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TONY BLAIR’S AFRICAN ADVENTURE: Goodbye Downing Street, hello Condé Nast.
Tony Blair, whose days as British prime minister are numbered, has been pilloried by the British press this week for his five-day trip to Africa — with Men’s Vogue in tow. Officially, Blair and his lawyer wife, Cherie Booth, are on a “farewell visit” to the continent to mark the end of his tenure. Starting this week, the couple will be visiting Libya, Sierra Leone and South Africa at British taxpayers’ expense.
But brickbats for Blair aren’t over yet. On Tuesday, the London Evening Standard said Tory members of Parliament were fuming that the Blairs had taken a writer and two photographers from the American men’s title on the trip. Tory Member of Parliament Chris Grayling dubbed the trip a “vanity” tour, and was quoted saying that Blair “seems more concerned about how he looks in Vogue than tackling real issues at home.”
Alongside the headline “Vanity Blair,” The Daily Mail ran a mock cover of Men’s Vogue featuring the Blairs and snarky headlines such as: “How to cope if your wife earns more than you.” On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Blair played down the controversy. “We try to accommodate as many people as we can, and all types of media. Men’s Vogue asked if they could come, we had space [on the plane], so they did,” she told WWD. “Other magazines have come on trips previously. Marie Claire [writers] have accompanied Mr. Blair to Africa before.”
A spokeswoman for Men’s Vogue in New York declined to name the writer or photographers, but said that Blair’s ability to shed light on the two most recent American presidents was of particular interest to the magazine. — Samantha Conti and Irin Carmon
FILTERING OUT: The first meeting of Gourmet editor in chief Ruth Reichl and New York magazine food critic Adam Platt occurred, fittingly, on the second floor of Zabar’s under a hanging row of ceramic pitchers. The occasion was to celebrate “Food Fictions,” a Symphony Space-released three-CD set of actors reading stories about food. The duo’s conversation Tuesday competed with the foot traffic of comparison shoppers, dispatches from passing walkie-talkies and the blare of the food emporium’s intercom. As actor Tony Roberts read from a T.C. Boyle story about a food critic, Reichl listened, head upturned in poised delight, and Platt was impassive, even when obliged to lean forward so a shopper could pluck a Brita filter from behind his head. “He was wheezing in my ear for about six minutes,” Platt said later. “Then he whispered, ‘You gotta shop.'” Probably the gentleman had no idea who Platt was. Indeed, anonymity had just been the topic of discussion, though Platt remarked on the difficulty of disguising himself from restaurateurs “when you’re 6 foot 6 and look like Paul Bunyan.” Still, he said he tries to keep a low profile. A Gourmet Web editor who had been snapping pictures for the magazine’s blog promised to shield Platt’s face in any photos used. It was suggested that in lieu of a black bar, a Brita filter might suffice. — I.C.
EVERYMAN, EVERYWHERE: Just when you thought David Zinczenko was everywhere, he pops up on a game show. The Men’s Health editor in chief appeared on “Jeopardy!” Tuesday night, but not as one of the contestants — he was the “answer” to a Double Jeopardy question in a category on books on nutrition. “David Zinczenko, editor of Men’s Health Magazine, wrote a diet book named for these not always washboard muscles,” read the clue. Contestant and four-day “Jeopardy!” champion Mehrun Etebari answered the $400 question correctly (“What are abs?”), and took home $37,900 in winnings for the day. “This proves once again that abs are the answer to everything,” Zinczenko joked Wednesday.
How did a magazine editor become a part of TV trivia? According to a “Jeopardy!” spokesman, questions are crafted internally by a staff of nine writers and eight researchers; none of the questions is pitched by publicists. The researchers cull ideas from the Internet, books, magazines and their own passions. “It could have been a writer was reading Men’s Health and based a category around health books,” explained the spokesman. Or the writer is perhaps an abs-challenged wonk. Questions and answers are entered into a system and pulled at random for use on a show, which can take as long as two years. Tuesday’s show was taped in February, but Zinczenko learned of his involvement only Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Zinczenko’s latest midsection manual, “The Abs Diet for Women,” is fast approaching bestseller lists. The book sold 9,000 copies its first two weeks in stores; 6,000 were sold last week, according to Nielsen BookScan. Comparatively, “Men, Love and Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women” sold about 2,000 copies its first week and has moved 20,000 copies since its September release. — Stephanie D. Smith
GUIDING LIGHT: As Mei Jingsong recently found out, a mentorship with Ann Moore has its perks. Jingsong, an editor in chief with China’s Sina Corp., spent her first day with the Time Inc. chief executive officer and chairman — the event was part of the Fortune magazine/State Department International Women Leaders Partnership — getting a makeover from the In Style fashion closet and walking the red carpet for the Time 100 party at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It’s doubtful the visitor paired with Xerox chief executive officer Anne Mulcahy got the same star treatment. The two-week program is intended to introduce business leaders from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders summit to businesswomen from emerging countries to strengthen leadership skills. — Amy Wicks
DRIVER’S SEAT: The future of biker ace Valentino Rossi could be in the editor’s chair rather than at the wheel of the new F1 Ferrari, as many speculate. The June issue of GQ Italy that hits newsstands on Saturday was partly edited by the seven-time winner of the MotoGP championship.
“He is the Italian superstar of the moment; he is brilliant and creative, so we wanted something more than an interview to express his personality,” said Michele Lupi, editor in chief of the Condé Nast Italia monthly.
Rossi was immediately supplied with a Condé Nast mailbox address and letterhead stationery. For the cover image, Rossi picked photographer David Bailey to shoot his portrait and Rossi also appears in the gatefold in a group shot with the magazine’s staff.
Rossi assigned articles based on his idols Michael Jordan, Steve McQueen and British World Champion MotoGP road racer Barry Sheene.
“I do not rule out repeating a similar experience. It depends on how much the jet set will appreciate our work,” said Lupi, who joined GQ in November 2006.
During his tenure, Lupi has made changes at the Italian magazine to raise its profile in images and stories, which didn’t quite match those of its U.S counterpart. In the first quarter of 2007, ad pages were up 13 percent compared with the same period the previous year. — Francesca Vuotto