PITT-Y THE FOOL: The tension between Brad Pitt and Vanity Fair after the monthly used photos of him taken by Robert Wilson on its December cover boils down to the A-list star’s frustration at not being able to completely control his image, according to editors at celebrity-focused titles who opined about the situation on Thursday.
Vanity Fair, according to the editors, is still viewed as a magazine celebrities like to work with since they — or their publicists — often can control how much or how little they reveal in interviews and photo shoots. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, for example, chose Vanity Fair to reveal pictures of their daughter, Suri, without the interviewer broaching questions on Scientology or their upcoming marriage in the October issue. But the photo of a wet Pitt wearing only boxers and white socks goes counter to the image he is working hard to promote, as the actor did in a lengthy interview and photo shoot for Esquire’s October issue. “He’s trying to work hard on building his image as a humanitarian and adoptive father, and then this photo of him in his underwear ends up on the cover of Vanity Fair,” said a source.
Most editors say that Pitt really has no reason to moan. News outlets both on and offline regularly run photos of celebrities without their endorsement, in some cases looking much worse than Pitt did on Vanity Fair. “Vanity Fair doesn’t do anything that upsets a publicist — ever,” said a source. “He’s just taken aback that [the magazine] would do something against his endorsement.”
While Pitt’s rep questioned Vanity Fair’s “integrity and motives” of using the unauthorized photo in a statement, Vanity Fair is still a necessity for most celebrities to push their projects, and one that editors say Pitt will most likely not abandon for long. “There are very few outlets left for someone like Brad Pitt to dictate terms, so it’s too important for him to lose. Where else can he go and get that kind of coverage?” said one editor. — Stephanie D. Smith
ROLL THE DICE: The board game that comes to mind when thinking about The New Yorker might be closer to Trivial Pursuit than cartoon captions, but the nearly 10,000 responses a week the magazine receives for its cartoon caption contest makes The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game an obvious choice. The magazine’s caption contest was originally published in the Nov 22, 1999, issue and ran yearly through 2004. On April 25, 2005, the magazine began publishing it weekly. “We have a playful side,” said Pamela Maffei McCarthy, deputy editor, responding to potential board-game skeptics. “And the world needs some fun at this particular moment.” The game is best played with four to six people, said cartoon editor Bob Mankoff. A captionless cartoon from The New Yorker is shown, and the goal is for each player to come up with a caption. One player is charged with guessing who wrote which caption and also chooses which one is the funniest. And, beginning Sunday, the game will be available in Barnes & Noble stores for $34.95. Could a game drawing New Yorker covers be far behind? — Amy Wicks
DINNER AND A MOVIE: Avenue Magazine’s private screening of Russell Crowe‘s new flick, “A Good Year,” at the Paris Theatre on Wednesday night produced mixed reviews, but its private dinner afterward at Le Cirque, with a smattering of celebrities and designers, received more kudos. Luisa Beccaria said she wished the free-flowing wine at Le Cirque could have been flowing during the movie, about an Englishman that inherits a vineyard in Provence. Several television personalities showed up, including Regis Philbin and Claudia Cohen, and seated near Philbin was Vera Wang. Also on hand, Dennis Basso, Serena Boardman and Kimberly and Eric Villency. — A.W.
TEEN STORIES: At least one magazine editor doesn’t think the migration to digital is destroying youthful literacy. Producing a barrage of e-mails, messages and blog entries have actually made teenage girls better writers than ever, argued Amy Goldwasser, formerly features editor at New York magazine and currently a full-time freelance editor at Vogue. She’s betting that others will agree, having inked a deal this week with Hudson Street Press, a Penguin group imprint, for an anthology of essays written by teenage girls around America.
A couple of years ago, Goldwasser and New York editor Adam Moss briefly had toyed with starting a teen-written “City Girl” column there. “Out of some malaise at editing in the magazine world,” Goldwasser said, the idea of getting teens to write grew to book dimensions.
The 800-strong response to her e-mail call for submissions (boosted by a plug from her friend Stephen J. Dubner on his Freakanomics blog) was to Goldwasser a sign that girls could still get excited about dead-tree material. Girls, “embedded like journalists in their parents’ homes,” Goldwasser said, are now comfortable with producing personal essays with a fluency that she found surprising. The next step? “My goal is to edit them like they’re adult writers.” Of course, as print-redeeming as the process may or may not have been, there’s a digital element: The book’s Web site eventually will give each contributor a content-producing space. — Irin Carmon
FAIRCHILD MOVES: Condé Nast said on Thursday it will fold quarterly Jewelry W magazine into W as of January. Jewelry W’s last issue will be its holiday one, on newsstands around Thanksgiving. W will now cover jewelry and watches in every issue, with expanded coverage in May, June, October and November, while the December 2007 issue will become a jewelry- and watch-themed issue tied to holidays. Staffers who worked on Jewelry W will continue to work with W. In other news, Condé Nast chief executive officer Chuck Townsend announced the company sold Supermarket News to Prism Business Media, a business-to-business publishing firm owned by Bruce Wasserstein, for an undisclosed sum. Wasserstein seems to be on a buying spree: On Thursday, he bought trade magazine publisher Penton Media in a deal worth $530 million, which he plans to merge with Prism. — S.D.S.