THURSDAY’S CHILD: With less than three weeks to go until The New York Times unveils its new Thursday lifestyle pages, executive editor Bill Keller is expected to announce today the section’s title and staff. A Times spokeswoman declined to comment, but reports from inside the paper have the section, which Keller has referred to as a “midweek cousin to Sunday Styles,” being named just that: Thursday Styles.
Sunday Styles editor Trip Gabriel, who is said to have developed the prototype with science editor Rick Flaste, will likely oversee it in addition to his current duties. The bulk of the reporting will be handled by staff already in place on the style desk. Several outside candidates have been contacted about new positions, but any appointments are expected to come from inside the Times.
Two shuffles look certain. Catherine Saint Louis of the Times’ magazine is moving over to the Thursday section to cover health and fitness on a trial basis. And West Coast-based Michelle Slatalla, who has written Online Shopper for the Times’ Circuit section since the fall of 1999, will now write that column for the Thursday style pages.
— Sara James
This story first appeared in the March 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
HEEERE’S BONNIE: The way things are headed, there soon will be an entire literary subgenre dedicated to the experience of working for Bonnie Fuller. Abby Tegnelia, a former Us Weekly staffer who now reports as a freelancer for In Touch, has written a 300-page novel that her agent, Larry Weissman, is set to begin shopping around to publishers. The book, tentatively titled “Guilty Pleasure,” is about the life of a young female reporter at a fictional magazine called Here’s Hollywood. “She works horrible hours with a bunch of high-strung people,” said Tegnelia, who lives in Austin, Tex. “It’s based on the 10 months I spent at Us Weekly” — during the period before Fuller defected from there to American Media.
But the dishiest aspects of the book center on the main character’s relationship with one of the wild-child starlets she covers. “All the stories I would hear that the magazine couldn’t run, this celebrity gets to act them out,” said Tegnelia. “It’s kind of scandalous.”
The editor in chief of Here’s Hollywood is a peripheral presence in the story — she’s never even named. That’s probably wise: When Stephanie Green, a former Star researcher, tried to write a roman à clef starring an evil Fuller surrogate, American Media sued to stop publication. The case is still tied up in court.
But Tegnelia is also canny enough to know that invoking her ex-boss’ name is good marketing. “If Bonnie Fuller is in your pitch, people are excited,” she said.
— Jeff Bercovici
BEHIND THE SPIN: Leslee Dart is a past master of the carefully worded sound bite, so maybe it was an excess of emotion that caused her to slip up and compare her firing to a certain recent tragedy. “It was my own tsunami,” she told listeners at Elle magazine’s “Uncommon Women” event Wednesday night, where she and gossip columnist Liz Smith took part in a discussion moderated by playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
Dart was talking about getting kicked out of her former publicity firm, PMK/HBH, by her longtime boss, Pat Kingsley, just before Thanksgiving. A slew of her high-profile clients chose to follow her out the door, making the episode somewhat less devastating than the undersea earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people in Southeast Asia several weeks later. (Clearly Dart hasn’t talked to Kent Brownridge lately; the Wenner Media chairman was forced to apologize in public after likening the impact of the Brad Pitt–Jennifer Aniston breakup to the tsunami.)
Dart also shed some light on the art of squelching bad press in the Internet age. “You can’t stop an item from running,” she said. “What you can do is get something out that balances it or contradicts it, so that if somebody Googles it, they see both items.”
Smith, for her part, admitted to being susceptible to the occasional fleecing by the likes of Dart and her clients. “I don’t think I’m a very good judge of character, and sometimes I’m very gullible,” she said. “I could be misled very easily.”
HEY BABY, HEY BABY: Babies have been a must-have fashion accessory since well before Britney Spears and Kevin Federline started trying for one. The true trendsetters have moved on — to twins. Jane editor Jane Pratt is pregnant with them, as is Us Weekly fashion director Hayley Hill. Self fashion director Evyan Metzner gave birth last week to a pair of girls. Next up, in all likelihood, is In Style publisher Lynette Harrison, who’s already working from home on doctor-ordered bed rest, even though she’s not due until Memorial Day. So what’s with all the double duty? “We want to keep our own circulations going,” said Harrison.
Meanwhile, pregnancies of the single-file variety also seem to be cropping up with greater-than-usual frequency. Harper’s Bazaar contributing fashion editor Mary Alice Stephenson, whose first child is due in September, theorized that the phenomenon could have more to do with the heightened visibility of new and expectant mothers than with an actual demographic boom. “So many actresses are combining work and being a mom, and also looking so chic being pregnant — people like Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler,” she said. “You see more new moms out and about at the shows.” Stephenson herself braved first-trimester nausea to hit the spring shows. “I’d be sitting there in the front row thinking, ‘Am I going to make it through?’”
Hill agreed that motherhood is experiencing a moment of chic. “It’s the next leg of ‘Sex and the City,’” she said. “You can only do cosmos and Manolo Blahniks for so long before you move onto something else.”
But it’s not just moms being minted. Men’s Journal editor in chief Michael Caruso is expecting his first any minute now with his partner, Andrea Sheehan of Simon & Schuster. The baby, a girl, was due Monday. “The baby’s blowing her deadline already,” Caruso said. He wouldn’t reveal the name they had selected but hinted it wouldn’t be a head-scratcher. “I think the key is not to saddle your kid with one of those celebrity kids’ names, like Rumer or Apple, where you’re just guaranteeing years of therapy.”
Best Life deputy editor John Brodie recently became a first-time dad, with his wife, In Style features editor Honor Brodie. Brodie said he became aware of how modish baby-making had become when a lunch with writer Rick Marin turned into a discussion of the David Netto changing table that turns into a wet bar. “He’s pro, I’m con,” said Brodie. “The thought of a Pamper-tini is a tad unsavory.”
PLAY HARD: Russell Denson sounded awfully hoarse during his appearance as guest speaker at a Magazine Publishers of America breakfast Wednesday morning, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. Denson, who is chief executive officer of Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, apparently exhausted himself rubbing elbows at Inc. magazine’s “Inc. 500” conference over the weekend. “I had a five o’clock flight out on Sunday morning, and at 3:45 we were still partying in the hospitality suite,” he croaked.
It may sound dissolute, but it’s part of the philosophy that Denson brought with him when he took over G+J last June. A profitable company, he said, is one where the employees are enjoying themselves, and vice versa. “I would argue that fun and success are highly, highly correlated, and maybe it’s even causal,” he said.
Certainly G+J employees were in need of some cheering up after a string of scandals under their former ceo, Dan Brewster. That tied into another one of Denson’s management maxims: “If you have good people, you don’t have to motivate them. You just have to avoid demotivating them.”