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LAST WORDS: Did Evel Knievel underestimate his own resilience? Knievel, who died Friday at age 69, has been slipping away for years, resuscitating himself after stunts gone bad, liver failure and a rare lung disease, but the stuntman may have predicted his death too soon to both Maxim and Vanity Fair. Knievel told Maxim’s Pat Jordan: “This may be the last interview I ever do,” in his feature in the December issue. But to Vanity Fair contributor and historian Douglas Brinkley, who had been working on a book about extreme sports and a feature to run in the February issue, the stuntman said: “You’ll be my last interview. No more after these.” On Maxim.com, the site bills Jordan’s story as “some of the last words of an American legend.” Vanity Fair bills it as Knievel’s “last major interview.”
So who actually did capture Knievel’s last words? According to a Maxim spokeswoman, Jordan interviewed Knievel once on Oct. 1 at his St. Petersburg, Fla., home. Meanwhile, according to a Vanity Fair spokeswoman, “Doug interviewed Knievel three times in person over an 18-month period and had around 10 phone call follow-ups, the last of which was in mid-October.” Brinkley interviewed Knievel at his home in Florida and in his hometown of Butte, Mont.
This story first appeared in the December 4, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Knievel’s spokesman confirmed Maxim had the last coordinated interview in October with the late bike rider. Vanity Fair’s piece had been in the works prior to that, and the last in-person interview was in September. And neither magazine should be too upset about Knievel’s foreshadowing his own death in their respective interviews. As his spokesman said, “He’s been saying that for a while, on separate occasions, for two years.” — Stephanie D. Smith
BACK TO BASICS: Hoping to capitalize on the growth of foodie culture, Bon Appétit is remaking itself as a younger, more accessible title. Starting with the January issue, it will introduce a new logo featuring a lowercase font with a rotating color for the “o” and accent mark. “Think of it in fashion terms: We’ve simply changed and freshened our lipstick, or, perhaps, traded in our pair of sensible shoes for something a little more stylish,” editor in chief Barbara Fairchild writes in the editor’s letter.
The last time Bon Appétit changed its logo was 17 years ago. Now, with the help of design director Matthew Lenning, hired from GQ in the spring, it’s pushing its “accessibility” and its “sophisticated but not intimidating” qualities. Bon Appétit’s Web site will also be relaunched, though the timing is still being determined.
Beyond the logo, the magazine will begin catering to a younger audience with more how-to. “The younger reader needs to know the techniques,” said Fairchild. “We’re going back to step by step.”
This year’s 8.4 percent ad page increase over 2006 brings Bon Appétit safely over the 1,000-page mark commonly used to gauge profitability from the outside, to 1,040.4. (Both Bon Appétit and WWD are owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc.) Newsstand circulation faltered a bit in the first half, down 12 percent to 119,411, though July through September newsstand sales were slightly up. Total circulation is 1.37 million.
The magazine is hoping its average reader age — like most other epicurean titles, hovering around 50 — will drop as a result of the nip and tuck. The younger demographic isn’t currently being served by a major national magazine, Fairchild said, except for possibly Every Day with Rachael Ray. “The value of someone like Rachael Ray is getting young people to pick up a magazine,” said Fairchild. “And when they want to upgrade, they can pick up Bon Appétit.”
As for the other magazines in the category, Fairchild said, “We are about the pleasure. We’re not Cooking Light, which is about fear: What can I eat without killing myself? We’re not Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food…that’s not how I want to live my life. And Food & Wine is really about New York chefs and restaurants. Our reach has always been extremely broad.” What about corporate sibling Gourmet? Fairchild grinned. “I already said Gourmet, didn’t I?” She had not. “We’re the one in the kitchen,” she said. “Gourmet is doing a campaign about food for thought. Thinking is fine, but for us it’s about getting in the kitchen — it’s about the passion.”
— Irin Carmon