talks to bring back Garcia; the fourth judge, Michael Kors; Elle, and other partners and sponsors for the sixth season. Whether the show would rehire Garcia if Elle remains involved and she isn’t associated with the publication still isn’t clear (as if so much else is?).
Sources close to Elle also said Garcia never had a contract at the magazine, as previously reported in some media outlets on Friday. And still, as of Tuesday, there was no official comment on Garcia’s departure by either Elle, parent company Hachette Filipacchi Media or Garcia. A new day brings new hope. — Stephanie D. Smith
VOLUNTARY, OR NOT: The New York Times management has informed the newsroom that it will probably resort to layoffs to reduce head count by about 100 positions, as the deadline for voluntary buyouts looms. Executive editor Bill Keller had announced in mid-February that the grim economic picture for the paper — and newspapers in general — would necessitate the newsroom cuts across the board, and news of buyouts accepted by name-brand writers such as Amanda Hesser and Linda Greenhouse has been trickling out since. But the deadline to accept the buyout expires early next week, and a memo from assistant managing editor Bill Schmidt made it clear that, so far, volunteers won’t be enough to meet the numbers. “While we will not know the hard count until [next week], every effort to handicap the outcome suggests that we are almost certain to fall short of the number of volunteers we will need,” he wrote in the memo, first posted online by the New York Observer late Tuesday. “If that is indeed the case, as we expect it will be, we will — regrettably — be forced to resort to some limited number of layoffs within the core newsroom….I wish I could offer some clearer sense of scale.” Schmidt urged employees who might be mulling the buyout to give it “serious consideration, if you believe there is some financial advantage in it for you and your family. Each buyout we record before next Tuesday reduces the number of layoffs we will have to seek.”
This story first appeared in the April 16, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
By contrast, when Newsweek offered its staff buyouts in recent weeks, it was met with even more takers than anticipated. In all, 111 staffers accepted that buyout, though that number included both business and editorial staffers. — Irin Carmon
WHO’S A DESIGNER, AND WHO’S A CELEBRITY?: Designers and their celebrity muses are nothing new to the fashion world, but they are for Us Weekly, which is honoring the year’s hottest pairings, in addition to Heidi Klum as style icon of the year and Lauren Conrad as celebrity designer of the year. The celebrity weekly, on newsstands in New York and Los Angeles today, has Leighton Meester of “Gossip Girl” pictured with Jill Stuart (Meester has been a fan of the designer since attending her runway show last year), and Lindsay Price of “Lipstick Jungle” posing with Monique Lhuillier, who designed her wedding dress. Stacy Bendet of Alice + Olivia dresses the girls of Danity Kane, and Jason Lewis, who will reprise the role of Smith Jerrod in the upcoming “Sex and the City” movie, is pictured with Michael Ball of Rock & Republic. Us will fete those featured at an event in Los Angeles on Thursday. — Amy Wicks
REMEMBER WHEN: An anniversary doesn’t just provide excuses for adulatory nostalgia and advertising — it can also stir up dormant controversies. Last week, New York magazine marked its 40th year with a retrospective culture issue that included an interview with Spike Lee, pegged to his seminal 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.” Asked by Logan Hill about two articles New York ran that year criticizing the film — a review by David Denby, now at the New Yorker, and a political column by Joe Klein, now at Time — Lee proved the maxim that one’s own bad press is rarely forgotten. “People like Joe Klein and David Denby felt that this film was going to cause riots,” he told New York. “Young black males were going to emulate Mookie and throw garbage cans through windows. Like, ‘How dare you release this film in summertime: You know how they get in the summertime. This is like playing with fire.’ I hold no grudges against them. But that was 20 years ago and it speaks for itself.”
In the anniversary spirit, let’s go to the archive. Denby critiqued what he saw as the film’s “mixed-up” message about racism and violence, and wrote that Lee was “playing with dynamite in an urban playground. The response to the movie could get away from him….If some audiences go wild, he’s partly responsible.” Klein’s column focused on how “Do the Right Thing” could affect the upcoming mayoral election, in which David Dinkins was challenging incumbent Ed Koch: “If Lee does hook large black audiences, there’s a good chance the message they take from the film will increase racial tensions in the city. If they react violently — which can’t be ruled out — the candidate with the most to lose will be David Dinkins.” (Dinkins won five months later.) Klein speculated that white liberals would be “debating the meaning of Spike Lee’s message. Black teenagers won’t find it so hard, though….If black kids act on what they see, Lee may have destroyed his career.”
Reached last Wednesday, Klein remembered the affair well. “I said that within minutes after the words hit the page that it was a stupid thing to write,” he said, adding that he believed New York had run an item to that effect. He even appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” with Lee in a segment Klein described as “pretty confrontational.” The transcript of that appearance shows Winfrey repeatedly asking both the audience and guests to let others finish and to stay respectful. Lee and Klein, formerly neighbors in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, sparred several times.
Notwithstanding the retraction, Klein argues that the controversy actually did Lee some good: “I made him a lot of money….It was kind of his breakout film and my mistake was an easy mark for people who wanted to celebrate him.”
Overall, he was philosophical. “When you write a weekly column, you are guaranteed to say stupid things once in awhile. I’ve had others since. Who knows, maybe what I’m closing today is going to be seen as stupid,” Klein said.
Denby had no comment. — I.C.