ONE WOLF(F) TO ANOTHER: New York Magazine’s media columnist Michael Wolff won an ASME last year for deconstructing beleaguered moguls, but now someone has come along to deconstruct him: Wired writer Gary Wolf. His new book “Wired — A Romance,” which will be released through Random House in July, tells the story of Wired Magazine from struggling as an indie to struggling at Condé Nast. The book will feature Wolff, whom Wolf met during the former’s temporary ascent to net moguldom, in a cameo appearance. (Wolff owned Wolff New Media in the mid-Nineties and later wrote the critical success, “Burn Rate,” about the early days of the dot-com bubble.)
This story first appeared in the March 4, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“He’s a little bit like somebody who wanted to be a movie producer and wound up a gossip columnist instead,” the one-f’ed Wolf said by phone. “I actually think his column is smarter than that. It’s a gossip column and a parody of a gossip column all rolled into one, but he is obsessed with power. I actually called him a few weeks ago to have lunch with him because I wanted to give him a heads up about the book. I knew getting him to go downtown for lunch would be difficult so I decided to try. He said, ‘Can’t we just have lunch at my club?’ He explained how the Century Club was so exclusive a friend of his got denied entrance. Which was a great source of pleasure to him. I think he’s kind of a likeable guy and if you get that it’s shtick, it’s really enjoyable, but he still lives it. I mean, would you want to go to lunch every day at Michael’s and the Century Club? Of course, he’s just a columnist, he’s an employee like the rest of us. But he did tell me he’d like to buy New York Magazine if it ever went on the block.”
But reached by phone late Monday, Wolff had little memory of it all.
“I don’t really even know Gary Wolf,” he said. “I mean, that’s all. I barely know him, we have the same name. Did he write for Wired? He’s not a very good writer, right? He wrote a book? I don’t remember having lunch with him. Maybe I had lunch with him and another person. I think I may have met him a couple of times. He was involved in a lunch with a couple of people, but I don’t really know him. I would not recognize him in a crowd.”
Back to the other Wolf: “That is hilarious. He’s putting you on. That’s a brilliant response.” So you mean you did have lunch? “Three-to-four weeks ago, what can I say? I think that’s the funniest response I could have imagined. I would never present myself as a close personal friend, but I’ve known him for years, we’ve had a half-dozen conversations. It was just the two of us, we discussed the book at length — and he professed to be a big fan.”
— Jacob Bernstein
BUY AMERICAN: When Art Cooper resigned last Monday, word traveled through media circles that the most likely replacement would be Dylan Jones, the editor of British GQ. That opinion was emboldened by the news in the middle of the week that Dave Zinczenko, editor in chief of Men’s Health, seemed not to be available. But sources close to the situation are now beginning to say that, in fact, the race is wide open and that, if possible, Condé Nast would actually prefer to bring in an American editor to replace Cooper. “It would be much easier,” said one source within Condé Nast. Those comments were seconded by sources at British GQ, who said at the end of last week: “The overwhelming feeling is that he has not been offered the job yet.” Meanwhile, another possible (but longshot) contender has begun to make the rounds: Vanity Fair editor at large Matt Tyrnauer. Condé Nast declined comment.
— Samantha Conti and J.B.
KAMINSKY’S COUP CONTINUES: Playboy’s new regime has begun to make its mark on the magazine in the April issue, but there’s nothing, so far, that compares with the marks that editorial director James Kaminsky is leaving on his staff.
Perhaps the most welcome change is an upgrading of the magazine’s fashion pages, which, as of April, have been permanently expanded to eight per issue. There’s a new focus on service and grooming products, and a serious attempt is being made (finally) to lure brand name photographers. “I’d like to use Steven Klein and Alexei Hay,” said Playboy fashion director Joseph De Acetis. “We’re going much more fashion forward in the photography and getting some big names in these pages.”
But Kaminsky has ordered more significant design and photography changes to be made by this summer that were originally supposed to take more than a year, according to sources close to the magazine. Playboy’s trademark illustrations and full-page cartoons (which help date it to an eternal 1977) will largely be swept away and instead confined to fiction. And the high-resolution studio cameras used for decades to shoot Playmates will finally be retired in favor of more mobile models — meaning that the girls might finally venture out of the limbo of the studio and into the real world.
Kaminsky presumably has the mandate from Hef himself after winning a power struggle with his supposed mentor, co-editorial director Arthur Kretchmer, sweeping him aside in a matter of months rather than the intended year. Kretchmer is now on “a permanent vacation” from his duties at the magazine, and has been sunning himself in Florida, according to a source. He’s only expected to drop in on its Chicago offices from time to time as a consultant while Kaminsky runs things from New York. (Kaminsky could not be reached for comment, and Playboy spokeswomen declined comment.)
Kaminsky’s added another former Maxim colleague to his inner circle — new managing editor Lisa Grace — and together with deputy editor Steven Russell, they form a Maxim-ized trinity at the top of the masthead. The top editors and writers still in Chicago will be joining them sometime this year. In Playboy Enterprises’ most recent earnings release, ceo Christie Hefner warned the magazine’s profits would be flat in 2003 “due to severance and other costs associated with the transition of editorial jobs from Chicago to New York.”
— Greg Lindsay