TRUE COLORS: Gossip has a powerful gravitational pull, as those who try to escape it soon find out. Take Celebrity Living, which first arrived in April, promising to delve into stars’ fashion and decorating preferences, but not their private lives. “It’s a lifestyle magazine — really a lifestyle magazine,” editor in chief Kelli Delaney told WWD at the time. “It’s not gossip.”

That was then. Now, it is definitely gossip — or at least it wants prospective buyers to think so. Last week’s cover story was “Brad and Angelina‘s First Big Fight!” This week’s, on sale starting Wednesday, is “Brad’s family rejects Angelina and pleads: Call Off the Wedding!” It also features a new logo, white with a pink border — the same configuration favored by Us Weekly and Star.

Delaney acknowledged the similarity was no coincidence. “The old logo almost had a monthly intimation,” she said. “When I looked at it, I didn’t know right away that this magazine was part of the celebrity weekly category.”

Still, she insisted the title has retained its original focus while accommodating consumers’ tastes. “I think we’ve stayed true to that distinction in that we’re not doing hard news. If we had a cover that was only about fashion, I don’t think it would sell as well.”

Indeed, Celebrity Living’s sales, while quite modest by the standards of the category, have picked up a bit since the shift in emphasis began, rising from around 90,000 per issue in July to around 150,000, according to an American Media spokesman. He added the title will be distributed in Wal-Mart stores beginning this week, a development that is projected to add another 100,000 copies to the total.

Said Delaney, “I don’t think giving readers news necessarily means you’re being gossipy and negative.”
— Jeff Bercovici

MURPHY FACES THE LAW: The Condé Nast bandit who almost made off with $10 million in company monies last year is about to learn his fate. Sentencing is expected on Friday in the federal case against Josef F. Murphy, aka Joseph Murphy, the former Advance Magazine Group credit collection manager who issued himself fraudulent checks totaling $10,694,267.49, and was able to cash out for $8,239,197.79 before he got caught during the 2004 holiday season. (WWD is part of Advance Publications Inc.)

This story first appeared in the September 12, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Wilmington, Del., where the case has been handled, said Murphy faces up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $16 million. He’ll likely receive a lesser sentence, though, since he pled guilty to the two charges against him earlier this summer and forfeited $8.3 million in assets — the biggest forfeiture of ill-gotten gains ever in Delaware.
— Sara James

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